Energy Bill Breakdown – The Different components that make up your Energy Bill
November 12, 2013
Wholesale Energy costs
So, starting with the main component of your energy bill; the wholesale energy cost is the price of electricity and gas that energy retailers (British Gas, E.ON, Npower, etc) buy from the energy market. This makes up by far the biggest element of the energy bill – about 48% averaged across the big six energy companies, which on a bill of £1300 a year comes to about £620.
The energy companies have to secure the energy ahead of actually providing it to customers, and this is done by buying it well in advance (sometimes as much as two years) to ensure that supply is not disrupted.
All of the Big Six energy retailers: EDF, E.ON, British Gas, Scottish Power, Npower, SSE, also have generation businesses, which means they have some generating (electricity) and extraction (natural gas) capacity. However this generating and extraction capacity doesn’t unfortunately stop them from having to purchase additional energy to satisfy the demand from customers.
So although they blame the increases in wholesale prices as the reason for increasing the price of the customer’s bill, in theory they are paying themselves twice – increasing the profits of their generation and extraction businesses (which also part of the wholesale price) and then passing on any increases in the market price to homes and businesses. So their increased cost effectively turns into increased revenue twice over. It’s no surprise that the generation and extraction businesses are the most profitable parts of their business portfolios but are ‘glossed over’ and poorly understood by the press and politicians.
The companies say there is strict separation between the different parts of the business – the retail side (selling to you and me) and the generation side (sourcing the energy); and they also tell us they don’t come together and collude on price rises, but when you begin to understand how they operate you begin to wonder what they announce publicly actually stacks up!
One final point is that electricity is generated all over the UK and demand for electricity doesn’t always match the demand. Therefore there is a need to move the electricity around the distribution network to ensure customers can get the electricity when it is needed. The National grid carries out this job and they recover their costs from suppliers through this ‘wholesale energy cost’ element of the bill – this is known as the Balancing Services Use of System.
The Energy Delivery Network
Transmission and distribution is the second largest component of your energy bill. This is the price paid by the energy suppliers to the companies that operate the energy distribution networks. This makes up about 24% of your energy bill and the price paid is determined by OFGEM (the energy regulation body) in conjunction with the energy distribution companies (like National Grid, Scotia Gas Networks, UK Power Networks, etc).
These prices are rising since investment is also increasing as the old network has to be upgraded to ensure that the distribution infrastructure can cope with increases in demand and continue to deliver an uninterrupted energy supply to our homes and businesses.
For example old gas pipework is being replaced by new more robust materials, which means roads need to be dug up and new infrastructure put in place. Also a new power station or wind farm will require new cabling to get the electricity from where it is produced to where it is needed, and this is what is responsible for this component of the bill going up.
Social & Environmental Costs
Social and Environmental costs make up just under 10% of your energy bill, so on an average bill of £1,300, you are paying about £130 towards this element. Despite only being a tiny portion of your bill relative to the other components, this component has been the one that has created the most media attention since this is the one the Government have a real say in.
The background to this component is that the Government have now made it a legal requirement for the energy companies to provide help to vulnerable members of society to ensure they have access to heat and electricity and to try and make this more affordable to them. There are numerous schemes running that the Government enforces to help achieve this and we have detailed a few of them below.
These schemes target in particular elderly customers, customers with disabilities and low-income families that require an extra bit of help. The first example is the Winter Fuel Payment, which provides a tax-free payment of between £100- £300 to any homeowner who was born prior to 5th January 1952. This can also be topped up by an additional £25 Cold Weather Payment for those particularly cold winter weeks.
Another scheme that is in place to try and tackle the root causes of heating and insulation problems is the ECO or the Energy Company Obligation. You can read more about this scheme her but in a nutshell this helps drive energy efficiency among this same group of vulnerable members of society, where if it was left to the market, would priced out and excluded.
Measures available through ECO include new boilers, cavity and loft insulation and solid wall insulation, have click here to see if you can take advantage of this.
So as customers we have to decide where our priorities lie and whether we want to help continue protecting the most vulnerable. As a nation we have always done this, and I expect we will continue to do so! Whether we do this through energy bills or general taxation is another argument altogether.
