Rearranging the energy furniture

In the United Kingdom energy prices, which for most people means electricity and gas for household consumption, have been rising far faster than the underlying raw material and delivery costs. As a result energy companies are making higher profits than utilities would normally deliver and some people are finding it hard to afford to keep their homes heated to a decent standard. As a result, last winter (which was one of the coldest for many years) 30,000 “excess deaths”, probably due to fuel poverty, happened.

With this situation of course the politicians have something to say and something to do. Continue reading

Should Subsidies for Renewables be Paid out of Central Taxation?

Energy bills have been rising since 2005 which means that in the United Kingdom people are paying more and more each year for their electricity, gas and heating oil. The rise has been exacerbated by the government imposing levies on energy bills to pay for things like wind turbines and photovoltaic electric solar panels. Now it is being suggested that instead of the renewable subsidies being paid out of levies on electricity bills, they should be paid out of central taxation. Is this suggestion the right way to deal with subsidies for renewables. Continue reading

The Long Cold Hard Winter

It has been a long cold hard winter in London. Of course England’s climate is not as long, cold and hard as the climates of many other nations, but for us this year has been exceptional. There has been a lack of colour in the weather this year, as winter intruded into autumn and Spring, with its grey intruding into our colour spectrum.

This is the environment in which we have lived for months; colours make us feel happy, but grey is not a colour and removes joy in pieces and tires our minds as the cold weather reduces our wealth as we pay to stay warm.

We are used to staying warm; when we were much younger, if we were much younger, being cold in winter was a normal part of our lives. As we became more prosperous central heating transformed from a luxury to a necessity. We no longer wake up and exhale to watch our breath condense on window glass and mirrors. This was not fuel poverty; this was a normal way of life for millions of inhabitants of these islands. The old died in winter, that friend of the elderly.

Inevitably age and prosperity softens us. A long cold hard winter when we were young would not have bothered us, because we knew there were many summers to come. As we get older we fear that the summers to come will be few and the long cold hard winters will extend into them.

Making Meaningful Rules

Politicians never learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. They also waste their time and our money preparing statements of policy and law which are no more than pious hopes. The latest is a proposal that local authorities (municipalities) in the United Kingdom should have a statutory duty to combat climate change. This, to my mind, falls within the same class of useless legislation as, for example, the statutory duty that the government has to abolish fuel poverty or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by so much by a certain date. These are laws or proposed laws that have no penalty for the breach of them and serve no purpose Continue reading

Steve Webb’s early day motion about fuel poverty and energy prices

If you are member of the United Kingdom Parliament and you want to institute a debate on a matter of great importance, the procedure that you have to adopt is called an early day motion. You write down the wording of the motion and then seek a debate, but very few early day motions are matters that are debated. The Government of the day effective controls the Parliamentary timetable, and squeezes out the motions of back bench members, who are elected in order to try and get these matters debated and thus create a demand for legislation to correct injustices. Instead early day motions are now ways that a Member of Parliament can use to publicise a matter.

One of the pressing problems that will become unfortunately more pressing in the next year is that of fuel poverty. Continue reading

Mr Brown’s own yardstick and climate change

Mr Gordon Brown’s recent speech was about climate change and as you would expect he tried to put a very positive emphasis on the government’s climate change policy. It is worth looking at the speech in detail so that we can fully measure the government’s climate change policy against a proper yardstick. I shall give you my views of yardsticks later in this post, but first let us look at the policy initiatives which Mr Brown claims are the right initiatives to solve climate change:-.

Continue reading

The old are dieing of the cold

Help the Aged, a charity concerned with elderly people, reports that each year more than 25,000 older people in the United Kingdom die a death caused by preventable cold related illnesses. This is a scandal. They also say that about a fifth of the elderly spend their winters in one room to save on heating bills and nearly 2 million people wear outdoor clothes indoors for warmth. This happens in one of the most developed countries in the twenty first century. Continue reading

The Climate Change Bill

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, has announced that the Government will amend its draft Climate Change Bill.The Bill originally set out legally binding targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the UK by at least 60 per cent by 2050 and 26 to 32 per cent by 2020 based on a new system of “carbon budgets” set at least fifteen years ahead. It also proposed the creation of a new independent, expert Committee on Climate Change to advise on the best way to achieve these targets.  The latest draft requires this Committee to look at the “implications” of including other greenhouse gases and emissions from international aviation and shipping in the UK’s targets as part of this review. The bill envisages that the Government must seek the Committee’s advice but not, of course, be bound by it. The Government will, however, have to explain its reasons to parliament for not following the Committee’s advice to parliament and report every five years.

O dear! Legally binding targets! A five year reporting cycle. Another quangos. More money on administration and nothing on measures. If we don’t meet these targets in thirteen years’ time and thirty three years’ time so what? There are no sanctions if the Government fail to meet legally binding targets. They won’t round up the Environment Secretary and throw him in jail. I suppose that someone will apologise, blaming past governments for the mess that we will be in, as the weather becomes more extreme, energy more expensive and economies decline, pretty much as predicted by Sir Nicholas Stern. We already have a legally binding target to abolish fuel poverty in vulnerable households by 2010 and in all households by 2016. We have no chance of meeting these targets, so how can we meet our carbon dioxide emission targets?Mr Benn thinks that targets will give the UK “greater clout at the international negotiating table”. He misleads himself. While we in the United Kingdom play around with statutory targets, trade and cap schemes, carbon casinos where you lay down bets in emissions and could win big prizes, much of the rest of the world realises that it is measures, not words, that reduces carbon emissions.  There are plans and statutory schemes in many countries that provide real measures, particularly for the generation of green energy through thermal solar and other renewable technologies. In these cases, conditions are created to incentivise these technologies. Here in the United Kingdom less is spent on thermal solar incentives than 650 members of parliament run up on their expenses in eleven days, yes eleven days! When Mr Benn sits at the international negotiating table he won’t, on the basis of this draft bill, have clout. He will have something, but it won’t be clout or respect for the UK’s climate change policy.