3 minutes reading time (652 words)

Good Reasons for Sceptics and Deniers to Support Renewables

A perspective from Sustainability First’s Chair of Trustees
The vast majority of the thousands of scientists around the world who have studied climate change confirm that man is by far the most likely culprit and that the problem has to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The 2015 Paris Climate Summit with around 200 nations represented also accepted this position, and the pressing nature of the threat.   Despite the now high level of agreement, there are still a number of sceptics and deniers who are often given airtime for views that often have little basis in scientific evidence.

However, there are good reasons to support a shift to renewable energy and cutting emissions, which should convince even the most contrary of the contrarians to support a new approach to energy supply. An economy based on renewables would herald wider changes, especially by giving communities more control.

A shift to renewables has a number of collateral benefits:

First, renewable energy not only produces fewer greenhouse gases, but is also far less polluting at local level. Smog in China and the levels of nitrous oxide and particulates in urban environments across Europe have recently been recognised as real threats to health. The simple fact of the matter is that burning of fossil fuels adds to the pollution of all environments to a greater or lesser extent and increasingly poses a real threat to human health.

Second, a switch to renewables also changes the whole nature of power distribution and depends upon much more localised production. This shifts us away from the top down grid system and gives power back (literally) to individuals, social enterprises and communities. This is especially important in developing countries and rural areas where power grids either do not exist or connection is prohibitively expensive. Renewables can actually become part of the local economy. It also engages people in their local environment and begins to reconnect them to natural processes which have been lost in much of our recent development.  A lot of the sceptics and deniers seem to disapprove of state intervention and support calls for a ‘smaller state’ – well here is their chance to commit to the devolution of power.

Third, renewables make us far less dependent upon large scale regional, national and international supply systems and provide us with a greater level of energy security. A large number of small community-based schemes feeding up into a grid are less susceptible than top-down schemes which are entirely dependent upon national and international economic and political change. It is of course also the case that some renewables are part of large-scale schemes and these should be welcomed too, but they will be part of a different mix of provision.

Fourthly, a disaggregated power system will spill over and create a wider community awareness and ownership of a range of environmental issues. This will help generate support for more localised systems of water storage and use, an interest in the production and disposal of waste, and greener transport systems. It may also lead to the development of localised energy storage which is still in its infancy but is rapidly developing. For example, the London Borough of Camden has recently commissioned solar battery-charging schemes, and both Tesla and Mercedes Benz have announced the sale of home battery storage systems.

The local potential of small-scale schemes and citizen involvement has been recognised by some cities at least. Bristol has established the Smart Energy City Collaboration to manage local energy supply and demand and enhance the value of heat and power generated in the city, particularly from variable sources like wind, solar and tidal.

The potential for renewables to reduce local pollution levels, improve energy security, change the whole system of supply and demand and improve local ownership of environmental issues – as well as tackle climate change – is huge. Even the climate change sceptics and deniers should be convinced!

Ted Cantle

Keeping future energy and water bills affordable
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