Finally, the Government also have put in place policies in place to help the UK adhere to its legally binding carbon reduction program. This includes the subsidies that are paid when wind farms are built or solar panels are put on your roof. Despite a few media outlets (see the Telegraph for example!) being incredibly critical of this kind of investment – these renewable technologies will ensure that the amount of energy we need to import from places like Qatar or Norway is massively reduced, which gives us a bit of energy independence and therefore protects us from price volatility but this obviously a longer term view!
This is simply tax paid either as VAT or corporation tax – and is roughly 5%.
Most big companies have overheads to keep the business running, like having to pay wages. If you think that the energy companies are providing a service to many millions of customers unfortunately there is not much they can do here to pass on any savings to us! Even if top management of the biggest salaries were to be paid less, this would be a drop in the ocean sadly. The operating costs represent about 10% of the energy bill you pay.
All the energy companies claim they are making a fair profit – which is roughly 5% across the board. They claim that this kind of profit is broadly in line with supermarkets, another of life’s necessities and since they are all publicly listed, they pay a dividend that helps boost pension funds. They also claim that they are investing in new power plants to replace ageing infrastructure, but to be honest I am yet to see materialise on a grand scale, but that may just be me being cynical!
So there you have it – hopefully everything you need to know about how energy bills are made up. I hope this gives you enough information to reach your own conclusion whether you feel the 10% annual increases are justified. It seems to me that although wholesale costs do go up, the energy companies have not come clean on the vast profits their businesses bring in. It is only when we have full transparency that we will see the tide of trust begin to turn.
To see a pie chart showing the energy bill breakdown please click here
To read some more of our ‘bigger picture blogs – click here – a great read over lunch!
Unlike the previous Green Deal scheme which was loan operated, the Green Homes Grant offers grants of up to £5000 and £10,000 to wholly or partially cover the full cost of the energy saving measure.
The Green Homes Grant was set up to help improve the energy efficiency of properties across the UK, since many of the properties we live in are very inefficient, with solid walls, old heating systems and very little insulation. This scheme allows people to improve their homes without having to stump up the entire upfront costs of the works.
How does the Green Homes Grant work?
The Green Homes Grant is divided in to two separate grants, which each have different eligibility criteria.
£5000 – available to any home in England that fits the correct criteria for the specific measure. This grant covers 2/3’s of the full cost and caps at £5000. There will be a remainder in all cases using this grant and it will be paid as a customer contribution.
£10,000 – available to any homeowner receiving certain benefits listed here, and whose home fits the correct criteria for the specific measure. This grant covers 100% of the full cost up to £10,000 and the remainder is paid as a customer contribution.
e.g. Fitting external insulation on a small terraced house (approx 50sqm), using the £5000 green homes grant
The average supply and fit cost of external wall insulation is £120 per sqm (inclusive of materials, labour, VAT, skip hire, any extra remedial work required, scaffolding). Therefore, a 50sqm house would cost £6000.
In this case, 2/3’s of the full cost is £4000, so this is how much the Green Homes Grant would cover. The homeowner would pay the remainder of £2000.
e.g. Fitting external insulation on the same size house (50sqm), using the £10,000 Green Homes Grant
As above, the total cost of the works would amount to £6000. With the £10,000 grant, the whole £6000 would be covered by the Green Homes Grant and there would be no customer contribution.
If the house were bigger (for instance, 100sqm) the total cost would be £12,000, the Green Homes Grant would cover £10,000 of the amount and the homeowner would have to pay £2000.
Who can get the Green Homes Grant?
In theory, any home in England can access the Green Deal considering you are eligible, but the scheme has been specifically tailored to the private home owner or the private rental sectors. The reason being is that the social housing sector already has several ways in which improvements are funded and undertaken – namely the ECO scheme.
The following section talks a bit more about how the Green Homes Grant process works end-to-end – starting with a finding a Trustmark approved installer to quote for the works.
Find a Trustmark approved installer to quote you for the works. The installer will also have to be registered to specific certifications regarding the measure they are installing – MCS/PAS2035. It is recommended to get three quotes for comparison.
How does the Green Homes Grant help improve energy awareness?
The Green Homes Grant provides homeowners with knowledge of energy efficient home improvements. In turn, better energy awareness should drive occupiers to use their energy more wisely, which should drive down the cost people pay. For example: reducing the temperature of the hot water cylinder thermostat, installing central heating thermostats in the correct location, reducing water levels in kettles, washing clothes in ‘eco-mode’, and turning off unused high energy usage appliances like chest freezers should all help with lower energy bills.
