The UK government has released details of its proposed Energy Security Strategy. Overall the Strategy aims to provide the UK with affordable, clean, and secure energy, sourced for the UK in the UK, in light of rising energy costs and the energy market’s vulnerability to global events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One key point stands out in the release: “acceleration”.
Isaac Newton will tell you acceleration equals force divided by mass, but in the energy domain what is the force and mass? Perhaps in this analogy, the force is the resources available to generate energy. As an island nation, this means offshore wind and tidal power, but other sources are also included in the plan, such as embracing a new generation of affordable nuclear reactors to return the UK to its prominent position in the nuclear industry. Additionally, the oil and gas riches of the North Sea are needed to provide a transition from the old source of energy to the new, providing the fields with a new lease of life. Such abundant sources are not enough. The mass in our analogy that divides force is the unprecedented levels of investment needed, estimated to be £100 billion of private sector investment into new British industries by 2030. Further, the legislative red tape holding back new projects will be boldly removed.
However, any engineer of any technical discipline will know of the design triangle which underpins all technical projects. Do you want high quality, speed, or low cost? Emphasising speed as the Strategy has done means quality and costs must be supplemented. Spending is already underway and a multitude of funds and projects in offshore wind, low carbon hydrogen, CCUS, and others are in various stages of furthering the objectives set out in the government’s 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution. Quality cannot be sacrificed given the potential environmental and societal impacts of any design flaws in such large infrastructure projects.
So how will the aggressive plans be reached? In a word: Innovation. Innovative floating wind turbines to deliver 50 GW by 2030. Doubling of innovative funding for green finance projects. A new nuclear generation with advanced nuclear technologies including both Small Modular Reactors and Advanced Modular Reactors. Designing new hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure essential to growing the hydrogen economy.
The pandemic, the subsequent surge in demand, the global market for energy, and maybe even Brexit have all convinced the UK a return to energy independence is needed. Bearing in mind the global climate crisis and the ambitious net-zero targets, achieving this aim at such a pace and on such a scale will inevitably result in challenges. Innovative solutions involving innovative technologies will be key to overcoming these challenges and achieving the plans of the Energy Security Strategy.