Of course all our effort now is focused on the EU Referendum, and to an extent we must put aside other issues that don’t directly help the cause. My pet subject is energy, and I have tried not to allow it to distract from the Brexit Campaign.
Yet energy is a key argument for Brexit. Current energy policies, dictated by Brussels, are closing down proven, reliable and cost-effective coal capacity, and replacing it with expensive, unreliable and intermittent renewables, which impose massive hidden costs and inefficiencies on the system. Leaving the EU is a necessary condition for creating a rational energy policy, but it is not a sufficient condition. We should recall that all but five of our Westminster MPs voted for the absurd and massively costly Climate Change Act in 2008. So we also need a change of heart in the House of Commons. Perhaps we’ll have to wait until the lights go out before our MPs get the message.
Current EU/UK energy policy has driven up energy costs. It’s caused plant closures and job losses in many industries – not just in steel at Port Talbot. It’s forcing major industries to move offshore to more favourable – and more rational – jurisdictions, taking their jobs and investment with them. The Remain Camp has no answers to these questions. I propose to tackle Energy Secretary Amber Rudd on these issues when I debate with her in Hastings later this month.
But current policies are also threatening the most almighty energy shortage in the UK. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers (not normally given to scaremongering) warns of a huge shortfall in electricity supplies as we are forced to close coal-fired power stations by the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, and to close ageing nuclear plants.
A story last week illustrates this point perfectly. The supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is actually building its own power stations so that it can guarantee electricity supply during black-outs. They can already power ten supermarkets themselves, with further capacity to follow. Their senior executive Paul Crewe says “he has sleepless nights” because of his fears about energy security. It’s not just the lights going off – it’s the freezers too.
It’s one thing for politicians to pontificate and debate over issues like energy security. But it emphasises the urgency of the issue when hard-headed businessmen are prepared to make major investments to protect themselves against the inevitable power-outs.
Another recent story concerns Professor Sir David MacKay. He had a hugely distinguished academic career, and from 2009 to 2014 was Chief Scientific Advisor to DECC. In 2008 he self-published a book entitled “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air” The book was well-received, and the first 5000 print run rapidly sold out. While presenting his views in a balanced and neutral way, he left readers in little doubt of his reservations about renewables.
Tragically Sir David died recently, at the early age of 48, of inoperable stomach cancer. But before he died, he gave a final interview to science writer Mark Lynas, in which he was more direct regarding renewables than he had previously been, stating in plain terms that wind and solar power are a waste of money. He favoured low-carbon energy, but urged nuclear and carbon capture. He put the case very simply: if we have enough low-carbon capacity to get by when renewables aren’t delivering, then we simply don’t need renewables at all.
The truth is, we have never “invested” in renewables. We have simply wasted money on grand gesture politics. This is misallocation of resources on a remarkable scale. And the money comes out of your pocket.