Sunday, March 28, 2010

Conservatives Announce Plan to Promote Renewable Energy

Nate Beeler: Energy Policy Stopgap
Conservatives recently announced a 12-point action plan to boost renewable energy and nuclear power. The plan would also entail a substantial change to the energy sector. The plan recognizes the historical abundance of oil and gas in the country as well as the relatively recent rise of concern over pollution, resource depletion, and the green house gases emissions that are fueling climate change.

Some of the specific initiatives include:
  • A Green Investment Bank to provide public funding for new energy technologies
  • Establishing a "floor" price for carbon and an upstream tax
  • Accelerated demonstration projects for energy storage and carbon capture
  • Establishing an "energy internet", including distributed generation and a smart grid
  • Household incentives for energy efficiency
  • Electrifying the transport system
  • Implementing national feed-in tariffs
The current energy approach is "out of date"; what is needed are:
...proposals to send long term and predictable carbon price signals to the market will help investors and project developers. Similarly, proposals to make investments in the infrastructure needed to improve ... energy security more attractive will benefit the energy sector, as well as the wider economy.


Unless we diversify our energy sources, unless we upgrade our energy networks, unless we pay as much attention to energy efficiency as we do to energy production, then our energy supplies will be neither secure nor sustainable.
Leaders of the energy industry, including large users of fossil fuels, lauded the "progressive" approach and welcomed the ways in which the plan would reduce planning uncertainty for business.

However, this proposal, despite its obvious merits will solve nothing here in the United States. Why?

This is a proposal from the Conservative Party in the UK. While one can easily quibble around the margins, what this proposal shows plainly is that true conservatives can see clearly how a coherent and forward-looking energy and industrial policy can be good economics, good policy and good politics. Writes party leader David Cameron (emphasis added):
British energy policy is out of date. It was designed almost thirty years ago for a world in which Britain had an excess of generating capacity; in which we enjoyed the benefits of growing North Sea oil and gas production; and in which neither local pollution nor climate change were the concerns they are today.

The most important question facing policy makers at that time was how to exploit resources and sweat assets at the least possible cost to consumers. The energy policy that is still with us now was the answer to that question – and, for a while, it appeared to be the right answer.

However, power plants get old, fossil fuel reserves dwindle away and pollution builds up to critical proportions. The benign conditions that applied a generation ago, do not apply today – and have not done so for at least a decade. The fundamental assumptions that underpin British energy policy have fundamentally changed.

The policy framework should have changed too, but, in thirteen years of Labour government, ministers have consistently ducked the task of reform. As a result, golden opportunities to update Britain’s ageing energy systems have been missed and the major investments needed to ensure the security and sustainability of our energy supplies have yet to be made.

Deferring decisions until time is running out is more costly than acting in a planned, timely manner. Thus, in addition to the burden of financial debt, Labour has left behind an ‘energy debt’ – one which consumers will have to pay for in the decades to come.
Indeed, most of the world's conservatives get this. Just not those in the United States.
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