There has never been a state handout that the Tories didn’t love… except of course those that favour the poor. This is why, among the raft of cuts to benefits and public services that are forcing the most vulnerable into penury, they cut the “Green Deal” that aimed both to cut carbon emissions and lower demand for energy during the lean winter months.
Having got rid of the Green Deal – and much of the subsidy that was helping to develop the UK renewable energy industry – the government had to do something to keep the lights on until the new golden age of UK fracking delivers the age old promise of energy too cheap to measure. Their solution – in true Tory fashion – was the inevitable public handout to corporate interests. More than £5 million has been doled out to such needy causes as Sainsbury’s (who got £830,000), Dixons and Carphone Warehouse to install energy efficient lighting in their stores.
Britain’s “energy crunch” – its serious lack of generating capacity – has left us at risk of winter blackouts. To prevent the loss of domestic supply, the National Grid is operating a system in which big business users are disconnected (and compensated) first in the event of a spike in demand. State handouts to the big high street stores are intended to reduce the odds of this happening by curbing energy demand.
Paying corporations to do something that they would have done anyway is about the most stupid way of reducing energy demand; but it does guarantee government some quick green energy points. But as such diverse critics as Labour and the Taxpayers Alliance point out, there are better and fairer ways of cutting demand for energy. Labour’s Lisa Nandy, shadow energy secretary says:
“Instead of spending taxpayers’ money paying Sainsbury’s to change their light bulbs, ministers should be supporting lasting schemes like home insulation that cut emissions and cut household bills.”
While Jonathan Isaby from the the TaxPayers’ Alliance says:
“Ministers need to stop messing around with silly schemes like this and create a decent investment climate so that generation capacity can be increased before the lights go out.”
The simple truth is that before you can have energy efficiency, you have to generate actual energy. Paying people to install LED lighting while scrapping renewables and closing coal-fired power stations is like switching from a petrol to a diesel car during an oil embargo… you still ain’t going anywhere!