Friday, May 03, 2013

And that's why the United Kingdom needs serious investment in the energy sector...

Yes, I know, Lords European Union Select Committee, Sub-Committee D... doesn't exactly trip off of the tongue, does it? But perhaps we ought to pay more attention to it...

Sub-Committee D is responsible for the scrutiny of European Union proposals on Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy (it also deals with animal health and welfare), so includes such joys as the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy - big things in terms of EU spending and highly controversial in some Liberal Democrat heartlands like the South West of England.

Today, it published the results of its enquiry into the EU power sector, and some of the numbers are eye-watering in their general vastness. They suggest that, in order to keep the lights on across Europe, €1 trillion, or £846 billion needs to be invested before the end of this decade (I make that about £120 billion per year).

Interestingly, the money is apparently there from institutional investors to deliver these sums, but they are holding back in the absence of a clear policy, which is why the ability of first Chris Huhne, and now Ed Davey, to push for the necessary policy changes, has been so vital.

It also means working with our European neighbours. The future will be a Europe-wide supergrid for electricity, allowing the most effective balance of fossil fuels and renewables to supply consumers at a sustainable price. You could link it to huge solar farms in North Africa, tidal barrages in the North Sea, wind farms in the Atlantic, even geological energy in Iceland, reducing our dependence on the OPEC states, and improving our environment.

Europe has to provide leadership though, says the report. The failure to set a minimum support price for emissions permits impacts on efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cuts the incentive to invest in cleaner technologies.

So, when you complain about your fuel bills, just remember, it's going to cost an awful lot to keep the lights on, so best we start planning now. After all, "Revolution" should have been warning enough of what might happen if we failed to do so...

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