deccThe Conservative budget announcement in July was not good news for the renewables industry, nor for members of the public who are concerned about climate change, rising energy prices and the impact that extreme methods of extracting oil and gas will have on our air, water and soil (1,2). Support for the renewable industry and tackling climate change appears be drying up at a time when we need them more than ever (3).

We see that there are cuts ahead, so that even large coal–fired power stations like Drax, who were seen as the UK’s worst carbon dioxide polluter, are complaining about how their transition to biomass is being undermined(4,5). Instead there is massive funding of taxpayers money pouring into the nuclear industry to support the construction of new nuclear power plants, decommissioning and the long-term management of its toxic waste legacy (6).  We know that nuclear is not a solution for climate change or keeping the lights on as the problems are looming and it takes 15 years to build a nuclear power station.  Then there’s tax breaks for the shale gas extraction industry(7), although most of us oppose “fracking” which creates numerous problems for local communities, wastes more taxpayers money because the protests against fracking in areas that are precious to us will not abate.  Besides the obvious detriment to our environment, the untold clean-up costs after it’s sucked the last drop of ‘fracked’ gas from the ground beneath us (8,9) and the impact on our water supply.

We need to ask some questions; who benefits from these subsidies? How are the investments made by this government going to benefit us, the taxpayer, in the long-term?  Are we receiving value for money on governments investment of our taxes and finally – Why aren’t they listening to us?  Already we are paying too much for our energy. Even the Prime Minister, has moved on to the former Labour leader’s territory, and is considering a temporary cap on our fuel bills as a result of the monopolising power of just 6 big energy corporations controlling over 90% of the UK energy market (10).  Unfortunately, this is only a plaster for the bigger problem, which is that our energy strategy that is not fit for purpose.

There are solutions to these problems. There is a growing movement of local community energy groups across the UK, particularly, social enterprises and co-operatives like BHESCo here in Brighton and Hove. By building our own renewable energy generation and improving the thermal efficiency of our built environment, we can take some of the power out of the hands of the big corporations inflicting price increases and reduce our energy costs, improve the energy efficiency of our homes, stimulate the local economy, tackle fuel poverty and contribute to mitigating the biggest global threat to our existence, climate change. We can join other successful communities across Europe and all across the globe who are turning to more democratic, decentralised, community-owned, renewable energy solutions, controlled by us and for us (11).

After the success of the last 2 years, the Big Energy Saving Network (BESN) BHESCo is part of a consortium of community energy groups that has applied for support for two energy champions starting again this autumn/winter (12). We will be encouraging vulnerable customers to make themselves known to us because we can help them save money by reviewing their energy bills, offering impartial switching advice to the cheapest tariffs, general advice on energy efficiency in the home and how to keep warm this winter.  We will also be taking action to help people be more energy efficient through small measures that we will implement in home visits.

We really can reclaim the power.  It’s up to us to do it together.  That’s what Community Energy is all about.

References:

1. Budget 2015: Key climate and energy announcements: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/07/summer-budget-2015-key-climate-and-energy-announcements/

2. Chancellor to push up renewable energy taxes in Budget with ‘climate shaped hole’: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2416918/chancellor-to-push-up-renewable-energy-taxes-in-budget-with-climate-shaped-hole

3. Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession

4. End of climate levy exemption dents Drax: http://nicosiamoneynews.com/2015/07/08/end-of-climate-levy-exemption-dents-drax/

5. End support for Drax: stop subsidies for biomass power and phase out coal! http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2840617/end_support_for_drax_stop_subsidies_for_biomass_power_and_phase_out_coal.html

6. County councils sidelined from nuclear waste dump site decisions: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/12/county-councils-nuclear-waste-dump-sites

7. UK’s shale gas revolution falls flat with just 11 new wells planned for 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/19/uk-shale-gas-revolution-falls-flat-just-11-new-wells-planned-2015

