It has been reported that we will be quite low on electricity supplies this winter, and while it seems that we are unlikely to have any blackouts, spare electricity capacity is likely to be at only 4%, down from 17% three years ago.
This shows that we clearly need to invest more in energy. And with the dangers of climate change and nuclear waste, and now the added threat of fracking, we need to invest more in renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy. This is not something that can be solved overnight, but this is where we need to be looking in the long term, and much more so than we are doing at the moment.
Based on 2013 figures, we get approximately 15% of the energy for electricity from renewable sources. We could get a lot more from wind power now, but many applications for wind farms are rejected often for apparently no good reason. Conservative MP Eric Pickles in his position as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has unilateral power over these decisions. Such a state of affairs means that decisions are at risk of being made for political reasons, as many would argue has been the case here. I have previously argued that individual politicians should not have so much power. The level of power held by cabinet ministers has not been awarded democratically as it goes way above and beyond their election by their constituents as a local MP, and generally appointment is not based on any sort of merit or expertise; cabinet positions are handed out seemingly arbitrarily to the MPs who happen to be favoured by the party in government at the time.
Many people make the argument that wind farms are ugly, but as Vince Cable has argued, it is an irrational dislike as they are no worse than the electricity pylons that dominate the skyline. It certainly seems to be a very selective dislike, which coincidentally is held almost exclusively by people who are opposed to green energy in the first place. And which is uglier: wind turbines or much of the world descending into poverty caused by out-of-control climate change? Some people need to get a sense of perspective. We want to avoid fracking, and reduce our dependence on nuclear power and fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but to do this we need to take seriously the investment in renewable sources of energy.
People argue that there’s no point in putting in the money and effort because other countries, including perhaps America and China, will continue to pollute anyway. That is of course an overly simplistic view of these countries. But while there does need to be more of a coordinated global effort, there are international agreements in place such as the recent EU deal. But regardless of what other countries are doing, we should carry on developing the technology and infrastructure as much as possible and not be afraid to take a lead where necessary. Technology developed here can be used by other countries in the future so it would not be wasted effort, and obviously this goes both ways, with the UK being able to use technology developed elsewhere. The more of a worldwide effort and the more money that is spent on this, wherever it is spent, the better for everyone. In other words, don’t hold back on green energy development just because you think some other countries might not be doing enough.
A YouGov poll indicates that most people want energy nationalised. Nationalised energy would mean that we could take control of how energy is generated without involving companies that need it to be profitable for them. There would be no companies applying for fracking licences, because the decision on whether to frack would not be made on the grounds of profit. It makes sense for essential services that require such high levels of regulation and coordination to be nationalised to keep them to under proper control.