Should Cities Invest In Renewable Energy Projects? What's Stopping Them?

A leading UK think tank group, IPPR, who are dedicated to analysing Government policy and trends throughout the country, have commented on benefits that cities could enjoy if they were to invest in green energy. With consumers hopelessly dependent on the 'big six' energy suppliers, wouldn't it be wonderful if local cities could compete with them, both on delivery and price points?


The IPPR's report claims that cities and consumers are missing out on incredible benefits by not investing. At a time when the Competition and Markets authority are actively investigating leading energy suppliers, it seems like there'd be no better time to stir up some competition and break their monopoly. Energy UK, who reprensent the interests of energy companies in Britain, even said that "consumers would welcome more competition". So what hasn't this happened yet?




The report is a deep one. It goes into incredible levels of detail surrounding energy usage and CO2 emissions in busy cities. According to IPPR, cities account for a staggering two thirds of the world's energy consumption and are responsible for 70% of emissions worldwide. They argue, convincingly, that fine tuning policies specifically for cities could make a huge difference to the amount of energy we consume or generate, and the pollution we emit globally. More importantly perhaps, they site consumer cost as something which could plummit should cities start investing and making the changes necessary. 


This is hard to visualise really. As an example, we might want to consider Munich in Germany. Munich has itself a target to supply the entire municipality of 1 million consumers with renewable electricity by the end of 2025. Right now, the city has spent around £700m on reaching its target, and is expected to fork out another £8 billion or so to deliver. If Munich can do it, why can't other cities across Europe? It's mutually beneficial to both the city itself, who can profiteer and create new revenue streams, and to consumers who are given more options when it comes to choosing their energy supplier. There's also the small matter of saving the planet in the process. The director of IPPR, Nick Pearce, said, "


"Around the world, cities are spearheading the transformation that must occur in the energy sector. Local generation technologies like solar and medium-scale wind are radically transforming how energy systems operate, bringing to an end the dominance of centralised generation and distribution. This will create a system which is more diverse and competitive."


More diverse and competitive is precisely what our country needs when it comes to energy suppliers.


So how will energy be made more affordable than it is now?

Bristol has some huge plans in the pipeline. They aim to install one gigawatt of solar electricity panels before the end of the decade, and Aberdeen have dreams of running busses on hydrogen produced by using spare energy from wind farms. This is the kind of stuff the IPPR's report focuses on and it's exactly the kind of thinking we need to start making a difference. In the words of the report, "Britain's cities could transform efforts to create a cleaner, smarter and more affordable energy system." Energy UK talked of the part local authorities had already played in getting where we are today, but also said that more could be done and consumers would welcome any move that brought choice and diversity to a sector which has become somewhat stale and oppressive.  We need to be thinking about serious alternatives to the big six energy suppliers and it begins with energy generation. The head of Manchester City Council, Richard Lease, said, "This report highlights something we have known for a long time - that the energy market needs to be shaken up and city regions can provide a serious alternative to the big six." Hear, hear. 


And energy bills?

It's simple market forces. More diversity and competition will stimulate the market and prices will fall as companies compete for customers. What we're essentially talking about here is turning our cities into energy suppliers, helping to slash fuel poverty and insulate thousands of homes. Furthermore, it's highly likely that profits made on energy distribution by various regions could be reinvested locally, helping to fill in the inefficient gaps and bring everyone up to the same energy-saving level. 




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