The UK Government’s new British Energy Security Strategy must ensure that low-carbon infrastructure is built in the UK, according to energy trade groups and unions.
Published late Wednesday, the strategy will see the government pursue an expansion of nuclear, offshore wind and hydrogen infrastructure to ensure 95% of UK electricity is low carbon by 2030.
It has also promised to deliver “40,000 more jobs in clean industries” within that timeframe.
However, trade bodies and union leaders said UK companies and workers must also be prioritised in the manufacture and operation of this new infrastructure.
Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) chief executive Deirdre Michie said that without this support, the sector was at risk of being undermined, leaving the nation “increasingly reliant on other countries.”
She added: “Do we make the most of our own resources and use these to provide energy security now and support the development of a homegrown low-carbon energy industry for the future?
“Or do we outsource the manufacturing and construction of our new energy infrastructure to other countries and import the billions of pounds worth of equipment needed? Both destinations reach net zero but outsourcing to other countries undermines our own companies and workers and reduces our energy security by making us more dependent on imports.”
The UK’s offshore energy sector currently supports about 195,000 jobs, according to OEUK.
Ms Michie said that these companies and their workforces were the “bedrock” on which the UK should build its new low-carbon energy infrastructure.
“I want to remind politicians of all parties and countries that energy security is now national security and ask them to recognise the vital role that our oil and gas operators and supply chain play in providing energy now – and to support them as they evolve to build our low-carbon future.”
Promises “don’t stack up”
Meanwhile, energy union GMB responded with similar sentiments.
GMB general secretary Gary Smith said that despite the ambition of the strategy, there were “serious questions” about the lack of specific commitments on UK jobs.
“Lofty promises of tens of thousands of jobs in offshore wind just don’t stack up when the UK continues to award vital new projects to companies based in authoritarian regimes. The UK should be building this energy future, not surrendering it to other nations.”
The union also urged the need for home-grown nuclear manufacturing and skills in response to the strategy’s call to build 24GW of new capacity by 2050.
“At least the government has finally woken up to what GMB has been saying for years: new reactors are the only way we can secure the UK’s energy security and there can be no net zero without new nuclear.”
Mr Smith called for clarity on the new reactors, small modular reactors (SMRs) and their associated supply chains, “so that jobs are created at home and not shipped overseas.”
“After years of dither and delay, it’s time to get on with it and put spades in the ground.”
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) also praised the commitments to new infrastructure, but said more must be done to secure jobs in domestic supply chains.
General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Today’s announcement fails to rise to the challenge of the climate emergency. And it does little to reassure the millions of workers facing big falls in their living standards due to soaring energy costs.
“A mass home insulation programme would slash bills and create over 200,000 jobs. But it is entirely missing from the strategy.”
Ms O’Grady said there was no new help to preserve jobs in energy-intensive industries threatened by rising energy costs, and that it failed to show investment in zero-carbon steel, electric vehicles, and clean manufacturing.
“Ministers should be far bolder. Now is the time for a strategy that defends and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, delivers affordable energy to homes and workplaces and stops climate change,” she added.