Azara Blog: Tories produce a non-report on an "energy revolution"

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Date published: 2009/01/16

The BBC says:

Street plug-points for electric cars, smart meters, and energy efficiency loans for homes are among Tory plans for an "energy revolution".

David Cameron launched plans he said would lower carbon emissions, create jobs and reduce oil and gas imports.

He said a £1bn upgrade for the national grid would encourage people to generate their own power and boost renewables.

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband dismissed the plans as "a bad combination of the reheated and the uncosted".

Launching what the party calls its green paper on low carbon, Mr Cameron said even those who were not convinced by climate change had to recognise the need for "energy security" - reducing reliance on countries like Russia and the Middle East for oil and gas.

And he said there was no reason why, if electricity networks were updated to include computer intelligence, people should not be saving money in future.

This would include a "smart grid" and smart meters in homes - which monitor kitchen appliances every second, altering the amount of power that is sent down the line to ensure only the minimum necessary is used.

Mr Cameron said it would make it possible to have "the Holy Trinity of big supplies of secure energy, green low-carbon energy and cheap energy", by removing the requirement for the grid to have huge excess capacity in order to meet fluctuating demand.

There is very little that is new or substantive in this report. It could have easily been written by Labour or the Lib Dems, since it is mostly Mom and Apple Pie stuff.

On one issue the BBC seems to be misquoting the Tories, about "altering the amount of power that is sent down the line to ensure only the minimum necessary is used". That statement doesn't make much sense. There is the statement in the report that says "a smart grid can manage domestic and commercial appliances to use more energy when it is abundant and less at peak times". The one example they manage to come up with is recharging batteries for electric cars. But not a heck of a lot of domestic appliances use batteries. And even for those that do (e.g. portable computers), should the government really be deciding when they should be recharged and not the consumer? Sure, charge more for electricity when the demand is high and less when the demand is low. But let people decide how to spend their money, not the government. You would think that the Tories would recognise that No Control = Dumb Not Smart. Just imagine this "smart" grid deciding to turn off your freezer in the middle of a summer heat wave.

And one can see why politicians would like to talk about the Holy Trinity where energy is low-carbon and secure and cheap. Everyone is a winner, and all with no sacrifice or hard work. But cheap energy would be a complete disaster for the academic middle class people who run the country. Cheap energy means that the working class can afford to consume things. There is nothing that irritates the academic middle class more than the working class being able to consume things (or go places or whatever). Cheap energy means human beings have ever more ability to control and change the environment. In reality, the academic middle class want energy to be expensive.

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