Green conservatism: protecting the environment through open markets
infrastructure, and the urgent need to embrace decarbonisation and meet legally binding green targets Tony Blair committed us to, are driving a fresh round of big government solutions, with DECC spending billions in subsidies to attract the investment we need, helping to fuel an unsustainable solar and wind boom.
“Consumers have been encouraged to think of energy as a plentiful, cheap commodity which government and big utilities can be relied on to provide for us” This legacy has left us facing a perfect storm in energy policy: how to renew our national infrastructure and go green, and tackle rising consumer bills? Energy market reform is key to solving that conundrum and we need to embrace bold new thinking to drive consumer empowerment. ‘Vote blue, go green’ was about a revolution in environmental policy in which we shift the environmental agenda from being driven by big government making big promises at big summits, which the small consumer then has to pay for reluctantly, to a much more diverse, insurgent, entrepreneurial, localist and innovative model, in which we, the consumers, are empowered to drive more open market, innovative new solutions to energy efficiency, microgeneration and green energy.
In my constituency I have seen the possibilities of communities taking control of their own energy use. More and more farms and businesses in Mid Norfolk are now mini power stations: feeding into the grid and actively investing to cut expensive energy waste. The enlightened self interest of millions of families, businesses and communities is a more powerful force for change than any government bill. That’s why I believe we need a revolution in microgeneration, consumer empowerment and the increased use of new market incentives already seen in ideas like ‘negawatts’. It is also why we must shift from fixating on one technology as the solution: the UK has a world class research base and venture capital cluster in cleantech solutions with a myriad of new technologies, from hydrogen fuel cells and geothermal to tidal and marine energy, any one of which might yet prove to be more suitable than subsidising mass solar or wind. Let’s give consumers the freedom and power to drive demand for efficiency and innovation, and allow local entrepreneurs to bring down cost and increase competition, to create an energy market that works for all. We need to think more creatively about real options for market reform. There is no shortage of ideas. ResPublica’s recent pamphlet Making it mutual, for instance, set out a range of bold ideas, including making large companies offer part-ownership of projects to local communities, looking again at the planning framework which currently excludes insurgent energy providers, giving communities the right to own the local grid and a legal right of first