Subject: Electricity
Original: August 2020
Author: Mark Collins
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Recently the EPC rating of my house was reduced from E to G. The Government’s latest laws regarding rental property mean that, unless exempt, you cannot rent a property with a rating below E. Although I do not rent my house, I am selling it and do not wish to preclude people who might wish to rent it.

So, why was it downgraded? Although it is an old property with no cavity and only part double glazed, it rated E when I bought it, but since then I have installed a new electric boiler after the gas boiler failed. Wishing to be environmentally responsible, I thought I would do my bit and bring the house up to that latest green credentials.

Unfortunately, electricity is a horribly expensive way of heating your home, in my case probably two to three times the cost of gas. Furthermore, the electric boiler has barely the capacity to heat the property properly anyway.

I am penalised for doing the right environment thing and I will now undo it and put a gas boiler back in its place. An expensive interlude as the electric installation was very costly and I will discard most of that investment, not to mention the high cost of my electricity bills.

However, the main point here is the ridiculous cost of electricity. If we are to have any hope of having any real impact on the environmental problem, we must use electricity as our main energy source, even if we store it for use in vehicles, we need it to be available in significant quantities in the first place.

Decades of limited investment in electricity generation and distribution and the focus on profits to commercial enterprise rather than the proper environmental strategy for the future has left us with a woefully inadequate national grid with insufficient production, even for today’s requirements. We are even dependent upon buying in electricity from abroad through cables under the sea, which is expensive, inefficient and leaves supply at risk if our providers choose to switch us off.

We need a substantial upgrade to generation capability if we are to have any hope of providing what we need to power all these vehicles and to heat our homes with electricity. We also need to extensively improve the distribution network as it probably does not have the capacity to deliver the increased loads we should be anticipating.

If we are to have any hope of encouraging people to transfer, we have to make electricity much cheaper. At the moment it is by far the most expensive way of heating by a considerable margin. It has to be much more attractive financially to have any real impact.

Our national strategy for electricity generation and distribution has been totally lacking for a very long time as ageing coal fired power stations have been decommissioned and only one new nuclear power station in development. We still burn a lot of gas and oil, despite now having a major capability in renewables, but this is simply nowhere near adequate to meet the potential needs of the future as we become increasingly dependent upon electricity for all our energy requirements.

We need a significant programme of R&D in nuclear power generation to create new technologies that will deliver lower cost, higher efficiency and ultimately to produce the domestic nuclear power source to replace our wall-mounted gas boilers. We need a huge building programme to provide more generating capacity and this will have to be accompanied by extensive expansion of the grid and the regional distribution network which will have to be upgraded to provide the power demands of the future.

Before all that though, electricity must become a lot cheaper, especially for applications such as heating where the cost justification compared with gas and even oil, is so poor. This is unlikely to be achieved while the electricity generation and distribution is a commercial enterprise for profit and we are forced into extremely poor value deals with the Chinese to build our new nuclear facilities. Yet another example of the failure of purely free market enterprise in the context of the nation’s strategic needs.

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