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expert reaction to government press release about the energy strategy

The government published a press release last night on the new British Energy Security Strategy.


Please note these comments are in response to the press release only as the full report had not yet been published.

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald FREng, Director of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, said:

“The Energy Strategy launched by the government today is just 3 days after the harrowing IPCC AR6 WGIII report as to what is happening climate-wise and the urgency required for measures to change course. On Monday we learned that emissions need to peak no later than 2025. That is three years from now.

“We need to see change, and we need to see it fast. Does the Energy Strategy launched today deliver these changes in the timescales required?

“A big story in the strategy involves the procurement of new nuclear stations. Whilst these will be low carbon in operation, they won’t be delivering electricity in the timescale required. It is at least 10 years hence for a new power station.

“Furthermore, an Energy Strategy should involve significant efforts in both supply and demand. The Energy Strategy today talks a lot about Energy Supply, but much less on Demand Reduction. Reducing demand (by increasing efficiency) has an immediate benefit not just in terms of the climate, based on the assumption that some of the energy is still provided by fossil fuels, but also in terms of bills. And energy bills are a huge issue for many people right now.  The Energy Strategy launched today is really an Energy Supply Strategy. We need more investment, urgently, in energy savings schemes. This would also help reduce our reliance on energy imports.

“The pace of change associated with today’s Energy Strategy is nothing like that which we need. And the climate won’t wait.”


Peter Dearman, Deputy President of PWI, the institution for rail infrastructure engineering, said: 

“Delivering the changes that will secure energy provision for the UK and eliminate man made carbon from the environment will require significant investment sustained over decades. Without an integrated and unifying strategic vision there would be a risk that sectors of the economy would progress at different pace and in different directions. The electrical supply industry must be at the core of any strategy providing base capacity founded on nuclear power and facilitating continued accompanying growth in renewables.  

“The rail sector has plans to eliminate the use of fossil fuel and facilitate a modal shift of trunk freight haulage from road to rail. Both rail and energy sectors need to make complex changes to the infrastructure which will take several decades, the coordination of the plan for rail and the plan for energy networks alongside satisfying the energy demand of other industrial sectors will be greatly aided by the publication of the Governments British Energy Security Strategy. Some will seek to criticise the detail, no one can credibly argue that the strategy is not needed. There is much detail yet to emerge, but I welcome this important step.”


Prof Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says:

“The UK’s energy system faces a combination of threats from high consumer costs that threaten to worsen energy poverty, disruptions in the global supply chain due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, increasing risk to energy security and unsustainably high carbon emissions as a result of fossil fuel dependence, which must fall rapidly and immediately in order to have any chance of meeting the Paris goal of 1.5C.

“There are many vital, low-regrets policies that would address all these issues at the same time, particularly:

  1. rapid renewables and energy storage deployment alongside energy network investment; 
  2. home insulation measures which deliver at least half a million retrofits per year, including support for heat pump supply chains; and,
  3. measures to reduce energy demand and increase energy efficiency across all sectors.

“We are pleased to see some of this in the energy security strategy, such as further expansion in the ambition for offshore and floating wind power. A focus on the system level architecture is also welcome and a vital step to enable the transformation required in the energy system as a whole to reach net zero. However, there are some unanswered questions that must be addressed. New nuclear could take until 2035 to make a difference, and is reliant on the availability of technology and skills, neither of which is guaranteed. We will need more than targets to realise the ambition for 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, not least the requirement for significant investment to rapidly and urgently scale critical infrastructure such as Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage for blue hydrogen and investment in renewable energy generation and electrolyser roll out for green hydrogen. And in the meantime, we need more short-term measures to increase energy independence or reduce emissions at the scale required, particularly demand-side measures, such as home insulation policies.

