Speaking at the Eurelectric Convention yesterday (2 June), Energy UK’s chief executive Angela Knight pointed to the recent EU elections as an example of how views of the Union are changing, claiming this needs to be reflected in how energy decisions are taken.

“It is a week and a day since the European elections which clearly demonstrated how people view of the European Union both here and in a number of other countries has changed,” said Knight. “One outcome has to be that EU energy policy can no longer be decided without sensible timetables and ignoring the reality that people have to pay for these decisions.

“We have an opportunity in the energy industry to get fact-based, logic-based, properly costed and sensible EU policy-making and to encourage a move away from an emotion-driven and expensive agenda to allow a transition to a low-carbon future in an affordable way.”

The Renewable Energy Association (REA), which represents producers and promotes the use of all forms of renewable energy, disagrees. The organisation insists ‘there’s nothing emotional about the move to renewable energy’, arguing that renewable energy can in fact be a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels.

“Renewables contribute to all three aspects of the energy trilemma,” explained the REA’s chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska. “We all know they reduce carbon emissions to limit climate change risks, but they also help reduce our reliance on unstable gas sources too. Energy from waste and biomass is already cheaper than fossil fuels in some circumstances, while solar and wind could be competing on price with fossil fuels by the end of this decade.

“Growing the low-carbon, renewable energy economy is a business imperative. The major utilities have a big role to play in this transition, as well as independent SMEs and new market entrants like farmers and community groups. Experience in Germany and the USA is showing that the utilities that are adapting to renewables and embracing them are more financially secure than the laggards.”

Solar threat

The REA’s comments are supported by recent changes in America – Barclays has downgraded the high-grade bond market for the whole USA electricity sector, stating that the position of electric utilities as ‘a sturdy and defensive subset of the investment grade universe’ will be threatened by ‘the confluence of declining cost trends in photovoltaic (PV) power generation and residential scale power storage’.

Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association (STA), added: “In the USA, the penny has dropped. We are up for the challenge of ‘properly costed’ policy based on fact, not emotion. The simple fact is that with stable, logical policies, solar should be competing with fossil fuels by the end of this decade.

“When it does, subsidy-free solar will fundamentally reshape the energy system. Our members are mainly SMEs and independents with major growth potential, racing to compete on a level playing field with the big energy companies. From utilities to farms to rooftops, we can all play a role in helping deliver cost-effective solar power.”

Luke Nicholls

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