Boris Johnson outlines plan to phase out Russian oil and gas
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Earlier this month, the UK Government announced it would phase out the imports of Russian oil and gas amid the war in Ukraine, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to publish an updated “energy security strategy” in the coming week. However, the Prime Minister has come under fire for seeking energy security from Saudi Arabia to solve the Russia conundrum, with critics and campaigners urging the Government to look at renewable solutions closer to home.
Speaking on the UK’s options, Andy Willis, CEO of renewable energy firm Kona, told Express.co.uk: “Renewables and energy storage can go a very long way towards enhancing our energy security and every joule or kilowatt of power we can produce in the UK moves our reliance away from other countries such as Russia.”
He added: “Renewables are the cheapest form of energy, so solar and onshore wind projects for example are much cheaper than gas or fossil fuel technologies and the cost of batteries is also dropping kind of rapidly as well.
“We will continue to use fossil fuels in the meantime, and they will remain a key part of the energy mix over the next decade but renewables will go a long way towards replacing them.”
Renewable energy sources have marginal production costs meaning they are less expensive to maintain than fossil fuel plants, Mr Willis explained.
He said: “In the long term, the price of electricity should actually fall, as more renewables come online, especially as a lot of these plants are unsubsidised so you’re not adding to the green levies on people’s fuel bills.”
Indeed, the Low Carbon Contracts Company – a Government-funded renewable energy think-tank – forecasts renewable paybacks to increase to a total of £770million by the end of winter, reducing the average household’s annual energy bill by £27.
Renewable paybacks refers to the return on investment on a project.
Dan McGrail, the chief executive of RenewableUK, an industry trade group, told The Guardian in January: “The answer to an energy crisis caused by soaring gas prices is to encourage investment in low-cost renewables to decrease our reliance on eye-wateringly expensive fossil fuels.
“The escape route from volatile and uncontrollable gas prices couldn’t be clearer – investing in our green future secures low-cost reliable power as well as getting the UK to net-zero as fast as possible.”
Several renewable energy projects are now already subsidy-free meaning they can be installed without the need for government support making it cheaper for consumers.
What are the UK’s renewable energy options?
All the facts point toward the UK already being well-placed to lead the way with renewable energy.
Renewable energy sources already produce more than 20 percent of the UK’s electricity – mostly from wind, solar, hydroelectric as well as some bio-energy sources.
The UK is also a world leader in offshore wind and has high average wind speeds enabling the production of 10 gigawatts at present and increasing to 40 by 2030, according to Mr Willis.
He said onshore wind is the cheapest form of energy and should be exploited going forward but he recognised there are often holdups in the planning and construction of these projects and “an offshore wind project might take 10 years to consent”.
He said people need to understand that more infrastructure will be built, such as wind farms, if the UK is to move away from its reliance on fossil fuels.
Solar power is another valuable option to capitalise on with incentives for homeowners expected to be announced in the Government’s “energy security plan” including interest-free loans and higher returns on the solar power generated.
The Government is also working on a change to planning laws to allow more solar farms to be built to increase solar-generated power from 14 gigawatts to 50 gigawatts by 2030 – which is enough to supply 15 million homes.
Hydroelectric power is a well-established energy source in the UK – but Mr Willis said that increasing this quickly is expensive and “years away from commercial deployment”.
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However, Mr Willis noted that to make renewable energy sources sustainable long-term, the UK needed to build a battery storage infrastructure.
These would collect excess power generated and provide “back-up energy” for when sources are under-producing meaning the country does not need to rely on fossil fuels to make up the difference.
Is renewable energy the solution to the UK’s energy security?
Looking at the UK’s future energy supply Mr Willis said: “It will be heavily renewable and storage focused and gas will play a role in the next kind of 10 to 15 years, but it is a kind of transition away from gas moving forward.”
“And we will continue to import gas from Norway, Qatar and the US, but it’s obviously clear, we need to move away from it.
“So heavy investment in renewables and some nuclear as well…I think the new plant at Sizewell will provide that kind of backup, baseload power going forward.”
Sizewell C is a new nuclear power plant located adjacent to Sizewell B in Suffolk which once complete will generate enough electricity to power six million homes.
Increased investment in renewable energy would mean the UK is less reliant on importing energy in the form of fossil fuels.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said in a video on Twitter: “There is now an urgent need for Britain to become energy independent.
“Leaving our country continually exposed to a gas market that can be manipulated by the Kremlin would be a complete dereliction of duty.
“We need to focus on generating cheaper, cleaner power here in the UK, recognising that gas is expensive and renewables are relatively cheaper energy.”
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