“The scale of the skills challenge should also not be underestimated. This demand for massive growth in green jobs comes at a time when engineering skills have largely been stagnating over the past ten years. In higher education, the proportion of students studying engineering has remained at around 5% for the past 15 years, and in certain subject areas such as electronic and electrical engineering, critical to our net-zero transition, there has been long-term decline. The numbers of new apprentices starting engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships has also been in decline. “Much of what the government is doing to address the challenge is moving in the right direction, but the tendency towards letting the market dictate pace, scale and detail is still a concern. We need greater consideration of skills as a strategic national asset with more direct government interventions and less reliance on the market to find our future engineers and technicians.”


Bridget Woodman, Senior lecturer in the Deputy Director Energy Policy Group, University of Exeter, said:

“Energy policy is commonly seen as having three goals – ensuring a secure supply, delivering affordable energy and reducing our emissions of carbon dioxide in the face of climate change.  The energy strategy fails on all three counts. 

“Exploiting new fossil fuel sources, whether in the North Sea or from fracking, is environmental madness if we want to meet our commitment to have net zero emissions by 2050 

“The failure to endorse onshore wind neglects the cheapest form of renewable energy, and ignores rational decision making about how to deliver low cost, zero carbon power at a time of rapidly rising bills and an increase in fuel poverty. 

“Furthermore, the emphasis on new nuclear power will push up bills as we continue to have to subsidise an industry which has benefited from billions of pounds of public and consumer subsidy for over 70 years.   

“The cheapest way of delivering lower emissions, while also ensuring a reduction in bills and carbon emissions, is to invest in energy efficiency.  The repeated failure to come up with meaningful measures to help people reduce their energy demand and their bills is a huge failure of public policy.”


Dr Simon Harrison, a member of the National Engineering Policy Centre net zero working group, says:

“The renewed effort and political attention devoted to energy is welcome, even if it’s taken a crisis to provoke it.  Solving the climate crisis will take an unprecedented effort, this strategy acknowledges this kind of level of effort with twin goals of energy security and climate

“It’s pleasing to see a focus on energy efficiency.   This is the quickest way to bring down bills, help with supply security and contribute to delivering our net zero target.    It’s vital these programmes all deliver their objectives and more – if not they will need to be adjusted on an ongoing basis.     There is also an opportunity at this time of high prices to help people change their behaviours to reduce their bills.    This is underplayed – and this is an opportunity to lock in both energy efficiency and behavioural change for the long term.

“The approach seems focused on top down major project solutions and does not seem to take the whole systems perspective the Government places front and centre in its  publication yesterday in its own (welcome) proposals for a future energy system operator.    Some really important thinking seems missing, or heavily underplayed, for example the role of the demand side and storage in managing the wind and solar portfolio, the opportunity in digitalisation of energy, and the whole field of community and city scale energy, with its much wider societal benefits.  All of these are integral to decarbonisation, all can help with energy security.    Not all proposed projects and activities will succeed, we need multiple pathways as part of the solution.

“As a result of the above the pathway outlined represents a partial solution, and one that relies on some aggressive delivery assumptions.  We need more options – not all proposed projects and activities will succeed – and a whole systems view as to how the resulting energy system will work, most probably with a much stronger role for the demand side and for digitalisation.       

“The references to new oil and gas development will need to be looked at carefully.   There are clear statements on the need to align these to our net zero commitments, but this needs to be done with rigour.”


Dr Sarah Darby, Associate Professor at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said:

“On the supply side, the Government are taking a ‘big bet’ on dinosaurs when they could have backed mammals. Any nuclear project – including the untested (and non-small) SMRs – is inevitably hugely expensive, runs over time and over budget, and leaves a waste legacy that we still don’t know how to deal with. Renewables are modular, flexible, cheap, not a security risk, and the Government’s surveys show 86% public support for them.

“So little attention is paid to energy demand that the report can’t really be called a strategy. Yet there are clear wins in the short, medium and long term for people’s energy bills, quality of life, energy security and climate from supporting energy efficiency and sufficiency. Instead we are offered supply-side jam tomorrow – or possible jam (‘subject to technology readiness from industry’) by 2050.

