At @Bristol yesterday morning (23rd April) an extremely important report 'The Power to Transform the South West' was unveiled. The report (commissioned by Green MEP Molly Scott-Cato and researched and written by the Resilience Centre) outlines the amazing capacity of the South West to exceed all of its own energy needs, and become an exporter of energy to the rest of the UK; by investing in the transition to a diversified renewable energy system.
The report draws together the great wealth of studies on the potential of various renewable energy sources that already exists, and draws them into a comprehensive plan of what an entirely fossil free South West would look like. This covers everything from energy storage and transmission, required infrastructural and grid upgrades, and of course the potential (and requirements) of each different renewable energy source across the region.
Special emphasis is placed on the economic impact of implementing the plan, which has the potential to create 122,000 jobs in the region (where unemployment numbers 126,000) and directly add over £4.2 billion to value of the local economy (48% the total value of the South West’s tourism industry, or 87% of the total value of its aerospace and defence industries). A mix of onshore and offshore wind, marine and tidal, solar, geothermal and biomass dispersed across the region can meet all our long term energy needs; and provide full employment and a vital economic boost in these tough times of austerity. This is the kind of long term investment that governments need to be spending on to provide jobs and security as well as protecting our environment. Instead support for renewables is cut and investment in the public good in general is slashed as our government endlessly pursues self-defeating austerity.
Molly described the German Energiewende Energy Transition that has seen the country rapidly move to an energy sector driven by renewables. As Molly said the South West has even greater potential then most of Germany. It is not that we lack the physical capability to implementing this plan; it is just that we lack the political will. In Germany much of the change has been driven by local community owned and cooperative energy initiatives taking over their local energy networks and implementing the transition themselves.
This would be harder to replicate in Britain with our extreme centralisation of power; but it’s clear if we want to have this transition that both our communities and our environment so desperately needs then political change has to happen. Luckily we have the chance this May to elect more Green MPs and contribute to that change. But unfortunately even with a few more Green MPs our political system is so unresponsive to change we're unlikely to be able to implement the transition quickly enough. That's why we need strong local and national campaigns making the case for this alternative to austerity and strengthening the hand of any representation we manage to elect. This report is an invaluable tool for winning that argument and gives a blueprint for the kind of change we want and need.
This is the bold alternative to austerity the Green Party offers voters this may. This shows our regional part of a Green New Deal that would invest in renewable energy infrastructure and production, a massive program of social house construction, insulation, and investment in our public services and communities to give our economy the fiscal stimulus it needs and to rebalance it in the interests of ordinary people and our planet. As Tony Dyer said:
Investment in renewable energy for the South West not only offers the prospect of a safe and secure energy future but also offers the real potential to deliver full employment by creating 122,000 green jobs. This illustrates perfectly the Green Party’s alternative to austerity; supporting substantial investment in the renewable energy sector in order to rebuild and future proof our economy and energy supply.
The time for action is long overdue. Fossil fuels will run out eventually and when it does we’ll have to completely change our energy system anyway. The major problem in that scenario is that we need to leave at least 80% of known fossil fuels in the ground if we are to have any chance of avoiding warming the globe by more than 2 degrees and enacting climate catastrophe. We must act now, before it is too late, to save our environment, enrich our economy and communities, and safeguard our long term energy needs.
Andrew Clarke, Environment, Energy and Strategy Consultant for the Resilience Centre outlined the vital role this report could play in helping pave the way for our transition:
This report provides the renewable energy industry in the South West the evidence it needs to demonstrate the benefits that it can bring to the region’s economy and the thousands of new jobs it can create. For too long authorities have been courted by the quick fix of large scale nuclear and dazzled by seemingly extravagant job creation figures.
Let them now be dazzled by our local, safe and reliable renewable sector and the money it puts back into local people's pockets in salaries and reducing energy imports.
Darren Hall (the Green parliamentary candidate tipped to win Bristol West) explained how renewable energy is not only the Green choice, but also the smart economic choice, providing one of the few secure long term investments in our current economic climate:
Bristol is already home to a number of fantastic community energy cooperatives, not only generating power, but also a healthy return on investment for the hundreds of local shareholders who have supported them. Reading this report alongside the Green Party’s pledge to help insulate homes across the UK, shows that we have the ability to dramatically reduce people’s bills, create warm homes, and help combat climate change. It seems to me that only those with vested interests in fossil fuels and nuclear would argue against this.