Here come the Tories to launch their green energy policy

Posted by jamie — 6 December 2007 at 7:42pm - Comments

David Cameron launches his new policy on green renewable energy

David Cameron speaking at today's launch of the Conservative's green energy policy © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra

We're used to having some unusual people descending on our offices, but today's visit by David Cameron and several other members of the shadow cabinet is the most leftfield (or should that be rightfield?) visitation for some time. But they were here to launch a new policy that uses many of our own demands for renewable energy, a vital component in the struggle to limit the impacts of climate change.

Cameron's new plan, Power to the People (pdf - is someone at central office a Citizen Smith fan?) echoes a lot of what we've been saying for years about breaking down our old, antiquated national grid and encouraging micro-generation where households and businesses produce their own electricity using renewable sources like wind and solar.

It revolves around the idea of a feed-in tariff, allowing people with solar panels and wind turbines to sell their surplus electricity back to the grid at a guaranteed price. Germany has exactly this kind of system which has encouraged much more investment in renewables than in this country.

The Tories propose using the current grants for micro-generation to fund the feed-in tariff scheme: taking away these grants sounds like a bad thing to do, but the argument is that providing feed-in tariffs instead will kick-start a "consumer-driven, bottom-up" energy revolution, as Cameron described it. He also said that once people are generating their own electricity, it will force changes in behaviour as everyone becomes more aware of where energy comes from and, perhaps more importantly, how it's used. To be honest, I have to agree.

Even by our standards, inviting the Tories onto our home turf is strange, but the priority here is not political allegiances, it's to stop climate change and we'll work with whichever party is prepared to go the distance. It certainly doesn't mean we agree with all of their policies and we'll still push them on other issues like nuclear power.

Even though Cameron still won't completely rule out nuclear power, his comments made it pretty obvious that nuclear power is dead in the water - he said the government are no closer to solving the waste problem and the Tories won't hand out public subsidies. He also added: "I think there's an element to the government's approach that is really quite irresponsible." Which is putting it mildly.

Is this the wind of change? If these policies don't get knobbled by the big dinosaurs of the energy industry, it could well be although it's just one piece of the whole solution and of course Cameron isn't in power. But as he noted, recent evidence shows that the best way to get something into government policy seems to be getting the opposition to announce it first.

Read Cameron's full speech and John Sauven's introduction.

I'm sorry guys, but you've been hoodwinked. The biggest problem with the grant system in the UK is that there isn't enough money in it. Simply transferring the money from the current fund to a feed in tariff scheme won't solve anything.

The success of the scheme in Germany is based on the fact that the electricity company pays for the huge subsidies for solar power development who then passes the cost onto the buyer of electricity. This means that no government minister can decide that the money would be better spent, on say, health or education, and there are no artificial (monetary) limits on the amount of power that can be developed.

I agree that we need to listen to proposals from all sides, but this Tory proposal is half-baked.

Yes, there needs to be more money available but the grant system only provides (or it's supposed to, if you can find your way through the labyrinth of bureaucracy) payments to buy and install micro-generating equipment, so it takes years for the installation to start paying for itself for homeowners and businesses.

A feed-in tariff, on the other hand, is like a cash-back system that, unlike ones for mobile phones, actually works. Providing a guaranteed price for surplus electricity would provide an incentive to develop micro-generation beyond good intentions and stimulate a dynamic energy economy that many, many more people can be part of, not just the energy giants and the government.

web editor
gpuk

I'm sorry guys, but you've been hoodwinked. The biggest problem with the grant system in the UK is that there isn't enough money in it. Simply transferring the money from the current fund to a feed in tariff scheme won't solve anything. The success of the scheme in Germany is based on the fact that the electricity company pays for the huge subsidies for solar power development who then passes the cost onto the buyer of electricity. This means that no government minister can decide that the money would be better spent, on say, health or education, and there are no artificial (monetary) limits on the amount of power that can be developed. I agree that we need to listen to proposals from all sides, but this Tory proposal is half-baked.

Yes, there needs to be more money available but the grant system only provides (or it's supposed to, if you can find your way through the labyrinth of bureaucracy) payments to buy and install micro-generating equipment, so it takes years for the installation to start paying for itself for homeowners and businesses. A feed-in tariff, on the other hand, is like a cash-back system that, unlike ones for mobile phones, actually works. Providing a guaranteed price for surplus electricity would provide an incentive to develop micro-generation beyond good intentions and stimulate a dynamic energy economy that many, many more people can be part of, not just the energy giants and the government. web editor gpuk

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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