CRed calls for radical rethink of UK energy policy

Environmental campaigners at the University of East Anglia have criticised the Government's 2006 energy policy consultation document Our Energy Challenge.

In its official response sent to ministers next week, the UEA-based Community Carbon Reduction Programme (CRed) argues that the only way to make significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is by embarking on a major drive to cut waste, reduce demand and increase focus on innovation and renewable energy.

A resource efficient economy based on distributed and local power generation would be far cheaper than building new generating capacity, particularly nuclear power. It would also be more secure and resilient to fossil fuel price and supply shocks.

CRed's response says that long-term energy supply must depend primarily on renewables that can provide energy at all scales down to a single building. The cost of renewable energy is falling and will continue to fall, whereas the price of fossil fuels will continue to rise. This is already understood by the market-place and installed wind power capacity, for example, has grown by 28 per cent worldwide year on year from 2000 to 2004.

Dr Bruce Tofield, one of the authors of CRed's response, said: "A perverse consequence of the Government's energy market liberalisation was an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Low energy prices in the UK have encouraged waste of energy and created little incentive to seek greater resource efficiency. Not only does this policy prevent the UK reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, but when fossil fuel prices rise, as they are already doing, households and businesses are ill-equipped to cope.

Marcus Armes, co-author of the CRed response, added: "2006 is a propitious time for the UK to make a major shift in energy policy to create leadership in resource efficiency and an energy supply portfolio that brings delocalised renewable power to millions of homes. CRed has consistently observed that individuals and businesses alike are concerned about climate change and wish to do things that preserve a viable world for future generations."

Key actions proposed by CRed include reversing pricing policies that encourage waste of energy and putting in place metering that enables users to know easily and in real time energy use and cost. Construction should become carbon neutral and the 2012 Olympic site should be a high profile example of Britain's low carbon leadership. We should aim to ensure that every house and building has low energy generation installed by 2050.

CRed's response notes that the 20 million to promote energy efficiency in homes and the 50 million added to the Low Carbon Buildings programme announced in the recent budget are less in total even than the annual spend by Defra on compensating farmers against bovine TB. CRed proposes that every of subsidy to the nuclear industry or spent on dealing with our nuclear legacy should be matched with equal support for renewables and resource efficiency.

As for nuclear power, building nuclear power stations is a slow and expensive way to generate electricity. It is far cheaper to stop wasting electricity and other forms of energy and more beneficial long-term to stimulate low-energy technology across the economy.

Schools should be a focus of the whole campaign. CRed has already helped enthusiastic schools in Norfolk make big cuts in their energy use. Climate change and resource efficiency should be a central plank not just in the curriculum but a central plank of how schools go about their business.

Mr Armes said: "CRed is already playing its part. It is working with partners in China to develop a multi-renewable energy station near Shanghai. In this country, increasing numbers of local authorities and other organisations are using the unique CRed audit and pathway software that helps good decision-making and monitors the carbon reductions that are made." Benefits of a strategy aimed at reducing waste and maximising resource efficiency include:

  • half of all electricity currently generated might eventually be saved
  • cheaper than constructing new generating stations
  • individuals and communities as well as businesses become engaged
  • ownership of energy use, personal responsibility for action on climate change, and enthusiasm for local generation are stimulated
  • large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are possible
  • money and resources are saved
  • less need for major and wasteful capital investment
  • processes across the economy become more sustainable and more efficient
  • innovation becomes a way of life.

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Notes to Editors:

1. CRed is the Community Carbon Reduction Programme at the University of East Anglia, funded partly by the East of England Development Agency and partly by business and other sources. CRed is a network of partnerships with individuals, businesses, schools, and communities, as well as with local authorities, working to show how a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions can be achieved by 2025. CRed is now active not just in the East of England but in many regions of the UK, and in the USA, Japan and China.

2. A PDF of the full CRed response document is available on request.

3. For further information or to arrange interviews or pictures, please contact Marcus Armes at CRed on 01603 593140 or 07793 658839 or Simon Dunford at the UEA Press Office on 01603 592203.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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