Monthly Archives: October 2022

October 2022 – Our way out of the energy crisis

Milborne Port Climate and Nature Action group

The Facts and Fictions of the Energy Crisis & Our Way Out

To verify the following facts, please use the links to expert sources below.

Everyone is all too aware that energy bills are high with multiple knock-on adverse effects. Households and businesses are suffering. Estimates vary but one is that 7 million households are expected to be suffering from fuel poverty from October. This is as unnecessary as it is unacceptable. Source: End Fuel Poverty. See links below.

What is the true cause of the global energy crisis? One narrative, a dangerous fallacy, is that it is because of renewable energy. But as Faith Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency puts it, this is absurd. Russia and the gas supply crunch are the cause. The energy policy makers he talks to acknowledge that they regret not having built more wind and solar plants and improved the energy efficiency of buildings and vehicles. The unfortunate UK government green policy blocks in 2017, for example, have added £2.5 billion to UK energy bills. We mustn’t compound this mistake now.

Aren’t renewables too costly and slow? No! Quite the reverse! Solar energy is cheaper than gas. Analysis by energy and climate think tank Ember showed that record levels of solar power across the EU this summer avoided the need for 20bn cubic metres of gas, which would have cost £25bn to import. 

Building more UK onshore wind brings new electricity supplies on stream more quickly and more cheaply than fracking. A  UK government auction in August secured a record 11 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity that will generate electricity nine times (nine times!!!) more cheaply than current gas prices (£48 per MWh vs £446 per MWh). These are due to start operating within the next five years up to 2027. Their 11GW alone will be able to generate 14% of UK demand but overall there is enough renewable capacity due to come onstream by 2027 to generate nearly a third of UK demand! (Source: Carbon Brief).

Compare this with how much gas we could we get from UK fracking, according to the trade body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry UKOOG itself: it’s less than 5% of UK gas needs over the next 5 years, even in the best-case scenario, with no planning issues or protests. And will of course exacerbate the climate crisis into the bad bargain.

How will we balance supply and demand? You can create hydrogen when you have excess solar and wind, and use it to generate electricity when you have a renewable energy shortage. Excess renewable energy can also be used to pump water uphill to a reservoir; energy is generated later by releasing water back downhill, passing through a turbine.

What about the huge cost of converting to green energy? A new study calculated the cost of global renewable energy would be $62 trillion. But the big upfront investment would create jobs, drastically reduce carbon emissions, and pay for itself in six years or less. (Source: Business Green). How so? It has been calculated that a decarbonised energy system is not only feasible but will prove at least $12tr cheaper to run than maintaining current levels of fossil fuel use. (Source: a paper in the journal Joule).

Are solar fields a threat to farmland? At the moment, less than 0.1% of all land in the UK. Plans to increase the land under ground-mounted solar panels would bring this to 0.3% of the UK land area, roughly half of the space already taken up by golf courses. Many farmers are positive about this technology, not least because they can use less productive fields for solar panels and still produce food.

The Profits It’s not just fuel and food bills that are rising fast; so are the profits of the fossil fuel industry. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General called on all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies to help countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis and people struggling with rising food and energy prices – “The fossil fuel industry is feasting on subsidies & windfall profits while household budgets shrink & our planet burns”. Meanwhile, the unsustainability and dangers of an energy supply system dominated by fossil fuels have never been clearer than this year. As the IEA CE says, “The world’s biggest economies are pushing hard on clean energy. And with all the readily available, highly competitive clean energy technologies there are good reasons for optimism that others will follow”. Let’s hope the UK government does.

What can we do about it? With COP27 climate talks looming, private investors could make a huge contribution to our cheaper, green, clean future, says the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership. The 3rd issue of National Savings and Investment Green Savings Bonds has been launched – “it’s about saving more than money”.  Also, Friends of the Earth will be behind a united fight for urgent additional financial support to people in the energy crisis; for a nationwide insulation programme and for permanent sustainable fixes to our failed fossil fuel energy system in a United for Warm Homes campaign. Come to our next meeting (or email) to find out more. per…
 NB The article has since been updated with the latest power prices, giving the current 9x cheaper difference.

 How can land be used for both solar and agriculture?

Next meeting Tuesday October 11th 7.30pm Town Hall  Please join us