The UK is starting to look out of step as other countries ramp up green energy investments - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: Maddie Evans, Guildford.

Why do we have the only government in Europe that is holding back on transitioning to green technology that is cheaper, less polluting and genuinely improves energy security?

Ofgem has just announced that energy prices will come down again in April, which is a relief for everyone. It’s encouraging that despite the 2022 crisis in the oil and gas markets, we in the UK and Europe have had the technical and economic skills to balance supply and demand.

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In fact, the crisis has accelerated the move to renewable technology, because it improves energy security when compared to imported gas and oil with their ties to global markets. Europe installed 30 GW of wind assets in 2023. And it is economically sensible, Europe is now better placed to reach the UN's seventh sustainable development goal which calls for access to “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” by 2030.

A view of a wind farm amongst electricity pylons. PIC: Gareth Fuller/PA WireA view of a wind farm amongst electricity pylons. PIC: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
A view of a wind farm amongst electricity pylons. PIC: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Renewable electricity has demonstrated other dividends as well. What has been good for the country can be life-changing for a community. Community-owned energy projects such as local wind turbines can slash energy bills. They also generate energy where it is used, reducing the need for upgrading parts of the National Grid.

Cheap electricity makes electric heat pumps financially attractive too. A recent study of community energy projects by climate campaign group Possible and Regen (based on 2023 prices) estimated savings for all and 26 per cent lower bills for scheme members with heat pumps compared to gas heating.

Of course, this means that your next replacement boiler needs to be a heat pump. This growing market is constantly innovating and becoming more efficient. With the £7,500 government Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant a heat pump can cost less than a new gas boiler to install.

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Heat pumps themselves are changing, the new generation of high-temperature pumps with R32 refrigerant can be installed on existing radiator systems, avoiding some of the nuisance and cost.

Elsewhere the benefits are already driving demand: heat pumps have outsold gas boilers in Norway for years, and they are now outselling gas boilers in the US.

Considering the accelerating rate of investment overseas the UK is starting to look out of step. Government dithering on energy policy here is probably heavily influenced by the oil industry. Like big tobacco, they are fighting for their future.

Government always has choices, but this one is obsessed with tax cuts and has forgotten to govern. The answers have been laid out many times in innumerable reports. They could restrict the tax breaks oil companies get just to investments in their low carbon businesses.

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They could use the tax receipts from oil companies to fund a major expansion of low carbon technology and boost grant funding for community energy schemes. They could sort out planning so that community energy is supported as a positive contribution to our national infrastructure. They could even avoid paying out a lot of subsidies and grants by sorting out the levies on electricity prices and allowing the market to drive heat pump adoption.

‘Long-term affordable, reliable, sustainable, modern energy, so everyone can have a warm, dry home’. Surely that is a better ambition than abolishing inheritance tax, or the confidence trick that is freezing the income tax bands to pay for headline tax cuts. If we are not going to be left behind by our neighbours in Europe and our friends in the US, the UK urgently needs a government with the vision and leadership skills to deliver it.

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