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UK’s energy policy (for a nuclear ”renaissance”) ignores the fastest and most cost-effective measure – SAVING ENERGY

Andrew Warrant: Energy policy is big news again. Initially, because fuel
prices are rocketing, and set to rise even more this autumn. Plus the
invasion of Ukraine has precipitated a determination to minimise the amount
of gas and oil purchased in future from Russia. These two factors have
prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to devise a new energy security

Published last month, its reception was uniformly dismissive. Not
so much because of the energy supply sources it concentrated upon but
mainly because it entirely omitted any serious consideration of the policy
area deemed most capable of providing swift cost-effective solutions.
Saving energy.

The Times’ editorial was unsparingly contemptuous. The UK
government’s new energy security strategy amounted to “little more than a
glorified press release.” The “eye-catching announcement” of eight
new nuclear power plants offers “no analysis of why Britain had succeeded
in starting construction on just one new reactor in the 16 years since Tony
Blair announced a nuclear renaissance.”

It added: “What is certain isthis new nuclear programme will not bring energy bills down any time soon. if ever. Instead, it will push bills up as the costs of construction are
passed on to consumers. Nor will it do much in the near term to reduce
Britain’s reliance on Russian oil and gas given that it takes at least a
decade to build a nuclear power station.”

While no doubt
well-intentioned, Rishi Sunak’s attempts to alleviate the cost of living –
including through a £150 council tax rebate for most homes and a £200 loan
towards energy bills – have been overly complicated and badly targeted.
And, as Helen Barnard of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has pointed out,
the £2.4bn the Treasury lost cutting fuel duty would have covered the cost
of insulating a third of all social housing in the country.

“Theconsultancy E3G has calculated that new energy efficiency measures could
reduce the heating bills for poorly insulated homes by an average of £500
and end the UK’s dependence on Russian gas (which is admittedly quite
limited) within a year. There is a very revealing explanation for why no
new plans are being proposed. It is that “this is not being imposed on
people and is a gradual transition following the grain of behaviour. The
British people are no-nonsense pragmatists who can make decisions based on
the information.” But if an Englishman’s home really is his castle, then
why did fears for COVID 19 lock everybody inside their castle?

If we want people to support delivery of a collective good like energy security or
climate mitigation, then it is sensible to see it as collective action. And
for Government to lead it. The parallel with the pandemic is spot on.Energy in Buildings and Industry
18th May 2022

May 23, 2022 - Posted by | ENERGY, politics, UK

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