The Nick Clegg / Lib Dem approach to energy

With The Times reporting that Nick Clegg is now the most popular party leader since Winston Churchill – no, really – perhaps it’s a good time to focus on some of Clegg’s Liberal Democrat thinking, on issues that voters say is of importance to them.

The people who produce the energy used in this country know how much energy is demanded by homes, businesses and transport and what state the nation’s generation capacity is in. In 2008 E.ON Chief Executive, Dr Paul Golby, while imploring politicians to ‘come clean’ on the cost of renewables, explained that the UK currently has 76 gigawatts of generating capacity, with about 25gw of this coming to the end of its life – but by 2020 Britain will need 120gw of capacity.

He recognises therefore that it is essential for coal and nuclear to be part of our energy mix. But one man who refuses to accept this is Nick Clegg.  Just weeks after Golby’s comment Clegg said (my emphasis):

“The Government has spooked everyone into thinking that we need nuclear by saying there’s going to be a terrible energy gap – the lights are going to go out in the middle of the next decade,” Mr Clegg said.

There’s actually no evidence that’s the case at all. They’ve raised the wrong problem in order to push the wrong solution.

“The real problem is that our energy mix is not green enough and we’re over-dependent on oil and gas from parts of the world that aren’t very reliable.”

Just over a month later, National Grid revealed that it was forced to call for more power from electricity generators after a series of unexpected breakdowns left the company with an insufficient safety cushion.  Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator went public on concerns about sufficient capacity and the need for new nuclear, which Clegg claims is a scare story.

In August last year official figures revealed that demand for power from homes and businesses will exceed supply from the national grid within eight years, bringing about black outs for the first time since the 1970s.  The government’s half baked, EU-driven Low Carbon Transition Plan regardless of its flaws, exposed the fragility of our energy supply and necessity of coal and nuclear power.

But Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems think they know better and can build enough wind turbines to see off the crisis.  Only, when it is cold and power is most needed, the wind frequently fails to blow and the turbines generate no power.  They are sticking to their dangerous approach despite evidence showing that carefully selected onshore windy areas where turbines have been put up, barely achieve 20% of the generation capacity they were built to deliver.

Now I get it that energy is not a sexy election issue.  But when the lights start going off because something like Nick Clegg’s energy policy has been followed – despite evidence showing it is a timebomb waiting to go off – and found to be a shambolic failure, you can bet that energy will become a major issue.  But by then it will be too late and voters will be regretting buying Nick Clegg’s dangerous nonsense that the energy gap warnings were just an attempt to ‘spook everyone’ into thinking we need nuclear power and coal.

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