David Blair’s report “Fuel poverty looms for average household” (October 11) should provide a wake-up call to climate change campaigners as well as government.
We cannot raise energy prices from 3.3 per cent of median household income in 2004 to 6 per cent today to 10 per cent in 2015 without creating a serious public and political backlash against current energy and climate change policies.
The coalition first and foremost needs to recognise that delivering the economic incentives for investors to commit £200bn into green electricity power systems and networks is unworkable. The feed-through impact on higher fuel bills will generate enormous hostility from the public to both the government and to climate change policy. Furthermore, the probability of a public backlash against high fuel bills means that potential investors will simply not take as credible government policies intended to maintain the financial incentives to deliver a new green power system.
This does not mean that the government should in any way abandon the climate change agenda. It does, however, mean that the approach to cutting CO2 has to change. In particular, the coalition must recognise that climate change targets will have to be delivered sequentially rather then simultaneously. In other words, the cheaper ways of cutting CO2 by using more gas and less coal and by designing energy efficiency into the economy will have to be adopted before expensive investment in renewables.
Luckily for the coalition and for climate change policy, the shale gas revolution and consequent greater market liquidity for liquefied natural gas, together with the announcement of domestic shale gas resources from Cuadrilla of at least 5,000bn cubic metres of gas in place in their Lancashire shale basin, mean that there is plentiful gas with which to replace coal.
Clearly gas is a fossil fuel, but it emits only half the CO2 emissions of coal. Significant CO2 emissions cuts are possible if the coalition focuses its climate change policy on replacement of coal-fired power stations (one-third of power generation) with gas. Furthermore, renewables such as wind need gas to provide the back-up supply. Hence building a larger gas power generation base provides the means, post this period of austerity, to deliver on renewables targets.
Alan Riley, The City Law School, City University, London WC1, UK