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ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Annual UK oil and gas licensing round plans announced in King’s Speech


King Charles III and Queen Camilla in royal robes sitting on thrones in Houses of Parliament Photo: House of Lords 2023 / Photography by Roger Harris
King Charles III set out the UK government’s agenda for the year ahead as he addressed Parliament in his first State Opening as monarch

Photo: House of Lords 2023 / Photography by Roger Harris

The King’s Speech, delivered yesterday for the first time by Charles III as monarch, confirmed plans for new legislation to deliver annual offshore oil and gas licensing rounds and investment in renewables and electricity grid reform in the UK.

The proposed legislation was announced by King Charles III as he addressed Parliament in his first State Opening and set out Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government agenda for the year ahead.


At present there is no fixed period between offshore oil and gas licensing rounds in the UK. However, annual rounds are to be introduced under a new Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill that aims ‘to safeguard our energy independence and security, by backing North Sea oil and gas extraction, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs’.


Alongside this, the government is to ‘seek to attract record levels of investment in renewable energy sources and reform grid connections, building on the UK’s track-record of decarbonising faster than other G7 economies’, while also’ changing the way we reach net zero by reducing the burden on working people’.


Net zero targets and the recently announced Green Climate Fund were also mentioned briefly: ‘While we deliver our net zero targets at home, we’re also leading the global effort to tackle climate change – including committing over £1.6bn for the Green Climate Fund – the biggest single international climate pledge the UK has ever made.’


Unsurprisingly, the plan for annual offshore oil and gas licensing rounds was decried by environmental campaigners, while Labour said it wants to focus on investing in renewables rather than fossil fuels should it win the next General Election (although it has said it will honour existing licences granted before then).


Meanwhile, the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) said decentralised energy was the future for the UK, not new oil and gas. Jonny Bairstow, Head of External Affairs at the ADE, commented: ‘Instead of pledging to extract new oil and gas, what the UK needs more than ever is unwavering commitment to the deployment of energy efficiency measures, heat networks, flexibility upgrades and industrial decarbonisation – diluting crucial net zero policies with the aim of reducing costs to consumers is exactly what we should not be doing.’