The energy and environmental policies of the Conservative Party

Every political party wants to appear to have “green” policies these days. Green is the new black. The policies of the Government in the United Kingdom are well defined but inchoate, and more observed in their talk than in their action. They talk the talk but do not, when push comes to shove walk the walk. They espouse environmentalism, but anyone who runs a renewable energy business, like Genersys, knows just how difficult it can be to develop and grow a renewable energy business if Government gets in the way of developing and growing a green business.

The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have very cohesive and reasonably well thought out environmental policies but both parties suffer from lacking a large popular share of the vote. In the United Kingdom’s first past the post democracy small parties have little influence, and as good as the polices of the Liberal Democrats and the Greens are, you have the temper praise of their policies with realism of whether they will ever be sufficiently influential to make their good ideas count.

Until now the Conservative Party, who have a very good chance of forming the next Government of the United Kingdom, have been relatively silent on policies details so it has been hard to assess what they would do about the environment and climate change if they were elected at the next General Election. However the Conservatives have now presented their policies about the environment and we can better assess what they would do.

It appears form the pre announcement publicity that Mr David Cameron will announce that they will focus their policies upon electricity, spending £1 billion upon improving the electricity grid system and make the United Kingdom more energy efficient. They want to remotely monitor appliances to improve their efficiency, and end up being much smarter about energy use.Their idea is that these measures would improve energy security buy reducing dependence upon imported fossil fuel and create more jobs in a low carbon economy.

Their ideas about the electricity grid probably need development. In principle they are right in that the gird is inefficient and is designed to deliver electrical power one way – from the generating stations to the end user. The grid is not designed to uptake power form micro generators, and anything to do this would be very welcome. Redesigning the grid is expensive but necessary, as is the need to improve home and business energy efficiency but as far as I can see, the Conservatives have missed several key points.

First, although electricity generation is important in that it by our present power stations create huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, and grid efficiency will help reduce them, it seems that insufficient weight has been applied to heat generation which accounts for about half of the United Kingdom’s energy usage. The key mistake of the Labour Government over the past eleven years has been to concentrate on electricity and energy efficiency without giving enough thought to heat generation.

The Conservatives appear to be repeating this mistake. I can understand that they want to do the easy things, like home insulation, which are terribly important but doing that, improving efficiency and improving the grid will not in themselves provide better energy security of a low carbon economy. These policies will help, but they do not go anywhere far enough. They might create a moderate emissions reduction but we do not need moderate emissions reductions. We need significant emissions reductions.

In order to create these reductions we need not only efficiencies but also methods of generating energy which are not being used to any significant extent in the United Kingdom. Their starting point should be to take the easy options requiring microgeneration, particularly heat generation from solar panels, which will reduce the gas requirement.

They should consider phasing out coal usage in power stations, converting them to gas until such time as we have a viable and safe method of sequestrating carbon dioxide caused by burning coal. If such a method is ever invented, then it should be first used on gas power stations, burning coal only as a last resort. Power generation from natural gas creates significantly fewer emissions per kilowatt hour, than power generation from coal or oil.

We need to increase microgeneration tremendously; big projects like tidal energy cost millions, take time to deliver and have unpredictable environmental consequences. It is better to spend resources on what we know works, rather than to waste time, in short supply as far as climate change is concerned, upon considering renewable energy. We have had plenty of debates and consultations and now is the right time to get on with working on what delivers, rather than try to invent something new.

Of course, the fact that the Conservatives are beginning to develop environmental policies is very encouraging but my overall impression is that they do not properly understand the scale of the climate change problem and therefore are unable to develop a genuine solution that matches the scale of the danger. That is probably the case with most political parties. It may be that we have to look to Mr Obama in the United States for leadership on this issue; time, as always, will tell.

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for the info. You have posted some very interesting points. Keep up the great work!

  2. The proposal that loans to energy companies are to be underwritten, I think Genersys qualfies as an ‘Energy Company’ because Genersys products provide access to energy ?

    “…Energy companies would borrow money, underwritten by the government, to fit every home with up to £6,500 of energy efficiency improvements – like insulation…”

    Quoted from News BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7832384.stm

  3. £6,500 is more than enough to install Solar Thermal and Solar Voltaics this this is in my opinion a reasonable and sensible amount to distribute per household.

    • Peter

      I do not understand the maths of that £6,500 promise. Is it a gimmick? there are 22 million homes in the UK; if we get the £6,500 fromtaxpayers does that mean each household’s tax bill goes up by £6,500?

      Robert

  4. Pushing renewables through energy companies creates a real conflict of interest. Do turkeys vote for Christmas?

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