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The United Kingdom:Powering the National Food Strategy – The Rural Land Use Framework should consider green energy

The United Kingdom:Powering the National Food Strategy – The Rural Land Use Framework should consider green energy

2022-04-06 17:28

Recent research found that 66% of British adults support the Government’s plan for 100% clean electricity by 2035. However, against the majority, simple on the ground barriers such as planning permission are delaying our ability to reach net zero.

How can the public’s support for clean electricity and the lacklustre roll out of it be telling such different stories? It’s clear we need to understand both sides of the argument if we’re to make positive steps forward.

First, let's weigh up the ‘cost’ of renewable energy and storage 

‘Cost’ can mean different things to different people. For most it will be financial, and they might be considering the financial impact of renewables. As green technologies come online and start generating energy for the grid, there is a monetary cost that must be paid through taxes and levies, but this should be less than the alternatives. 

Furthermore, according to recent analysis from BloombergNEF, building new renewables is cheaper than burning fossil fuels. Rapidly increasing the use of renewable energy by 2030 could save up to USD 4.2 trillion per year worldwide, which is 15 times the associated costs of doubling the share of renewables. 

For others, the visual impact on the countryside might be the ‘cost’. They may feel that a nearby solar farm or wind turbine has no financial benefit to them, that project itself will not impact their energy bill and is merely a huge eye-soar. I understand that energy projects aren’t everyone’s idea of beauty, but they are a necessity if we are serious about decarbonising the UK. We must learn to accept them, particularly as the recent surge in energy prices are now hitting consumers’ wallets. 

Concerns over industrial-looking infrastructure being built in our countryside are not new. When electricity pylons were first developed in the early 20th century, there were objections to these too. A letter to The Times opposing the construction of pylons in Sussex in the 1920s, described them as nothing less than “the permanent disfigurement of a familiar feature of the English landscape.” Nowadays, we understand they are a necessity, and as such, they are accepted throughout the UK. It would be rare for anyone to so much as bat an eyelid at their presence. It might be hard to believe, but we will reach a time when the same is true of solar farms, wind turbines, and energy storage facilities. They’ll come to be appreciated in the same way. 

Next, let’s look at the impact of continuing to rely on fossil fuels 

It’s not a secret that the usage of fossil fuels is having an awful impact on the planet. Fossil fuels are a key producer of CO2 emissions, which rebounded by nearly 5% in 2021, from the drop during the pandemic in 2020. Over the long-term, this air pollution costs lives. 177,300 early deaths in 2019 were caused by air pollution and could have been avoided if EU countries met the new WHO guidelines. At the end of 2020, the first ever death with air pollution linked as the cause was recorded, in a landmark case. This will not be an isolated incident. 

In addition to literally costing lives, the cost of importing fossil fuels is vast. The gas crisis has meant that the UK has been more reliant on other countries to keep the ‘lights on’. New analysis from Ember reveals that UK electricity prices have tripled in the last year, with 86% of this attributed to the soaring cost of gas imports. Unpredictable weather and the increase in demand will only escalate this, and will ultimately mean higher energy prices for consumers. 

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