deccOn the 4th June 2015, the Chancellor, George Osborne announced £4 ½ billion of cuts including £70 million to be cut from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) budget.

The Carbon Brief released a report previous to this on the 3rd June 2015 highlighting the limited scope for cuts within the DECC and the potential impact if cuts did take place.

With the Conservative government promising to decrease public spending, whilst protecting health, pensions and education, unprotected departments such as the DECC are likely to be the focus for cuts.

Impact of cuts

Carbon Brief analysed the 2013/14 budget of the DECC which was £3.4 billion. The money spent on managing the UK’s military nuclear waste and decommissioning legacy accounts for 65% of this budget. The core departmental priorities accounts for the remaining 34%.

The Carbon brief concluded that 87% of the overall budget was essential and would not be eligible for cuts. This 87% is made up of costs relating to the nuclear legacy, international agreements and legal liabilities from formerly nationalised energy industries. Therefore, 13% of the budget could potentially be cut from the DECC’s budget. Currently, 2% (£70 million) of their budget has already been cut.

The impact of these cuts will mean there is less money to dedicate to research on energy and climate change as well as schemes to help people out of fuel poverty.

One example of a scheme which the Carbon Brief suggests is likely to be cut is Green Deal. This a government scheme lead by the DECC which helps people find the best way to pay for energy saving improvements they want to make to their homes including energy grants, like the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. These improvements can include insulation, heating, double glazing and renewable energy sources which can help reduce long-term energy costs. Without the support of the government, less people will have access to the funding needed to make important improvements to their homes.

Importance of community energy

When the government is demonstrating that they are willing to make cuts to energy and climate change services, the need for community energy projects becomes clear.

Community energy projects which favour renewable energy sources can help to create a more secure energy future for the community in addition to helping reduce the impact of climate change.

Access to cost-efficient local energy benefits all members of the community but is especially essential to people who are living in fuel poverty.

ollie2BHESCo Communications and Communities Director, Ollie Pendered, has been appointed to lead the Customer Services sub-group of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), working group on community energy grid connections. Ollie’s role is to represent community groups that work with the distribution network operators (DNO) in setting up connections for local or community renewable energy generation systems. DNOs are encouraged by the Incentive on Connections Engagement (ICE) to engage with stakeholders to agree connection targets. Despite this, connections still take too long and are too costly.

Ollie will also take a lead role in understanding customer service issues related to the development  of community energy grid connections. The  working group  focusses on identifying current issuses and barriers faced by community energy projects. The group and its members identify parties and forums suitable for raising issues and advancing the aims of the working group. By doing this the working group will highlight actions and present recommendations to the Secretary of State  for advancing community energy projects. The working group subs groups  focus on areas including connection costs, capacity and investment policy and demand flexibility and storage.

Community energy projects present opportunities for individuals to be part of self sufficient communities, generating power through efficient, sustainable technologies. To find out more about community energy projects visit the BHESCo website, read the DECC Guidance on Community Energy or contact us.

Brace yourself, there’s another £17 billion in national spending cuts predicted for this year.

Half of the cuts will be to bnuclear power plant and housesenefits, like the National Health Service.  This government has been relentless in pursuing its agenda of protecting their ideology at the cost of poor and vulnerable people, especially the elderly.   The Treasury introduced a budget that reduced corporate taxes, increased the personal allowance, costing the Treasury millions while cutting back benefits to offset the impact of their ideology on our national debt.  Our deficit has reached a serious state of concern, now ballooning to £1.2 trillion, three quarters of the size of the UK economy.  This might help to explain why fracking is so alluring to the people who control our energy policy – we need a source of income to boost the UK economy.  

The clean tech industry is consistently the fastest growing sector in the world.  Insufficient investment and policy turnarounds have badly impacted the UK’s low carbon industry, culminating in an attack on vulnerable people by stopping the Energy Company Obligation in March 2014.  Our Energy Policy has been broken for many years.  It’s time to start fixing it.

