RenewableUK has urged the UK’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to support the scaling up of the clean power sector to boost energy security and cut energy bills.
Both energy security and reducing the price of energy bills will be pivotal issues for Sunak’s tenure as Prime Minister and Dan McGrail, CEO of RenewableUK, has called on him to support growth within the clean energy sector to help support these crucial determining factors.
“Cutting people’s energy bills and boosting energy security will be high on the new Prime Minister’s agenda, so we’re keen to work with Mr Sunak to achieve this as fast as possible,” McGrail said.
Sunak has publicly been skeptical on the use of solar in the UK and in August stated that he would “protect our best agricultural land” from “swathes” of solar farms, despite solar currently covering just 0.08% of total land use.
In an article in the Telegraph Rishi Sunak set out his “pro-farmer” stance, criticising the use of ground-mount solar on agricultural land.
“On my watch, we will not lose swathes of our best farmland to solar farms. Instead, we should be making sure that solar panels are installed on commercial buildings, on sheds and on properties,” Sunak wrote in an op-ed as part of his Conservative leadership campaign.
The comments followed his competitor and former Prime Minister Liz Truss who also launched an attack on solar energy, branding the technology “paraphernalia” when speaking at a hustings event. Whilst in a previous husting both Sunak and Truss hit out at solar farms on the grounds of food security.
Utilising solar will be of upmost priority in order to achieve net zero and gain energy independence. This is referenced by McGrail who believes the government must use a “wide range of power sources” to reach net zero as quickly as possible.
McGrail has also detailed the need to support both offshore and onshore wind generation.
“We must pull out all the stops to quadruple our offshore wind capacity by 2030, as it’s the UK’s cheapest source of new power. This will deliver nearly 100,000 jobs and over £150 billion in private investment. It will also enable us to secure massive industrial benefits with factories opening up in ports around the UK as we build up our supply chain,” McGrail said.
“We’re also urging the new Prime Minister to maintain the Conservatives’ commitment to lifting the block on onshore wind in England, as it has the support of over 70% of the public and over 80% of Conservative voters.”
Onshore wind generation received a boost by former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng when he included support measures in the Government’s prospective Growth Plan. “The government will unlock the potential of onshore wind by bringing consenting in line with other infrastructure,” the plan stated.
“The UK is a world-leader in offshore wind, with 8GW of offshore wind currently under construction. By 2023 the government is set to increase renewables capacity by 15%, supporting the UK’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”
Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of energy generation in the UK, but has been hampered over the last decade by planning constraints amounting to an effective ban.
It will be fundamental that these measures are continually supported by the new Government especially with the energy sector welcoming the measures in regard to onshore wind generation.
Sunak will also need to appease the 77% of people in the UK that believe the government should use new wind and solar farms to reduce electricity bills. A further 76% of people also are in support of building renewable energy projects in their local area, according to data collected by Survation in September.
More pressing for Sunak is the fact that 84% of those who backed the Tories at the last election now urge the government to use new wind and solar farms to cut electricity bills. 81% of 2019 Tory voters also support a renewable energy project being developed in their local area.
Along with this, 68% of the public polled want the new Conservative party leader to increase or maintain investment in renewables, compared to just 14% who want to see investment reduced. 40% of people also stated they would be less favourable to the new regime should it weaken climate change policies.
Green Alliance has also called on the new Prime Minister to cease the use of fracking as a method of creating stability within the energy market to instead focus on electrification and renewable generation in a letter.
“Fracking is a red herring, and the UK should focus on electrification of the economy, not on further fossil fuel dependence. The government should recommit to a moratorium on fracking,” the letter read.
The lift of the moratorium on fracking was a controversial move by the UK Government made to “bolster the UK’s energy security.”
Under the move, Applications for Hydraulic Fracturing Consent will now be considered where there is local support, with developers still required to have the necessary licences, permissions and consents in place.
A recent government polling found just 17% of the public support fracking – dramatically lower than technologies like solar, which is popular with over 80% of the public. This will be an area Sunak could explore in his tenure as Prime Minister.