Thursday 7 March 2013

I am a (sceptical) fan of the current governments policies on energy efficiency and as I said in a recent Energy World article we have built some reasonable foundations for an energy efficiency policy. The launch of the Energy Efficiency Mission in February, hosted by Greg Barker, which included a letter of support from Bill Clinton, a video message from Arnold Schwarzenegger and appearances by Secretary of State Ed Davey and most importantly the Prime Minister David Cameron marked a new and significant step forward to UK energy efficiency policy. Any energy efficiency programme needs top level support and the PM demonstrated that support.


Now we have to build something on those foundations. There are some things where we clearly need government action, mainly to help rebalance the influence of the supply side industry most notably around Electricity Market Reform (EMR). In other areas we need more entrepreneurial action and leadership. The efficiency market is growing rapidly. Finance is beginning to flow into the sector, both into technologies and projects, although not yet at the scale we need. Where we really need action is at the local level, we need more people to take responsibility for their energy. Up until a few years ago this would have seemed a crazy thing to advocate. Energy is the preserve of mega companies and very technical (and even dangerous when mis-handled). What can local people do? Probably a lot more than you think.


A few weeks ago there was a brilliant good news story on the BBC about a community that had financed and built (literally) their own high speed fibre optic internet connection, an amazing achievement that came about simply through people power. If a community can do that in a highly regulated, highly technical area why not the highly regulated technical area of energy supply?


Now the whole idea of community energy is clearly growing but many of the projects to date are limited in scope, mainly installing small scale renewables and taking advantage of Feed-in tariffs. A community owned energy supply company, providing electricity (and maybe gas) as well as a range of energy efficiency services should be possible. A community owned energy company could keep money in the local economy, create local jobs, make energy more transparent and increase people’s sense of engagement. The whole idea can also be linked to the growing area of community finance with a return to the old idea of utilities providing safe secure income.


Prior to the formation of the CEGB there were over 500 local electricity companies, mostly owned by local authorities. Although 100% ownership is no longer possible, or even desirable, maybe we should aim to get back to having 500 suppliers instead of a big six and some small players. As John F. Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’.

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Dr Steven Fawkes

Welcome to my blog on energy efficiency and energy efficiency financing. The first question people ask is why my blog is called 'only eleven percent' - the answer is here. I look forward to engaging with you!

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