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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

Elect Your Energy Future: A political debate on energy policy

Elect your energy future debate

Elect your energy future debate

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Durham's Multidisciplinary Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy and Durham Energy Institute hosted a public debate on the topic of energy. During the debate MPs, MEPs and other local political figures including James Wharton (Conservative MP, Stockton South), Jonathan Arnott (UKIP MEP) and Jonathan Elmer (Green Party) discussed their key energy policies in the run-up to the general elections in 2015 and provided the public an opportunity to ask any energy related questions.

On 21st August 2014, research students from the Durham Energy Institute’s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in energy hosted an evening debate on the future of energy policy in the UK. The event, chaired by Professor Jon Gluyas, sparked often fiery clashes between representatives of 5 of the largest UK political parties; James Wharton MP from the Conservative Party; Liam Carr from the Labour Party; Cllr Wendy Taylor from the Liberal Democrats; Jonathan Arnott from UKIP; and Jonathan Elmer from the Green Party. The event itself was an overriding success, with over 180 people in attendance from a cross-section of local and national industry, academia and pressure groups.

Before the debate, audience members were asked to vote down an energy technology in a “reject a tech” ballot. In this, coal and fracked gas were overwhelmingly rejected as future energy sources. Some discontent was expressed towards nuclear and renewables, but this was minor in comparison to the strong opposition to fossil fuel.

The debate itself provided members of the public to directly quiz these political figures with questions focussing on energy efficiency, fracking, energy bills and renewables policy. There was even a rare flutter of unanimity and harmony amongst the panellists in agreeing the need to improve energy efficiency of our homes. However, political points scoring soon occurred with Labour and the Conservatives clashing on energy prize freezes and the record of the current coalition Government and the previous Labour regime.

After the debate, the public were asked to vote on the party which they felt best represented their “energy future”. In contrast to national electoral ballots, the Green Party were chosen by the public with the Conservative Party in second place. Will this trend affect parliamentary election results next year? The DEI and CDT look forward to hosting similar events in the future to begin to answer that very question.

Listen to the BBC Radio interviews and coverage of the event:


Excerpts from twitter contribution

Follow the panelists on twitter on @DEI_Durham, @Jonathan_Elmer, @jameswhartonmp,@JonathanArnott, @LiamRCarr, @NewcastleCC