Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 21 October 2011

Escalating energy prices will be one of the greatest challenges of the next decade. I welcome the summit meeting called by the government this week bringing together the six major energy suppliers in the UK with groups representing consumers and the most vulnerable groups in our society who are especially threatened by this growing anxiety.
Why is it happening? Population growth and the economic advance of China and India are placing upward pressure on fossil fuel prices as the unchanging laws of supply and demand have kicked in. North Sea Oil is largely gone and the UK is now dependant upon importing supplies at prices very much subject to these global forces. We are investing heavily in green, renewable energy, but this is currently expensive. We have failed to invest early enough in a new generation of nuclear power stations so it will be some time before this comes on line to help us out. The six big energy companies have shown insufficient regard for the impact of their pricing decisions and seem intent on cashing in on their captive audience.
What is to be done? The energy companies must display more sensitivity to the ability of vulnerable households on dwindling incomes to respond to this pressure and introduce more help for those in fuel poverty, Secondly the programme of home insulation needs to be beefed up to help reduce the appalling waste of heat too many homes currently permit (including my own!). Third we must insist that the energy suppliers simplify their tariffs so that it is easier for people to swap suppliers to get the best available deal.
Finally, with an eye to the medium term, the government is right to roll out a programme to encourage solar panels on as many homes and offices as possible to tackle the problem by micro-generation of electricity. In the end that will be our salvation. Even if we can force prices down a little, huge fears about energy security remain. Most fossil fuel energy comes from unstable and often uncooperative parts of the world: Russia, the Middle East and West Africa. It is therefore crucial to solve the existing problem and anticipate long term challenges at the same time.
The next few years will be tough financially, we all know that. We must not exacerbate that sense of crisis by pursuing policies that mean when we press on the light switch in five years time nothing happens.

posted by Gary @ 18:44