By Nick Clark
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Privatisation leads to days of power cuts after storm damage

Issue 2784
Electricity pylons

Thousands are suffering power shortages and unstable pylons across the north and Scotland

Thousands of people in Scotland and across the north of England have been left without power for more than a week and half.

Privatised energy distribution companies failed to restore power to swathes of Scotland and the north after Storm Arwen last week.

The crisis exposed the failures of Britain’s privatised energy system.

At least 3,000 homes in north east England were still without power as Socialist Worker went to press. And some 10,500 people spent more than a week without power.

The website of private energy distribution company Northern Powergrid showed there were still more than 100 unplanned power cuts on Monday of this week.

People living without power still had no idea when it would be restored—and said they’d had no help from the private companies.

Rachel Johnston, who lives in a hamlet outside the town of Morpeth in Northumberland, went at least ten days without power. She told a BBC interview on Monday, “With regards to Northern Powergrid we’ve had no help to speak of—no generators, nothing.

“We’ve had to provide them ourselves if we can. But a lot of the elderly residents haven’t got that kind of means to make generators come to the area.”

She added, “We had assurances power would be back on, on 1 December. Then I was told on 2 December it would be back on at midnight last night. We still have no power.”

Tory business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the long-lasting power cuts were “completely unacceptable.” He added that the government would review the performance of the energy distribution companies.

He said the private companies had “failed to invest in infrastructure.”

But energy distribution is only in private hands because Tory governments gave it to them. Tory and Labour governments championed the privatisation and deregulation of the energy industry throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Northern Powergrid is ultimately owned by giant US holding company Berkshire Hathaway.

People forced to rely on it say the company has allowed the network to be run down—and made no plans for the mass outages that would result.

The Tories now want to make a show of hauling private companies over the coals. But the crisis is a result of the cost-cutting that comes when public services are run for profit.

Johnson’s Cop26 plans are already falling apart

Despite all the promises from Boris Johnson and the Tories it looks increasingly unlikely that Britain will achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 

Johnson pledged to cut carbon emissions by 78 percent in the next 14 years at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow last month.

But the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has warned that this pledge won’t be kept unless there is a drastic change in policy. 

To get to this target the Tories released a plan that included further investment into renewables. It also included phasing out gas boilers, and rolling out so-called “clean energy” sources such as hydrogen

But none of this will be enough, according to the CCC.

The government body added that with current policies in place Britain will instead contribute to a 2.7 degree Celsius temperature rise by 2100.

The chair of the CCC, former Tory cabinet minister John Gummer, said, “The next year is critical for climate action in the UK and internationally.” 

“At home, we need to walk the talk and urgently deliver actions in the net zero strategy.”

He added that success should be measured in “climate risks averted—not words on a page.” 

Cop26 only happened last month. Already the Tories’ climate promises are falling apart.

More rain than snow in Arctic?

According to a shocking new report, rain will soon replace snow as the most common form of precipitation in the Arctic. 

The data provided by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project found that the Arctic could see more rain than snow by as soon as 2060. 

Previous models had found that this would become a reality by 2090. 

The domination of rain in the Arctic will have devastating consequences. 

It could lead to permafrost melting, which releases carbon emissions into the air. 

It will also cause rising sea levels and potentially more extreme weather events, including floods and heatwaves. 

But the report also said that there is still hope to halt this deadly process. 

“While these changes are now expected to happen faster than previously thought and result in a more severe effect, we can still be optimistic about our future if we can limit global warming to 1.5C, as many world leaders have vowed to do,” it said. 

Scientists are clear that keeping temperatures below a 1.5 degree Celsius rise will help avert greater disaster. But those in power can’t be trusted to make this a reality.

German plan already broken

plans by the new German government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will fall short of the 2015 Paris accords. 

The new coalition government, which is yet to come to power, is formed of the Social Democratic party, the Greens and the Free Democratic party. 

The German Institute for Economic Research found that while the new plans improve on previous ones, they won’t meet Paris targets.

Claudia Kemfert is one of the report’s authors. 

She said to reduce emissions in line with the pledges, then renewables must replace 95 percent of fossil fuel infrastructure by the end of the century. 

The report also added that much higher targets must be set in the construction, agriculture and transport sectors. 

The new administration is already under pressure to strengthen its green pledges.

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