• Jason Nisse

The truth about energy - we can handle it

I’ve been involved in communications for the energy sector for more than a decade – nuclear, fracking, wind, tidal, energy from waste and biofuels, I’ve been there. And in that time I’ve seen project after project fail leaving the UK staring a massive energy crisis in the face.

The collapse of the Wylfa nuclear development is as depressing as it was predictable, and follows the rejection of the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, the slow progress and stalling over fracking, the inertia over onshore wind and more. There are some bright spots in areas like biofuels and offshore wind, but the overall picture is of not enough being developed.

Why? Lack of communication.

There is a failure – primarily of Government, but to a certain extend of energy developers - to give the unvarnished truth and explain why local communities need to host energy projects and why the nation as a whole needs to pay for them.

So here are a few of the issues and a few possible solutions:

  1. The “either/or” syndrome. Too much of the energy debate is couched in either this or that. Green campaigners say “invest in renewables not fracking” ignoring that in the US renewable investment has soared in the midst of a shale gas boom. We need all energy sources (apart from coal) and the Government has to show leadership to support everything, not pick winners;

  2. Understandable Nimbyism. Do you want a power station in your town? Probably not. That’s why we need to communicate the benefits, along with real and upfront financial incentives. Its no use telling people they might get a few quid in 20 years’ time – make inconvenience payments at the construction phase. I worked on the nuclear repository project in the mid-2000s and we’d agreed a deal with the local council in Cumbria to site it, but HM Treasury vetoed the upfront payments so the project failed. A dozen years later there is still no solution to the long-term storage of nuclear waste;

  3. Innovation. We seem to be hung up on big, hairy, audacious projects which cost a fortune and have a terrible track record of being delivered on time and on budget. Hinkley Point C is a massively expensive gamble on technology which EDF has failed to deliver in France and Finland. Swansea tidal bay was a massively expensive gamble on…do I need to go on. There are lots of more manageable, earlier to deliver project that desperately need to be developed;

  4. Do it ourselves. We need to own the problem and be brave. If you want the British people to support energy projects, then don’t ask the Chinese, Japanese, French or whomever to build them. We need to be proud of our own technology and innovation;

  5. Stop talking about the lights. Energy is about heating, cooking, powering industry, charging your phone, watching Netflix and much much more. When the Government promotes electric cars, it doesn’t talk about the additional infrastructure needed to charge them. Get real and communicate properly.

Under Theresa May, energy has been downgraded as a priority in Government. Maybe Wylfa is a wake-up call, but I fear not. Someone has to be bold and grasp this nettle.

We need to tell the truth about energy – the public can handle it.

but I fear not. Someone has to be bold and grasp this nettle.

We need to tell the truth about energy – the public can handle it.

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