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Energy Crunch: Profits soar while temperatures fall

Photo credit: Michael of Scott/flickr

 Three things you shouldn't miss this week

  1. 'Greenest government ever' or 'green crap': which way will David Cameron jump? - A tug of war between the Treasury and the Prime Minister, andthe autumn statement will reveal which side is winning.
  2. As the Warsaw climate talks end, the hard work is just beginning  - Delegates have been packed off and their homework is to prepare their country's emission reduction plan by early 2015
  3. Methane emissions in US probably top estimates: study - US emissions of methane - a greenhouse gas - are probably 50 percent higher than current estimates show, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Last winter was the coldest for nearly 50 years. 31,000 excess deaths were attributed to the weather – up almost 30% from 12 months previously – and yet this year two thirds of households are planning to turn their heating down. If only this was down to a successful retrofitting programme.
While energy company profits soar, major investments in renewables are being cancelled as politicians continue their slanging match over the future of ‘green taxes’. Even the fate of the much-criticised Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) energy efficiency scheme – giving free home insulation to low income households -  now apparently hangs in the balance.
International developments have been perhaps even less edifying. At the COP19 climate meeting in Poland – sponsored by a coal-fired power generator- the host country’s environment minister was sacked for holding up fracking. Australia and Japan backpedalled on previous commitments and attending NGOs walked out in disgust at the lack of progress. Again, little wonder: countries could only agree to work on ‘contributions’ rather than ‘commitments’ towards a deal in Paris in 2015.
Back in Britain, the Chancellor’s autumn statement next Thursday should reveal the outcome of Coalition in-fighting over energy policy. Rumour is that the ECO scheme will remain, but delivery will be slowed by 50%.
Former Energy Secretary Chris Huhne argues taking energy efficiency measures away from the Big Six altogether might improve matters, so long as overall funding is maintained. As he says, “insisting energy companies save energy is as difficult as persuading pubs to sell less beer”.  But given the terrible performance of energy efficiency schemes so far – especially compared to Germany and Scandinavia – surely it is time for a radically new model?


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