We list 100 ways to save energy in the home here – even if you adopt a few, you should see some nice energy savings on your utility bills.
Should we build the Severn Barrage? – Surely a no brainer!
June 10, 2013
[Update: this project has been refined and the Swansea Tidal Lagoon has now been given the go-ahead. Read more here.]
Some disappointing news today, after it emerged that a Governmental Select Committee rejected the plans for a £25bn barrage on the Severn Estuary.
The Energy Issue Facing the UK
In the UK, we have an impending energy crisis, with much of our electricity generating capacity due to go off line within the next 5-10 years (mainly coal and nuclear). Unfortunately demand is not going to drop off in the same way, in fact, despite increased energy efficiency via schemes like the Green Deal, new energy efficient appliances and even more efficient modes of transport, demand is expected to rise ever so slightly over the coming years.
The result not enough power to meet demand.
How the Severn Barrage could help
The Severn barrage would take advantage of the tidal stream on the River Severn to produce 5% of our energy requirements. That is not just 5% of our renewable requirements – that is 5% of our total energy requirements (equivalent to 3 or 4 nuclear reactors). That is an enormous contribution to our energy cause, but that is not the best part.
Since we are running out of North Sea gas at a rate of knots and shale gas is going to produce a fraction of the gas requirements that our Government would lead you to believe, it appears that importing fuel to power our country will be the only way to keep the lights on.
Unfortunately, in this position we are very much bent over a barrel, since we will become so reliant on these imports we will have to pay whatever the exporters deem necessary.
If we were to go ahead and build the Severn Barrage, then we would be producing from just one structure, fuel free, dependable electricity. Unlike other renewables that are intermittent (like solar only producing power when the sun is out), tidal is different. The tides are very predictable – they can be predicted many years into the future and Hafren Power have estimated that this particular barrage would be able to produce power for an average 15.25 hours per day and its lifespan would be 120 years or more, therefore it would be ideal to supply baseline power to the grid.
Of course there are environmental things to consider here, birds will need to find new feeding grounds and the designs need to incorporate ways to allow fish to move freely up and down the river still, but the potential to produce all this power must surely be realised.
This doesn’t even consider the number of jobs this has the potential to create – this would be the biggest construction project since the Eurotunnel adding an estimated 20,000 UK jobs. The funding for the barrage will also come from private investors and Sovereign wealth funds, meaning that their will be no additional hit to our public finances.
A boost to the economy, less reliance on importing fuel to power us and a predictable renewable energy source, flying in the face of all those anti-renewable folk who hate seeing a wind turbine not spinning…
So I for one, am incredibly hopeful that in the near future Hafren Power get the go ahead to build the power plant. We have too much to gain from this barrage for it to be consigned to the scrapheap.
Carbon Dioxide levels hitting 400ppm – what’s the problem with that?
June 2, 2013
400ppm, What’s the big deal?
It’s been widely reported over the last couple of weeks that Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere have exceeded 400 parts per million. It’s a big deal, for several reasons:
1. Levels have been rising on an upward curve and its all down to us
We have measured CO2 concentration in the atmosphere from Mauna Loa in Hawaii for 55 years now, and every year it has been increasing. When we first started recording the CO2, back in the 1950’s, levels were well below 320ppm. Even in 2009, levels were at 386ppm, so it is clear that the upward trend is accelerating.
Using palaeoclimate records, such as ice cores from the Arctic, we can look back past these instrumental records. They show levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have not been this high for at least 800,000 years. So it’s a pretty big deal historically.
And it has been conclusively proved that this is all down to man-made carbon emissions. Not even the fiercest climate sceptics debate this point – we are 100 percent certain that CO2 is increasing because of our activities. There just isn’t another possible source of such huge levels of emissions. To demonstrate, emissions from fossil fuels and cement production is 9.14 gigatonnes / year at the moment, but was almost half this 25 years ago.
2. It puts us right on course for the catastrophic climate change that has been predicted by the IPCC
The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the greater the greenhouse effect, and the greater the increase in global temperature. And unfortunately the current rates of emissions fall in line with some of the worst predictions that scientists have made in the last few IPCC reports. It means that if we carry on like this, the temperature could increase by a catastrophic five or six degrees plus.
