02 Nov 2017
Some people, including political leaders, believe that environmental levies add cost to our annual energy bills, subsidising the construction of expensive wind and solar farms, making energy unaffordable for millions of people. Sadly, these people are being mislead, influenced by the large energy suppliers, like British Gas who recently blamed environmental taxes for their most recent price hikes.
The misinformation spoon fed to politicians by those whose interests lie in the preservation of a fossil fuel based energy industry is consumed blindly by our politicians who are overwhelmed by the amount of data that they must process to keep up to date. The energy industry seems to be an area in which most politicians are especially uninformed, or worse, deceived. Consumers are just concerned about rising energy prices, accepting the information given to them by energy suppliers trying to keep their customers.
The truth is that fossil fuel energy is subsidised at a much higher rate, more than two thirds higher, than renewable energy. These subsidies are funded directly by the taxpayer, through tax credits to the shale gas exploration companies or tax breaks on investment of oil drilling and refining equipment. Since tax breaks are not transported directly to our energy bills, they are less obvious to consumers. Other subsidies funded by the taxpayer are embedded in departmental budgets, like the billions per year spent to maintain our nuclear power infrastructure is embedded in the budget of the department of Business and Industrial Strategy. Direct funding of activities by the taxpayer allows for the activities to take place outside of public scrutiny.
Tax breaks for fossil fuels are funded by the taxpayer, investments in the renewable energy infrastructure that we need to ensure affordable and long lasting sources of energy for the future are funded by the bill payer. There are many arguments that can be supported economically, that investments in renewable energy like wind and solar, pay back over the life of the energy generation because we don’t have to pay for the cost of the fuel, it is free. The cost of the fuel incorporates the exploration cost, drilling cost transport cost of these fossilised relics we use for “cheap energy”. If the taxpayer funded our renewable energy infrastructure, by diverting less tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry and funding clean energy, our energy bills would also decline, there would be no need for ‘eco taxes’.
The truth is that for years onshore wind has been the cheapest form of energy, yet development of onshore wind generation has been discouraged by this government. In June, 24% of the electricity in the UK was produced by solar panels. 800,000 homes have solar panels on their roofs and 200,000 have solar thermal hot water. Just recently, the price of electricity from offshore wind was trading at half the price of electricity from new nuclear power on the capacity market. It is time to stop the distorted, misinformed news on renewable energy and to hold our politicians accountable for supporting the construction of more renewable energy in our communities.
We can work together to ensure that we have affordable heat and electricity into the future and stop listening to the propoganda on Eco Tax, or that the lights will go out without expensive new nuclear. Battery storage is creating the reliability we need into renewable energy, eliminating the need for base load power.
Now is the time to support your local community energy group, to get behind the movement for local energy and stop accepting the highly selective news intended to manipulate public opinion coming from the media as our truth. We can create a cleaner, safer world for our children if that is what we choose to do.
23 Mar 2017
“I wouldn’t want to be the MP in Parliament who voted to oppose Hinkley C”.
With a very concerned look mixed with fear, this quote comes from an insider in the Halls of Power of the Energy Industry. Yet he works for a company that has chosen to put at the heart of its strategy the preparation and facilitation of the transition to a distributed network. This, in essence, is a bet on the proliferation of local renewable energy generation, and a move away from the inefficiency of centralised power stations. A distributed network is needed when there are lots of energy generators installed on rooftops, in the hills, in the sea and under the streets of our cities, towns and villages.
BHESCo estimates that there is almost 50GW worth of applications for battery storage facilities wanting to connect with the 8 Distribution Network Operators and the National Grid. This is about 10 times the power generation capacity of Hinkley C and Moorside combined, at a fraction of the price to the taxpayer and to future taxpayers. Granted, this is an emerging technology, as yet without a track record, however in the 10 years it will take for these nuclear power plants to be operational, battery storage will have become mainstream. As Steven Holliday, former CEO of the National Grid, announced in 2015, “base load power is obsolete.” Base load nuclear power is wasteful, where at present 60% of the electricity produced is lost in conversion, transmission and distribution.
Despite pleas from over 160 organisations, this year’s national budget includes a ‘Solar Tax’ collected in the form of business rates. If you own a solar array less than 50kW, the value of your property for business rates will be increased by the nominal value of the solar array on your roof. This will have enormous implications on small businesses that have become solar generators because the tax is most likely to approximate or exceed any benefit that they receive for the free electricity from the sun. Because any investment in energy generation requires a certain return in order for investors to commit their hard earned cash, a business rates tax on solar arrays eliminates any incentive to accelerate our transition from fossil fuels by investing in generating your own electricity. The ‘solar tax’ is an intentional assault on free power from the sun as, for example, gas combined heat and power systems have been exempt from business rates since 2001.
Now consider the subsidies for investors in shale gas exploration, or ‘fracking’. This subsidy comes in the form of tax breaks called Enhanced Capital Allowances that permit firms that are investing in shale gas exploration to deduct the cost of the equipment directly against their taxable income, in many cases virtually eliminating any tax due. For companies like Centrica, who are a large investor in Cuadrilla, these tax breaks run into the millions  . Other similar tax breaks will be enjoyed by Ineos, who intend to invest £168 million in shale gas exploration (which at 40% tax relief, amount to £68 million) or IGas who invested £16 million in equipment in 2015. Nuclear power on the other hand costs the taxpayer billions each year for transport, storage and decommissioning of existing power plants alone, before we even being to count the cost of constructing new ones such as Hinkley C and Moorside, as each of these proposed plants are being constructed using unproven technologies. Simply put, the “solar tax” is an assault on the little guy, just another addition to the unfair tax policies that protect the 10% and burden the 90%, in this case, small businesses.
For anyone who believes that we must take responsibility for our energy supply now for the sake of our climate and our energy security, we wonder: what is the difference in tax receipts for the Treasury if the money comes from the clean energy industry or from dirty fossil fuels or nuclear? Or do we really want to spend our money as taxpayers supporting a government that is afraid to make the decisions that we need to ensure that we have clean, affordable energy in the future? Wouldn’t we rather ensure that our schools have sufficient funds to properly educate our children, or that the NHS continues to thrive as an accessible customer service focused health care system?
Join the fight today by writing to your MP, signing an anti-fracking or anti-nuclear petition, or becoming an investor in Community Energy. Make sure that important decisions about our future are made from a position of courage, not fear. Mostly make sure that you are informed, as such short sighted changes to tax legislation will have long term impacts on our quality of life.
 www.greentechmedia.com energydesk.greenpeace.org