Open your minds to an energy future

People: Powering the Future conference at the John Innes centre. Simon Gray. Photo: Bill Smith

People: Powering the Future conference at the John Innes centre. Simon Gray. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

No-one wants to see gas and electric bills go through the ceiling.

No one wants to see energy companies returning exorbitant profits and paying 'fat cat' salaries

No one really wants a power station, solar farm, wind turbine or oil & gas well on their doorstep.

And no one wants to run out of energy – especially the sort which keeps the lights on, the ovens burning and the wheels of industry turning.

Just a few days without power for many during the October storm illustrated only too clearly the devastating impact it can have on our everyday lives.

It's salutary warning and, I'm afraid, one which confirms that if we all have what we want – we could end up without something we really need.

There is a price to pay for our energy supplies – and it's not all through the pocket. The more open-minded we can be about the future of energy supplies, the more likely they can be generated at a cost which is not totally prohibitive.

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Maybe it will mean having a turbine near your village, a solar farm over the hedge, a nuclear power station just down the road, a substation around the corner, cables running under fields, even pylons towering above them.

And, dare I say it, having to contemplate some 'fracking' in the search for accessible fuel within the UK. It's nothing new – it's just new to us and, of course, needs to be strictly controlled.

No suppliers can be allowed to ride roughshod over the emotions, concerns and sheer ability to pay off the consumer.

The move away from state energy (CEGB) started in the Thatcher years and created an array of private energy suppliers who now leave the customer with an option of chopping and changing to hunt down the best price possible.

But are the Big 6 making unreasonable profits while the trade and the domestic consumer struggles to pay? Electricity prices could double over the next 10 years while pay increases are below natural inflation.

My fear is manufacturing costs rising so much that it will mean downtime or even closure for business. Domestic consumers may struggle to keep their houses warm and lit.

Maybe it will all come down to political pressures - the sort which rightly brought about the green initiatives to reduce carbon emissions.

I'd love to have a magic wand to allay these concerns but there is a real world out there. It's one where we may have to be much more imaginative about alternative ways to get our power, where from, how we pay for it, and how the genuinely struggling are helped.

In return, we need a properly regulated and supervised energy world where its many rewards and riches are ploughed back into a sustainable industry that will support us for many generations ahead.