Lucy Cartwright / Greenpeace

On Wednesday morning (29 March 2023), Greenpeace activists are staging a demonstration outside Rishi Sunak’s Grade-II listed manor house in Richmond, Yorkshire, where earlier this month it was revealed that Sunak paid privately for his local electricity grid to be upgraded to heat his £400,000swimming pool.

Activists wearing swimming trunks, flip flops and scuba diving gear have lined up outside the gates of his house, valued at £2mn, waiting to get access to the Prime Minister’s private pool. 

They aim to highlight the hypocrisy of the UK’s richest ever Prime Minister paying for private upgrades to the grid for his own benefit, while failing to upgrade our outdated national grid, which remains unable to deliver the green energy revolution for the rest of us that would lower bills and help tackle the climate crisis.

Government’s so-called ‘Energy Security Day’ on Thursday 30 March. Ministers are expected to announce policies to boost carbon capture and new fossil fuel projects that campaigners argue would do nothing for our energy security and would be disastrous for the climate.

Greenpeace UK is urging the government to listen instead to energy experts, industry and its own auditors who have warned that without upgrading the outdated grid we won’t be able to roll out renewables at the speed needed to tackle the cost of energy and climate crisis. A wait of up to 13 yearsto connect new renewable and battery storage projects to Britain’s grid is threatening investment and undermining the shift away from fossil fuels. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of pounds are being wasted to shut down electricity generators when the grid can’t take the extra power.

Philip Evans, Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, said:

“We’re queuing up for the Prime Minister’s heated pool because a better electricity grid should be a public good, not the private luxury of millionaires. While Sunak will enjoy doing lengths in his warm pool, the rest of us are stuck with an outdated power network, not fit for purpose, that’s blocking the roll-out of more cheap and clean renewables.

“Securing green energy for all should be the focus of the Government this week. Instead,  they’re approving new oil drilling and giving tax breaks to fossil fuel giants, proving they really are out of their depth when it comes to tackling the climate and energy crisis.

“Sunak must upgrade our outdated grid and clear away other barriers to renewables so we can reap the full benefits of cheap energy from solar and wind, bringing down bills and carbon emissions alike. If he refuses, he leaves us stranded without a raft.”

Problems with the electricity grid are well documented, blocking our ability to use and store renewable energy all over the country. 

The grid needs upgrading and expanding so it can transmit power from where it is made to where it is needed at the scale we need.

According to Ofgem, a smart grid could save up to £4.7 billion a year by the end of this decade. Our bills are predicted to rise again if these issues are not addressed in the package of measures announced this week by the Government.