Pledges of development and new police powers over CCUS, hydrogen and decommissioning have been unveiled in Britain’s Energy Security Bill, marking the “biggest reform” of its kind in a decade.
The UK government has published the legislation, which follows the UK Energy Security Strategy presented in April.
The regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), has been given new powers to control the carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) and decommissioning sector.
Under the bill, the NSTA has the discretion to “prevent unwanted changes in ownership and control of petroleum and carbon storage licensees before they occur”.
It comes after the NSTA announced its first-ever round of carbon storage licenses last month.
The move is designed to ensure that licenses and infrastructure “remain in the hands of the companies best able to exploit them”.
The NSTA is also granted the power to recover the costs associated with the regulation of decommissioning activities.
State-of-the-art business models
In the meantime, the government has presented its plans to accelerate CCS and hydrogen in the North Sea.
The government has pledged to introduce “state-of-the-art business models, attracting private investment by providing long-term revenue certainty” for CCUS and hydrogen.
It will also establish economic regulation and a licensing framework for “one-of-a-kind CO2 transport and storage networks”.
Professor John Underhill, director of the Energy Transition Institute at the University of Aberdeen, said the publication of the bill “recognizes the crucial role the energy sector plays in sustaining, powering and fueling the Kingdom Kingdom” and a “new level of appreciation” for the combination of oil, gas, CCS, hydrogen and other renewables in the energy mix.
In particular, he highlighted the CCUS and hydrogen acceleration measures.
“Carbon storage is arguably akin to waste disposal, it doesn’t have the same obvious financial basis and doesn’t generate revenue like oil, gas and wind power do.
“Therefore, it is good to see the government’s commitment to providing long-term revenue certainty to work with industry and academic partners to create business models and attract needed private investment.
“With an open carbon storage cycle, an offshore oil and gas licensing cycle due later this year and wind farm awards, there is significant competition for offshore real estate. It is good that the government recognizes the need for a unified and coherent regulatory and permitting framework to enable the establishment and scale-up of renewable technologies to optimize the use of the subsoil and seabed for the energy transition.
“Reindustrialize our economy”
Prof Underhill also said the NSTA’s handling of carbon licenses “makes sense” to ensure they are “in the hands of competent operators”.
Other measures in the bill include the creation of a new independent ‘future system operator’ which will take a holistic approach to energy in the UK, looking at gas, electricity and other emerging markets. such as CCUS and hydrogen.
An NSTA spokesperson said: “We welcome the energy security bill and the strengthening of the powers of the NSTA before the companies change hands. We also note the proposals on CCS and as the carbon storage licensing authority will continue to work closely with government and industry to advance this.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “This is the biggest reform of our energy system in a decade. We will cut red tape, secure investment in the UK and capture as much global market share as possible in new technologies to make this plan a reality.
“The measures in the Energy Security Bill will allow us to stand on our feet again, re-industrialise our economy and protect the British people from sky-high fossil fuel prices in the future.”
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