Letters: ‘The UK energy system is broken’

Dear Orkney News,

The fact that developers and households in Orkney are being refused new electricity connections, or being left waiting months for them, is merely the latest piece of evidence that the UK’s privatised energy system is broken beyond repair.

Having been involved in lobbying UK energy regulator Ofgem, and the UK Government departments in charge of energy policy for over a decade now, I know there is no quick fix to these situations. Back in 2015, when Highlands & Islands energy groups tried to persuade Ofgem to equalise distribution costs across the UK, we came up against a brick wall.

The UK regulator told us that introducing a national pricing charge would see a relatively small number of households – 0.7 million, including us in Orkney – benefit from reduced bills, while a much larger number of households – 1.8 million in the rest of Scotland – would see increased costs.

As a result, Orkney folk, along with our Highlands and Islands neighbours, continue to pay more for electricity than anywhere else in the UK despite the fact we are net exporters of clean, green electricity.

The Ofgem stance was that their vulnerability strategy should be used to direct support in particular to off-gas communities that suffer most, using the Hydro Benefit Replacement Scheme (HBRS) and other strategies.

However, campaigners across the Highlands & Islands have repeatedly lobbied for the HBRS to be strengthened to make it fit for purpose, but to no avail. Back in 2016 it was calculated that the HBRS gave an average bill reduction of around £41 per year, a virtually meaningless amount as we head towards another damaging energy price cap hike on 1st October, forecast to take annual bills beyond £3000 – and in Orkney’s case probably heading over £4000.

I would challenge our Lib Dem representatives at UK and Scottish Parliament level to tell the Orkney electorate how staying with this broken energy system will benefit the islands. Even as Secretary of State for Scotland, and with his Lib Dem colleague Ed Davey as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Alistair Carmichael couldn’t secure a new interconnector for Orkney while in the ConDem Coalition of 2010-15.

The bottom line is that we are too far away and too small a number of voters for Westminster to care. If this is the best that the UK system can deliver then it is clear that energy policy needs to be controlled much closer to where the real issues are.

An independent Scotland would have an energy policy more aligned to Orkney’s aspirations around making Orkney’s energy work for Orkney’s people, not shareholders.

Yours sincerely, Robert Leslie, Orkney

Scotland Energy Statistics March 2022

“Scotland made up almost a quarter (22.3%) of the UK’s renewable electricity generation in 2021.”

Scottish Energy Statistics Hub

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8 replies »

  1. This is an absolute nonsense when Orkney and Scotland are net exporters of electricity. I guess it will only be cured by independence when you’ll have your own regulator and can export fairly and set your own prices.

  2. Everything will be wonderful once we get independence …..surely. I mean Nicola has told us that Westminster and those awful Etonians are he cause of all our problems.

  3. UK’s energy strategy has had no owner for 10 years or more.

    When all the remaining energy companies were privatised, along with the National Grid, they were all allowed commercial freedom. The regulators (presently Ofgen) had little influence, or incentive to create an energy strategy out of thin air – even though the climate emergency was facing us back then. The Tory government must have assumed that the capitalist approach would work it out.
    Well, as Robert has espoused, The system has broken – if it ever really existed.

    Basically no-one is in charge of the energy sector in this government. This is why, in Orkney, we are were not connected to the mainland by a sizeable connector at least 4 years ago. Westminster have completely missed the boat regards implementing renewable s.

    Westminster are far too close to, and heavily lobbied by the fossil fuel sector and have failed us at the critical moment. With the current state of UK politics it doesn’t look possible to recover.

    Peter Breingan – Orphir

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