The ‘green energy austerity’ of this government is a political choice. It’s not driven by logic or economics, but ideology.
Thousands of jobs were lost last month as some of Britain’s biggest solar companies went into administration – a direct result of the government’s slash and burn of green policies. There’ll be more to come as the impacts of recent announcements begin to bite.
Around 25 per cent of the UK’s power now comes from renewable sources; this indigenous energy supply that creates no pollution, is immune to global commodity price rises, enables us to hit climate change targets and creates jobs and industry right here in Britain.
There appear to be no downsides to renewable energy or to continuing the modest levels of support it has had to date, particularly as it evolves quickly to a place where it needs none. But the government remains intent on pulling the rug from underneath the entire renewables industry.
And then there’s fossil fuel support: The International Monetary Fund reported a few weeks ago that total public support (it only seems to be called a subsidy when it’s for renewable energy) for the fossil fuel industry is a staggering £30 billion per year – or over £1,000 per household per year.
In contrast, total public support for renewable energy amounted to £2.6 billion last year – or £100 per household per year – with onshore wind making up just £10 of that. For that 100 quid, we get 25 per cent of our nation’s power, every year. That looks like value for money to me.
Here’s an interesting thought. On top of the £30 billion fossil fuel subsidies, we spend another £50 billion a year just burning fossil fuels. We get no new power stations for that – it’s just £50 billion straight into a furnace – quite literally burning money.
If we took the combined £80 billion we spend on fossil fuels and invested that in building new sources of green infrastructure, onshore wind for example, we could meet up to 50 per cent of Britain’s electricity needs – each year for the next 25 years. That’s a shocking statistic. Yes, it’s a little crude, because the £80 billion is not all spent at power stations, but it gives a good handle on the scale of cost and waste in the fossil fuel sector, and the economic benefits of moving to a green economy.
Britain is blessed with enough renewable energy to power our entire country several times over, safely, without pollution and at the lowest cost of all energy sources. In the process, we’ll create tens of thousands of new sustainable jobs in the green economy. But we have a government that is ideologically opposed to renewable energy and, with its small majority in the Commons, it has moved, against public opinion, to put a stop to this incredible success story.
There is something everyone can do about this, and it’s easy – vote with your energy bills and switch to green energy. Stop buying fossil fuel energy for your home from polluting energy companies – simply stop paying them. The more people that demand green energy in their homes, the more we’ll need to build. And maybe, just maybe, that message will get through to the government.
Dale Vince OBE, founder of Ecotricity, the world’s first green energy company
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