Yesterday the government finally gave the go-ahead to gas fracking in Britain, after a pause to assess its impact. It was expected, given that the Treasury was drawing up incentives to encourage it at the same time as the DECC was deciding whether it was safe or not. Most of yesterday’s headlines went to the fracking decision, but the government’s Committee on Climate Change had some news of their own. Their latest research compares a renewable energy strategy with a new push for gas, and examines the consequences for household bills.
The result? Pursuing renewable energy could add £100 to the average household annual bill by 2020 and little more thereafter. Locking ourselves into a gas future would add at least £200 and possibly as much as £600 to the average bill by 2050.
This is important stuff, because we’re busy putting in the place the second option, planning new gas power stations and pinning our hopes on fracking, while dismissing renewable energy as unaffordable and uneconomic. In the process, we’re burying any hope of meeting our carbon targets.
The slagging off of renewable energy in the tabloid media is perhaps understandable. What’s more bizarre is the politicians who are set against renewable energy – the Climate Change Committee are using the government’s own research, so they’re ignoring their own advisors. It’s also bizarre to hear people who object to wind turbines because they ‘wreck the countryside’ cheerleading for gas fracking – will gas fracking rigs not impact the landscape?
The most important point, ultimately, is the need for joined up thinking. I suspect that the dismissal of renewable energy is motivated by climate change skepticism, but that’s only one reason for decarbonising our energy grid. The other big reason is resource depletion and the rising price of gas. Renewable energy isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s an energy security matter too.
Here’s a breakdown of the energy price rises between 2004 and 2011. Support for renewable energy added £30 to the bill. Supplier profits and the increase in wholesale gas prices added £300. Is it really too late to revisit that gas strategy?