Even at the current concentrations, we are guaranteed climate change of 2 degrees or more. And it is of course going to be difficult to turn the world economy around quickly enough to stop carbon dioxide levels from peaking at much greater levels. How quickly we act now can drastically alter this upward curve in emissions.
Not only does the carbon dioxide we emit enter the atmosphere and cause global warming, it also enters the oceans and leads to ocean acidification. Over the past few decades there has been a measurable increase in the acidity of the oceans, so this is not just a theory, it is happening right now. Why is this important? A change in the acidity of the ocean means much of the biodiversity of the oceans will be lost – shellfish will no longer be able to grow their shells, fish will have their life cycles affected and the net product is huge damage to marine ecosystems. Some seafood could be off the menu permanently.
3. It could act as a rallying call
So we know it is important, but what can we, the average consumer, do about it? Well, there’s plenty we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and cut our energy use. Every little change can help slow the upward curve of CO2 emissions. Take a look around the GreenAge site and get some ideas.
Author: Alan Bouquet
2012 Environment and Energy Round-up; What Can We Do Differently in 2013?
January 15, 2013
2012 Positives in the UK
The year just passed showed some encouraging signs for renewables in the UK; Installed capacity was up almost 25% from 2010 to 2011 topping 12,000MW. In September, early figures for 2012 showed this figure exceeding 14,000MW. Mainstays of the UK renewables mix continued to see considerable upticks in capacity, but microgeneration has also made forward strides, with ever more solar panels and micro wind turbines seen in domestic settings. There was also the promise of the ‘Green Deal’ and the ‘Energy Company Obligation’ to help the average person become more energy efficient, which should make a huge impact in the coming years.
The Larger Political Picture
Taking a look at the bigger picture however, there are plenty of things to be concerned about. The global climate is showing the signs of man-made climate change and the UK has seen this up close and personal in 2012, with an extended drought giving way to the second wettest year on record; flooding affected much of the country, in some places more than once. Politically there were negatives as well, the COP18 in Doha once more struggled to progress global climate talks and on a national level, the Government has signalled its intention to focus on natural gas as a solution to the looming energy gap the country will face by 2015.
For those unaware, the UK is closing several of its coal fired power stations in the coming years, to fall in line with EU emissions regulations. It means that by 2015, energy capacity of the grid will not be sufficient to deal with peak demand. It is a pressing problem, which has prompted the government to look at importing gas to resolve the situation. Unfortunately natural gas only offers a small reduction in carbon emissions compared to coal, and the lack of a local supply means the UK will be relying on imports from other parts of the world like Russia and will be exposed to both volatile prices and political pressures.
Fuel Poverty and the Rising Cost of Energy
The rising cost of energy was also a big talking point in 2012. Most of the major energy companies hiked their prices well above inflation and the number of people in fuel poverty increased dramatically, with some surveys suggesting as many as a quarter of households have to choose between food and warmth during the winter months.
This is where new Government initiatives like the Green Deal will come into play. Aimed at those who cannot afford to pay for expensive energy efficiency measures up front, the scheme allows consumers to install measures and pay back the initial cost with the savings made. Energy efficiency has a huge role to play in both meeting carbon reduction targets and cutting energy use and hopefully the Green Deal will help deliver these aims on both a residential and commercial perspective. The Energy Company Obligation, designed to work where the Green Deal will not, will replace the Warm Front scheme, helping to provide energy efficiency measures for low income households.
Can Adversity Breed Change?
The flooding experienced during 2012 was unprecedented and many fear that climate change will mean these sorts of years will become more common in the future. Yet perhaps it can help change public opinion as well; it is a well known phenomenon that people tend not to change their lifestyles until it affects them directly. With the flooding affecting so many people across the country, perhaps the threat of climate change will begin to hit home. Microgeneration is a growing industry, and the added incentive of Feed-in Tariffs means independence from the grid is becoming a growing trend for homeowners and businesses alike.
Looking further afield, can the extreme weather events seen around the world in 2012, from the record low Arctic Ice coverage, to the Australian heat wave giving rise to the recent wildfires, to Hurricane Sandy hitting the US East Coast metropolises, create momentum for change at the UN climate negotiations? This year’s COP19 will be held in Warsaw at the end of the year, and the combination of the extreme weather in the world’s biggest economy, and the confirmation of Barack Obama as President, might be enough to change their standpoint to a more favourable position for those hoping for a binding agreement.
