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What is the UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero?

In this article we’ll explore what the UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero actually is, and what it means for the future of the UK Energy sector.
Green News
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announced the creation of a new UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. The new department takes on the energy policy responsibilities of the now defunct Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The move has been welcomed by many and offers hope that Rishi Sunak’s new Government will refocus on the decarbonisation of the UK economy, and that the move signals a renewed commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. 

👉 In this article we’ll explore what the UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero actually is, and what it means for the future of the UK Energy sector.

What is the UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero?

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) is one of four new departments created by the Prime Minister of the UK, Rishi Sunak. “The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will provide dedicated leadership focused on delivering security of energy supply, ensuring properly functioning markets, greater energy efficiency and seizing the opportunities of net zero to lead the world in new green industries’. 

Created in February 2023 following a government reshuffle, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is responsible for delivering energy policy, something that was previously the responsibility of the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). 

According to the UK Government the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will “focus on giving the UK cheaper, cleaner, more secure sources of energy - cutting bills, cutting emissions, and cutting dependence on international energy supplies”. 

The newly created Department for Energy Security and Net Zero showcases the UK Government’s commitment to achieving its net zero emissions target by 2050, and is a welcome move for many. 

Big Ben and a blue sky

What are its main responsibilities?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined the main responsibilities of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero as being: 

  • Maintaining UK energy supplies and ensuring that energy demands are met, particularly in winter months, while also reducing energy bills across the UK, and lowering inflation
  • Ensuring that the UK is on track to achieve its legally binding carbon budgets and its target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 by accelerating the delivery of network infrastructure and domestic energy production in the UK
  • Improving the energy efficiency of homes across the UK, as well as businesses and public sector buildings
  • Delivery of the current UK Government scheme which supports UK energy consumers with their energy bills, as well as the development of long-term reform to improve the situation of families and businesses with regards to energy bills 
  • Capture the economic benefits of Net Zero, including jobs and economic growth through the expansion of green industry
  • Delivery of the new Energy Bill which will: support the emerging hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) markets; update the governance of the UK’s energy system: and speed up offshore wind farm approval periods.

Why was the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero created?

In February 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak split up the Department for Business, energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and created a new department dedicated to energy supply and security: the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. The other functions of BEIS will have also been transitioned into two other new departments: the Department for Business and Trade, and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. 

The reasons behind this restructuring lie in the changed domestic and global landscape. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the return of war to Europe has shaken the UK’s energy sector and created concerns over supply as well as price. The cost of living crisis has also seen the energy bills of households across the UK rise significantly. 

Not only this, but the UK is now faced with the challenge of having to significantly speed up its decarbonisation if it is going to be able to achieve net zero emissions targets by 2050. This means that the UK will need to refocus effort to expand new markets in renewable and nuclear energy, as well as foster innovation in other technologies that assist in the decarbonisation of all UK sectors. 

The UK Government recognised that this changed landscape required a renewed focus and commitment, and determined that existing UK Government infrastructure was not capable of effectively dealing with these issues. This is why the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero was created. 

Forest and scrub land with war tank

The influence of the Net-Zero review?

Chris Skidmore (Conservative MP and former UK Energy Minister) was appointed by the UK Government in 2020, to lead an independent review of the UK’s Net Zero Strategy which was originally published in 2021 and outlined how the UK Government intends to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

After thorough analysis, the review, also known as Mission Zero, concluded that the UK Government should adopt a new approach to its Net Zero Strategy and published 129 recommendations to help achieve this. Included in these recommendations was the call for accelerated UK infrastructure to support green technology and renewable energy sources. The report also pushed for the creation of some kind of Government body who would be responsible for the delivery of net zero.

The new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero seems to answer both of these recommendations and Chris Skidmore, who led the review, has welcomed the creation of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, highlighting that it was something he had previously called for. 

wind turbine farm in the countryside with blue skies

How will the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero operate?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has appointed Grant Schnapps MP to lead the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Grant Schapps is the former business secretary and previously headed up the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). 

Jeremy Pocklington will also take on the role of Permanent Secretary, having previously held the same position at the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities. Jeremy Pocklinton has also previously held positions at BEIS, HM Treasury, and the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change).

Although it is not clear at this early stage how the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will operate, there is hope stemming from Rishi Sunak’s selection of department members. Chris Stark, the UK’s Climate Change Committee Chief Executive, has voiced his approval of the appointments.  

Saint Pauls Cathedral in London at night and a pedestrian bridge over the River Thames

What action has the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero taken so far?

At the end of March, 2023, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero issued a press release outlining its ambitious plans to “scale up affordable, clean, homegrown power, and build thriving green industries in Britain.” The intention is that this will help to strengthen the UK’s energy security while also reducing the energy bills of households across the UK. 

The UK Government plans to expand the UK’s clean energy industry, something that will also create an estimated half a million new green jobs by 2030. The press release outlined specific measures and actions that will be taken to achieve these objectives, including: 

  • Commitment to carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) - the first CCUS projects to progress to the next stage of negotiations will shortly be announced;
  • The launch of an 160 million GBP fund which will support offshore wind infrastructure projects; 
  • The support of new green hydrogen production projects through the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (with 240 million GBP backing); 
  • Opening of the 5th round of the UK’s scheme to attract investment in renewable electricity;
  • The announcement of Great British Nuclear’s Chair and CEO, with their first priority being to launch a competition to identify the best small modular nuclear reactor technologies. Development of the projects is hoped to commence in august 2023;
  • Reduced planning process timings for renewable energy infrastructure in order to attract more investment;
  • Expansion of UK Government energy efficiency support to cut UK household bills and upgrade 300,000 of the UK’s least energy efficient homes;
  • The investment of 380 million GBP to create EV charge points across the country;
  • The announcement of a new 30 million GBP Heat Pump Investment Accelerator which will leverage private investment to boost the availability of heat pumps in the UK.
Electric car plugged into a charge point

Looking forward

Reports such as Mission Zero make it clear that the UK Government's current approach to energy security and net zero just won’t cut it. As it stands the UK is too reliant on fossil fuels from overseas territories, making the UK particularly vulnerable to price fluctuations. Not only does this mean that the UK’s energy supply is susceptible to variables that lie outside their control, but it also means that they’re still creating far too much carbon dioxide emissions. 

If the UK is going to have any chance of achieving its net zero carbon emissions - a target that is crucial if we’re going to be able to keep global temperature rises under 1.5 degrees celsius - it’s imperative that the UK Government re-focuses its effort and attention on decarbonising the UK energy sector. The added benefit is that clean energy is intrinsically linked to achieving energy self-reliance. By pushing renewables, green technology and nuclear power we can provide a majority of our own energy supply and reduce any reliance on harmful fossil fuels purchased from overseas. 

The new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero which has been tasked with securing the long-term energy supply of the UK, reducing energy bills and inflation, and ensuring that the UK achieves its net zero targets, offers renewed hope that the UK Government will implement a faster energy transition and a shift to a greener economy. Time will tell just how effective the new department will be. 

What about Greenly? 

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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