The proud highlands nation of Scotland recently raised some eyebrows when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced it was forming a publicly-owned energy company, which would provide Scotland-generated, green energy “as close to cost price as possible.” An extra incentive may be to kick out Britain’s Big Six Utilities, companies who have already been capped as to what they can charge.

The announcement of the public company came in a speech by Sturgeon on Oct. 10 at the National Party’s annual conference in Glasgow. “The idea, at its heart, is simple,” she said. “No shareholders to worry about. No corporate bonuses to consider. It would give people - particularly those on low incomes - more choice.”  

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking at the National Party’s annual conference in Glasgow. Credit: Getty Images.

Sturgeon also said, “Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland -- renewable, of course.” She offered no further details, but that the Scottish government will elucidate more when it publishes its new energy policy, set to come out later this year.

The UK's chief energy regulator Dermot Nolan said on BBC Radio “Scotland's Good Morning” program, he’d welcome the nonprofit into the market. “We would try to facilitate any license application,” he said. Nolan expects the energy sector to change radically in the next 10 years or so. But he also warned that the not-for-profit should be sure and deliver excellent service.

This wasn’t the only significant change in energy to take place on the Isle of Britain. The UK has committed to getting rid of coal completely by 2025. While Canada will do so by 2030. Canada’s minister for the environment Catherine McKenna and the UK’s climate minister Claire Perry, made their joint announcement at the Houses of Parliament in London, on the same day Sturgeon made her speech.  

A Scottish wind farm. Credit: Getty Images.

The ministers said in a statement, “Phasing unabated coal power out of the energy mix and replacing it with cleaner technologies will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, improve the health of our communities, and benefit generations to come.”

Though coal is one of the dirtiest forms of fossil fuel energy, it isn’t by far the most relied upon in either country. In both, it makes up about 9% of the total energy produced. 59% of Canada’s energy is already green. It’s from hydroelectric power. Since coal doesn’t take up so much of either country’s profile, it’s more a symbolic gesture. The Scottish one however was more substantive.

Both the UK and Canada have a robust oil and gas industry, and that isn’t winding down in the short-term. Canada is extracting oil from tar sands, one of the dirtiest types there is. Meanwhile in the UK, a £5 million (approx. $6.6 million) subsidy was recently set aside for North Sea oil exploration.

London has, like many other cities, proclaimed it will ban all gas and diesel cars by 2040. While Germany says it’ll be 100% renewable by 2050. Certainly in the long-term, a growing trend toward green energy is expected. The question is, will these and similar initiatives by powerful Western countries, be enough to give the environmental movement the momentum it needs, to overcome the inertia left by an absence of US leadership?

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