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Public ownership of the UK energy system – benefits, costs and processes

18 April, 2016

A new report by Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) and the UK NGO We Own It, calls for a return to public ownership and management of key elements of the British energy system. The report builds on years of research that demonstrate the excess costs of privatization, the negative impact on energy workers and on UK households, and the distortions of UK energy policy.

The British model of energy privatization continues to be used as a model around the world, yet it has largely failed the citizens of the UK. According to the report, moving to a publicly owned energy system in the UK would pay for itself in ten years. Professor David Hall, of PSIRU, claims that savings of £3.2 billion per year would be possible because of the lower cost of borrowing in the public sector, and an end to extraction of dividends by shareholders.

This paper sets out the advantages of public ownership; the extent of public ownership in other countries; how the process of returning to the public sector could work in the UK–taking full account of EU law; and calculates realistic estimates of the cost, the possible impact on debt, and the scale of the benefits.

It is intended as a contribution to debate. The reasons for bringing the electricity and gas systems into public ownership are to improve the achievement of important public objectives: development of renewable energy (and control of non -renewable generation), universal coverage, affordability, efficiency, and democratic accountability.

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