Joined up Government?

The area I live in is currently considering a proposal to construct a wind farm.  Many of the local residents are up in up in arms against it while others think it is a wonderful idea.  My purpose here is not to put an argument for or against such scheme but to highlight the lack of joined-up thinking of Government on the matter of energy and energy conservation.

Having signed up to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, the UK has committed itself to targets that will necessitate switching at least some of our production of electricity to low-carbon sources.  While I am all in favour of this, the problem is that the Government doesn’t build hydro plants or wind farms, it has to rely on private developers and they are subject to the restriction that they cannot pick the best sites for these projects, only the best sites that they (a) have access to and (b) can raise the finance for.

The net result is that many of these project are being proposed on inappropriate sites.  The local populations are up in arms but the local government agencies are under pressure to approve them as the Government needs them to meet the targets it agreed to.

The exception to the above concerns nuclear power.  Here the Government can invest directly as it still owns a significant stake in British Energy, the company that owns and operates all of the UK’s nuclear power stations.

However, the Government’s proposal here is to sell its stake to EDF, the French utility which is 85% owned by the French Government.
You will recall that as electricity prices rose sharply in recent months on the back of the oil price rise, the rate of increase of electricity prices in France was nowhere near as great because the French Government restrict the rate at which electricity prices can rise.  They can do this because of their majority stake in EDF.

The UK’s strategy can therefore be summed up as: Government commits us to targets but is entirely beholden to independent investors and the French Government to achieve them!


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