Is it that easy being green

THE curse of copy deadlines mean that as I write this I have no idea how the Education debate went and who has been declared the winner. No matter what the outcome the losers will be the people of Guernsey who once again will be forced into a single-issue election campaign because the ‘losers’ of whatever cause will seek to overturn the decision by filling the Assembly with like-minded deputies.

(Picture by Shutterstock)
(Picture by Shutterstock)

If you remember that’s what happened four years ago when the 11-plus dominated the election and led to a completely wrong mix of deputies being elected. Looks like we’ve learnt nothing since then but, hey ho, it’s too late to do anything about it now.

That’s why I was so happy to be distracted away from Education by a perplexing announcement by Guernsey Electricity telling us that we were no longer purchasing nuclear-generated electricity but had found a way of buying only premium, green renewable energy instead.

Possibly because I have received very little formal education (only 12 years in the system) and took my last national examination in 1972, I had no idea that electricity in the European grid could be separated so easily. Well I never.

The French are damnably clever people, eh?

But because I like to get to the bottom of things which perplex me it became an obsession to work out exactly how they do it. Are charged renewable-generated particles bigger than nuclear-generated ones and by using a very fine filter can be separated from the less desirable stuff?

Though I failed my physics O-level, even I thought that was most unlikely. Not being able to solve it on my own I turned to my social media friends for assistance. I even approached @guernseyelectricity for information. After a series of exchanges it turned out that we are still buying the general mix of electricity, which is probably mostly nuclear generated because the nuclear generation is the nearest option to us. We convert it by paying extra for some certificates linked to renewable energy produced somewhere else and being used by someone else.

So somewhere in France there will be people living next to a hydro-electricity plant and actually using renewable energy but because the certificate has been sold to us they have to accept the guilt of using nuclear-generated energy. I wonder if they know?

If you are still not clear how it all works then I will share with you an analogy posted by @previe on Twitter. ‘Yes Madame, your steak is organically reared... well, the one on your plate isn’t but you’re paying for one that actually is organic somewhere else. I hope that eases your conscience. Shall I add a green tax gratuity to your bill?’

Do you get it now?

A bit more googling revealed that the ‘greenifying’ of energy is quite common and in some cases is as close as you can legally get to a scam. For instance, a gas supplier in the UK offers a Green Gas tariff, obviously at a premium. By paying that not so little extra they can turn up the gas heating without in any way undermining their principles as signed up Extinction Rebellion white-faced and red-robed dancers.

All well and good but just how does it work? Well, by buying carbon credits, or better still very cheap energy certificates, for say a couple of pounds per household per year, they can ramp up the tariff and turn those pounds into substantially more for the shareholder.

Made me wonder if the energy certificate route could be a way for electric cars to be subsidised.

Here’s how I think it could work.

Electric car owners would issue Certificates of Penance in exchange for financial remuneration. The buyers would be people who can afford to buy the certificates, cannot afford to buy an EV but feel a sense of shame driving their fossil fuel guzzling SUV on the daily school run.

By displaying the certificate on the windscreen the driver can legitimately claim to be using green energy derived from renewable sources. The latter is a legitimate claim because GEL is buying certificates to prove it is supplying renewable electricity.

The Certificate of Penance would be especially useful for buses. Even though it may seem that diesel fumes are being expelled, the certificate can prove definitively that the vehicles are as green as Deputy de Lisle. Premium Virtue Signalling for only a few pennies a litre.

And what about the EV owner who has issued the certificate? Well it works for them as well. Firstly, the extra cash from the certificate sale may have been enough to convert one fossil fuel driver to clean electric. Which can only be good, eh?

Secondly, the EV driver will give enough of the impression of smugness to be waved through any XR roadblock in the UK and there will be no requirement for the EV to display any sign that it should be regarded as a dirty fossil fuel, planet killer.

There may be other uses of Penance Certificates. Perhaps innocent people could sell certificates to criminals which can be used to erase crimes from police checks? Or non drivers, such as myself, could issue certificates to drivers and take on the guilt of polluting the planet for fairly modest remuneration?

I’m all for legitimately fighting climate change but I’m not a great supporter of schemes, devices and smoke and mirrors designed to mostly create profit and not to encourage a change of lifestyles.

From my limited research I doubt if Guernsey Electricity is paying much to back its 100% renewables claim, but be it £10,000 or £100,000 I would rather that money was spent here doing something real rather than being sent to a private company in France for the benefit of its shareholders.

We buy nuclear energy, we use nuclear energy, nuclear energy isn’t regarded as bad, so let’s pay for nuclear energy and if we have to make a green gesture then let’s do it here by planting some trees or installing some solar panels.

Let’s say no to smug virtue signalling and tackle the problem for real.

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