Up to eight more nuclear reactors could be approved on existing sites as part of the UK’s new energy strategy.
The strategy, which aims to boost UK energy independence and tackle rising prices, also includes plans to increase wind, hydrogen and solar production.
But experts have called for a bigger focus on energy efficiency and improving home insulation.
Consumers are facing soaring energy bills after the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushed gas prices even higher. Under the government’s new plans, up to 95% of the UK’s electricity could come from low-carbon sources by 2030.
It outlines, for example, the hope of producing up to 50 gigawatts (GW) of energy through offshore wind farms, which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) said would be more than enough to power every home in the UK.
The government’s energy strategy has been much-delayed, with one of the big points of contention reported to have been the construction of onshore wind turbines.
Key points of the new energy strategy
- Nuclear – The government plans to reduce the UK’s reliance on oil and gas by building as many as eight new nuclear reactors, including two at Sizewell in Suffolk. A new body will oversee the delivery of the new plants.
- Wind – The government aims to reform planning laws to speed up approvals for new offshore wind farms. For onshore wind farms it wants to develop partnerships with “supportive communities” who want to host turbines in exchange for guaranteed cheaper energy bills.
- Hydrogen – Targets for hydrogen production are being doubled to help provide cleaner energy for industry as well as for power, transport and potentially heating.
- Solar – The government will consider reforming rules for installing solar panels on homes and commercial buildings to help increase the current solar capacity by up to five times by 2035.
- Oil and gas – A new licensing round for North Sea projects is being launched in the summer on the basis that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than doing so abroad.
- Heat pumps – There will be a £30m “heat pump investment accelerator competition” to make British heat pumps which reduce demand for gas.
Environmentalists and many energy experts have reacted with disbelief and anger at some of the measures in the strategy.
They cannot believe the government has offered no new policies on saving energy by insulating buildings.
They say energy efficiency would immediately lower bills and emissions, and is the cheapest way to improve energy security.
A Downing Street source said the strategy was now being seen as an energy supply strategy.
Campaigners are also furious that ministers have committed to seeking more oil and gas in the North Sea, even though humans have already found enough fossil fuels to wreck the climate.
The new strategy says the government wants to “lead the world once again” in nuclear power, reversing what it describes as “decades of underinvestment”.
The government announced that a new body called Great British Nuclear will be launched to bolster the UK’s nuclear capacity, with the hope that by 2050 up to 24 GW of electricity will come from that source – 25% of the projected electricity demand.
The focus on nuclear could deliver up to eight new reactors to be built on existing sites.
The government hopes to have a new reactor approved each year until 2030 with the aim to have them up and running by 2050.