Sunak to focus on carbon capture and mini-nuclear reactors in energy policy

The Guardian by Aubrey Allegretti

An energy security strategy will be launched “shortly”, Rishi Sunak has promised, with a focus on ramping up carbon capture and small modular reactors to develop homegrown energy and meet net zero commitments.

Ministers have been forced to rework their plans after a ruling by the high court last July. It found that the government’s net zero strategy was unlawful due to a breach of the 2008 Climate Change Act, given the document did not outline how climate policies would meet legally binding carbon budgets.

Campaigners have called for regulation to be cut for new clean energy projects in order to speed up Britain’s energy independence and for potential savings to be passed on to consumers.

Sunak told reporters on his way to a trilateral meeting with the Australian and US leaders: “Shortly we will be outlining, in the energy security strategy, an approach forward.”

He said it would focus on “carbon capture and storage, small modular reactors and the like”, and talked up the success of investment in research and development of energy sources such as offshore wind.

“I am very confident that we will continue to have a very vibrant set of companies and jobs created in the UK as we transition to net zero, and our track record should give everyone confidence we know how to do this and get it right,” Sunak said.

Sam Richards, the founder and campaign director of the “pro-growth” campaign group Britain Remade, blamed Britain’s energy insecurity for “surging energy bills and unsustainable levels of borrowing”.

He promoted the benefits of small modular reactors, which the World Economic Forum has identified as a new breed of power source that does not emit greenhouse gases and is less exposed to traditional dangers such as earthquakes and meltdowns.

The technology is sparking a renaissance for nuclear energy, with a range of next-generation small modular reactors being developed in the US.

However, Richards said they would “not be delivered at the pace needed without streamlining the regulatory approval process”, and he called for a list of prospective places, including a list of decommissioned nuclear sites, to be drawn up.

“The government will not be able to cut Britain’s dependency on expensive foreign gas and reduce energy bills without reforming the planning system that holds back clean energy infrastructure such as onshore wind, the cheapest form of energy available,” Richards said.

“With the vast majority of major clean energy projects being developed outside London and the south-east, boosting investing in clean energy infrastructure will deliver a significant economic boost and job creation in Britain’s former industrial heartlands across the north and Midlands.”