Letter: Brutal plans for energy conservation

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The Independent Online
Sir: Matthew Taylor (article, 19 May) wrote of Labour's commitment to the environment, "Tough action is needed." It certainly is.

In 1979 those of us serving on the Government's Advisory Council for Energy Conservation (ACEC) soon learnt about political correctness and party dogma from the incoming administration. We were told to stop using the term, "energy conservation" and to speak of "energy efficiency". That soon became, "cost-effective energy efficiency" and, of course, even ACEC itself was soon sent packing.

This had much to do with the intention to privatise the fuel suppliers. How could the proceeds from the sales be maximised if markets were to be curtailed by "energy conservation" - selling less product?

Eighteen years on, the UK languishes at the bottom of the world league even in "energy efficiency", let alone in "conservation". British Gas's much-vaunted pounds 15m-a-year spend on energy conservation quietly disappeared once the company had left the family silver cabinet. The electricity industry has its paltry pounds 1-per-customer-per-year SOP scheme and even most of the non-fossil fuel levy has been diverted into the technological triumphalism of nuclear power.

A few years ago I heard Frank Dobson saying at a conference that the fuel suppliers had to realise that environmental protection would only be achieved if they were made to sell less energy tomorrow than they did today. The same could apply to the water industry. Mr Dobson is the only politician I have heard putting the matter so succinctly and, for the fuel profiteers, so brutally. Mr Blair needs to take the ideal aboard - and quickly.

ROBERT JONES

Chelmsford, Essex

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