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Bright Blue runs a number of Think Forums. These are spaces for those on the centre-right to come together to chat about politics and policy. Peter Kirby-Harris, who coordinates the Energy and Climate Change Forum, reports on the forum’s discussions.

Most of what has been presented, mooted and acted on in recent years to address the energy challenges we face have fallen short of what is required. The time has come to reconsider these challenges and to ask what system of energy we want to have over the next century. Targets, mechanisms, incentives and taxes are useful but only if included in a broader strategy that is transformatory by nature.

We have concluded that the following areas need to be addressed:

Firstly, nuclear power needs to be rehabilitated and the new methods of delivery for this energy source need a fair public airing, free from stigma, taboo and its history of association with nuclear weapons. New designs for reactors such as those running on Thorium or from uranium from decommissioned warheads ought to be considered alongside existing designs such as the EPR. For further information about a potential nuclear renaissance, a viewing of Pandora’s Promise is essential.

Secondly, decentralised energy production from local communities and rural areas needs to be given equal access to the grid as the centrally produced energy from power stations. A new smart grid introduced across the length and breadth of the country would do much to resolve this issue while maintaining energy security and competition. The capacity for local market forces in deploying the huge variety of new technology that has been developed over the past decades is critical.

Thirdly, funding needs to be better allocated. Small, medium and large sources of potential production need to be linked more effectively with relevant financing opportunities. Some new electricity and heat producing technologies that have come into being in the past two decades have now reached an impasse. New designs for solar panels, wind turbines, hydro-electric systems, both large and small, cannot come online without better funding mechanisms. Better funding connects R&D to actual deployment. Only once deployed can the economies of scale emerge which will allow this new technology to form part of the UK’s low-carbon energy mix.

Fourthly, prioritisation of social engagement is essential to a coherent, long-term energy and climate policy. If there is no acceptance of a given technology from communities, then the build of new energy infrastructure will be delayed, threatening investment in the market. Private concerns should be equated with public concerns if the government is to gain the public support necessary for pursuing climate and energy solutions.

Developing a scientifically sound policy process, highlighting new energy options, a more ecologically aware political class and the acceptance of a large number of hard truths are all parts of a larger issue: that of how we can be prosperous and productive while living within both our economic and ecological limits. The promotion of an optimistic debate can serve to engage people on these issues. With the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris less than 18 months away, the time to be talking is now.

To attend the next meeting of the Energy and Climate Change Forum, RSVP here