UK Energy Policy in a mess
We've had one of the coldest winters since the big-freeze of 1963, SSE have just received the largest fine for mis-selling on record (£110M), and another energy minister 'bites the dust'. Are we heading for catastrophe?
I'm currently enjoying a nice afternoon in Cardiff Bay in a nice little bar called Salt. I'm working off my laptop in the air-conditioned open space, there's well over 300 (inefficient) lights on, and every-where I look I can see power-guzzling smart phones. The chillers, ovens, juke-boxes, and fruit machines are all fixed to 'on-mode' and the patio heaters are fired up to warm the smokers outside (although there's actually no one there). Meanwhile, the UK government are chopping and changing policy to try and drive renewables into the energy mix, coal fired power stations (that equate to 40% of capacity) are gradually being 'grand-fathered', SSE have just had a second fine (it's the largest ever) for gross mis-selling to consumers, we've had the coldest winter (since the big freeze of 63) which highlighted our lack of storage and reliance on imports, & carbon taxes (levied on energy consumption) have just increased again - to mark the start of a new financial year.
It all feels like a real hash to me! On the one hand we've got gross over-usage, misconduct, and confusion, & on the other we've got a chain of 'cowboys' trying to fudge production & power delivery.
It's a ticking-time bomb and it's going to take more than a bunch of poorly performing acronyms; CCL, CRC, RO, FIT, to get us out of this mess. I wonder what 'tax' the government will manufacture this year? Perhaps Hayes, the new energy minister (as of last week), will be more like Chris Huhne (minus the driving scams!).
Perhaps a UK-wide black-out wouldn't actually be a bad idea!?
It would at least act as a call-to-action and encourage us to make the required changes? If a black-out were to happen, the place I'm in today may take a serious view on it's energy-use; lowering it's consumption by 20-30%? Ofgem & DECC may start keeping promises; protecting the consumer from over-charges from energy suppliers and honoring incentive payments for renewables? & the UK government may start to consolidate and simplify the sector whilst investing wisely in future fuels?
It probably sounds like I'm asking a lot but actually it's just about acting honestly, building trusted partnerships, and making the 'right' noises. After all, would you trust a minister who had broken the law, a supplier who's lied about their energy tariff, or a governing body who broke it's promises to you about installing that solar panel on your roof?
If we can get energy suppliers to start supporting consumers in transforming to low-energy users and to add value into their processes rather than over-charges that would be a start. It makes business sense to the energy supplier as it adds value to their offering and makes them less substitutable for an alternative supplier. If we could complement this with a firmer stick at Ofgem we would remove £Millions of wasted profits (profits that could be invested into efficiency improvements?). Finally, a clear & transparent plan of investment into renewable energy needs to be set-in-stone by UK gov't.
It's possible then to keep the lights on and for me to be sitting in my comfy chair sipping coffee but perhaps it'll be LED lit, powered by solar on the roof, and heated by a wood chip burner? And perhaps when I open the paper next time I'll be hearing good 'noises' on policy, ministers, and energy suppliers (I can but hope!).
Hopefully it's not going to take black-outs for us to get our act together but it certainly seems more likely than the common-sense approach I suggest!