Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Energy indepedence - the only game in town!

While energy prices can go up and down in the short-term, the long term trend is always (at least for hydro-carbons) going to be upwards, this is something that is unavoidable due to increasing demands for more energy, a growing poplulation and the relative short term limit to the earth's hydro carbon fuel reserves. Anyone with half a brain should be able to plot this trend and note the medium and long-term consequences of being depdendent upon energy resources that you don't actually control.

Anyone awake in the current New Labour Westminster Government should be working with the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to develop a hands on energy strategy that will lead to an end to dependency on unstable overseas energy sources and dubious suppliers and lead to energy independence.

You would have thought that Vladimir Putin's decision a few months ago to reduce further gas exported into Ukraine, through which 80 per cent of Russian gas exports to the EU flows, would have highlighted the real dangers of relying on imported energy.

While Russia has declining cash reserves and its economy is heavily reliant on its trade in gas – the risk of shortages as a consequence of Mr Putin's geopolitical games is something we can truly all do without.

While other countries have attempted to protect themselves against external shocks to their energy needs; the UK’s market driven approach has been proven to be entirely inadequate. France can store 122 days of gas and Germany 99.

Yet the UK has storage capacity to last only 15 days; the New Labour Government took almost a decade to recognise the need to increase storage capacity. The consequence is that UK has to sell gas during the summer because we cannot store it but UK energy suppliers struggle to purchase gas again when it is needed in the winter.

The complicit insanity of the Conservative’s headlong dash to gas in the 1980’s has been compounded by a real failure in basic strategic energy planning and made worse by the current Government's perverse decision to half-heartdly look at developing diverse reliable alternative energy sources. The current New Labour Government has ignored repeated warnings that it was setting the UK on a path towards higher prices and blackouts.

Over the next six years almost all of our old nuclear reactors, along with nine major coal and oil-fired power stations, will be closed, with nothing ready to replace them. We are now in the situation where we are now even more dependent upon imported gas from either unstable regions or dubious suppliers and we the customers face unnecessarily expensive bills.

As a matter of urgency the Westminster Government, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly should work with the Irish Government to make these islands entirely self sufficient via renewable non market driven energy resources.

By developing a flexible self-sufficient energy development strategy that encourages decentralised microgeneration schemes and by actually implementing it this could not only create jobs, it could create useful skills and actually help to bootstrap the economy out of the developing recession as well as helping consumers.

In Wales, we need real direction when it comes to the development of safe and secure energy resources, power generation can provide the potential for real sustainable long term job opportunities; the renewable energy sector can and should play an immensely important role in creating more green energy jobs.

We need to create a decentralised power generation system which will create sustainable long-term jobs for local people, not damage the environment and contribute to providing our local communities with a long-term viable economic energy future, that’s the real future dividend for our communities.

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