The recent announcement of the government's long-awaited Energy Bill revealing a postponement of carbon reduction targets is a disappointment to the environmental lobby, but our research shows that the public don't engage with or fully understand carbon reduction in any event. If the only way forward for energy policy is to make this compromise, then in my opinion, it's better than no action!
The bottom line is, we need to keep the lights on, and we need investment in our energy infrastructure and generation assets if we are to achieve this. Positive solid frameworks provide investors with confidence. Investment in renewable and nuclear will reduce our carbon contribution, as will reducing consumption - and that is where the education and public engagement comes into play. The fact of the matter is that energy saving is a boring topic - we think we've heard it all before. We all squander energy because we don't think it's precious enough. What's needed is an attitude change to energy waste, rather like the one we have experienced to drinking and driving or smoking in public places. When you get pilloried for wasting energy then we'll have achieved something.
I was bemused at a recent news report about a government initiative under consideration, which is to pay firms for cutting business electricity use. Personally, I don't understand why taxpayers or energy consumers should be paying businesses incentives to reduce consumption - the incentive is already there; use less energy = smaller bill!
The launch of the Green Investment Bank; £3bn to invest in renewable energy, carbon capture and storage and energy efficiency measures, provided better news. We welcome any stimulus for green investment in alternative energy sources, and while the bank has its critics, it is a way to leverage government funds. Rather than the grant system, this is using economics and capitalism to achieve green goals.
It'd be great to see some of that investment pot going into innovative ways of generating sustainable energy from waste - anything that utilises waste gets my vote! I hate waste in all its forms. Waste that's thrown away, waste that isn't used and waste in the form of lights left on. Stand-by functions not turned off, trying to heat the garden or air-condition the street, a lack of insulation - I could go on. So, we need to reduce waste in power terms, whilst using waste in other forms to generate the power. Anaerobic Digestion - the process of generating power from the methane emitted during the breaking down of animal or food waste, and CHP plants, which utilise 'waste' heat in an effective way, are great ways of generating energy and minimising the effect that waste would have had on the environment had it not been used in a productive way.
So let's stop grumbling about the Energy Bill and its shortcomings and focus on the fact that, hopefully, the emergence of some kind of plan means that the industry is no longer in limbo and we can attract some investment to ensure we keep the lights on - whichever way it's generated.
Follow Douglas Stewart on Twitter: www.twitter.com/green_energy_uk