With the war in Ukraine, the British government is reconsidering its energy policy

Discussions are well underway in the United Kingdom on a change in energy policy. While the Johnson government has pledged to end Russian oil imports by the end of 2022 (8% of national supply), it must also urgently strengthen the country’s energy security to try to limit the bill. of the British, which will soar by more than 50% on the 1er April.

Two things already seem almost certain, while Downing Street has promised a detailed plan by the end of the month: the government wants to relaunch the exploitation of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea and significantly increase the civil nuclear capacity of the country. No question, however, he assures, of going back on the objective of carbon neutrality in 2050, a question of credibility for the country, which hosted COP26, in Glasgow, in November 2021. But will you maintain the target of 78% reduction in emissions by 2035? Concern is mounting among NGOs.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Is the war in Ukraine likely to slow down the fight against climate change?

According to the British media, Boris Johnson wants to increase to 25% (compared to 16% today) the proportion of electricity produced by nuclear power, which would involve the construction of half a dozen new power plants between 2030 and 2050. Downing Street also hopes for a revival of private investment in the North Sea – 40% of the gas consumed by the UK already comes from the North Sea gas fields and only 4% from Russia. It would be “completely insane” to turn our backs on these national reserves, said industry minister Kwasi Kwarteng in mid-March.

“Cost of living” crisis

With the explosion in hydrocarbon prices, partly linked to the war in Ukraine, interest seems to be returning to this declining basin. Andy Samuel, the boss of the North Sea Transition Authority (the independent regulator of the sector), told the FinancialTimeson March 21, that he was preparing the auction of new licenses for fields “practically ready to be exploited” – the last licenses were issued in 2020. Six new licenses are awaiting a green light. Another alert: Shell confirmed on March 18 that it had just submitted a new exploitation file for the Jackdaw field, in the northeast of Scotland.

NGOs, which fought hard ahead of COP26 for a halt to new operating licenses, fear that the Anglo-Dutch giant is once again interested in another oil field, Cambo, to the west of the islands. Shetland, which he had said he would give up after the Glasgow conference. “Shell is ready to take advantage of rising oil prices, partly due to the war in Ukraine. (…) Opening up new fields, like Cambo and Jackdaw, would make us even more dependent on hydrocarbons and aggravate the climate crisis,” denounces Caroline Rance, one of the leaders of Friends of the Earth Scotland, in a press release dated March 22.

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