Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Big Lie About the ‘Big 6′

Few organisations have done more to make using energy more difficult for poorer people in the UK than FoE (Friends of the Earth).

Rising bills and increasing levels of ‘fuel poverty’ have embarrassed the UK government. And perhaps for the first time, the UK public is finding itself exposed to the realities of climate change policies. In other words, climate change policies just got political. They are now part of people’s daily lives, exactly as the green NGOs wanted. Now everybody has to think before they turn their lights and heating on. Everybody is now forced to think of ways to cut their fuel consumption. And as a consequence, Quangos, NGOs, government departments, and their ministers past and present are trying to distance themselves from those consequences, by pretending to champion the interests of the consumer. “It wasn’t us”, they scream.

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The government predict savings of up to £18 billion, according to the National Audit Office, who seem rightly sceptical. I don’t trust the claim in the slightest.

And if this wasn’t enough, the UK National Grid requires £200 billion investment over the next decade, to make sure that the government’s ill-conceived emphasis on wind energy doesn’t cause chaos.

National Grid will be critical in ensuring Britain’s energy sector is given a £200bn overhaul over the next decade, making sure that new wind farms and nuclear power stations are connected to the grid.

Steve Holliday, chief executive of National Grid, said:

The year has started well with our businesses making good initial progress toward their priorities and delivering solid operational and financial performance.

Yet not a single penny of this vast sum of money will yield a single watt of advantage to the consumer who will end up paying for it. The aim of the UK’s emphasis on renewable energy and emissions-reduction is simply to keep the lights on at best. Keep the lights on, that is, if you are lucky… Steve Holliday, chief executive of National Grid, was also on Radio 4′s Today programme earlier this year.

Evan Davis:
“Get a move on”, is your message. Let’s talk about one or two specifics. Wind – as you fly in now over the Thames Estuary, you fly in to Heathrow, you begin to really see quite a lot of wind is being created – a lot of wind turbines are being created – in the Thames Estuary and around the country, aren’t they?

Steve Holliday: They are, and yet that’s still a drop in the ocean, compared to, in our own forecasts, if you look at the energy mix that we believe we are likely to need, to hit a low-carbon generation fleet by 2020 and 2030. Today we’ve got about 5 gigawatts of wind, we’ll have nearly 30 by 2020…

Evan Davis: Does it work?

Steve Holliday:…just imagine…

Evan Davis: Because if the wind doesn’t blow, how does the older grid cope?

Steve Holliday: The grid’s going to be a very different system in 2020, 2030. We keep thinking about: we want it to be there and provide power when we need it. It’s going to be a much smarter system, then. We’re going to have to change our own behaviour and consume it when it’s available, and available cheaply.

We have to consume it when it’s available? So if there’s no wind, we can’t have showers, heat, light… or listen to the moron chief executives of the companies managing the UK’s essential infrastructure on the radio… It’s not some eco-warrior or Guardian eco-loon telling us that the Grid will not be supply power to our homes when we most likely need it; it’s the CEO of the company which operates it. The thinking behind this idea is that continuity of supply will be predicated on the consumer’s ability to pay. Even if the range of tariffs on offer today are baffling, the choice offered by the ‘simplified’ schemes being considered now would be recognised best by Hobson: pay more money, or accept interruptions to your supply. That’s a ‘smart grid’. That’s the ‘future’ of our energy supply. It will cost more. It will deliver less. It will cause real harm to poorer people. And it will be less reliable. And it will be so, because those are today’s political priorities. They are shared by many companies, by politicians and government departments, ENGOs, and the quangos whose legal responsibilities are to protect the interests of the consumer.

The attempt to blame energy retail companies for increasing bills is a grotesque political manoeuvre. It is rank propaganda, designed to capture discontent for the ends of a self-serving consensus. Even if energy retailers made zero profit, it would make almost no difference to the average consumer. Energy prices rise, not because of a cartel of energy companies, but because there is a political consensus in Westminster, in Brussels, and at the UN. The bubble in which these policies are formed it impervious to criticism and to challenge. It’s inhabitants emerge from the bubble, to discover that prices have risen, and that people are angry, and so they blame the retailers.

It’s a bit like imposing tariffs on farmers and restricting the land they may use for agricultural production, and then blaming the shopkeepers for the price of bread rising. ‘We must open more bread shops’, say the government. But now the low margins are split between more people, with greater net overheads. Prices rise. ‘We must control demand’, says the government, and forces the shopkeepers to install ‘smart tills’ that vary the size, quality and price of loaves, depending on customers use of bread. When it becomes apparent that these policies have failed, who will the government turn to next? Will they continue to blame the retailers and consumers, or will they move up the supply chain?


Full Article: Climate Resistance

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