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£5,000 = Annual Cost of NOT getting Renewable Energy

According to recent government figures, the average household should expect to spend, on average, £5,000 per year from now until 2050 on re-building the UK's energy supply to a lower carbon solution, for example through investment in schemes for solar panels if no investment is to be made in renewable energy or low carbon energy production measures.

This figure has been generated using open source software built by Professor David Mackay, who is chief scientific advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The predictions using this software come from the changes necessary for the UK to meet its legally binding targets for carbon emissions. Indeed, the predictions of the model are supported by a major EU project, which declared that developing renewable energy was no more expensive than alternatives necessary to continue to meet the nation's energy needs, a vital point. The £5,000 figure comes from the assumption that almost nothing is done to develop low carbon energy producing systems and the UK relies on importing gas for electricity generation and heating and oil for all vehicles.

Whilst this figure does sound shockingly high, that is the reality of our long term abuse of fossil fuels - as sources of this type of energy become increasingly scarce and depleted, the cost of oil will continue to rise until it too is very expensive, which suddenly makes the environmentally friendly option seem the expensive one; the Guardian compares the cost to when Britain had to replace out of date power stations with new ones - that large investment was necessary then, now the necessary option is the environmental one; fossil fuels will become depleted and the cost of the damage of carbon emissions if we continue to burn oil at the same rate will far exceed the costs of developing renewable energy.

The least-cost scenario could be an actual reduction of £84 per annum on each household's bills. This option would involve a mixture of renewable energy (42%), nuclear power (31%) and 27% gas plants with carbon capturing and underground storage, as well as investments in energy efficiency technology. It's also important to note that the model does not take into account the cost of environmental damage to the economy, for example through natural disasters.

Even since 2010 in the UK, with the DECC justifying its recent Feed In Tariff cuts by releasing figures for the average costs of an installation falling from £12,000 to £9,000, we have already seen through this change the potential of renewable energy sources when they enter the mainstream. When demand soared for solar panels, more and more companies entered the market, increasing competition and putting pressure on their margins, which in turn led to them being managed much more efficiently and driving technological innovation. It's sad that this growth will now be halted through the changes, although it is inevitable that the UK will continue to be under considerable pressure to push for greater renewable energy adoption.