There is an urgent need for the Government to clarify its energy strategy in wake of the Hinkley nuclear power plant delay.
The new Department for Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) set up by Theresa May will oversee the energy brief with Greg Clark at the helm, while also covering industrial strategy, business, consumers, employees, science, innovation, research, and climate change.
There’s a logic to the creation of this new mega-department, and clearly an attempt to rationalise the process of structural and cultural change more coherently than under previous administrations.
But there are concerns that the huge department may lose focus on crucial important aspects of energy policy in the drive for business growth and innovation. There is also a more than a hint of confusion over the direction of energy policy.
The debate over Hinkley nuclear power station is a very visible example of this. It’s clear that Theresa May’s government has fresh doubts over the scheme, currently priced at an eye-watering £37 billion.
At the same time, the moves to support fracking through financial incentives to consumers are also lacking in clarity.
Both the nuclear and fracking options have been viewed by the previous and current administration as essential elements in the drive “to keep the lights on”, while the full-hearted support for renewable energy sources has diminished.
It is clear that bold moves need to be made to resolve the trilemma of secure energy production, environmentally cleaner sources and effective pricing. Old and “dirty” coal/gas power plants are being rapidly phased out amid growing concerns about the UK’s generational capacity.
But, as John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK argues in an article this week, the confused focus on big projects like nuclear and fracking divert attention from more achievable and less expensive energy solutions.
At SaveMoneyCutCarbon, we have long argued that the simplest and most effective way to better manage energy in this country is by focusing wholeheartedly on reducing consumption.
This is echoed is John Sauven’s article where he makes the case crystal clear for energy strategy that helps businesses, organisations and homes cut demand.
“The less we use, the easier the [energy] problem is to solve. If all street lights were switched to LED bulbs we could take half a GW of demand off the grid with ease.
“If all homes did the same, we’d save 2.7GW of power at peak use – that’s nearly the equivalent of Hinkley by just changing the lightbulbs.”
Energy saving strategies are for him a key element in the move to a low-carbon economy that is essential to help meet carbon emissions reduction targets together with renewable energy, interconnectors, energy storage and smart grids.
A national LED lighting strategy is needed that encourages homes, businesses, councils and other organisations to fit these exceptionally energy-efficient devices, reducing electricity consumption by up to 85%.
Add to that the energy-saving benefits of smart lighting controls and the case for wholesale adoption is undeniable.
Going beyond lighting, businesses and organisations need government encouragement to implement far-reaching energy-saving strategies that embrace the use of water efficient products like eco taps, showers, low-flush toilets and waterless urinals, along with smart heating and ventilation controls, smart pumps and voltage optimisation technology.
The technology is proven and effective, it simply needs a strong, concerted push by government to reap the rewards, and help to resolve the national energy challenge.