Given the forecasts of eye-wateringly high energy prices and the growing threats of climate change, what should we be doing, individually, locally and nationally, to protect ourselves?
Firstly, we need to be insulating and draught proofing homes as fast as we possibly can, so we all need less energy to stay comfortable, whatever the weather and climate change throw at us.
Even quite simple measures like draught proofing and loft insulation can have a major benefit. Unfortunately, successive conservative governments have completely failed to support this. When David Cameron cancelled the thriving energy efficiency scheme in 2013, insulation rates fell by 90% and have still not recovered. As a recent report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit showed, if we’d continued insulating homes at that rate, 9 million homes would now cost around 20% less to heat.
Many householders have been investing in improving their homes themselves, but I was pleased to hear that Cambridge City Council is continuing their “Warm Homes” project, giving free help to City residents to stay warm and reduce energy bills.
In addition to reducing our energy demand, we need to be accelerating the switch from fossil fuels to renewables and energy storage, because this will reduce our vulnerability, save money and reduce the threat of climate change.
The frustration however, is that the government is still using a complicated array taxes, levies and subsidies to give around £10 Billion a year MORE support to fossil fuel companies than to renewables!
This is despite BEIS estimating that by 2025 offshore wind and large scale solar will produce electricity at about half the price of gas and at about one third the cost of nuclear power generation. The UK is a windy place, so we have a real opportunity to expand production and once again become a net energy exporter, as we were from 1981-2013.
Individual households can protect themselves from future price rises by installing solar PV and a battery. Cambridgeshire’s excellent group buying scheme “Solar Together” reduces the cost, and applications for the next round should open in February. However, the poorest households still can’t afford it.
Frustratingly, subscribers to a simple “green” electricity tariff don’t see these benefit either. In a bizarre distortion of common sense, some renewables companies are now having to PAY subsidies to electricity companies because of the high gas prices! This is completely mad, and is one of the reasons why green electricity tariffs are not much cheaper than they are.
We should reclaim those subsidies from the fossil fuel companies and instead use the money to give the poorest households great insulation and free PV, so they’re protected from future price rises.