New nuclear reactors and expanded solar development are in the works as part of British PM Boris Johnson’s new energy security strategy, but it fails to address climate targets.  

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to build eight new nuclear reactors and expand production of wind and solar energy as part of his energy security strategy to cut dependence on Russian oil and gas amid the invasion of Ukraine. 

Nuclear energy is at the front and centre of Johnson’s new plan, in which the government aims to almost triple nuclear power generation capacity to 24 gigawatts by 2050. The development of hydrogen projects is expected to be accelerated as well. 

“We’re setting out bold plans to scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain, from new nuclear to offshore wind, in the decade ahead,’’ said Johnson. “This will reduce our dependence on power sources exposed to volatile international prices we cannot control.”

In the wake of the war in Ukraine, oil and natural gas prices soared as energy supplies from Russia are threatened, who are responsible for a large portion of energy for the Western world. Prior to the invasion, Russia’s gas accounts for about 40% of the EU’s natural gas imports

The EU has already set out plans to cut Russia gas imports by 80% this year by importing more liquefied natural gas (LNG) elsewhere and rapidly scale up renewable energy generation. Likewise, Germany is implementing an ambitious renewable energy reform as they persist in phasing out coal and nuclear power.

Johnson’s new energy security strategy however, takes a different approach. It will see nuclear power providing 25% of electricity in the country while increasing capacity from 7GW to 24GW by 2050. But no new nuclear power plants will be built in Scotland, whose parliament has reaffirmed its opposition and concerns. 

Offshore wind energy capacity will be slightly increased from 40GW to 50GW, a move which many critics claim to be under-utilised and a “missed opportunity” considering the country’s geolocation and wind speeds. The plan instead will see solar energy much more expanded, with the target of driving up total capacity from 14GW to 70GW by 2035. 

Environmentalists have already expressed anger at the plan’s lack of home insulation subsidies or investments to upgrade homes to make them easier and cheaper to heat. In Britain, gas – which provides heat for 90% of households – and electricity prices have already jumped 54% this month.

At the same time, the UK government remains unmoved and continues to provide licences to explore new oil and gas fields in the North Sea, undercutting the nation’s decarbonisation plans and net-zero targets. 

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warns that the world must peak greenhouse gas emission by 2025 and nearly halve emissions from 2019 levels by 2030 in order to keep global warming to under 1.5C. While the energy security strategy might reduce oil and gas dependence on Russia, it does not cut the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Featured image by: © Copyright Roger Kidd