We need more than a hand-out to combat this energy crisis, Rishi
Sticking plaster policy
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has finally bowed to political pressure and announced a 25% windfall tax on energy companies, whose record profits have rubbed salt in the wound for the millions struggling with ever-increasing energy costs. He also announced a U-turn on his proposal for a £200 ‘loan’ for households, instead opting for a universal £400 grant to help soften the blow when the price cap rises once again this October.
While this is all welcome news, what it is not is a long-term solution to either the energy crisis or the climate crisis. Instead of sticking plaster policies, what the country needs is a clear and concise plan for weaning the UK off its reliance on fossil fuels altogether, focusing on investment in renewables which have the potential to bring costs down as much and as quickly as possible.
Shifting to domestically produced renewable energy and rapidly moving to clean heat is the number one way to shield families from the primary driver of inflation. And, as the cost of electricity generated from well-established renewable sources like solar has fallen dramatically in recent years, renewable energy is becoming an increasingly attractive prospect for private investment. It has long been comparable to - or even cheaper than - power generated from fossil fuel sources, such as combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) or coal.
Despite that, the government has chosen to impose limits on the amount of new renewable energy generation to 12GW. This is disappointing, when you consider that there are 7GW of ‘shovel ready’ solar installations waiting to get underway across the country alone. Removing these barriers to creating Britain’s own clean energy infrastructure, as well as provision of networks enabling greater connectivity and battery storage to reduce the £1billion worth of energy from going to waste every year, would allow the nation to significantly protect itself from another energy crisis like the one we’re seeing now.
In an article in The Guardian earlier this year Dan McGrail, the chief executive of RenewableUK, an industry trade group, said: “The answer to an energy crisis caused by soaring gas prices is to encourage investment in low-cost renewables to decrease our reliance on eye-wateringly expensive fossil fuels. The escape route from volatile and uncontrollable gas prices couldn’t be clearer – investing in our green future secures low-cost reliable power as well as getting the UK to net zero as fast as possible.”
He's right. Research shows that renewable energy brings down energy bills for consumers and if the additional GW the government is planning had been available last winter, energy bills would have been about £100 lower for the average household.
WWCE leading the way
While we wait for the government to bring forward a serious, large-scale plan to reduce national reliance on fossil fuels which its energy security strategy failed to deliver, groups like WWCE are forging ahead with community-backed projects to deliver affordable energy to homes across the UK. Regional enterprises like ours are multiplying, spurred on by the need to alleviate some of the pressure on struggling families.
I have seen first hand the benefits of our projects for Wiltshire communities. However, if we are to protect the nation at large from future cost of living nightmares and, importantly, safeguard the planet from the worsening climate crisis, the government simply must commit to fast-tracking investment away from fossil fuels and towards renewables…
Julian Barlow, Chair WWCE