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The New Climate Alliance

Green jobs, green energy, greening communities.

Forget Nigel Lawson and his struggle to keep the British energy system in the privatised 1980s by denying the realities of Climate Change.

The lords (and sadly, some of the ladies) of this land want to stay rich from their shares in fossil fuels and mining. They’ll say anything to protect the value of their holdings.

But where’s your new North Sea Oil and Gas, Nigel ? Do you want to bankrupt this country by forcing us to ramp up our imports of energy as the North Sea production falls away ?

The chief executives of the “traditional” energy companies of these islands are just trying to keep themselves in a job when they decry wind power, biogas, marine energy projects.

No, Vincent de Rivaz of EdF, we don’t want expensive, inflexible and toxic Nuclear Power. No, Dorothy Thompson of Drax, we don’t want dirty coal continuing to heat up the world, poison fish and raise coughing kids. No, Rupert Soames of Aggreko, we must maintain the Renewable Energy obligations we have agreed at the European level, and raise the bar even higher, to protect the economy going into an uncertain future, by having homegrown energy.

We need an energy evolution in this country.

And so, what is needed is a social movement – involving ordinary, working people, unions, communities, academics, trained professionals from the engineering trades, local political activists and faith communities.

This is the emergence of Green Power.

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Green Energy : Stuck in the Sidings

If you can imagine the engine for new, renewable and sustainable Energy systems as a train which should by now be thundering down the tracks, get this : it left the depot only to get stuck in the sidings.

Enough of the locomotive metaphors, already. On to the analysis. Here’s an excerpt from Catherine Mitchell’s fine book “The Political Economy of Sustainable Energy” (2008, 2010) :-

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Would You Trust This Man ?

Ed Miliband is today assuring us that New Nuclear Power will be safe, and that we will all have a say in the planning process – so tantalising us with the idea that we will be able to influence the outcome.

I don’t believe either of these things.

Nuclear Power is inherently dangerous, operationally unreliable, dirty, wasteful, expensive and any public money used to support it in any way will prevent us from pursuing truly sustainable Energy.

New Nuclear won’t work without Government subsidy, either for the construction of the plants themselves, or guaranteed customer pricing, or the insurance to cover the failure of projects to complete (or radioactive accident). The Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change can expect to find any New Nuclear direct public funding, price fixing, subsidy or tax breaks in court.

No, it won’t be me personally taking the Government to court.

Nuclear Power is a dinosaur technology, and judging by the number of countries that have signed up for new fleets of reactors, the Uranium fuel to run the plants being planned will be exhausted within the lifetime of the plants. With supplies of fuel running out, early decommissioning means the plants will never pay back on the investment.

Sounds like a high risk strategy to me, even before looking at the risks of radioactive explosions.

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The Nuclear Begging Bowl Fights Back

We told you all along : New Nuclear will be expensive, and the privatised Energy suppliers will not be interested in financing them on their own. Too big a risk.

All that capital tied up in projects that could roll on for years and years and years with no guarantee of a decent generation capacity at the end.

Building infrastructure with no assurances of a return on investment – well, in this Economic climate, it’s not going to happen. New Nuclear will need public sector finance – yet another bailout.

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The Nuclear Begging Bowl

It has become fashionable, since the Financial Crisis was admitted to publicly, for high net worth individiuals to propagate Public Relations campaigns in support of their industry of choice. Normally the industry that makes all their money for them.

In the United States they call this process a “bailout”, making it sound like a worthy rescue of a valued affiliate. In the United Kingdom, it’s called “public support”. It all amounts to the same thing : tax revenue from the public thrown at the private corporations.