2013 and Beyond
So 2013 promises to be an interesting year for both UK and the rest of the world; at home, the focus will be on the ‘Green Deal’ and whether the Government can create momentum behind the scheme and the renewable energy sector, which it is hoped can build on the good progress made in the last few years and further expand renewable energy production in the UK. Globally, climatologists will be watching the extreme weather events around the globe, whilst Poland will draw the focus of the politicians anxious to sign a binding agreement (or not so anxious, as the case may be).
Prince Charles – our new environmental torchbearer!
January 7, 2013
It appears our Royal Family is experiencing a real surge in popularity at the moment, gaining favourable coverage across the country. This was compounded by the announcement at the end of last year that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby. Preceding this we had the Diamond jubilee in early 2012 and the Royal Wedding the year before; it seems that the good news just keeps on coming.
As such, while people seem to be taker a greater interest in the Royal Family, it is nice to know that our next monarch is taking such a keen interest in safeguarding the environmental future of the country he will some day serve.
Prince Charles, in a interview with ITV’s This Morning, said:
“I’ve gone on for years about the importance of thinking about the long term in relation to the environmental damage, climate change and everything else.
We don’t, in a sensible world, want to hand on an increasingly dysfunctional world to our grandchildren, to leave them with the real problem.
I don’t want to be confronted by my future grandchild and [have] them say: ‘Why didn’t you do something?’ So clearly now that we will have a grandchild, it makes it even more obvious to try and make sure we leave them something that isn’t a total poisoned chalice.”
In a country where our Government keeps firing out mixed messages about environmental policy (see John Hayes and Greg Barker’s latest disagreement on wind power in November as the latest in a long running dialogue of inconsistent messages), I think it is great news that we have a future King who believes so strongly in the environmental cause. In his future position as head of state, he should have the ideal platform to make a real difference.
10 Key Features of the New UK Energy Bill
December 3, 2012
1. Fairer prices & more power to consumers
OFGEM, which is the regulator for gas and electricity, is set to get sweeping powers to protect consumers from unfair increases in energy prices. It will be able to impose stricter fines and force energy companies to pay compensation to customers if they are ruled to have been charging unfair prices.
2. Investment in Renewable Technology
The bill lays out a plan for continuous investment (£110bn up to 2020) in renewable technologies such as wind power, biomass and nuclear. This investment in renewables is happening at a time where we have had volatile wholesale gas prices, which seem to be increasing every year.
3. Improving & upgrade existing infrastructure
As well as investment in generation, there will also be increased investment to underpin the new technologies, with money being spent on rolling out smart meters, building back-up power plants and encouraging more efficiency in the transmission system. Total infrastructure investment over the next decade or so could well be in excess of £500bn.
4. Replacing Aged Coal & Nuclear Power Plants
Our nuclear power plants are aged and will need to be replaced. The UK has also committed itself to following certain EU regulations, one of which stipulates that it must phase out its existing coal fire power plants that don’t meet various emission targets. What this does is remove a fifth of generating capacity, leaving a big gap between supply and demand. So, new power plants need to be built to close this energy gap.
5. Pass on the Costs of these Investments to Consumers & Businesses
Unfortunately, all that investment has to come from somewhere, and the government are keen for households and business to pay for it. It is estimated that for an average domestic energy bill (which is between £1,200 & £1,300), consumers will need to contribute an additional £80 a year for these investments to happen. Therefore, the total average contribution is set to rise from its current level of £20 to £100.
6. The Green Deal
While the government realises that consumers may not be too happy having costs passed onto them by the energy companies, to soften these blows, they are continuing with their flagship Green Deal programme. It is a way for homes, district housing and small businesses to make investments of up to £10,000 in energy efficiency measures, thus cutting energy costs but not having to pay anything up front.
7. Excluding Heavy Industry from the ‘Green’ Levy
Big industrial industries such as cement and steel will largely be exempt from the main increases in energy levies. The government seems to have bowed to pressure from the companies in those sectors, who have threatened to leave Britain, take jobs and set up shop somewhere else, due to a risk in increase of running costs.
