Will 2015 be the year when we finally wake up to the scale of the insanity that has possessed this government?
As we look back over the past 12 months and forward to the next, I regret that there is one story I reported two months ago to which I didn’t begin to do justice. It’s one that, when the penny finally drops, will be blazoned in shocked headlines across every newspaper in the land. How many people realise that, within a few years, our government is planning to phase out all use of gas for cooking or heating our homes?
We shall be forced to rely for this and much else, including powering our cars, on a vastly expanded electricity supply, generated almost entirely by tens of thousands of hopelessly inefficient windmills; by new nuclear power stations we are unlikely to see built; and by power stations fitted with a technology that does not yet exist, and is unlikely ever to work.
Forget last week’s reports that, by 2020, our energy bills are likely to rise by another £250 a year. The far bigger story is hidden away in a 244-page report in which the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) sets out how it hopes to meet our legal commitment under the Climate Change Act to cut Britain’s emissions of CO2 by four fifths within 35 years.
Decc’s “2050 Pathways Analysis” envisages a future in which, within five years, we shall be embarking on a wholesale switch away from gas and other fossil fuels to electricity. Out will go all cooking and heating by gas, and using petrol or diesel to power our transport. Instead Decc hopes that, by the 2040s, we will have more than doubled our electricity supply, by building up to 40,000 offshore and up to 20,000 land-based wind turbines; having a new fleet of “zero carbon” nuclear reactors; and only allowing gas or coal-fired power stations if they are fitted with “carbon capture and storage” (CCS), to bury their CO2 in holes in the ground.
As a telling passage in Decc’s report frankly puts it: “Demand for electricity would double by 2050, as a result of electrification of much of industry, heating and transport. Decarbonisation would mean that all of the UK’s electricity would come from low-carbon sources by the 2040s, making significant use of the UK’s wind resource”. It further assumes that we can build a “new nuclear plant at a rate of 1.2 gigawatts a year”, and that CCS can be “rolled out at a rate of 1.5GW a year after 2030”.
Apart from the prospect that millions of us will have to ditch our gas cookers and central-heating systems and buy electric cars, none of these idle dreams can be successfully realised. When we have so far only built 5,500 giant wind turbines, there is no way we can build another 55,000 by 2040, at an estimated cost of more than £500 billion.
When we are unlikely to get even one new nuclear plant within 10 years, to produce just 3.2 GW of incredibly costly power at a cost of £24 billion, there is no chance we could build 20 or 30 more by 2040. It is equally unthinkable that we could all be forced to switch to inefficient and ludicrously expensive electric vehicles, or that CCS is any more than another fantasy, when, even if it could be made to work on a commercial scale, it would more than double the cost of its electricity.