9 September 2012
PANEL DEBATE: THE FIGHT FOR CLEAN BRITISH ENERGY
The first panel debate of the Green Party Autumn Conference 2012 addressed “The fight for clean British Energy“ with a panel composed of Paul Steedman, Senior Campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Juliet Davenport, CEO of 100% renewable energy supplier Good Energy, and Jonathan Porritt, former chair of the Green Party’s forerunner the Ecology Party and now director of Forum for the Future, a charity promoting sustainable development. The debate was chaired by outgoing
party leader and MP for Brighton and Hove, Caroline Lucas.
Against a background of the Conservatives indicating through recent ministerial appointments that they are moving still further away from David Cameron’s pledge to be the “greenest government ever”, and the Lib Dems giving up on opposition to nuclear energy, the forthcoming
debate in parliament on the Energy Bill will be crucial in determiningwhether Britain’s energy future will be powered by clean, sustainable sources or commit us to more imported, polluting gas, and expensively subsidised and risky nuclear. The panellists were each invited to
outline their own vision of a clean energy future for the UK.
Paul Steedman spoke of the successes that have been achieved in advancing renewable energy and adopting legally binding carbon emissions targets through legislation, for which FoE campaigns can take some credit. “Renewables are popular,” said Steedman. “86% per cent of the public want to be free of fossil fuels. Green technology is generating jobs and the green economy is growing. You could almost say, “We’ve done it!”. In Steedman’s view, however, the job is far
from done with “the government currently getting in the way - George Osbourne in particular – through the reanimated corpse of nuclear power, tax breaks on gas, and the appointment of fans of shale gas to the government. We can’t allow the government’s love of failure to trump our successes.” Steedman declared. He called for clear reduced emissions targets for 2030, smart grids, a simplified Feed In Tariff, and performance standards for power generators.
Good Energy CEO Juliet Davenport gave a UK renewable power generator’s perspective, describing GE’s mission to “make consumers part of the solution instead of being blocked by government, and bringing energy closer to people”. GE currently have 40,000 small generators on the grid. Misinformation is hampering development though. During a recent consultation on a wind farm proposal, Davenport was asked, “Is it true that goats’ hearts explode when they stand next to a wind turbine?” As well as getting accurate information to the public, more investment in R&D for offshore wind and tidal power is crucial, she said. “Our argument is strong and it’s popular.”
Jonathan Porritt spoke forcibly against nuclear power and “certain misguided individuals” who wish to see nuclear as part of the energy generating mix, and condemned “the dishonesty at the heart of the Liberal Democrats” for abandoning opposition to nuclear, and urged the Green Party to commit to “putting the bloody insanity of nuclear back in the coffin for the last time”.
Questions from the floor covered storage technology, the Severn barrage, energy efficiency, reduction of upstream production, and the development of a new reactor at Hinkley Point.
Caroline Lucas closed the meeting by urging delegates to leave with a three-point action plan to - join Friends of the Earth, switch to Good Energy and attend the day of action at Hinkley Point on October 8th.