Planning For Energy Futures With The CBI

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is warning us that posssible energy shortages mean a winter of discontent awaits. This is a matter of concern for everyone. When energy is taken by the banks and business as seriously in terms of analysis as finance, the notion of ‘Futures’ may help us to understand ‘Options’ in a whole new way.
My grasp of ‘Futures’, in the financial sense of the word, is slight; but I gather it’s all to do with large-scale ‘Options’ on investing by banks to produce decent returns later on. So far, so simple.
But isn’t this what we need to think about with energy futures, as well as financial ones? The CBI – an organisation which I would imagine knows a bit about futures and banks – has just said they have serious concerns about energy provision this winter. A long hard snap and we’ll be in for a winter of discontent the likes of which only those of us long in the tooth can recall.
Strangely, the forward thinking which is routinely made for financial futures doesn’t seem to feature when businesses consider energy futures. Some of us would argue, however, that energy is where it’s really all at.
What’s the ‘gold’ of the future?
Hasn’t it been said that the gold of the future is oil? Or maybe these days renewables?
Recent days have seen high-level hints that more nuclear power is on the cards for the UK. Conservationists and eco-people will be horrified by this. Industrial contractors and perhaps some regeneration specialists may see it as a promising way forward.
The real question must surely be, how much thought have we all put into ways of providing energy for the future? And how much have we also thought about the levels of energy we really need, as opposed to the levels we all currently expend?
Conflicting demands
Leaders in different parts of these fields seem to be looking several ways at once.
Businesses want cheap energy in abundant supply (though some of them do of course make efforts to conserve it as well).
The politicians are trying to do two things: encourage us on the one hand to save energy, and on the other to consider forms of energy production which may or may not be sustainable and long-term safe.
And the scientists are telling us that the technologies for energy conservation and production have not all been explored to the same level. We aren’t as yet in a position to evaluate fully the relative effectiveness and risk of all the possible ways forward; but we do know how to produce shorter-term big science solutions.
‘Options’ in energy
Back then to the ‘futures’ idea. We have graduate physicists and others who, it is reported, have too little to do. (An irony, in my experience, is that many good physicists end up working as analysts in banks, not laboratories.) And we have businessess which are worried about energy. Why not put things together and start to take the ‘options’ on energy as seriously as those on finance?
This isn’t just an issue for people who have lots of money to spend, it’s an issue for us all. Without energy, at suitable levels of availability and sustainability, there could be no banks or businesses anyway.

Posted on October 24, 2005, in Education, Health And Welfare, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Science Politics And Policy, Sustainability As If People Mattered. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The potential of energy producton could provide a tremendous boon to the city, but if only we appreciate that WE have to tap the potential, and not just open opportunities for others to exploit and derive benefit.
    Solar, wave and tidal in particular provide a spectacular avenue for the city, but other ‘green’ options are open to us too. The benefits to the environment are obvious, but what about the commercial potential.
    The Mersey Partnership are currently re-examining the potential of a barrage across the mouth of the Mersey estuary… but as an ‘inward investment agency’ will they even concieve the notion that Liverpool money could be used to invest in something that would not only provide the city with clean energy, but could also help us to revive the city economy by encouraging the establishment of Liverpool companies to develop the energy source, retain and recirculate the profits in further metropolitan enterprises? probably not.
    The Liverpool business community should really look at developing this area of commercial activity… after all we have done it before.
    There are huge opportunities to be gained. The first thing that Chamber of Commerce, LCC, Mersey Partnership et al should be doing is pulling together an energy investment group of Liverpool entrepreneurs who would be interested in speculating in growing this area.
    The wind farm potential is being slowly realised for the wider ‘Bay Area’, though here too we are seeing local business miss out on the profit making opportunity whilst other business enter ‘our market’… most of which will make a pretty penny.
    This concept, of course, goes way beyond energy… and also beyond the local business community. For example, the Merseytram (ran on locally produced, clean electricity!) should have been at least part financed by a stock raising initiative by Merseytravel that could have sold ‘Penny shares’ to all in the metropolis who wanted to avail themselves of this type of opportunity. All major schemes should explore this avenue as a central part of their investment options in future.
    If we take this approach with all future ventures then we will be going some way to reviving the city’s finance, investment and brokerage infrastructure any city serious about its own future must have.
    With the UK’s independent resources dwindling and oil looking as if it will remain high in price permanently, clean energy has been an area that we have needed to focus properly on for some time. Russia’s shenanigans with Ukraine may have shaken our politicians and strategists out of their torpor… will our local strategists be able to realise the fullest potential from the wonderous bounty that nature has provided for the city?

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