Britain plans nuclear power and offshore wind to bolster energy independence


LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) – Britain will present a plan to expand offshore nuclear and wind power on Thursday in a bid to bolster its energy independence at a time of soaring prices and an invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

It will increase wind, nuclear and solar generation, while supporting domestic oil and gas production in the near term, the government said, adding that 95% of electricity by 2030 could be low-carbon.

Nuclear is at the heart of the plan, with the ambition to increase capacity to 24 GW by 2050. This would meet around a quarter of projected electricity demand, up sharply from around 14% today. today.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the plan would increase “affordable, clean and safe energy made in Britain, for Britain”.

He said it would “reduce our dependence on energy sources exposed to volatile international prices that we cannot control, so that we can enjoy greater energy autonomy with lower bills” .

Goals include up to 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030. Up to 5 GW would come from installations floating in deeper seas. There would also be a new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas, and consultation on rules for solar projects.

Johnson promised the strategy nearly a month ago, but it has been delayed by disputes over funding and some lawmakers’ opposition to onshore wind farms.

The plan will not have an immediate impact on supply or prices that have helped push UK inflation to a 30-year high, but the rise in nuclear, solar, wind and hydrogen will contribute to the long-term shift away from fossil fuels.

Energy prices surged last year as the global economy reopened after the pandemic. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent them higher.

Unlike Germany, Britain is not dependent on Russian energy, with the country supplying 8% of oil demand and less than 4% of natural gas – but it will be hit by competition as the Europe is looking for alternative sources.

London announced on Wednesday that it would ban Russian oil and coal imports by the end of the year and phase out Russian gas as soon as possible.

Soaring prices drove up British consumer bills by 54% in April, and industries such as glass, steel and chemical producers say they cannot compete when prices are so high.

Gas-fired plants generated 40% of UK electricity in 2021, with wind providing 20%, nuclear 14%, imports 9% and others like bioenergy, solar and coal the rest.

The government has said it will push forward with new nuclear projects as soon as possible, including at the Wylfa site in Anglesey, Wales.

A new body – Great British Nuclear – will be set up, he said, and up to eight new reactors could be delivered, the equivalent of one per year instead of one per decade.

All but one of Britain’s existing nuclear power stations are due to close by 2030 and the first new power station in over 20 years, Hinkley Point C, is due to come on stream in 2026, nearly a decade later than originally planned.

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Reporting by William James and Paul Sandle; written by Kate Holton; Editing by David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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