3 November 2013
The Green Party is proposing a long term energy strategy that will enable the UK to decarbonise energy supply by mid century, to end fuel poverty and to have in place a sustainable, reliable and affordable energy generation and supply system that will meet the demands of a modern technological civilised society. The policy makes clear both why we need to do this, and how it can be done and paid for.
We acknowledge that this is an ambitious and expensive project, but we insist that with political will it is affordable, and the cost of failing to follow this strategy will be even greater. It will take hundreds of billions to be invested by 2030, however we accept that the urgency of climate change and the importance of achieving national energy security warrants such a programme. Nicholas Stern has warned that the effect of climate change that is soon to be locked into global energy supply will cost each country at least 2% of its GDP, approximately £20billion per year for the UK at 2013 prices. The longer we delay taking effective action to limit carbon emissions, the higher this figure will become.
Greens recognise that the the policies adopted by previous Governments, Labour, Tory - with Liberal Democrat help, have failed. As a result of their policies a quarter of households will fall in to fuel poverty this winter, we have an ageing and costly generation system and a supply system that struggles to meet demand, we are left dependent on imported fuel and therefore vulnerable to the unreasonable demands of unstable political regimes. For us, this situation is unacceptable and we now need a radical rethink on energy policy made all the more urgent because of the reality of climate change.
Green energy policy begins with acknowledging that we waste far too much energy, Around 60% of supplied energy is used for heating, and most of that quickly finds its way through the walls windows and roofs of our energy inefficient buildings. A serious attack on this waste would help to reduce energy demand, take the strain off existing power plants and save customers money on their bills. We advocate funding local authorities to undertake programmes of home insulation along the lines run by Kirklees Council at the instigation of the Green group on the Council. Such a programme run nationally would create thousands of jobs in insulation and home renovation, bringing our housing stock up to modern energy standards.
The distribution mains for electricity and gas will be brought into a fully accountable public sector. Energy production would be a mixture of public and private enterprises. Both Central and Local Government would invest in publicly or community owned renewable schemes, with a particular emphasis on small scale schemes that supply local needs. With generating plant sited close to its customers, any heat generated would be used for local heating networks so increasing the efficiency of the process. We would aim to break the strangle hold of the big energy companies by encouraging small and medium sized business enter the energy generation market.
The UK is well supplied with potential renewable sources, with only wind power being exploited to any extent. We will support intensive research into all potential renewable sources, not only wind but also tidal, wave power, small hydro schemes, solar and biomass. We will also finance training programmes to build technical expertise in building and maintaining these developments, so creating sustainable skilled employment. With energy shortages being a global problem, this investment in research and training would open up valuable global export markets.
This new energy network will require a modified grid in which variations in supply could be smoothed out. In order to utilize renewable energy peaks and manage constantly varying electricity demand, dynamic demand and load balancing technologies will be developed, including the charging of battery-powered vehicles; charging large scale flow batteries; electric heating of district heating water; Combined Heat and Power plant and heat pumps. We would buy into a European super grid of long distance high voltage direct current power lines. This would interconnect a range of renewable installations ranging from solar in southern Europe to wind in the North Sea countries to hydro power in Scandinavia and Alpine countries. Such a grid would smooth out the variability that is inherent in wind and solar power.
We believe that this country and the world is facing a real energy crisis that if not properly addressed will lead to economic, social and political melt down. This has come about through an over reliance on fossil fuels that have left a lasting legacy of environmental damage, the true costs of which are only just becoming apparent. Costs that will ultimately have to be paid for by us, the bill and tax payer. Trying to solve this crisis by using more of the very technologies that got us in to this mess, as this Government is proposing is simply stupid. With rising fossil fuel prices on the global market and with the true costs of nuclear power being hidden from the consumer, this policy will lead to ever rising energy bills.
A simplistic argument against our safe and sustainable energy policy is that it is unaffordable. This ignores the price tag tied to the fossil-nuclear policy supported by Labour as well as the ConDems. To stimulate another round of fossil fuel exploration Osbourn is giving big tax-breaks to the oil and gas companies, shifting the financial burden from the corporate sector to the tax payer. Greens would use that same money to invest in renewable energy research. New North Sea exploration is expected to raise £26 billion over two years, money that under a Green energy policy would be invested in new renewable generating capacity. Nuclear power will continue to swallow up vast sums of money over the next 30 years as a result of this Governments decisions. Even a Green government would be saddled with decommissioning costs of the existing nuclear stations, estimated to be £100 billion. But we would not do is saddle the tax payer with even more costs by building more nuclear stations, generating more waste and needing more high level security. We would direct the money that present policy will waste on nuclear power in to safe and sustainable energy. Germany is demonstrating that if government gives a strong lead, finance will flow into renewable energy.
Which ever road we take, we will have to pay up front for new energy infrastructure, that means higher bills. This Government's policies will mean that bills will go on rising as fossil fuels get ever more expensive to supply and as the true costs of nuclear power start to become apparent. Their way will lead to dangerous climate change resulting in huge bills for us all to try to mitigate the damage caused by violent weather and rising sea levels. The Green way will build in sustainability and reliability. It will use inexhaustible energy sources that mostly lie within the borders of our country, it will minimise waste and maximise efficiency. It will make energy supply affordable for all.