Photo: Illustration; Source: Offshore Energies UK (OEUK)

UK’s new PM urged to tackle ‘challenges of fuelling the future’

With a new Prime Minister (PM) poised to take over the role, the UK’s representative body for the offshore energy industry, Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), and the environmental activities – which have occupied Westminster to hammer the fuel poverty, cost of living, and climate crises home – see an opportunity to strengthen energy security and scale up the transition to low-carbon and clean energy.

The appointment of the UK’s new Conservative Party leader, Rishi Sunak, who is succeeding Liz Truss, was greeted by Offshore Energies UK – former Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) – on Monday as a chance to refocus attention on “the crucial issues facing the nation,” including helping people pay their winter energy bills and keeping the lights on in the face of Europe-wide gas shortages.

As Sunak gets ready to take the reins from Truss, OEUK explained that it was ready to work with the new government on all energy-related issues, welcoming Sunak’s first speech as Conservative leader in which he acknowledged that the UK faced a “profound economic challenge” and stressed the need for stability.

Deirdre Michie, OEUK’s chief executive, remarked: “We wish Rishi Sunak the best. We are already in very challenging times and energy is at the top of the agenda. Global energy prices are rising, and UK consumers face surging bills at the coldest time of year. Energy security is also critical as Putin tries to create further shortages across Europe.”

As Russia’s attack on Ukraine has driven up costs and led to a global energy crisis, countries worldwide are intensifying efforts to meet energy demand, thus, the UK’s new PM “must deal with the challenges of fuelling the future,” in the longer term. According to OEUK, this includes using the gas and oil remaining in the UK’s offshore waters to provide energy during the transition to a low-carbon future.

This is in line with Offshore Energies UK’s earlier statements, which warned that an increase in domestic production could only be sustained with continued investment in oil and gas reserves, urging the UK government to prioritise domestic energy production to protect consumers from supply and price shocks.

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“OEUK’s members are protecting the UK from many of the worst impacts of those shortages by producing energy for the whole nation. They will keep doing that in the tough times ahead. We work with politicians of all parties, now including Mr Sunak’s administration, and we look forward to meeting him and his team. When we do, we will be making a powerful case around the need for stability in the fiscal and regulatory regimes governing the UK’s offshore sector,” added Michie.

Furthermore, Offshore Energies UK pointed out that gas and oil supplied 75 per cent of the UK’s total energy in 2021. While gas is the largest energy source, supplying about 43 per cent, oil is the second largest source, providing about 34 per cent of the UK’s total energy. Moreover, the figures show that the UK consumed 78 billion cubic metres of gas and 55 million tonnes of oil and oil products in 2021.

“The UK needs to secure billions of pounds for offshore investments if it is to keep producing the gas, oil and offshore wind, plus other low-carbon energies, needed for future growth and productivity, and especially for the transition to net-zero. The scale and longevity of that investment means it is critical to establish a sustainable and competitive fiscal regime in the timeframe of this parliament, to secure the UK’s energy future,” concluded Michie.

Activists occupy Westminster to urge Sunak to take action

In a separate statement, Greenpeace revealed that over 30 activists occupied the corridor leading to the House of Commons chamber, covering the area with energy bills while holding a banner reading: ‘Chaos Costs Lives,’ to send the Prime Minister-in-waiting, Rishi Sunak, “a clear message.”

Greenpeace highlighted that almost a quarter of the country is in fuel poverty, adding that every day the government is in turmoil, more people will struggle to heat their homes this winter. The environmental group claims that as Chancellor, Sunak “failed to end this crisis and failed to properly tax the energy companies.” However, Greenpeace outlined that he has a chance to try again as the UK’s new PM. 

The activists believe that the levels of inequality and fuel poverty in the UK have been caused by political choices and inaction while “as Chancellor, Sunak was at the heart of this devastating failure.” The group further underlined that the windfall tax Sunak announced on oil and gas companies contained “huge loopholes.”

In addition, Greenpeace underscored that the UK’s incoming PM oversaw “the mismanagement and scrapping” of the Green Homes Grant, which could have provided “much-needed insulation to thousands of homes to keep people warm this winter.”

The environmental group emphasized that Sunak, as the next Prime Minister, has the chance to “clean his hands” in his first budget by “properly taxing record fossil fuel profits,” which could help provide “support for those in need, insulate homes and expand cheap renewable energy.” Greenpeace highlighted that its activists took action and occupied Westminster to tell the new Prime Minister that the government’s “chaos is costing lives and it’s costing the climate.” 

Therefore, the environmental group underscored that Sunak “must act now to tackle the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis,” reminding him that “he works for the people of this country – not party donors and think tanks.”