During the winter, the National Grid issued several warnings that the energy network was close to being overwhelmed, and some large companies were told that their supplies could be interrupted. This was astonishing occurrence in a developed country, and an indication of the wrong direction having been followed in energy decisions over the last 15-20 years.
The Conservatives have now started to make public some of their energy plans. They say that they will reduce our dependence on imported energy and 'keep the lights on'.
The plans, revealed by David Cameron, say that:
1.More gas will be imported from Norway.
2.New nuclear stations will be fast-tracked using more streamlined planning rules.
3.New coal plants will get early authorisation.
Sensibly, the paper places greater emphasis on security of supply than environmental issues. We do not want power cuts, and we need to have warmth and light in our houses, schools, factories, and so on, during the winter.
Everything must be secondary to that, including "targets" on carbon dioxide emissions.
However, it should not be forgotten that it was the Thatcher government which did away with the old CEGB and centralised control of energy. Since then decisions have been made on the basis of externally-imposed targets from Brussells, rather than needs. We have also seen the running-down of British gas supplies, North Sea Oil, and the selling off of our nuclear expertise to the Japanese.
There is still mention of "clean coal" in the Tories' plans: the jargon for "carbon capture", an unproven technology with an immense price tag; hardly appropriate for a country's bread-and-butter electricity generation.
It is obviously not sensible to commit to a technology before it has proved its value. One snippet of information - there has been some recent research into the feasibility and economics of carbon capture in Texas. A new research paper is out, and I will be commenting on it shortly. ......(20 Mar 2010)
The Conservatives have said they would create tax exemptions for wind and nuclear power and launch a 'green bank' to invest in renewable energy. ......(22 Mar 2010)
Back to top