“The neuralgia about onshore wind is unwarranted. The Government’s tracker survey from last autumn shows 80% public support for onshore wind (39% strong support) and 4% opposed (1% strongly opposed). Some of that 1% sit around the cabinet table and strategic thinking suffers accordingly.”


Prof Nick Eyre, Director of the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions and Professor of Energy and Climate Policy at the University of Oxford, said:

“This week’s IPCC report and UK research both show that energy demand can be halved by 2050, whilst improving our quality of life. Doing this will also make delivering energy security much easier, cheaper and quicker. But the Prime Minister’s ‘Energy Security Strategy’ focusses on expensive and slow supply technologies. It has not been thought through and will fail to deliver what is needed.”

Prof Eyre has written a more details blog which you are also welcome to quote from:


Prof Neil Strachan, Director of the UCL Bartlett School of Environment Energy & Resources, said:

“It is very welcome to see that the UK government is aligning the net zero energy transition with improved energy security and reduced energy price volatility. This can be a win-win-win.”

“But major uncertainties remain in the Energy Security Strategy. Notably the caveats in the potential roll out for nuclear reflect unease in the scale of required public financial guarantees for nuclear power as renewables continues to see rapid reduction in costs.”

“And this Strategy is a missed opportunity on the energy demand side, as any proposed supply side improvements to energy security will only be realised in 10 to 15 years’ time. If the UK wanted to improve energy security right now, as well as generate many jobs and improve health outcomes, it should insulate every home and commercial building in the UK. But improving the energy efficiency of buildings is politically difficult as it involves the homes and businesses of millions of consumers and voters, and frankly is less glamourous than announcing major engineering projects.”


Prof Anna Korre, Professor of Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, said:

“Nuclear power, and small modular reactors in particular, can make a considerable contribution to the long-term decarbonisation of industry, but new nuclear will do nothing to reduce the burden on householders in the near term. Helping people with their energy bills requires measures that can have an immediate impact, like tackling the UK’s housing stock, which is among the oldest and least efficient in Europe. A major drive to insulate UK homes and enable the widespread adoption of low-carbon heating and storage technologies would not only provide immediate relief to householders who are struggling to pay their bills, but would create thousands of green jobs and reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.”


Prof Peter Childs FREng, Co-Director of the Energy Futures Lab, Imperial College London, said:

“Having a strategy at all is a good thing and this one, with its focus on building offshore wind capacity, is a step in the right direction. But, as ever, a government is limited in what it can actually deliver. It is down to industry, the consumer and indeed universities to do their bit too. The UK can be a net exporter of renewable energy and our collective efforts should be focussed on moving beyond fossil fuels.” 

“The UK will need green hydrogen to decarbonise sectors that are difficult to electrify including heavy transport, heating and industry, so the strategy’s ambition to double the UK’s hydrogen production capacity is very welcome. Given that green hydrogen can be produced using wind, solar and tidal power, all of which are in ample supply in the UK, the only barriers that really exist are approvals for the various schemes needed.”


Prof Nicola Beaumont, Head of Science: Sea and Society at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said:

“Marine renewables are rightly proposed to play an increasingly significant role in the UK energy mix and this emphasis on decarbonisation is fully supported. The aspiration to deliver 50GW of offshore wind by 2030 is a strong opportunity, but to be truly ‘green’ this deployment must be undertaken with due care and process, fully taking into account the potential impacts on the marine environment, ecosystems and biodiversity. 

“Although the secondary impacts of offshore wind may not be as immediately obvious as onshore wind, they do exist. Impacts will be both positive, such as providing additional habitats for shellfish, but also potentially negative, for example to some bird and mammal species.  We currently have a poor understanding of the full implications of making such major changes to our offshore environment. Ensuring that this offshore development is truly ‘green’ will be a major challenge for UK science in the coming years. As such, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, in collaboration with UKERC, are continuing our extensive research efforts to support these changes and ensure the most sustainable approach can be taken.

