The second biggest energy company in the UK, SSE, has announced a price freeze on domestic gas and electricity until 2016. Good news for customers for the next two years, then.
That’s the limit of the good news in this announcement. Because of the expectation that this will hit the firm’s profits, they have also announced cost savings – 500 job losses (not good news for them) and the withdrawal of much investment in biomass and offshore wind generation.
Presumably, SSE’s plan is to focus on burning fossil fuels. That makes sense given the prevarication of successive UK governments over energy policy, which has discouraged investment and left the nation with little alternative. The present government is putting most of their energy into promoting fracking, with tax breaks for corporations, and financial incentives (I think we used to call them bribes) for local communities.
The only way in which fracking makes sense is if the alternative is burning coal. It’s a very short-term solution. A shale gas well will only be productive for a couple of years, if that. We will need many thousands of them in our densely populated country in order to meet our needs. I’m not sure what we’re going to do about water supply and road safety and so on, but then joined-up thinking doesn’t seem to be our strong point.
What we need to do is to invest in technologies that help us to use much less energy. We need to invest in renewable generation. We need to re-think how we generate, distribute and use electricity. (We need to move away from using gas altogether – there is no climate-friendly gas).
But while the government (and opposition parties) fail to think beyond their big idea of winning the next election, and corporations fail to think beyond the next AGM and dividend pay-out, and citizens fail to think beyond this month’s bills, we will remain addicted to ways of living that will kill us all.
There is a bigger, longer picture, that involves us all living and thriving. But who has the courage to imagine it, let alone seek to make it reality?