The body representing the UK’s offshore fossil fuel industry bundled calls for faster growth of wind at sea with a plea for massive new oil & gas investment, claiming both are needed to underpin Britain’s national energy security and cut costs to consumers.
The pitch from Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) came as a war of words erupted over the future of the nation’s energy transition under new Prime Minister Liz Truss, with the hydrocarbons sector newly emboldened by sympathetic noises over North Sea fossil extraction and fracking while others raced to defend the net zero agenda.
OEUK in its newly-released report Managing UK Energy Security in Troubled Times, prepared before Truss's confirmation as Prime Minister, said the rate of turbine installation needs to triple if the UK is to hit its goal of having 50GW of wind at sea in place by the end of the decade.
The historically fossil-focused industry group – many of whose members are increasingly active in renewables – backed plans set out in the UK government’s April energy security strategy to accelerate consenting of offshore wind projects and cut red tape for developers.
OEUK said its data shows around 40 projects planned through to 2030 at various stages of development. “Based on this pipeline, the Energy Security Strategy target is potentially achievable, but it is important to understand the associated project uncertainties and risks.
“This scale of installation is very ambitious, and it will require significant improvements to the regulatory and permitting process. Of the potential capacity additions before 2030, 46% (almost 18.5GW) is only at concept stage.
“History shows that it takes around 13 years to progress from concept and application stage through to operations. This means that the UK’s 50GW ambitions will only be achieved if this can be sped up,” said the report.
OEUK’s backing for offshore wind policy reform to boost energy security came as part of a wider call for a ramp-up to oil & gas activity, as it claimed that without significant new investment Britain faces rising imports of the fossil fuels through to 2030.
The body sees a $26bn potential for oil & gas capital investment, of which only one third is approved.
OEUK acting CEO Mike Tholen said: “We must expand the supply of low carbon energy including wind and hydrogen but the scale-up will take time. UK gas will give us a bedrock of reliable energy through the transition and minimise reliance on imports.
“In practical terms we need the new government to rapidly announce the next round of oil and gas exploration licenses and speed up production approvals.”
Net zero war of words
Truss is due to make a major announcement on energy policy on Thursday, with all sides of the argument eager to make themselves heard as speculation grew that she will move the agenda further from net zero than plans pursued by her predecessor Boris Johnson.
Gas reserves – offshore or from shale – are too small to impact the prices faced by UK consumers.
Two influential figures, Lord Deben, chair of the government’s advisory Climate Change Committee, and Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, in a letter to the new Prime Minister warned Truss that “gas reserves – offshore or from shale – are too small to impact meaningfully the prices faced by UK consumers”.
Instead they said “the best policies for the consumer are those that support lasting energy security and a low carbon, low-cost energy system”.
They include measures to support greater deployment of low-cost wind and solar. “Renewables are the cheapest form of electricity generation. Onshore wind and solar have the potential to be deployed fastest and thus reduce our reliance on natural gas sooner.”