It is not often that I read a leader article and agree with everything in it but that is the case with yesterday’s Times (Tues, May 13 2014) headlined “Wanted: an Energy Policy”
Dealing as we do at the heart of the energy debate and often down at the sharp end with the general public it would appear that this chronic lack of an energy policy is having a profound impact. It seems to me that DECC, under the auspices of successive governments, has struggled to set out a credible energy policy or even to get the public to understand the parlous state of energy supplies. It is clear that the general public simply does not believe how close the country is to running out of energy or that they don’t have to face hard choices to retrieve the situation before it is too late.
At PPS we hold no particular candle for any specific technology and we are as involved as much in the whole range of renewables as we are in hydrocarbon extraction. What they all tend to have in common is that explaining the rationale for each of them is left almost entirely to the companies promoting the technology or their industry bodies. This is never going to work and it is time the Government woke up to it, if it is serious in wanting to get the energy infrastructure the nation so evidently needs actually built and not just talked about.
This is because the public nearly always believes that private sector promoters of energy schemes, renewable or otherwise, are fundamentally doing so for their own commercial reasons and as such are not part of a joined up strategy that will sustain the nation’s prosperity and well-being. Indeed our own research suggests that energy companies rank amongst the least trusted organisations in the private sector.
The public cannot be blamed for this as the issues involved are complex and few of the available solutions are very palatable, as most will involve a direct impact on communities one way or another. The days of out of sight and out of mind solutions, as epitomised by North Sea oil and gas, are sadly numbered. But our experience is that the public simply does not believe this. The only solution is that the government and the relevant authorities and regulators must commit to engaging with the public in a detailed and comprehensive manner.
This may not convince the public that a cogent energy policy actually exists but it may make us all wake up to the fact that the easy options are diminishing rapidly.