Planning rules to be relaxed so that renewables and nuclear power can boost energy independence after Ukraine invasion
A massive expansion of wind farms across the UK is now needed for national security reasons, the business secretary has declared, as, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the government considers sweeping changes to planning laws to improve Britain’s energy independence.
Boris Johnson is planning to unveil a radical new “energy strategy” within a fortnight to ensure the UK can meet its domestic needs from a mix of renewables and nuclear. The war in Ukraine has brought further huge rises in global fossil fuel prices and exposed countries’ dependence on overseas supplies.
Remarkably, the need for more on- and offshore windfarms – traditionally a highly controversial subject in the Conservative party – is now being talked about within government as a matter of security, rather than a way of fighting climate change.
Renewables such as wind and solar power are expected to be part of the new government strategy to free Britain from dependence on imported oil and gas and spare households and businesses from the effects of wild fluctuations on global energy markets.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, said last week on Twitter: “This is no longer about tackling climate change or reaching net-zero targets. Ensuring the UK’s clean energy independence is a matter of national security. Putin can set the price of gas, but he can’t directly control the price of renewables and nuclear we generate in the UK.”
Official figures show that meeting net-zero targets would lead to a drop in gas use of 65% by 2035 in the UK, and almost 100% by 2050.
While some Tory MPs also want the moratorium on fracking for shale gas to be lifted to help reduce dependence on imports, cabinet sources said there was no realistic prospect of doing so in the short term, until the process had been proved to be demonstrably safe. Instead a majority of cabinet ministers back a big push for more renewables and an expansion of nuclear.