Energy dramas in 2012
- By Richard Branson -
- Jan 05, 2012
Struck by this email from my friend Dr Jeremy Leggett over Christmas highlighting the growing divide between those that believe in the absolute necessity of investing in renewable fuels and those who ignore the obvious need – preferring to focus on short term goals and profits. I believe we must keep investing in alternative fuels to help reduce our Global carbon problem. Those fearing that economic growth will be stifled by investment in renewables are wrong. We should look at these new industries and forms of power as one of the greatest business opportunities of the 21st Century. The Carbon War Room has been promoting many opportunities through its efforts in shipping, aviation and with its programmes to retrofit buildings. Let's hope the UK and other countries use 2012 to get behind a Green Industrial revolution.
2011 was a year of growing polarisation for those of us who long for renaissance fuelled by renewables. The Germans announced targets to run their railway system entirely on renewable energy, mostly wind,and solar. Yet BP announced it will quit solar entirely to pile ever further into tar sands, unconventional gas and the rest of the carbon status quo.
The IEA pronounced that the cost of energy will rise "viciously" on a global basis without clean energy. Yet the British "Big Six" opted for so much gas that the installation rate of British renewables fell steeply: this despite conventional UK energy prices soaring so steeply that fully 1 in 4 of UK households fell into fuel poverty in 2011, up from 1 in 5 in 2010.
There were so many of these stark contrasts in the theatre of energy last year.
It seems that the closer renewables advocates get to their dream, the harder the defenders of the status quo push back the other way, notwithstanding the increasingly clear economic, environmental and social downsides. They surely are teeing up some dramas for 2012.
Not to mention interesting research material for neuroscientists interested in how dysfunctional human cultures work. Its not as though Big Energy, and their cosy nexus with conventional capital, just do these things and be done with it. They lobby for their short-term perceived interests - hard, and mostly below the radar - entraining many in officialdom and politics to their ruinous causes.
Whatever your point of view on the above, a summary of relevant events in 2011 might be of interest. One version is now up to date, on www.jeremyleggett.net, after a mince-pie-fuelled catch up.
A closing thought. To the extent that solar energy in cloudy Britain might be a tiny-corner microcosm of a much bigger picture of the potential for renewable-powered renaissance, there is a particularly interesting drama unfolding as we enter 2012. In case you missed it, the British High Court ruled on 21st December that the UK government has acted illegally in proposing a retrospective reduction in the solar feed-in tariff. The arguments for and against were summarised that night on the BBC, here (headline and 7 mins 20 secs in for the detail).
The government can appeal by January 4th, risking further humiliation in its efforts to cut back a solar market just a tiny fraction the size of Germany's. Or it can switch tack, resurrect an industry that was creating thousands of jobs - at net economic benefit to the UK economy - in a time of dire need for such, while realigning with some its core strategic themes, not least a Big Society countering austerity-related unemployment with a domestic green industrial revolution.
This will be a choice to watch as the dramas in the triple crunch of financial crisis, climate crisis, and energy crisis roll on in 2012.
Best of luck to all this year
By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group