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Labour's Garden Grab
Wednesday March 1, 2006
Conservatives focus on decentralised power to combat climate change
Conservatives focus on decentralised power to combat climate change

Senior Conservatives have called for an examination of radical plans to decentralise the production of electrical power, with generation switched closer to the country's homes and businesses.

The Party's shadow environment team, led by Peter Ainsworth and Greg Barker, will make a key submission to the Conservative Quality of Life Policy Group on the potential of decentralised power, claiming that generating electricity nearer to domestic and commercial users is less wasteful than traditional remote power generation, while also having the potential to foster clean, renewable sources of power.

The move - backed by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Micropower - was announced as Conservative Leader David Cameron prepared to accompany Mr Ainsworth and Mr Barker to the Stop Climate Chaos carbon 'dating' event in Westminster, which will examine the case for a UK carbon 'budget'.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Cameron commented: "Achieving a sustainable world and combating the threat of climate change will require some really fresh ideas and radical thinking. We cannot expect to meet the challenges of this century by toying with the structures and technologies we have inherited from the past, and the concept of Decentralised Energy should to be taken seriously."

Mr Ainsworth said: "The existing system of remote generation in large power plants and long distance transmission is inherently wasteful. Just as we want to promote energy efficiency in the home, so we need to look at ways of improving the efficiency of energy supply."

He added: "Decentralised energy is a complex issue. It is just one of a number of possible new approaches to providing energy in an environmentally friendly way. The cost and carbon efficiency of decentralising supply will vary depending on the type of building being supplied and its use. But we believe that decentralised energy has exciting potential. So we are asking the Policy Group to evaluate its long term potential to reduce C02 emissions; assess its ability to maintain security of supply; evaluate its ability to enhance the productivity of the power sector to the benefit of consumers and the economy; and ascertain what changes would be needed to the regulatory framework to enable decentralisation to take place."

The submission will be made in the form of a letter signed by the shadow spokesmen and will also be submitted for consideration by the Conservative Energy Review, chaired by Shadow Secretary for Trade & Industry, Alan Duncan. Commenting on the submission Mr Barker, said: "The long term possibilities of decentralised energy and micro-generation are huge. This will need rigorous examination but we think the Government is being far too timid and backward looking in its approach to Energy. We want to look at creating a new competitive market framework which will respect both the environment and the need for security of supply by unleashing the technology of the future and delivering energy in a far more efficient and clean way to our communities and business.

"Other nations are grasping this imperative but Labour's rigid mindset on energy issues is sadly backward looking and rooted in the big state planned models of the last century. No wonder this government has struggled to match the Prime Minister's rhetoric on global warming with effective solutions."

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