What did the Party Conferences say about energy?



So the Party Conference season is over. The politicians and the lobbyists (and the few die-hard party members) have gone home. A great number of promises have been made. Call me a cynic if you will, but I expect that few will be kept.

As UKIP’s Spokesman on Energy, I was naturally interested to hear what was said on energy issues. Ofgem says we face an increasing risk of blackouts. The government is in protracted negotiations over new nuclear capacity, but we still wait for action. We are closing down perfectly good coal-fired power stations at the behest of Brussels. Meantime the government has created so many confused rules and tariffs and subsidies, and so much regulatory uncertainty, that not surprisingly energy companies are reluctant to start investing at all.

Huge questions loom over renewables. After the latest IPCC report, which seems to be almost a caricature of itself, should we still worry about climate change? Given the rate at which developing countries are building coal-fired power stations, can anything we do mitigate the increase in atmospheric CO2? And do wind turbines actually reduce emissions anyway? (Answer: No, No and No).

And how do we face up to the problem of energy prices, for households and industry? I presented UKIP’s answer at our conference. We would scrap renewables subsidies on new renewable projects. We would focus on proven technologies like coal, gas and nuclear. Moreover we would support exploratory drilling for shale gas. In the USA, shale gas has led to massive energy price reductions, driving new jobs and growth and industrial regeneration. Shale gas is potentially the biggest economic and industrial opportunity this country has had since the North Sea a generation ago.

The Conservatives have hitched up their skirts and flashed a bit of ankle. Cameron says he “will not maintain renewables subsidies longer than absolutely necessary”. But they’re not necessary now, Dave. They’re driving up prices and failing to deliver. Business Minister Michael Fallon says we can’t continue to allow green policies to drive up prices. But he doesn’t tell us his alternative plan, nor how he’s going to get a new policy past decision-makers in Brussels (or even past his Lib-Dem partners).

The Lib Dems themselves sat firmly on the fence. They accept “a limited rôle for nuclear power in a safe and affordable way”, and they would accept fracking “in a controlled way” (how else would it be done, for heaven’s sake?), and subject of course to tighter regulation. But they have no grand plan to address energy pricing and energy security.

Meantime Labour’s Ed Miliband wants a 20-month price cap on energy. Right problem, Ed. Wrong solution. They tried price caps in the USSR, and they resulted in empty shelves, supply shortages, bread lines, black markets, poverty and misery. This is a move back to old-fashioned state socialism which will have potential investors running a mile. And it will probably increase prices, as suppliers seek to pre-empt the freeze. If Ed’s purpose was to sabotage any rational investment strategy in energy infrastructure, he could hardly have done better.

And Labour want “the total decarbonisation of the power sector by 2030”. This is fantasy-land. They may as well pass a resolution affirming the importance of the Tooth Fairy. But the threat of such a policy will only add to the disincentives for investment.

The rower James Cracknell, now a Tory MEP hopeful, says that “UKIP has just one policy – leaving Europe”. I hate to mention it, James, but we’re also the only British political party with a rational energy policy.

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9 Responses to What did the Party Conferences say about energy?

  1. Richard111 says:

    As I type I can look out the window to my left and see 360 solar panels on a roof which have just been cleaned by two men riding on a large cherry picker. These solar panels were only installed in February last year. I wonder if this is a normal requirement for solar panels? Has this been costed in to the contracts householders make with the suppliers? And it is now raining. Doesn’t rain clean the solar panels?
    You can see pictures of the installation here:

  2. cosmic says:

    Does UKIP have an outline plan for dismantling the CCA?

    It would have to be dismantled rather than simply repealed and forgotten. There’s talk of it being hard to get rid of because of long-standing agreements which have been entered into, but I’ve heard no detail on these. Obviously any agreement can be dealt with by paying up, and paying up to get rid of them is a better option than being in thrall to them and lead to ruin.

    Clearly, while we are still EU members, the scope for creating a rational energy policy has limitations imposed on it.

  3. First we repeal the Act, and it ceases to apply. But we abide by the rule of law, so we (grudgingly) continue to pay subsidies on existing contracts. But absolutely no subsidies for new renewables projects.

    • cosmic says:

      It’s just that I’ve heard this line about long standing agreements making it impossibly expensive to get rid of the CCA and I wondered if there might be more to it than the subsidies. My reaction was that if that’s true, it’s a choice between two impossibly expensive things, so pay up and terminate the agreements, therefore going for the option with better quantifiable and probably lesser costs.

      For instance, agreements with companies taking part in the STOR plan for diesel backup, or long term contracts to install wind farms. Agreements to upgrade the grid to cope with the chaotic nature of renewable generation.

      Unfortunately, I have to agree that generally, it would be unwise for a government to welch on existing contracts entered into by a previous government, no matter how foolish they are.

    • Nicholas Court says:

      Why is it a complete fantasy to aim for the complete decarbonisation of electricity by 2030? If we used nuclear we could do it. Then use electric trains, buses, taxis, and cars. Electric cars are pretty close to viabilty.

  4. Jane Davies says:

    I hope all the hot air, produced at these conferences, was trapped and recycled, such a waste if not!

  5. Chris says:

    Caroline Flint, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, was interviwed on the Sunday Politics about Labour’s energy policy. She wants nuclear and renewables for the future. Caroline, doesn’t realise that wind farms need backup (spin reserve) to fill in the gaps when the wind doesn’t blow. What will she use if she doesn’t want gas?

    There’s no joined up thinking from Labour.

    • cosmic says:

      Miliband is talking about completely decarbonising energy production by 2030. This is so silly it isn’t worth discussing. No doubt Flint is repeating Her Master’s Voice.

      However, the LibDems are at least as daft, and the Tories are only showing the first stunted glimmerings of showing a nodding acquaintance with rationality. So, you can’t really single Labour out, they’re all as detached from reality as each other.

      LibLabCon went on a collective brain holiday when they got into a ‘greener than thou’ bidding contest, and passed the CCA. So much has been invested in it that they can’t easily back down.

  6. Me_Again says:

    “We would scrap renewables subsidies on new renewable projects.”
    This bit nearly slid past me Roger -but not quite.
    So UKIP will not scrap existing subsidies then and you say we have to honour agreements already entered into.
    Is the legal gang sure about this. Isn’t the best way then to bring in a new tax on wind turbine generation? Do that or threaten to do that and we can effectively negotiate the subsidies away.

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