8. Fracking plans rejected: Lancashire council throws out Cuadrilla proposal – at it happened: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/11705333/Fracking-decision-Lancashire-live.html

9. No fracking at Balcombe, says energy company Cuadrilla: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/no-fracking-at-balcombe-says-energy-company-cuadrilla-9081875.html

10. PM ‘to consider’ temporary cap on high UK energy bills (July 7th, 2015 5:50 pm): http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/843585e6-2474-11e5-9c4e-a775d2b173ca.html

11. Tory ‘blue crap’ means UK is falling behind in global switch to clean energy:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/08/clean-energy-switch-uk-falling-behind

12. Big Energy Saving Network 2015/16: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/big-energy-saving-network-grant-offer-fund

Hinckley point_Oblique_Aerial_View_1.70_MFINAL_RGB_croppedFrench state owned EDF Energy is still negotiating with our government about the level of subsidy that will be needed in order to build the two new EPR water pressure reactors at Hinkley Point and another two at Sizewell in Suffolk.  The EPR is new third generation reactor that has been developed by Areva, EDF Energy and Siemens.  There are a number of these reactors being built in France and China, however no single reactor is currently operational.  Not only has this reactor not established a track record for performance, it’s most notorious failure is still going on in Olkiluoto, Finland where construction began in 2005 and ten years later the power plant has still not been completed at a cost of billions in overruns to their taxpayers.  The capacity of the Olkiluoto EPR plant is half of the generation capacity of the planned site at Hinkley Point, in Somerset.

Considering that most investors won’t put their money into unproven technologies,  One has to wonder who does think that this kind of investment is sensible for Britain?

The plant at Hinkley Point was first projected to cost £16 billion.  Now the price has been set at £24.5 billion, including the millions of finance that will be needed for neighbouring communities to keep them sweet so they agree to play host to such dangerous radioactive toxins in their backyard in what is otherwise a pristine area of natural beauty in Somerset.  This government has just overseen the first round of contracts under their new Contracts for Difference.  One of the envisioned  contracts for this new program involves the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.  The contract guarantees a strike price of up to £92.50 per MWh for the electricity generated by the plant.  This guarantee appeases the shareholders, of which 40% will be Chinese and the rest French, who have no special interest in the well being of the British people.

In order to secure the construction of this nuclear power plant, the UK consumer is being forced to accept a deal where the price of electricity generated will be fixed at twice the current price,  applying the export tariff for solar photovoltaics (PV) of 4.5p per kWh as our measurement.  BHESCo believes that we should be concerned that this government is entering into contracts which will insure that energy prices will increase.   Our argument is that EDF will not be able to compete if its prices have to be that high to support its fleet of new nuclear power stations.  We have more confidence  that the renewable electricity generated from the fleet of offshore windfarms will be half that price.  So, if EDF is to offer its price on the market at twice the price, no one would buy it, except the taxpayer.  We are concerned that the costs of nuclear power will most likely be spread to all of our purses, including our most vulnerable people.

Hinkley Point is projected to produce sufficient electricity to power 5 million homes, year in, year out, without breakdowns in performance for the next 25 years.  This, we know from experience with the current nuclear power stations, is not true.  They are periodically taken out of commission for maintenance that can last for months.  The Dogger Bank wind farm in Yorkshire that was approved last February, will be one of the largest offshore wind farm in the world, generating enough electricity to power 2 million homes.  The costs to the ratepayer after the plant is built are minimal and predictable, including maintenance and a small subsidy.  Compare that to a nuclear power plant where the costs are spiraling ever higher.  Nuclear power plants must be decommissioned at the end of their lives, which takes 100 years, a cost traditionally financed by the taxpayer.  Nuclear waste must be stored.  Then, it must be transported securely to a processing plant where it is then put into canisters for storage over the next 10,000 years, although there is no long term solution for storing highly toxic radioactive waste.   We estimate that at least 50% of the budget for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is attributed to the management of these types of issues around our nuclear legacy.  We cannot cut this budget, it would pose too much of a national security threat.  So we cut other public services.

