The war in Ukraine has exposed the fragility of the UK’s energy supplies.
Prices for oil and gas have soared as a result of the invasion and the subsequent embargo on Russian imports.
Britain is better placed than EU countries which were importing 40% of their gas from Russia at the start of this year.
By contrast, we imported only 8% of our oil from Russia and 5% of our gas.
But we are not immune from the global hike in prices caused by the scramble to find alternative markets.
Boris Johnson had promised to set out a new energy strategy this week but that has now been pushed back as ministers try to square the dash for new oil and gas supplies with its net zero promises.
What can the UK do to bring down prices for consumers, secure its energy supplies and meet its green commitments?
Oil and gas
The Prime Minister will tomorrow travel to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to urge them to increase oil production. This would help bring down global wholesale prices.
Turning to Saudi Arabia is controversial because of the country’s human rights record.
Whitehall sources have played down an immediate deal with Saudi Arabia, suggesting it could take more than a year to reach an agreement.
In the meantime, the UK is looking to issue new license for North Sea oil and gas extraction. This has been criticised for running contrary to the Government’s pledge to cut carbon emissions from North Sea oil and gas by 50% by 2030.
The chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben, has said new drilling in the North Sea would only have a “marginal effect” on helping consumers with high prices.
In 2020 Boris Johnson said he wanted 100% of the UK’s energy to come from renewables by 2035.
MPs warned recently that target was unlikely to be met and it has now been thrown into further doubt if the government turns to fossil fuels to plug the gap in energy supplies.
Labour claims the government has been too slow to invest in solar, tidal and wind power.
It says there are 649 onshore wind farms and solar projects which have planning permission but have yet to be developed.
Britain gets just 16% of its power from nuclear, compared to the 71% it generates in France. The Government’s 2020 energy white paper identified nuclear as a key way of reducing emissions and plugging any gaps from renewable power.
But just one new nuclear power station, Hinkley Point, left, is being built - the first for 30 years. Ministers have named seven other possible new nuclear power stations at Oldbury, Sellafield, Sizewell, Wylfa, Bradwell, Hartlepool and Heysham but none have yet started construction because of disagreements over funding.
The government could also speed up the development of small nuclear power plants. Rolls-Royce has announced plans to build as many as 16 “mini” nuclear reactors that could power enough electricity for a city the size of Sheffield. It hopes these could come on stream by the end of the decade.
Under pressure from the Tory right the Government has agreed to review its moratorium on fracking.
Fracking was banned in the UK in 2019 amid concerns it was causing earthquakes and tremors.
Boris Johnson has said it would not make sense to seal the shale gas wells.
But experts have warned that it could take ten years for the wells to start producing the gas commercially.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has admitted that fracking would not change wholesale market prices and therefore would do little in the short term to help consumers.
One of the most effective ways to reduce heating bills is to insulate houses properly.
Labour’s Ed Miliband says upgrading the 19million homes in Britain without insulation would cut energy bills by an average of £400 a year and reduce our gas imports by 15%.
But the Tories under David Cameron cut subsidies for loft and cavity wall insulation and relaxed regulations on new builds.
Since 2016 more than a million homes have been built with poor energy standards - adding £2.5billion to energy bills.
Johnson’s £1.5billion green homes scheme which offered households grants towards insulation and low-carbon heating was scrapped in 2021 after insulating only 10% of its target of 600,000 homes.