Rishi Sunak visits Scotland to outline UK energy security plans

Hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licences approved by UK for net-zero transition

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in the north-east of Scotland to visit businesses and projects supporting the UK's oil industry. PA
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set out how the UK can boost its energy security on Monday with the announcement of more than 100 more oil and gas production licences.

Mr Sunak will “max out” Scotland’s oil reserves to boost the UK’s energy security plans, he said during a visit to the north-east of Scotland.

He and Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps are scheduled to meet senior figures from the oil and gas, renewable and nuclear industries over the next week.

Mr Sunak travels to Scotland, where he will meet key figures in the energy sector and visit what Downing Street said were “critical infrastructure projects” that would boost the economy and generate jobs.

He said he was still committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, but the energy security move signals he believes oil and gas still have role in a “proportionate and pragmatic” approach to achieving the target.

Mr Sunak's government is expected to approve the development of sites in the North Sea including Rosebank, near the Shetland Isles, which is believed to be the UK's largest undeveloped oil and gasfield.

The plans led to a recent protest that was joined by environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

Mr Sunak is also reportedly preparing to announce a project that aims to capture carbon dioxide emissions for storage in the North Sea, which could create up to 21,000 jobs.

He wants to contrast the Labour Party, which has said it will block all new oil and gas projects, and to placate critics in his own party, who believe the drive to net zero will damage the economy.

“I think it makes absolutely no sense, as the Labour Party is suggesting, to ban North Sea oil and gas,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.

“That is just going to weaken our energy security and strengthen the hands of dictators like President [Vladimir] Putin.

“But it’s also going to put at risk 200,000 jobs across something like 30 different sectors of the economy and also threaten £80 billion [$102.73 billion] worth of tax revenue.”

Mr Sunak, who became Conservative leader last October, said his approach was “to support the UK's energy industry” and that not exploiting new UK oil and gas reserves could lead to “the lights going out” in Britain.

“Everybody sensible recognises that we will need those fossil fuels as part of the transition to net zero,” he said.

But Labour’s shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said: “Every family and business is paying the price, in higher energy bills, of 13 years of failed Tory energy policy.

“Labour will take no lessons from the party that banned onshore wind, crashed the market for solar, stalled energy efficiency, haven't got any new nuclear plants started and left us at the mercy of tyrants across the world.

“Labour is on the side of working people while the Tories line the pockets of energy giants and dictators across the world.”

Jamie Peters, climate co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth, said that ending the UK's “reliance” on fossil fuels was the “only sensible and effective way” of increasing energy security.

“This means saying no to new fossil fuel developments and ramping up our investment in renewables and energy efficiency,” Mr Peters said.

“The UK is blessed with huge renewable energy resources, offshore and onshore, and we should be making better use of these for long-term security and economic prosperity.

“With parts of the world literally on fire, we need our politicians to show bolder leadership on cutting emissions – not more dither and delay.”

Updated: August 01, 2023, 6:29 AM