People with lesser means are still being fleeced by the Big Six energy suppliers.  Six million households in the UK are on key meters.  Five million households are in debt to their energy supplier, meaning that they are held captive and cannot switch.  Studies conducted by BHESCo in Brighton & Hove, have determined that people pay 20 – 40% more for their electricity and gas on prepayment or “key“ meters.  In winter, this means that people with key meters may run out of heat or electricity and not have the money to get the heating or lights turned back on.   Increasing more people across the city must make a decision whether to heat or eat.  Last year, 31,000 people died in the UK from the cold.  According to Age UK, 90% of these deaths were in people over 65 years old.  For the state not to provide for our  elderly and vulnerable people is a lamentable turn of events.  Considering the progress we’ve made in technology, our social services are evolving to Dickensian conditions.

67% of the British population would like the failed privatisation of 1993 reversed, to re-nationalise the energy industry.   Unfortunately, this is more a dream, disappointingly, a likely impossibility.   With a combined value well into the 100s of billions of pounds, the cost to the Treasury of reacquiring the energy suppliers and national grid would be too great to inspire political will.  We can also assume that since taxpayer funds have been spent on bailing out the banks, we do not have the economic capacity to buy back national assets we once owned.

Yesterday, the Department of Energy and Climate change released their Community Energy Strategy.  This report pledged support for community energy groups across the country.  BHESCo will continue to work with Brighton & Hove City Council to drive down the cost of energy locally, investing in the local community.  We expect that any support that we receive will create value for money for the taxpayer, delivering a low cost transition to a low carbon economy for less investment per kWh of energy generated or saved.

That is why Co-operative energy groups are so important.  Groups managed by social entrepreneurs are picking up gauntlet to remedy a failed energy industry.  20 years experience has been enough time for us to recognise that the model didn’t work and its time to consider attractive alternatives.  Show your support for community energy by joining BHESCo.  Call us or write to us.  Get in touch, we are here to help.

Hinckley point_Oblique_Aerial_View_1.70_MFINAL_RGB_cropped

photo courtesy of EDF Energy

This week, the Government announced that the taxpayer would be subsidising the construction of a £16 billion, 3.3GW new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.  The deal was stuck with EDF, the French state owned utility.  In the wake of the disaster at Fukishima, with dangerous levels of radioactive Strontium entering into their water, any investment in the construction of a new nuclear facility is short-sighted, presenting a formidable threat to the economic health and potentially the physical well being of future generations.

The subsidy presents the threat of a dangerous economic legacy for us now and for future generations.  The guaranteed strike price of £92.50 per MWh lasts for 35 years, and is twice the current price of electricity in the market today.

What this means is that every taxpayer, regardless of whether one benefits from it or not, will be financing the generation of this electricity for the next 35 years.  Because of the base load nature of nuclear power, there may be times when no one is consuming this electricity yet, the taxpayer will still be paying EDF and the investor consortia for generating it.

Foreign investment could comprise more than 50% of the ownership of the plant, which means our taxpayers’ money is contributing to the wealth of foreign nations instead of being invested at home.   It’s a no brainer for the Chinese to take up to a 40% stake in the consortium, because for them it is a guaranteed investment return with very little risk.  The move creates distortions in the supplier market and sets a greedy precedent for other suppliers.

Energy subsidies EnergiewendeThis graph, prepared by the EEG to analyse the level of subsidy to be provided for Hinckley Point demostrates that even when the taxpayer subsidy for decommissioning the plant and the long term storage of the nuclear waste is excluded, the subsidy for nuclear power far exceeds any subsidies for solar PV or Wind (either on or offshore).

It doesn’t make any sense to continue to invest good money into an expensive and dangerous source of electricity.  The lion’s share of the budget for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is allocated to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to manage our legacy of radioactive nuclear waste.

The UK has the highest stockpile in the world of radioactive Plutonium buried in a temporary storage facility in Cumbria.  The cost of managing our nuclear legacy is estimated to be about £100 billion, the equivalent of the entire investment required to upgrade our electricity network.

We must reject this plan to expand the facility at Hinkley and support investment in clean, renewable energy generation and energy efficiency investment.  We must invest in a smart grid that would transform our network into a low carbon, clean energy generation, transmission and distribution network.  Please contact your MP and let them know you do not support any subsidy for nuclear power.


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