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The PM has a difficult job. He is faced with the crippling, undeclared costs of Net Zero and a shambles of an energy system left to him by his predecessors, who made all sorts of unwise promises about green jobs and the wonderful cheap energy we would get from wind and solar without telling us what it would do to our electricity bills.

Now he is faced with reality. He has to change direction in without admiting that the course we're following is a mistake. He has wisely applied the brakes to the UK’s net-zero transition. Political leaders in Germany and France have done the same.

His retreat recognized that elite opinion had lost touch with the average person. In his words, “... we’ve stumbled into a consensus about the future of our country, that no one seems to be happy with".

The PM said that Westminster’s politicians did not have the courage to explain what was really involved. Their plans included a ban on gas heating, mandatory home upgrades for property owners, taxes on eating meat and compulsory car sharing if you drive to work. “Now I believe deeply that when you ask most people about climate change, they want to do the right thing, they’re even prepared to make sacrifices,” Sunak said. “But it cannot be right to impose such significant costs on working people, especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet, and to interfere so much in people’s way of life without a properly informed national debate.”

Unwise decisions have been made all over the world about Net Zero; anyone opposing it publicly is cancelled or criticized or labelled as a 'denier'. But we have not had a proper debate about any of it. It has led to some strange policies. In Australia, there are new building regulations in NSW that mandate higher levels of insulation and double glazing; they took effect on October 1 and they increase the cost of building a home by up to $50,000 at a time of rising political concern about a housing shortage.

Here in England, the politicians have drawn up plans to ban the sale of heating oil so that rural people will be totally dependent on electric heating, with no backup system. There is a proposed ban on selling gas boilers, petrol cars, diesel cars. We are having to import coal for steelmaking because our own coal mines have been closed down. This is leading to widespread political argument, and not just in the UK. We have seen several European countries electing governments which do not agree with Net Zero. The Dutch have just voted out their left-wing politicians for daring to suggest that a third of their farms should be closed down because of emissions regulations. No wonder Mr. Sunak is putting his foot on the brakes.

The issue of nuclear power has become more pressing, but the media are either unaware or not in favour. It's rarely talked about. But public dissatisfaction is growing; government will have to take notice before the power cuts start. Informed people know that we are still being told nonsense about Grid -scale battery systems, that 100% renewable energy will lead to a new green economy; that fossil fuels must be banned, that all cars must be electric ....at a time when the Grid struggles to keep the lights on in the winter. The International Energy Agency talks about small, modular clean-energy technologies such as solar PV and batteries, but mentions nuclear merely as an afterthought. It needs to get its act together.

The UK (though not Mr. Sunak) has closed down significant amounts of coal and nuclear generating capacity, creating supply vulnerability when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. There is also a high degree of correlation in wind supply between the UK and Europe, which means that when the UK generates a surplus, Europe has a surplus too. Our surplus has no market, resulting in high constraint payments paid for by customers.

To avoid power cuts we need significant amounts of generating capacity to cover supply when renewables fail. For example, 20 GW of gas turbines are needed to cover 25GW of wind energy for a proposed developemt of Scottish offshore wind. The cost of these backup supplies is normally ignored when the cost of renewables is reported. Net Zero supporters seem content to pile these costs on to consumers while politicians blame the high cost of energy on Mr. Putin. The pollies are wrong; we've been working up to this crisis for fifteen years because successive governments pretended there wasn't a problem.

My advice to Mr. Sunak would be to introduce Nuclear Power into every discussion about energy, to suspend all wind turbine development until all present turbines are connected, or indefinitely, and to order some small modular stations as a priority.

I am grateful to Dr. Euan Mearns (letter published by the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 Sep 23) and Graham Lloyd (an article in 'The Australian' (Costing the earth: support for ‘climate action’ and renewable falls, 9 Nov 23) in writing this short piece.

ND/habitat21/ 25 Nov 23

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