“The strategy includes increased safeguarding for the development of offshore wind, but given the proposed speed of deployment ensuring these are comprehensively applied, will be critical in the coming years.”


Prof Keith Bell, Scottish Power Chair in Future Power Systems at the University of Strathclyde and a co-Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said:

“Fundamentally, in the medium to long term across the world, we’ve got to leave fossil fuels in the ground unless we capture and store the carbon dioxide released by burning. We’ve seen disturbances to global oil and gas markets in the last 6-9 months, because of return of demand as concerns over Covid reduce, and because of the war in Ukraine. There will be volatility in global fossil fuel markets in future as demand worldwide is reduced, as it has to be to limit climate change.

“There is a strong commitment in the Strategy towards low carbon sources of energy, such as wind, solar and nuclear power, though it’s going to be a challenge to deliver the scale promised in the timescales promised.

“There’s no perfect answer to our immediate concerns about the cost and security of energy supply, e.g. onshore wind, more gas production to reduce imports, or nuclear power. None of them is super-quick, in the case of onshore wind more because of planning than construction timescales.

“For the coming winter, we need to help energy users do what they need to do and people to stay in decent comfort and health. Reducing the amount of energy they need to use will help with bills, though additional support may well be necessary for the most vulnerable.

“In the transition to lower dependence on gas and oil, three things that are important:

  • Being as efficient as possible in our use of energy.
  • Being able to make full use of low carbon electricity when it’s available.
  • Still meeting demand when it’s not windy.

“Switching use of energy from gas, oil, petrol and diesel to electricity helps on both 1 and 2. Electricity in heat pumps is more than 3 times as efficient as a gas boiler in providing heat, and in electric vehicles is around 4 times as efficient as an internal combustion engine using petrol or diesel.

“However, we also want to, in effect, move the electrical energy from hours of plenty of wind and solar to hours of paucity. That can be done via interconnections with countries with complementary resources, such as Norway, or storage – things like compressed air, heat in deep, flooded mine-workings or conversion of electricity to hydrogen which can then be stored before being converted back to electricity. It’s therefore interesting to see a commitment to up to 10 GW of hydrogen production capacity by 2030 with at least half of that being ‘green’ hydrogen for which there will be annual allocation rounds. There will also be efforts to develop demand for hydrogen, e.g. in transport. Use of hydrogen should be prioritised for sectors in which there are few alternatives. Just as happened with wind, the creation of a market can help to drive down costs.

“The big gaps in the Strategy are on the demand side: stronger measures to help us be more efficient in our use of energy, such as through insulation of buildings and in conversion to electric heating and transport.”


Prof Patrick Devine-Wright, of the University of Exeter, said:

“Full details of the new strategy are yet to be published, but the information released so far focusses on supply and largely ignores the importance of reducing demand for energy.  If demand is neglected in the new strategy, this is a vital omission that could put the UK government at odds with the IPCC.

“Demand and supply are inextricably interlinked. When you reduce demand, you reduce the need for energy imports (benefiting energy security) or the need to build new wind farms or nuclear power stations.

“The evidence suggests that we could reduce global emissions by 40-70% by 2050 via demand-side actions – and there are certainly huge opportunities to cut energy demand in the UK.”


Oliver Lancaster, CEO of the Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM), said: 

“With the gas system currently underpinning energy demand and delivering a significant flexibility service today, I’m really pleased that the Government are doubling the ambition for low carbon hydrogen and making clear their intention for its use in homes, industry and transport. IGEM supports the adoption of a secure and diverse multi-vector system for net zero, with major roles for hydrogen, wind, nuclear, energy efficiency and demand response that are optimised for lowest total system cost and balanced across local, regional and national levels. Like natural gas today, hydrogen offers a multi-sector role, reaching customers everywhere through our climate-resilient gas grid. Our thousands of individual members, and hundreds of supply chain company members, stand ready to engineer this sustainable gas future to keep cumulative emissions as low as possible.”


