Waiting for winter

In December last year the Met Office predicted that this year was going to be warmer than usual with the global average temperature in 2014 expected to be between 0.43 °C and 0.71 °C above the long-term (1961-1990) average of 14.0 °C. It is still too early to see if they are right but if Bonfire Night was anything to go by it has been warm. Wearing t-shirts and shorts on the 5th? Unbelievable.

Governments have been squeezed to do more. Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott came under pressure to cut the country’s emissions much further than the government has planned after the European Union moved to set a new target of 40% by 2030. Abbott’s government has said it will discuss a post-2020 target early next year and came under more pressure this month at the G20 summit, which was held in Brisbane.

So what is happening in the UK? The fragile Libdem-Conservative coalition seems to be buckling as next General Election draws near there is unrest in the Libdem ranks about working in a coalition. For instance, my MP, Norman Baker has stepped down from his ministerial post citing difficulties he has had working with the Tories such as Theresa May.

As I previously posted few trust the Lib-Dems now after their u-turn on nuclear and the European Commission’s decision to approve massive subsidies to support EDF Energy’s planned nuclear project at Hinkley. This has drawn ire from many including Greenpeace’s Andrea Carta: “Only a year ago the Commission said that Hinkley was “in principle incompatible under EU State aid rules, Now, under pressure from the UK government and French nuclear operator EDF, the Commission is preparing to perform a U-turn.

“European Commissioners should oppose the plan and resist rushing through a controversial and far-reaching decision in the dying days of this Commission.”

So, with the dissatisfaction with Lib-Dem/Tory alliance what is the alternative? Labour? Maybe? There is anonymous, divisive chatter amongst some Labour MPs unhappy with Milliband’s leadership and they want a new leader. But a leadership battle now would be political own goal  just months before an election wouldn’t it?

So if Milliband stays what would it mean for energy? Labour have not come out strongly for or against nuclear power. There are other ways to cut carbon emissions: the cost of renewable energy is going down, coal generators are greening up and there are great hopes for another Nordic link to hydropower. But will doing all that be enough to arrest global warming? Whatever action is to be taken it must be taken immediately and decisively. Alternatively we could all buy shorts and t-shirts.

Dominic Maclaine is an EPG Associate and used to be the editor of New Power before he sold the business. He conducted PhD research into electricity supply competition in the UK and Norway at SPRU. He was previously the editor of the monthly newsletter Power UK published by Platts (and previously the Financial Times). He is currently writing a book about recent developments in the UK electricity market, to be published by Routledge.

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