The UK’s failures to build enough low-carbon sources of electricity, plus proposals to halt North Sea oil and gas exploration, will put the nation at ever-greater risk of a new energy crisis, Offshore Energies UK’s chief executive has warned.
David Whitehouse’s comments follow publication of the Climate Change Committee’s annual ‘Progress in Reducing Emissions Report’ for 2023. The report calls for a moratorium on airport expansion, a nine-fold increase in the rate at which heat pumps are installed in homes and a doubling of tree planting.
Crucially, it also warns that the UK is failing to build enough sources of low-carbon electricity. It points out that the UK would need to quadruple low-carbon power generation in just the next seven years to meet the UK’s emission reduction targets. This is because 42% of UK electricity currently comes from gas-fired power stations, and because surging sales of electric vehicles is pushing up demand.
The report also accuses the UK government of “backtracking on fossil fuel commitments” because of its support for continued UK oil and gas production and criticises it for “losing its clear global leadership position on climate action”.
David Whitehouse, chief executive of Offshore Energies UK, which represents 400 companies involved in producing energy from gas, oil and wind in UK waters, said OEUK supported the CCC’s net zero targets but the report’s proposals for achieving it would put the UK at increased risk of a new energy crisis.
He said: “The CCC report’s findings are paradoxical. On the one hand it warns that the UK is being far too slow at building the infrastructure vital for generating low carbon electricity. That clearly means we will need other sources of energy to tide us over while we build those new wind farms, solar farms and nuclear power stations.
“But the same report also supports a ban on exploring UK waters for new sources of gas and oil, so depriving the UK of that resource too. There are 283 oil and gas fields in UK waters, but many are ageing and 180 will be shut down by 2030. If we don’t replace them the UK will become up to 80% reliant on imports. We need new fields just to maintain production and so minimise imports.
“Put together, these policies mean the UK risks creating its own home-grown energy crisis – and that will hit home around 2028. Coincidentally, that’s likely to be when the next government is seeking re-election.”
“We fully support the CCC’s ambition on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the UK policy on reaching net zero by 2050 but we need to achieve those targets without destabilising the UK’s energy security and economy.”
Energy Fast Facts about 2022
- 76% Proportion of UK’s total energy derived from oil and gas
- 215,000 Number of jobs supported by the offshore industry
- £28 billion (bn) Value of the UK offshore industry and supply chain to the UK economy
- £11bn Oil and gas production taxes paid to the UK exchequer in 2022/23
- £117bn Cost of energy imports in 2022 (compared to £54bn in 2021)
- 77bn cubic metres (bcm) UK’s gas consumption in 2022
- 1,150 cubic metres Average UK gas consumption per person
- 34 bcm UK gas production
- 44% Proportion of UK gas that came from the North Sea
- 116 pence per therm Average gas price in 2021
- 203 pence per therm Average gas price in 2022 (a 76% increase)
- 61 million (m) tonnes UK oil consumption in 2022
- 0.9 tonnes Average UK oil consumption per person
- 41m tonnes UK oil production
- 67%: UK oil production equated to more than half of consumption.
- £52 per barrel Average price of oil in 2021
£82 per barrel Average price of oil in 2022 (a 60% increase)