Prof Jon Gluyas, Director of the Durham Energy Institute, said:

“The re-emergence of a UK energy strategy after decades of a laissez-faire approach to energy provision by successive governments is welcome but the announcement today by the UK government of this new strategy is an uninspiring mix of more of the same and it fails to properly tackle the UK’s underlying insecure energy supply and does very little to meet the nation’s zero carbon mantra shouted so loudly at COP26. 

“Nothing is said about buildings or improving their energy efficiency.  The first line of any new energy policy in the UK should read ‘insulate, insulate, insulate’.  It also ignores the huge quantity of waste heat in the UK that could be put to better use.  Indeed if we could use just 20% of our waste heat it would cut our gas bill by 5% – the 5% that is currently vulnerable to the whims of he who shall not be named.  Heat in general is overlooked, save for the hallowed heat pump, ignoring the opportunity to supply 100% of UK’s heat from the geothermal energy deep beneath out feet for an absolute minimum of 100 years and with the potential to eliminate 33% of our greenhouse gas emissions.  Zero-carbon technologies can also be applied to the 100 or so known gas accumulations in the North Sea without ‘boldly going where no man has gone before’ to explore for new petroleum.”


Dr Neil Jennings, Partnership Development Manager at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment, Imperial College London, said:

“A key component of energy security should be using less energy in the first place. It seems however that the UK Energy Security Strategy has morphed into an Energy Supply Strategy. There is a gaping hole where energy efficiency should be. It begs the question, where’s the Energy Demand Strategy? At a time when millions of households are struggling to pay their energy bills, much more support is required to help insulate homes and reduce energy demand for good.”


Prof Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy and Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, said:

’This is not the holistic energy security strategy that the UK needs. It is half a strategy, which focuses on energy supply. Once again, the government has missed an opportunity to provide more immediate relief to families facing very high energy bills, and more help in future via a proper programme to upgrade and decarbonise our homes. The strategy’s proposals on energy demand are simply inadequate.

On the more positive side, the strategy places a lot of emphasis on low cost renewables as a way to reduce the amount of gas required for power generation. The increased target for offshore wind is particularly welcome, though there are still mixed messages on onshore wind and solar. Although the plans for nuclear power will attract a lot of attention, they will be much more costly and slower to implement. More nuclear investment could make a significant contribution to meeting our climate targets, but it will do little to deal with the current crisis.’


Prof Rob Gross, Director of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and Professor of Energy policy, Imperial College London, said:

On the strategy generally:

“The most welcome aspect of the strategy is it shows that energy security and decarbonisation are strongly aligned.

“The strategy doubles down on many of the commitments made last year. It reinforces the emphasis government places on new nuclear and offshore wind. Whether government will part finance new nuclear is left a bit vague. It strikes compromises on onshore wind and fracking, which appear to have been controversial within the government.

“Very little of what is announced will bring short term relief to households. Even the quickest of the new technologies – probably onshore wind – won’t be operational for years, irrespective of streamlining of planning. This is equally true for nuclear approvals and modular reactors. There is a lot of ambition on many fronts but it will all take time – from years hence to decades.

“For this reason the announcement of an energy advice site for households is very welcome. There are many quick and relatively easy things households can do to fix draughts, insulate lofts and ensure that heating systems function as they should. More could and should be done this summer to help households prepare for next winter. A major information campaign could be launched to help. The strategy is a good start but action on energy efficiency could be much bolder.

“The strategy makes no mention of the need for western European nations to work collaboratively to maximise security of supply. The UK, Norway, and the EU have an interconnected gas grid and it is essential to work together to mutual benefit and share import capacity, storage sites and reserves next winter.”


Dr Christian Brand, UKERC Co-Director, Associate Professor, Oxford University, said:

On transport:

“The absence of any near term strategy on how to deal with transport and the high cost of personal travel and freight is simply mind boggling. The recent reduction in fuel duty on fossil petrol and diesel was textbook regressive, meaning the £9bn it costs us will mainly benefit the better off at the expense of the poor.

