Guernsey Press

Why be a world leader?

Unless we are willing to adopt the real gold standard and go back to basics, any attempts to mitigate climate change are merely well intentioned virtue signalling, says Horace Camp


JUST how low can green activists get? I mean protesting at someone’s wedding is surely stooping too low even for Just Stop Oil. Just because George Osborne once, sensibly, suggested that the UK hit its emission targets as cheaply as possible and ‘no faster nor slower’ than the EU is absolutely no reason to target him as some sort of climate change denier.

I very much hope that our own politicians, when they wake up from their afternoon naps, will have the sense to approach the debate on the Electricity Strategy with George’s words ringing in their ears. After all, we are already mostly using sustainable green power and Guernsey Electricity has the certificates to prove it.

The electricity debate therefore is just about a greenless one. It centres on capacity, energy security and cost with no real ideological or moral issues clouding the water. We have already ticked that box.

It appears from the policy letter that our consumption of electricity is going to shoot up in years to come. This surprised me because everything now seems to use a lot less electricity than it used to. I wonder if the extra output is needed to cope with the move towards electric cars? Plus our ancient infrastructure may not be up to eventually coping with 40,000 electric cars plugging into the grid at twenty past five each evening.

Then there will be the heat pumps replacing gas and oil heating. I expect 20,000 of them will suck a fair old bit of power out of the grid. One way or another, upscaling the supply and upgrading the infrastructure supplying it to our door isn’t going to be cheap. Guernsey Electricity is sort of a commercial concern and therefore shouldn’t be looking to the States of Guernsey to put any money up front. A bit like Thames Water, it will have to load itself with debt, underwritten by the taxpayer, to provide the power we believe we will need in the future.

Someone has to pay for it all eventually. Undoubtedly that will be the user, you and me. We will be supplied with electricity at a cost made up of a margin over the wholesale price, debt repayment and debt interest. I somehow can’t see any new strategy providing us with cheaper electricity (plus standing charges) than we ‘enjoy’ now.

There will be fantastic promises. The giant wind turbines that will be outlined against the setting sun at Cobo while you are sitting on the wall eating your chips are bound to be promoted as producing almost free energy. I’ve heard it all before. I can’t quite recall whether it was Blue Peter or Tomorrow’s World which announced that the cost of nuclear power would be so low the stamp on the bill would cost more than the amount being billed.

Well, we are the beneficiaries of nuclear power and I doubt the States of Guernsey issues a postage stamp with a notional value greater than my quarterly electricity bill. If in the debate fantastic predictions on the cost per unit in 20 years’ time are made, then you can take it from me that it will indeed be pure fantasy.

I’m not quite certain why it is so important for the Assembly to be setting the strategic path for the quasi independent Guernsey Electricity to take. As far as we are concerned, in our small, expensive, island we need reliable energy, preferably sustainable and as cheap as it possibly can be.

The States should also make it clear that no taxpayer money will be injected into GEL to make it happen. The best it can do is stand as a guarantor for the debt required. Ultimately, electricity has to be paid for by the user. Speaking of the user, has anyone worked out what standing charge will be necessary to pay for the upgrading of the infrastructure to accommodate car charging ports? Let’s have no nonsense about doing it for ‘free’ to encourage more electric vehicles.

The whole ‘zero emissions’ thing is well intentioned virtue signalling to help ease the minds of people destroying the planet that they are in fact ‘doing their bit’. I’m not quite sure what emissions are being nullified by the Guernsey Financial Commission planting 50,000 trees in Scotland because it certainly isn’t connected to electricity usage, which is already low carbon.

I’m sorry to say, people, but we just don’t believe in climate change mitigation enough to adopt the real gold standard. Imagine Guernsey leading the world in eliminating emissions. The first thing we would do is close the airport and scrap the Aurigny planes. We couldn’t sell them for fear someone else would put fossil fuel in them.

Holidays both in and out would have to use tall ships reliant solely upon the wind. In the past, with adverse winds the crossing could literally take weeks. So make sure you give yourself plenty of time for connecting flights.

Of course food deliveries could be hit and miss in the winter but we have managed on very little before and could do it again. At least we would have cow’s milk. And with vegans and plant milk-drinkers aplenty there should be enough real milk for the rest of us. Perhaps even a morsel of cheese?

Cars of course would have to go. Alright electric cars have low emissions but that overlooks the emissions from manufacture, destruction and replacing tyres. Bicycles may be better than horses as an alternative but obviously walking is the preferred option.

Clothes would need very careful consideration given that more than 60% are made from fossil fuels. I expect we will grow a lot of flax and make our own linen clothes. Wooden clogs are sustainable and would go well with our linens.

You see, folks, we are all polluters. I wonder if the JSO lady at Osborne’s wedding was wearing a polyester dress. We will never give up everything to save our planet so any token changes can never be regarded as the gold standard.

In all things green, we should give our representative a clear message that we support the idea, do not want to be a world leader and, most importantly, want it done as cheaply as possible. They won’t listen of course but it doesn’t do any harm to try.