We can have energy that is fair, sustainable and democratic

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We can have energy that is fair, sustainable and democratic

By Sakina Sheikh


People at Westmill solar co-op celebrating.

The energy democracy of Lisa Nandy isn’t idealism, argues Sakina Sheikh.

At the Labour Party Conference, Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, presented her fresh new ideas for the future of Britain’s energy. She wants clean energy. And she talked about Labour’s plans to make energy democratic in Britain by letting the people control it.

7 million people in Britain do not have enough money to heat their home. 1 in 7 people in the world do not have any energy. So many people are interested in Labour plan for a fairer energy system. Global Justice Now has been fighting for energy democracy in Britain and in the world. This would mean everyone has access to energy, the people control it, and respect the limits of the planet.

Nandy said that if we have ‘community-based energy companies and co-operatives’, we could all have a fairer energy system. If we give the people control of the energy system, this will challenge the power of the Big 6 energy companies. Because the Big 6 control energy now, millions of people do not have enough money for energy, and the cost of energy is going up for everyone.

Many people say Nandy’s ideas are idealistic, but this move to energy democracy is already happening in many parts of the world. Look at these 4 examples: 1. Nottingham and Robin Hood Energy

Nandy said the process of energy democratization has already begun here in Britain. In Nottingham the local council has set up a not-for-profit energy supplier, Robin Hood Energy. They think they can save customers up to £237 ($360) per year on bills. Already their first customer’s annual energy bill has gone down from £2,000 to £1,400 ($3,030 to $2,120). Companies like Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham are run for people, not just to make money. These are real alternatives to the Big 6’s control of energy markets.

2. Hamburg, Germany

Many people write about ‘Energiewende’. This is the name for Germany’s move from energy made by fossil fuels, and also from centralized to decentralized energy production. But there are more changes too. In Hamburg, the second biggest city in Germany, people voted in September 2013 for their local council to buy back the energy grid from the big international companies E.On and Vattenfall. This was after the campaign ‘Our Hamburg – Our Grid’. This said that the companies were not doing their best for local people and were not moving to renewable energy quickly enough. There are plans to do similar things in Berlin.

3. Uruguay

In Uruguay, the public own the energy system. This shows how an energy system can be fairer. The government has targets to make sure everyone has access to energy and also move to more sustainable energy sources, to produce electricity and for other services like transport. Now, 99% of the population of Uruguay has access to electricity and almost two-thirds is renewable energy. Uruguay is also making their energy more efficient, so they don’t need to use so much fossil fuel energy. The labour movement in Uruguay fought to stop the privatization the energy sector in 1992. And it is now trying to make the government’s energy company, UTE, democratic.

4. Britain wants the opposite in Nigeria

Energy privatization has been a disaster in Britain and in many other parts of the world. So why does the Department for International Development (DFID) want to use British aid money to introduce this unsuccessful model of energy privatization in countries like Nigeria. DFID is now spending nearly $150 million of British aid money (through the free-market company Adam Smith International) to support the privatization of Nigeria’s energy system. The programme is called the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (NIAF). Ken Henshaw from Social Action in Nigeria said that he met the DFID to talk about this programme, and they agreed that the privatization has failed. When he talked about energy democracy, communities owning and generating their own renewable electricity, it seemed they’d never thought of that.

Many other government departments eg. the Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change want energy neoliberalism. Nandy’s speech at the Labour conference is finally moving away from this and showing what a modern energy system could be like in the future – fair, sustainable and democratic.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2015/10/02/a-sustainable-and-democratized-energy/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).