Does this make any sense to you?

An evening of conversation around

A Zero Carbon Society

Thursday, 26 February 2015

 6 – 8:30pm

 registration starts at 5:30pm

 Sallis Benney Theatre, Grand Parade, University of Brighton

Introductions and keynote speech will be made by Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion

Come watch the presentation and Q&A by Paul Allen, contributing author to the Zero Carbon Britain report, the Centre for Alternative Technology’s (CAT) flagship project that details how a modern, zero emissions society is possible using technologies that are available today.

Roundtable discussions will be lead by local experts in the field of Transport, Energy, Housing and Food from the Food Partnership, the Science Policy Research Unit from the University of Sussex, C Change sustainability group from the University of Brighton and the Bike Train.

The discussions will be followed by networking with drinks and nibbles to fuel your discussions.  This is a great opportunity to meet and speak to people who are on the frontlines of the transition to a zero carbon society.  Create links and share best practice with the local community during this inspiring event. Book your place for free to avoid disappointment.

With the fossil fuel industry up to capacityred box Treasury, the government has ignored the obvious alternative and decided to hand out tax breaks for dirty gas, oil and nuclear power, despite overwhelming scientific and economic evidence of the benefits of renewable alternatives.

So, the air gets more polluted and unnecessarily cold homes continue to contribute to the misery and deaths of thousands of vulnerable people each winter.

We have the resources and the research, and most significantly the will to overcome the energy challenges we face in the UK. Within the space of a year 15 community groups in Sussex alone have joined forces to support energy savings and the devecold home2lopment of locally generated renewable energy. But those in power are sidestepping the obvious solution diverting taxpayers funds to uneconomic investments.

Instead, the government offers tax breaks for the big energy companies to build more fossil fuel plants and new nuclear.  The autumn statement promised £15billion for roads. It overhauls stamp duty ignoring the opportunity to link it to environmentally friendly buildings. Even the flood defense proposals are inadequate, according to experts. The treasury continues to endorse shale gas production, despite overwhelming public concern about safety and the impacts on land, water and air, including the emission of even more greenhouse gases.

As taxpayers we are right to have a say in where our money goes, and insist on value for money on government spending. One may ask how this major investment in roads and tax breaks for fossil fuels will meet the immediate need to address fuel poverty and its consequent pressure on the NHS.  Furthermore, how will it encourage the generation of locally controlled renewable energy which has been proven to reduce energy prices in Germany and is supported by millions of people across the country as a way of taking back control of our own energy supply and improving energy security?

 

Price comparison website uSwitch, announced that almost four million UK households (14%) owe money to their energy supplier.  Increasing gas and electricity prices over the winter pushed UK households into debt  at an average amount of £128 per household. Despite the mild winter, bills are £53 higher than at the start of 2013. The report highlights households are facing increased pressure to meet their rising fuel bills with the number of household falling into energy debt rising dramatically. It was also reported that the average household energy bill is 168% higher than in 2004, an increase of £472. Read the full report from uSwitch on their website.

At BHESCo, we are woOld-age-pensioner-keeps-warm-with-the-aid-of-an-electric-heater-2561284rking hard to alleviate this problem by inviting the Brighton and Hove community to reduce their consumption and therefore expenditure on energy, making their homes more comfortable and energy efficient. Monetary savings can be made on energy bills by switching supplier, ensuring that you are on the tariff that meets your requirements.  If you are in debt to your energy supplier and cannot switch, we may be able to help through BHESCo’s Fuel Poverty Fund.

Homes can also be made more energy efficient by installing simple energy saving initiatives, such as draught excluders and energy saving light bulbs.  The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is a way that you can reduce your energy bills for less!  Find out more about this programme here.

If you would like to find out more about how you can reduce your energy bills and make your home more energy efficient, visit the BHESCo webpage’s or contact us for more information and advice.


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