“Wales produces almost twice as much energy as we use – let’s take control of it to bring down bills”
Delyth Jewell MS writes about the need to harness control over our national energy
This article was published in Nation Cymru on Sunday 12 June.
Energy powers our cars, it warms our homes, it lights our way. And the cost of it is rising so much its threatening to freeze us in our tracks. Delyth Jewell MS, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Energy writes about the need to harness control over our national energy if we’re ever going to have a hope of getting control over the cost. When we talk about our own energy, we mean the total amount of our physical and mental strength to do something.
We talk about our energy levels, saving our energy and channelling our energies into a project. Our ability to get things done.
We have a sense of agency, of control over how we use our own energy.
But this isn’t the case when it comes to lighting and heating our homes.
Of course, we can shop around when it comes to providers, but I’m talking about the national level – I’m talking about where we, as a nation, get our energy from, and the control that gives us over our own lives.
Despite the fact that here in Wales we produce 90% more electricity than we use, our household bills are amongst the highest in the UK.
It’s galling – particularly when you consider that Wales is blessed with 1,680 miles of coast and plenty of rolling hills in the middle: we’re perfectly placed to harness the tidal and wind power needed for the renewable energy revolution that I believe we can use to meet our entire needs by 2035.
But while state-backed energy companies are very much the norm across Europe, this isn’t the case in the UK.
In fact, in the UK, we have a privatised network of energy companies that ultimately exist to make a profit. When you look to other countries in Europe and even in America, where publicly owned or state-owned companies are playing more significant roles in the market, they are then able to take advantage of times in the market when there are lower wholesale gas prices.
Times such as now.
Crucially, they are also able to limit price rises. This is why we saw the energy price cap rise by 54% in the UK, but in France it only rose by 4%.
We need to have a conversation as a country to determine what role the state and the public sector should play when it comes to the generation and distribution of energy and electricity.
France and EDF is often spoken about (the latter being 85% owned by the French state).
While the recent 4% price cap rise saw company profits plummet, EDF is then free to make hay while the sun shines, on the understanding that when it’s starting to rain, they’re the ones who have to ensure they’ve amassed enough of a financial cushion to sustain themselves through the darker times.
For the UK, the massive increase in the energy price rise was followed by calls for a windfall tax on energy companies. Of course, energy prices are set to rise again in October, and it remains to be seen what options will be left for the UK Government.
Here in Wales, we’ve set out our vision, and that’s for a publicly owned energy company for Wales: Ynni Cymru. Thanks to our Co-Operation Agreement with the Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru believes that Ynni Cymru will help Wales realise its potential as an energy rich nation whose resources benefit the people of Wales, not multinational exporters.
Wales already has a not-for-profit model for water in Wales with Dŵr Cymru, and I truly believe that our energy shouldn’t be for profit either. In fact, I believe we should go that one step further and put our energy into public ownership.
Because when it comes to our energy, there’s a humanitarian imperative: if energy prices are not reduced, we will risk plunging thousands of people into fuel poverty and the cold.
In the summer months, perhaps we only need worry on the coldest evenings, and we don’t have to cook every meal. But we’ve always got one eye on the colder months that are on their way.
And we will always need fuel for getting around, even if we rely on public transport.
If we don’t get this right, and if energy becomes unaffordable for people in Wales, then thousands will end up without warm homes and hot food, and that is unacceptable.
When we talk about our energy levels, Wales has an abundance.
We should be able to save it up, we should be able to channel it and we certainly should have absolute control over it.
And we shouldn’t be in a position where anyone has to go without.