The UK should look to supply some 35% to 40% of its electricity needs with nuclear energy by 2030 to ensure energy security and cut carbon emissions, finds a recently released report that had been commissioned by the government.

The comprehensive report, "Energy Security: A national challenge in a changing world,"  says that much more nuclear energy would help the UK’s growing reliance on gas-fired power plants and fossil fuel imports. The report’s author, Malcolm Wicks, a former energy minister, argues that a low-carbon economy is as vital to energy security as it is to tackling climate change. He strongly recommends the government pursues energy efficiency and home-grown sources of energy with maximum pace and ambition. 

"Energy reserves are concentrated in some of the most unstable parts of the world.  That’s an issue of national security," he said in a press release last week. "There is no crisis but we can never be complacent. As we move out of recession, the global grab for energy will resume in earnest, consumption is predicted to rise, and with it prices."

The report finds that among the challenges facing the UK on the energy security front are that by 2030 the world will still need fossil fuels. It cited a International Energy Agency prediction  that even with ambitious climate change targets, the world will continue to use coal, gas, and oil to meet over two-thirds of its energy needs.

The report also suggests that by 2020, the UK will be importing 45% to 80% of its gas. "The UK has been reliant on imports before but the energy security challenges presented by a dramatically changing global economic, geopolitical and energy landscape, combined with the urgent need to tackle climate change, are new and require us to re-assess our approach."

The report concludes that: 

  • The UK should continue to ensure that energy efficiency is at the heart of energy dialogues with its global partners. 
  • The nation should seek to provide some 35% to 40% of its electricity beyond 2030 with nuclear energy.
  • The UK should prioritize Norway, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia as the most significant bilateral relationships to its energy security. Relationships built on a broad base including diplomatic, development, and cultural collaboration will provide a firm basis on which to pursue our energy security goals.
  • The UK should remain at the forefront in developing and demonstrating carbon capture and sequestration technology.
  • The government should do what it can to support European Union (EU) work to promote diversification of routes and sources of gas supply into Europe, including through the use of EU diplomacy to influence third countries, where they are better placed to do this than the UK is bilaterally.
  • The government should keep under review the possibility of further measures to enhance levels of gas storage, should anticipated commercial storage developments fail to materialize at the scale anticipated. 
  • Following the government’s National Security Strategy 2009, which recognized the importance of energy to the UK’s national security, the report recommends that the government consider setting up an Office of International Energy, bringing together more closely those working across government on these issues. 

Source: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office