“We’re in an alternative world when the UK as a self-titled world leader on climate is less ambitious on actions to reduce reliance on oil than the traditionally conservative International Energy Agency. The IEA’s 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use focuses almost entirely on transport and recommends actions such as 1970s-style speed limits, making public transport cheaper and more accessible, and car-free Sundays in cities. Our own UKERC research has shown time and again that these actions have significant carbon benefits, and can be done now.”


Prof Jianzhong Wu, UKERC Co-Director, Professor of Multi-Vector Energy Systems, Cardiff University, said:

On heat and hydrogen:

“Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is a cost-effective way to reduce our reliance on imports of fossil fuels, and should play a crucial role in ensuring both long- and short-term energy security, especially considering households are currently grappling with soaring energy bills.

“The closure of historic energy efficiency schemes led to a significant gap in the Government’s energy efficiency deployment programme. The Heat and Building strategy placed much less emphasis on energy efficiency improvements of owner occupier homes. It is encouraging to see that the Energy Security Strategy make the installation of household energy saving measures VAT-free for the next 5 years. However, more effective strategy is still urgently needed to drive energy efficiency improvements.

“A doubling to 10 GW of the goal for hydrogen projects and an ambition to develop 24 GW of nuclear power capacity by 2050 are welcomed, although it is not clear how much will be used for direct decarbonisation of heat supply. It says that at least half of the hydrogen will come from green hydrogen produced using water and renewable electricity. However, secure decarbonisation of heat needs the government to join the dots and provide an integrated plan for alternative options besides electrification of heat, e.g. pink hydrogen production and transportation using repurposed gas networks, and SMR for district heating and industrial heat.”


Prof Michael Grubb, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at UCL, said:

“The defining feature of this Energy Strategy is incoherence. It doesn’t know what problem it is trying to solve – and thus fails to solve any. By ignoring energy efficiency and kicking the only possible short-term supply option into the long grass, by “consulting” about cheap onshore wind through “local partnerships” in a “limited number of supportive communities in England” – it most certainly won’t help families struggling with energy bills for the coming winters.

“No doubt, the PM wanted more – but apparently surrendered to back benchers and some diehard Cabinet opponents of energy efficiency and onshore wind. Who then should be held to account for failing to help increasingly desperate families?”

“I can’t comment on the proposals for energy efficiency – there don’t seem to be any. What follows are brief comments on energy supply.”

Wind energy

“Wind energy has been the great success story of the past decade. Up from almost nothing fifteen years ago, we are approaching 25 GW split almost equally between offshore and onshore generation.  After the government effectively blocked most onshore in 2015, we’ve shown we can go offshore where capacity has grown sharply in recent years.  The strategy ups the offshore target for 2030 from 40 to 50GW.  

“That’s very ambitious but possible. At that level, wind (including existing onshore) would supply around two-thirds of current UK electricity demand, but UK demand is projected to rise with Electric Vehicles and Heat Pumps.  Wind generates more in winter, when energy demand and gas prices are highest.

“But offshore wind involved very big and complex kit from only a few suppliers, it usually takes 3-4 years from contract to completion, and the pace of expansion could stress supply chains and drive up costs. If it were all concentrated in the North Sea, there would be immense challenges for the grid – both transmission, and in managing the peaks and the troughs. Wind is best when distributed more widely. 

“The most stunning and cowardly failure in the Strategy concerns onshore wind. It is not only our cheapest energy resource – onshore wind would typically cost about third to a quarter of what people are now paying for their electricity. It is, along with solar, the only one that could make a dent in the short term. Any energy company or local authority can buy a wind turbine off-the-shelf.  It would take a few weeks or months to install.  But getting planning consent would take years – because the planning regulations were redesigned in 2015 to stop it. To “consult” with a “limited number of supportive communities” on our cheapest and quickest option for clean, cheap energy is hardly a Churchillian response to our national energy crisis.”