8. Encouraging New Technologies
For any new coal fire power plants that are to be built, they will be required to keep their emissions below 450g CO2/kilowatt hour (kWh) or install new carbon and capture and storage (CCS) technology to meet the limit. Previously coal fire power plants were allowed to continue running as long as they tested CCS, but no regulation acted as enforcement if these tests failed.
9. CfDs to Replace ROs
Contract for Difference (CfD) will replace the existing Renewable Obligation mechanisms. The CfD effectively provides a more level playing field for investors in renewable energies, where generators are incentivised to produce power as well as creating a more stable and guaranteed return over a number of years.
10. No Carbon Target Commitments for Now
The most controversial aspect of the bill was that there was no sign of CO2 reduction targets. This decision has been put back till after 2016, which would be after the next general election, expected in 2015. The lack of targets sends a mixed message on how quickly the decarbonisation path is to be achieved and doesn’t fully incentivise emitting companies to cut their emissions or do anything differently.
Your Guide to the Doha Climate Change Conference – Nov’ 2012
November 27, 2012
Doha Climate Change
This week, the latest round of UN climate change talks have kicked off in Doha (the capital of Qatar). More than 17,000 participants will gather in the Middle Eastern state over the next two weeks, including our Climate Change secretary Ed Davey.
After the failure to thrash out a new climate treaty during the last few rounds of climate change talks (Copenhagen – 2009, Cancun – 2010 and Durban 2011), the global community is in urgent need of a new treaty to supersede the Kyoto protocol which is due to expire at the end of 2012.
It is likely that the Kyoto protocol will be extended until 2015 acting as a stopgap, when a new, more aggressive climate change roadmap will supersede it.
Issues facing a new climate change protocol
So what kind of issues need to be overcome first before the participating countries agree to extend Kyoto and begin putting in place the framework for a new climate change protocol?
The Global Landscape has changed
One of the major issues facing a new successful protocol is that Kyoto was adopted in 1997, and the world has changed dramatically since then,
Developing countries, which had the option of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, were not obliged to cut their greenhouse emissions, since they were not seen as the main culprits for the emissions during the period of industrialisation thought to be the cause of global warming today.
Countries like China, India and Brazil all now play a massive part in contributing to climate change, so these countries need to sign up to make it worthwhile for everyone.
The USA needs to play ball
The USA did sign up to the original Kyoto protocol in 1997, but failed to ratify it, meaning they were not obliged to take any proactive steps to prevent climate change. At the time the US was the biggest producer of CO2 in the world therefore their failure to ratify the original agreement was seen as a major kick in the teeth to environmentalists.
However, Jonathan Pershing, a senior negotiator for the USA at the Doha said
‘Those who don’t know what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it’s enormous.
It doesn’t mean enough is being done. It’s clear the global community, and that includes us, has to do more if we are going to succeed at avoiding the damages projected in a warming world’
In fact, US emissions have fallen sharply over the last few years since many of their coal power plants have been replaced with gas power stations, however it is absolutely key that the USA sign up to any new agreements and with Barack Obama in power, that looks far more likely (especially when compared to George Bush!).
Developing Nations need a helping hand
When the UK went through the industrial revolution in the later part of the 18th Century, we moved from a manual labour and rural based economy towards machine-based manufacturing. This revolution coincided with massive increases in energy demand and with these increases we also saw a rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
In order for developing nations to become developed nations, they need to undergo a similar revolution, which will see an exponential increase in demand for electricity. It is therefore vitally important that the developing nations have the mechanisms in place that allows them to do this in an environmentally friendly way.
To date, developed countries have delivered $30bn of grants and loans to developing countries, but a ‘Green Climate Fund’ designed to channel $100bn to poor countries has yet to begin operating, which is frustrating.
Doha as a venue
Environmentalists may view the choice of Qatar as the host of the climate talks somewhat ironic. According to IMF data, massive oil and gas reserves have made the country not only the richest in the world (GDP / capita – over $88,000), but also the most polluting. A carbon footprint of over 55.4 tonnes per person, makes it the highest globally; ten times the average.
However, the host of the climate talks, former Qatari energy minister, Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah recognises the opportunity that the conference brings.
‘Climate change is a common challenge for humanity. We must work in earnest for a better future for present and for future generations. We have a precious opportunity over the coming days, and we must make full use of it.’
