The UK can have energy security now AND net zero in 2050 – but only if politicians build a shared long-term vision, says Offshore Energies UK.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine means energy security is now national security – and UK politicians must align to support plans for the coming decades, not just the next elections, according to Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Offshore Energies UK.
Her organisation represents 400 of the UK’s leading offshore energy companies, embracing established industries like oil, gas and offshore wind, plus emerging technologies like hydrogen production and CO2 capture. They produce around 40% of the nation’s gas, plus oil equivalent to 82% of UK needs.
Michie, speaking ahead of the anticipated publication of the government’s new energy security strategy warned that for the new strategy to succeed, the UK’s political parties and governments must collectively build a national consensus on energy like those built around issues like climate change, the response to the pandemic, or support for the NHS.
Michie said: “Our industry has provided the UK with secure safe energy for the last five decades and we can do the same for another five decades – while also helping the nation reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
“But this will only happen with careful planning, preparation, and investment. Energy infrastructure projects take years or even decades and our industry is used to thinking on those timescales. We believe that, where energy is concerned, policymakers of all parties and countries must start doing the same.”
On short-term energy security Michie welcomed the UK government’s support for the energy sector but called for three key policy changes:
- Prioritise government regulators’ decisions on new oil and gas fields
2. Relax the UK gas specification – to enable a 2% increase in supplies
3. Work with the UK’s European partners to co-operate on energy supplies
On the long-term target of secure net zero energy by 2050, Michie said key asks include:
- Deliver new legislation to expand hydrogen production and carbon capture facilities.
- Restore the UK’s gas storage facilities – reduced to almost nothing by the closure of the Rough storage facility. This could store natural gas now and hydrogen in the future.
- Electrify the North Sea and Irish Sea – creating an undersea grid of electrical cables to carry power from offshore wind farms to the UK’s towns and cities.
Michie said: “Our short-term energy security and our longer-term need for secure, net zero energy will only happen if our policymakers can collectively create the right environment for long-term investment across all forms of energy production. To achieve that we need stable long-term regulatory policies, clear and predictable fiscal policies, that are supported by political alignment across all the countries and parties of the UK.
“We need our policymakers and politicians to think long-term, act short-term and, above all, work together for the whole UK.”