Solar PV

“50GW of solar PV – about four times current levels – was being floated, but doesn’t in the end appear in the Strategy. When the government first introduced incentives for solar, the capacity rocketed from 1 to 10GW within barely 3 years, so 50GW would be possible within a few years.  50GW PV would supply around 20% of UK currently UK electricity demand. There is little solar in mid-winter, but it would be a great complement to wind energy and take pressure off gas during long summer wind lulls, and annual needs particularly if the UK developed inter-seasonal gas storage – another silence in the strategy.”


“The Strategy proposes 24GW of nuclear power capacity by 2050, from 6.9GW at present. The initial proposal is to commit one new plant, likely the £20bn Sizewell C project in Suffolk, before the next general election. That illustrates the problem – or rather three – facing nuclear:

  • It is slow. Based on all our past experience, a new big nuclear would take a decade. If it takes an energy crisis for the government to actually take a decision, so be it, but it won’t help to solve the crisis.
  • It is expensive. Nuclear depends on public subsidy, with the government committed to taking a sizeable financial stake to make it viable.
  • A nuclear fleet would need to be flexible, to ramp up and down with the swings of demand, wind, and solar, which further undermines the economics.  

“The Treasury might be pressured into forking out for Sizewell, but don’t expect them to underwrite 24GW, let alone see any of that built in this decade.”

North Sea oil and gas

“The Strategy confirms plans to issue licences this year for production from existing discoveries, considered as “pretty much ready to go” if oil and gas companies would exploit them. If and when those do get onstream, they won’t affect the price since producers sell on international oil and gas markets – I doubt they’d touch these assets otherwise. And there is a reason why UK output has been declining – we’ve depleted a lot of our reserves, and it will get harder and/or more costly to get more out. We can stave off the decline a bit.  And in the aftermath of the IPCC reports on climate change, it is – rightly – a tough sell trying to tell the world that we need to move away from fossil fuels, whilst aiming to squeeze out every drop from the North Sea.”

Shale gas

“Proposals to re-open the door to fracking – somewhat muted, it seems – upset environmentalists. Probably, they shouldn’t be too worried – apart from the wider signal it sends.  A decade ago many European countries opened up for Shale exploration and almost nothing came of it.  You need to drill dozens, maybe hundreds of wells just to find out exactly what is down there and what it will take to get it out.  Whatever the government does, don’t hold your breath for shale to be – if and when anything actually emerges – anything more than an uneconomic trickle.  It sure won’t help with our energy prices.”


“The government has reassured us all that the government will not consider rationing gas supplies, unlike some European countries that have set in motion contingency plans.  The UK is indeed in a slightly different position, because our supplies are mainly divided between North Sea – Norway, and our own – and global trade in liquified natural gas. 

“But our pockets – and the Treasury – should be worried.  In the Russia-EU standoff, if either side really cuts off the gas, all hell will break loose in the international markets, and we would have to outbid both the EU and Asia for gas supplies.  That won’t be pretty.  Indeed It could look like the oil shocks of the 1970s which rocked the entire global economy, and slashed GDP growth globally. The UK would be just a bit player in that, and the energy strategy does nothing for that scenario either.”


“The ultimate irony of a Strategy borne of a crisis is that by the time most of its proposals see fruition – if they do – the crisis will be long past. Global energy markets will have completed their gyrations and returned to normal, and Putin probably will no longer be in power. 

“But a lot of consumers will have suffered horribly. We also risk undermining much that the UK has achieved on climate change. By failing to focus centrally on a joined-up strategy to solve these twin crises together, it fails to offer the energy sector the consistent signals that investors need, and may even worsen the short-term bills crisis, whilst our international credibility teeters on a knife-edge.”