But a pledge by Qatar to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint may give Mr Al-Attiyah’s comments a little more credence. With 10 hours of sun per day Solar would surely be the logical choice to reduce their reliance on oil for their power.
The Doha Climate talks could (in theory) change the world
More and more evidence points to the fact that the world is warming as a result of greenhouse gases being emitted by human activities. If the changes in weather patterns are anything to go by we need to act now.
Therefore it is imperative that the global community signs up to an accelerated ‘all-inclusive’ protocol that targets climate change at the Doha climate change conference Kyoto has done great things for the climate change cause, helping to raise global awareness, however we need a newer, and more ambitious action plan. Here is hoping that the next two weeks brings in a new dawn for the fight against climate change.
Zac Goldsmith @ the Guardian & Observer Open Weekend
The event began with the introduction of Zac Goldsmith MP – one of a small number of MPs in the House of Commons who is particularly outspoken, therefore doesn’t always tow the line of the Conservative Party ‘three line whip’. As a result, I was excited about hearing him talk more openly about his passions, with particular focus on the environment and green issues.
In the discussion, he focused on three particular areas of Environmental policy, as follows:
Pricing of forests – he highlighted the botched policy proposals last year by DEFRA and their privatisation proposals, which in the end didn’t get through the legislature process. He then went on to emphasise the importance of the price of forests “being worth more alive than dead” and how they have a strategic importance to the country and not just for the vested interests of the few.
Planning Reform – the purpose of this legislation is to remove some of red tape that surrounds planning permission. This legislation is currently being pushed through, and Mr Goldsmith felt that it may eventually be at the detriment of the environment and beautiful parts of the English countryside. The argument was compounded when he pointed out that there are currently 30,000 hectares of ‘brownfield’ not being used (this is where commercial / premises used to reside but have since been knocked down), there are also 2,000 planning developments that have been approved but no spades have yet entered the ground. It appears that this legislation may simply not be necessary.
Lack of consideration of ‘scale’ – when organisations become too big, they start acting in a ‘predatory’ fashion. He made the point of the importance of keeping smaller local markets to safeguard the future of farming in this country. In addition to this difficult position larger shops (such as Tesco’s) can squeeze local shops out of the market place as they have way too much buyer power over their suppliers, which, doesn’t help the industry in the long run.
Following on from the discussions on policies the conversation between Mr Goldsmith and Mr Katz turned to the current administration, and their role in the green debate, as after all, it was only two years ago that Mr Cameron entered No10 promising to head the ‘Greenest government ever’. This focused on two things in particular, whether the government was ‘green’ enough and the proposed expansion of Heathrow.
Interestingly, on the question from Mr Katz, whether this government has been the ‘greenest ever’, I felt that Mr. Goldsmith sat on the fence a little. He pointed out to the fact that government has been sending out confusing messages on ‘cleantech’ technologies, which hasn’t resounded well with investors. Yet he pointed out to specific measures like the Green Deal, the Green Investment Bank, FITs and electricity market reforms as policies implemented by this government, and that each should be celebrated as a real achievement, however we know FITs, energy market reform debates and deregulation were started by the last government. I suppose as the current administration has only been in power less than 2 years, there is still time for new ideas to come out.
Finally the debate moved on to the proposed airport expansion in the South-east (with focus on Heathrow in particular). This has been a bit of a hot topic recently in the media. Mr. Goldsmith was asked about his view in this area – so strong was his view against a 3rd runway expansion at Heathrow, that he is prepared to resign over this issue area and trigger a by-election if the government goes back on its promise and supports it.
You may have heard in the news last week that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne (Conservative MP) is in favour of this idea of a 3rd runway at Heathrow. It would be tough for this administration to contemplate legislating in this area, no matter what the final, engineered solution is. Also the Conservative Party MPs that have constituencies bordering on the Heathrow flight path (including the current Sec. of State for Transport) would find it very hard to sell this expansion to their constituents at the next general election, given their current view, which has been to oppose it.
I think in the end, I managed to get a good perspective of how our legislators approach debates to green and environmental issues. Further insight was also offered on some really important tricks missed by the current administration in its legislative programme for planning reform for example. What I think was lacking was an actual point-of-view by Mr. Goldsmith, on what he though the solutions were. I enjoyed his views on farming, but I think overall there was a lack of time to go into this in too much detail, as after all, this debate was only penciled in for an hour.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.