We are at a crossroads. With a fifth of the UK’s electricity generating capacity shutting down over the next ten years; an increasing demand for electricity; and the need to decarbonise our power sector, business as usual is not an option.
The country currently gets over 70% of our electricity from fossil fuel power plants which are responsible for 27% of our greenhouse gas emissions. When the Electricity Market Reform Bill enters Parliament this year, Ministers will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change our broken power market for the better.
It’s a chance to end the stranglehold of the ‘Big Six’ energy firms keeping the UK hooked on expensive, dirty fossil fuels, and provide better support to new and smaller companies developing clean British power from our wind, sun and sea. That’s why Friends of the Earth has launched the Clean British Energy campaign – calling on the Government to bin the ‘bad-for-business’ rhetoric and commit to clean energy and a low-carbon, sustainable future.
Not only is clean energy a ‘no-brainer’ for the environment, but it also makes a lot of sense economically. Contrary to what The Daily Mail might have us believe, energy regulator Ofgem has stated that it’s our reliance on gas that has driven up fuel bills in recent years. With six million UK households struggling to stay warm in winter, the need to shift from costly gas towards renewable alternatives has never been greater.
Renewable energy is one of the few sectors growing while the rest of the economy stagnates. New research by the REA shows that the renewables industry already supports 110,000 jobs across the supply chain. The Offshore Valuation says that using just one third of the UK’s wind, wave and tidal resource could create 145,000 more.
However, renewable energy firms, campaigners and Ministers from all over the world waiting for a long overdue keynote speech on the environment were left feeling somewhat deflated recently, as the Prime Minister’s talk at the Clean Energy Ministerial was downgraded to an introductory address. In a speech lasting just seven minutes, Cameron talked up Britain’s natural resources without actually announcing anything new. He said that clean energy, fossil fuels and nuclear would all have an important role to play in future. And in a nod to the Chancellor he stressed that the cost of renewable energy must fall – without setting out ways to drive the investment that’s needed. This followed news that Chancellor George Osborne had announced £3 billion of new tax breaks for offshore fossil fuel extraction in his March Budget.
This is where we come in. We need to ensure that we get the message out there to the public, to the media and to the politicians that there is an achievable alternative to business as usual and also fossil fuels. We cannot change the science, we have the technology, all we are lacking is the political will. A recent YouGov survey of more than 2,800 people revealed that 85% supported calls for the Government to introduce legislation to make energy companies cut their use of foreign fossil fuels and increase wind, wave, solar, hydro and tidal sources of electricity.
Local groups will play an important role in building momentum behind this campaign which will hopefully culminate in powerful and effective legislation which will provide the framework for the revolution in electricity generation we desperately need.
There are a number of things you can do to help make this campaign a success, and who knows you might even earn yourself a CBE! Individuals and organisations will earn a CBE by taking a number of steps as part of the campaign: signing up to express their support for the campaign; switching to a green energy supplier; asking other people or organisations to get involved; and lobbying politicians.
At a number of events over the summer BFoE will talking to members of the public about the campaign and getting people to sign a postcard that has a very straight-forward ask on it – that the person who has signed wants Clean British Energy, and they think the Government should be making this happen.
As we move into the Autumn, we will also be researching and scoping – finding out which organisations, businesses, schools and churches might want to switch to a Clean British Energy supplier. We will then be approaching these organisations with a view to getting them to switch way from the ‘Big Six’ to one of our recommended clean energy providers Good Energy or Ecotricity.
That will then lead us into lobbying Birmingham’s ten MPs as the Bill is debated in Parliament towards the end of this year.
Join over 7,000 people who have already taken action, and add your voice to the call for a switch to clean British energy at www.cleanbritishenergy.com.