Dr Christopher Jones, Tyndall Manchester Centre for Climate Change Research at The University of Manchester, said:

“A big question for this announcement is what does it say about making the UK less vulnerable to energy prices next winter and the one after that? New and extensive support for energy efficiency to lower our demand and sensitivity to prices is a key part of boosting energy security right away. It’s central to the International Energy Agency’s 10-point plan to reduce Russian gas use within a year, but it is largely missing from this statement. On the longer-term impacts, catching up with the needed low carbon capacity is welcome, but while more UK oil and gas production lets companies operating here cash-in on high international prices, it won’t help UK consumers and has no place in any reasonable carbon cutting strategy.” 


Adrian Bull, BNFL chair in Nuclear Energy Systems at The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute, said:

“The step change in pace for delivery of nuclear energy promised by today’s strategy is just the kind of thing we will need to stand a chance of reaching our Net Zero commitment by 2050. It certainly won’t be easy to deliver anything like one nuclear reactor a year, instead of one a decade, but it’s not impossible. And – importantly – we need that same acceleration in other low carbon technologies too. Co-ordination of reactor design choices, siting, planning and regulatory approvals through the establishment of the new Great British Nuclear body will be important. As will a big push to develop the right skills in huge numbers across the sector, coupled with continued innovation so that we can deliver advanced nuclear designs in the future which can be more flexible and easier to finance.” 


Prof Matthew Paterson, Professor of International Politics, The University of Manchester, said:

“This takes the UK backwards not forwards. It is a knee-jerk response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that goes back to old tired solutions focused on expanding energy supply, and does so in ways that contradict the UK’s climate strategy. A better response would be to ramp up the energy efficiency programmes, aggressively retrofitting the UK’s poorly performing housing stock and weaning us off natural gas in heating and cooking. This would reduce energy bills, create green jobs, and radically reduce UK reliance on imported energy.” 


Prof Paul Jarman, Professor of Electrical Power Equipment and Networks, The University of Manchester, said:

“The part that needs consideration is storage and demand reduction and flexibility. For different reasons both nuclear which is expensive to turn off and wind and solar that are intermittent, require storage to match supply and demand. Currently there is a lot of battery storage being built that will help stabilise the grid, but unless we increase capacity now, and devise demand-side response using increasingly flexible loads such as electric vehicle charging, thermal storage and better insulation for homes, by 2030 we could face a capacity gap which is critical if we truly want to get rid of fossil fuel for electricity generation.

“We need properly planned and co-ordinated investment in electricity transmission infrastructure to connect the large increases in wind energy from Scotland and the North and Celtic seas. The present approach of each developer securing their own connection to the existing grid needs to change. Proper investment for example in a North Sea offshore grid would already be saving a great deal of money, reducing the onshore facilities required and facilitating more rapid deployment of generating capacity if it had been made earlier. 

“Over the next ten years the UK will need to tackle huge technical innovation hurdles to shore up our energy security, including how to manage the existing ageing assets that will be used more than ever. Unless we nurture a new generation of researchers capable of delivering that, we will never be secure. The government needs to invest, nurturing innovators and creating a talent pipeline for industry.” 


Prof Kevin Taylor, Professor of Geoscience, The University of Manchester: 

“Geothermal energy and heat storage is a source of low carbon heat that has a large potential to help meet both Net Zero and energy security, and needs to form part of the energy strategy for the UK moving forward, but seems to be lacking from current UK strategy. There could be much greater ambition for geothermal heat and heat storage , especially under cities, to deliver reliable, secure and low carbon heating, which would help decarbonise as well as increase energy security.”



Declared interests

Prof Patrick Devine-Wright is a board member of a not-for-profit called Exeter Community Energy

Prof Keith Bell: “I hold the Scottish Power Chair in Future Power Systems at the University of Strathclyde. Scottish Power sponsors the Chair, not the individual post-holder. I speak as an independent academic. I have had various research projects over the years with the electricity companies, but only on the condition that results are published and, from my point of view, with the aim helping to improve engineering practice. I have also done work with Government, Ofgem and the Climate Change Committee. As a Chartered Engineer I have to uphold certain principles of honesty and ethics. For more on my background, work and associations, see

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