Council owned electricity companies to provide revenue and cut electricity bills for homes and businesses

Council owned green energy companies to provide council revenue and cheaper electricity for homes and businesses

The UK government has approved them - South Lanarkshire Council should take up the opportunity

domestic-wind-turbine

With energy companies blatantly profiteering by raising prices rapidly to cover the full cost of any increase in their costs, but cutting prices far less and far later when their costs fall (as proven for instance by a study by the University of Manchester) many people are struggling to pay inflated electricity bills and thousands are estimated to have died across the UK last winter through being unable to afford to heat their homes in cold weather and fuel poverty is rising fast - from affecting a fifth of all homes in the UK in the middle of July 2011 to a quarter by the end of last year. (1) - (3)

Some media reports (for instanceone very one sided and poorly researched BBC Panorama programme) have wrongly claimed that this is due to the cost of investing in wind power and other renewable energy sources (4). In fact the statistics show that 60% of the increase in energy bills has been due to increases in the cost of oil, gas and coal, while the Manchester University study shows much of the rest is simply over-charging by energy companies which government should be preventing by regulation including price caps (5). Panorama later admitted this in a 'clarification' on the BBC website (6).

The critics of renewables ignore the fact that as the cost of extracting the remaining oil and gas increases (now mostly very deep sea, Arctic, jungle or tar sand deposits) and ever increasing demand for fossil fuels from rapidly industrialising countries like China and India continues, increases in the price of oil, gas and coal are going to accelerate- and only investment in alternatives plus less wasteful and more efficient use of energy will stop us facing an energy crisis long before the oil and gas finally runs out altogether. Increasing the total amount of energy produced through wind, wave, tidal, hydro, solar and anerobic digestion of waste is one of the things necessary to keep prices from rising faster than they already are (though some proper regulation of prices by the government would go a long way too).

At the same time local council budgets cut due to the recession caused by the financial crisis and resultant recession, plus the disastrous austerity policies of the current UK government.

Both problems could be partly solved by councils starting up their own small scale local electricity companies, using wind turbines augmented by solar panels. Large amounts of electricity are lost in transmission when it is transferred over long distances. Having generation relatively close to where electricity is used can greatly increase the efficiency of electricity generation and use as a result(though of course any turbines must not be close enough to homes or offices to cause problems with vibrations, noise or shadows for those people living or working in them.

Local government green electricity firms already exist in Denmark. (I want to give credit here to Kirsten Robb, the Green party candidate in East Kilbride North Central, for having told me about this first after a fact finding trip she went on to Denmark)

Council owned or run Anaerobic digestion plants could also provide electricity from food and other biological waste plus fertiliser for farmers (see my page on Incinerators and the alternatives to them)

The British government removed the last legal barriers to local councils owning electricity companies in August 2010 (7). South Lanarkshire should take up the opportunity to get increased revenue for itself and cheaper electricity for it's people and businesses - and join with other councils to make a public demand the British and Scottish governments put their money where their mouths are on this and increase their funding in the short term to allow them to increase their revenue in the long term.

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Sources

(1) = guardian.co.uk 02 Dec 2011 ‘Big six energy firms face fresh accusations of profiteering’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/dec/02/energy-firms-accusations-profiteering-electricity

(2) = guardian.co.uk 19 Oct 2011 ‘Fuel poverty 'will claim 2,700 victims this winter'’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/oct/19/fuel-poverty-2700-victims-winter , ‘Commissioned by the government, the Hills Fuel Poverty Review found that if just 10% of UK winter deaths are caused by fuel poverty – a conservative estimate it claims – 2,700 people will perish as a direct result of being fuel poor. The report also found that between 2004 and 2009 the "fuel poverty gap" (the extra amount those with badly insulated homes and poor heating systems would need to spend to keep warm) increased by 50% to £1.1bn as a result of rising fuel prices.’ (Extrapolating from this, assuming deaths in Scotland are an equivalent proportion of population to England, with Scotland having a population of 5.2 million and England and Wales 63 million, there will be 222 cold related deaths in Scotland this winter due to fuel poverty assuming only 10% of cold related deaths are due to fuel poverty, which, added to the 2,700 in England and Wales comes to 2922 – roughly 3,000)

(3) = Guardian.co.uk 01 Dec 2011 'Fuel poverty affects a quarter of UK's households as bills soar and pay freezes' http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/dec/01/fuel-poverty-affects-quarter-households

(4) = BBC Panorama 7 Nov 3011 'What is really fuelling energy bills in Britain?' , http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9631000/9631864.stm

(5) = UK Department of Energy and Climate Change 2011 ‘Estimated impacts of energy and climate change policies on energy prices and bills’, Executive Summary, Page 4, section 11 – customer domestic bills, http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/what%20we%20do/uk%20energy%20supply/236-impacts-energy-climate-change-policies.pdf ,  2nd sentence reads ‘ Fossil fuel prices (gas, coal and oil) are the primary drivers of wholesale energy costs, which currently make up over 60% of domestic energy prices,  2nd sentence reads ‘ Fossil fuel prices (gas, coal and oil) are the primary drivers of wholesale energy costs, which currently make up over 60% of domestic energy prices

(6) = BBC Panorama 31 Jan 2012 'Clarification: What's Fuelling Your Energy Bill?', http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9691000/9691095.stm

(7) = UK Department of Energy and Climate Change Press Release 09 Aug 2010 'Huhne ends local authority power struggle', http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn10_89/pn10_89.aspx

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