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Carbon and the energy price crisis... we need to talk!

CEC discusses the energy crisis' current state and how renewable energy is intrinsic to solving the problem...

Over the recent months, energy has become a hot topic of conversation although perhaps not for all the right reasons... Among the news headlines, the overriding rhetoric points to cost, as electricity prices aggressively hike up on a record scale, putting 25 energy companies into administration, millions of homes into fuel poverty and even reducing parents all over the country to skipping meals so they can afford to feed their children. And as the summer months draw out, winter looms heavy and millions angst over how they will have the money to heat their homes later this year.

There are a few reasons for the elevations in electricity prices. At a high level, it’s a simple issue of supply and demand on the global wholesale market. In early 2021, a cold winter in Europe and a conversely hot summer in Asia led to an exceptional over-consumption of gas to heat people’s homes or fuel air-conditioning units. Then, in February, Russia invaded Ukraine and forced global leaders to place restrictions on the nation’s oil and gas imports, among other goods. The combination of the two has created a perfect storm – a severe global dip in supply – forcing providers to charge more for their products to compensate, leaving the end consumer (both residential and industrial) in a tough position.

Whilst it’s perhaps less straight-forward to predict the future of the geopolitical impact on oil and gas prices, one thing is for certain – global temperatures are becoming more extreme due to climate change. The 2021 winter will not be an isolated case and is likely to worsen unless drastic changes are made to consumer behaviour. Rather than fight the battle of trying to reduce the electricity we need, why not change where it comes from?

The solution therefore is a carbon alternative – more investment in renewables. We need to concentrate on utilising the resources we have at our disposal to power our homes and industries.

The technology is already available to us. Renewable sources of energy have become increasingly commonplace in the UK over the past 20 years, with wind and solar at the front. What started out as a contentious topic due to the high cost, invasive landscape appearance and, against carbon, comparative inefficiency of electricity generation, has become an attractive and obvious solution to the climate emergency. Now, add in geopolitical tensions with Russia and the recent soaring in electricity prices and we have ourselves an essential about-turn in approach to how and from where we consume our energy.

We also have increasing pressure from government and activists to commit to climate targets. Following last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, and the Paris agreement in 2015, the UK has witnessed a macroeconomic shift to green commitments with over half of the FTSE100 now committed to eliminating their contribution to climate change by 2050.

All these companies require electricity to operate in some capacity even if just to heat and light their offices. When we consider though the energy demands of the majority of these businesses, it goes far beyond just heat and light… vast cooling systems for Cloud and Hyperscale data centres; machine powering for industrial manufacturing sites such as paper, plastic and steel and huge refrigeration units for major supermarkets. We live in an age where electricity is increasingly impossible to avoid, and we can no longer rely on carbon as its fuel source.

If we are going to survive the current energy crisis and take action to mitigate further destruction from climate change, we need to take a different approach – an extraction of energy from a power source which is not only clean but freely available...that surely makes any other option seem redundant.

Tilly Wickens


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