'Energy patriotism' could slash homes' foreign energy dependence by 80%

New North Sea oil and gas ‘largely irrelevant’ for energy security

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By George Smeeton


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New analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has found that ambitious action could cut many homes’ dependence on foreign energy imports by 80% in the next five years, by 2030, insulating them from future repeats of the volatile energy prices of the past few years. [1]

Currently an average British home relies on imports for 67% (two thirds) of the energy it uses, mainly foreign fossil fuel imports for petrol cars, gas boilers and gas power stations that generate electricity.

By supporting homes to switch to electric cars and heat pumps that can run off British renewable energy, insulating homes so they don’t then waste heat and ramping up renewables to generate more British electricity, import dependency could be cut significantly without the need for further exploration in the North Sea. Under such circumstances, a household could require just 3.4MWh of imported energy in 2030, 80% less than a typical household in 2024.

Conversely, if these net zero technologies were to be abandoned, using figures from the regulator (North Sea Transition Authority) showing the inevitable decline of North Sea oil and gas production irrespective of whether exploration continues, [2] a typical UK home would import 3MWh more energy in 2030 than in 2024, a rise of almost 20%.

Comparing the scenarios for 2030, the 3.4MWh/yr of imported energy used by the net zero household supported by more UK renewables would be almost 85% lower than the more than 20MWh/yr of imported energy used by the home without upgrades if there were no new UK renewables but the UK continued licencing oil and gas exploration.

Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, Head of Analysis at ECIU, said: “If you want your home to be ‘energy patriotic’, running off more homegrown British energy, then electric heat pumps and EVs powered by British renewable electricity will cut your foreign energy dependence massively. There’s a real opportunity in the next Parliament for the new government to help more households buy British when it comes to energy, helping them to make the switch to be powered by British renewables that won’t run out.

“New exploration in the North Sea is largely irrelevant for energy security, likely to make only a very marginal difference, and certainly not to bills given prices are largely set internationally. If you’re not focused on renewables, you’re not focused on energy independence. That’s simply the way the numbers stack up.

“With the International Energy Agency predicting a glut of oil in the next five years and the North Sea being an expensive basin to operate in, any new drilling simply may not be competitive as oil prices plummet. We’ve seen that before.”

UK oil and gas production have been lower than UK demand for around 20 years, and much of the oil and gas currently produced in the North Sea is exported. The result is that the UK currently imports 60% of the gas that we use, and over 90% of the oil-based fuels that we use have been imported at some point in their supply chain, whether as crude oil or refined fuels.

Previous ECIU analysis has found that the maximum amount of gas that could be produced by new licences per year would equate to the output of just one offshore wind farm. [3] However, new licences are not guaranteed to result in new gas production. It is estimated that new licensing, on which Labour proposed to introduce a moratorium, will provide just 4 days’ worth of extra gas a year on average between now and 2050 [4].

Research suggests 90% of North Sea oil and gas jobs can be transferred to other sectors, including in the net zero transition. [5]

Notes to editors

1. The analysis, Household Energy Security in 2030, is available here.

2. NSTA, 2024: https://www.nstauthority.co.uk/data-and-insights/insights-and-analysis/production-and-expenditure-projections/

3. ECIU, 2023: https://eciu.net/media/press-releases/2023/north-sea-moratorium-equivalent-to-just-one-new-offshore-wind-farm

4. Uplift, 2024: https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/65fb114310747bea5850d1f4/66267cbb62a89c19a9dc93b3_NewDealNorthSea_UpliftBrief_042024.pdf

5. OEUK, 2023: https://oeuk.org.uk/product/oeuk-workforce-insight-2023/