RISHI Sunak will today visit the north east of Scotland as he announces new investment to help keep it the “cornerstone” of an energy-independent UK. 

In the wake of the price and supply shocks caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Prime Minister will hail the region as key to the country’s long-term energy security.

He will announce a multi-million pound boost for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology designed to minimise carbon emissions from North Sea oil and gas.

However the Prime Minister will also use his trip to Aberdeenshire to defend the granting of more drilling licences despite the impact of fossil fuels on climate change

Critics say CCS is unproven and money should be spent on renewable energy instead.

Mr Sunak, who signalled a shift away from green policies after the Tories’ surprise win in the recent Uxbridge byelection over pollution charging, is expected to argue both fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear are all vital to an energy security mix.

The UK has traditionally imported 5% of its electricity, but last year became a net exporter for the first time in 44 years, only to swing back to importing on a greater scale this spring. 

The move is also intended to reassure workers concerned about potential job losses in oil and gas as the UK and other countries shift to Net Zero.

Kicking off a week of events on energy, Mr Sunak will announce money for the Acorn CCS project, a joint venture between Shell UK and other firms.

Supporters say the scheme could ultimately create 21,000 jobs, although past employment estimates for green energy have often proven optimistic.

Its backers hope it can store carbon dioxide from around the UK, including the Ineos oil refinery at Grangemouth, around 100km offshore in empty oil and gas fields using pipelines originally built to drain them. 

The land-based part of the scheme, at the St Fergus gas terminal outside Peterhead, lost out in an earlier funding round to CCS projects on Humberside and Merseyside.

That enraged the SNP, which had pushed for support for Acorn. 

With the US massively scaling up investment in green technology, the UK hopes CCS will be a “game changer” on this side of the Atlantic.

The UK Government said: “The package will underpin that Scotland remains a cornerstone of government plans for an energy-independent UK, as well demonstrating what can be achieved due to the strength and scale of UK collective action, in defending the public against global energy supplies which have been disrupted and weaponised by Putin.”

The investment also plays into the politics of the general election, with the Tories hailing it as a benefit of the Union as they exploit SNP and Labour opposition to fossil fuels.

The Sunday Times yesterday quoted a Government source saying: “This is a big deal for Scotland and will set out clear dividing lines with the SNP and Labour by showing that we are the party that will create the jobs of tomorrow.”

Funding for the Acorn project will come from a £20billion pot announced in the Budget.

The Prime Minister has said he remains committed to the UK achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but it should be done in a “pragmatic and proportionate way”.

When she was First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said there should be a presumption against new oil and gas field licences in the North Sea to help tackle climate change.

Her successor Humza Yousaf is considered more flexible, but is nevertheless committed to Scotland achieving net zero in 2045, five years earlier than the UK as a whole.

The push for a greener Scotland is also key to the SNP-Green joint government deal.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, MP for Aberdeen South, said: "Any investment is of course welcome. However, the UK government has taken Scotland down this path before - and failed to deliver every single time, leaving Scotland's green energy future in jeopardy. This cannot happen again. There can be no more broken promises or delays.”

The Scottish Greens warned CCS remained “unproven” and that while it might have a future role in cutting emissions, was no substitute for urgent investment in renewable energy. 

They also said granting new oil and gas exploration licences for the North Sea would be “catastrophic for our climate and do nothing for national security”, 

MSP Mark Ruskell MSP, said: “The climate crisis is the greatest security threat that our planet will ever face. It is already a matter of life and death for people and communities around the world and, without serious action, it will only become worse.

“It beggars belief that any government would choose this moment to double down on the fossil fuels that are already doing so much damage and endangering so many lives. 

“Green energy is the safest, cheapest and cleanest energy available. We have a huge renewable potential and an abundance of natural resources that any country would envy. 

“A fair and just transition is an environmental necessity, and is absolutely key to our security.”

The rest of the Government’s “energy week” Includes an energy security roundtable with industry leaders and funding announcements for low carbon and renewable projects. 

However, the PM’s visit coincides with the release of a damning parliamentary report today calling the UK Government’s plans to ramp up nuclear energy capacity a mere “wish list”.

MPs on the Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee said the role of the state-owned energy company Great British Nuclear was also unclear.

They questioned whether ministers had a detailed strategy to hit their target of increasing UK nuclear capacity to 24 gigawatts by 20250 to supply a quarter of the country’s electricity.

Nuclear capacity is currently 6.5GW and generates about 15% of UK electricity. 

Committee chair Greg Clark said: “The Government is right to identify nuclear power as an important contributor to meeting our future electricity needs. 

“The only way to achieve this is to translate these very high-level aspirations into a comprehensive, concrete and detailed nuclear strategic plan.”

Jamie Peters, climate coordinator at Friends of the Earth, said ending the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels was the “only sensible and effective way” of increasing energy security.

“This means saying no to new fossil fuel developments and ramping up our investment in renewables and energy efficiency. With parts of the world literally on fire, we need our politicians to show bolder leadership on cutting emissions – not more dither and delay.”  

Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said: “Every family and business is paying the price, in higher energy bills, of 13 years of failed Tory energy policy.

“Labour will take no lessons from the party that banned onshore wind, crashed the market for solar, stalled energy efficiency, haven’t got any new nuclear plants started, and left us at the mercy of tyrants across the world.”