Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Energy Policy: Reductio Ad Absurdum

It is hard to know where begin a post on UK energy policy just now, though I feel vaguely obliged to try. Last week there were flurries of straws in the wind, adding up to what ought to be unavoidable recognition of the failure of the programme initiated by Ed Miliband when in power as Energy Secretary. His predecessor, John Hutton, was considerably more realistic but Miliband adopted a fantasy green agenda - arguably, part of Gordon Brown's overall scorched-earth strategy which I wrote about at the time - and with very few modifications the coalition swallowed it whole.

Now we have an updated forecast of reserve capacity which shows we can easily be up the proverbial creek by 2015 - no news to anyone reading C@W, I realise - and Ofgem scurrying for short-term fixes. Cue hysteria in the mainstream media (save for a curious silence in the Guardian).

The government and regulators will, of course, succeed in preventing large-scale black-outs, and probably even rolling brown-outs, although there could well be the odd isolated incident. How will they do this ? By throwing money at the problem, of course, because no politician will ever allow the lights to go out. Switching off large industrial customers, revving up diesel generators, paying the owners of mothballed gas-fired power plants to re-commission them, prolonging the lives of old nukes a bit - it isn't even very difficult. But it is far more expensive than it should be, and we shall all pay for it.

Perhaps - just perhaps - someone will also quietly finish off DECC's mad green + nuke agenda: because that is what all this ad-hoccery amounts to. The real problems are going to happen 2015-2020, when both Cameron and Miliband both hope to be holding the reins.

So we might hope for a bit of belated realistic policy-making from now on. They seem to have got the bit between their teeth on shale gas - (which, by the way, will bring forth the most astonishing amount of green fury). Some reckon that Ed Davey has lost faith in EDF's ability to come up with the nuclear goods, and not before time: EDF have given enough compelling evidence of their uselessness. Michael Fallon, the new safe-pair-of-hands energy minister (actually, minister for just about everything, it seems) seems pretty robust and clear-sighted. But he bullshits like the worst of them, and it's worth a few minutes to watch him in action against Andrew Neil (second item in this programme) - who asked a bunch of the right questions but allowed himself too easily to be fobbed off with Fallon's confident sophistry and bluster

It would be fun to fisk the whole interview but, sorry, I just don't have the time. Or energy. Sorry.


This post first appeared on the Capitalists@Work blog


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