Editorial: Back to the future day has a red tinge

Today is a red letter day in more ways than one. If you are of a certain age you’ll recall we should be driving nuclear powered flying cars, zipping around […]

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By Sumit Bose

Today is a red letter day in more ways than one.

If you are of a certain age you’ll recall we should be driving nuclear powered flying cars, zipping around on hoverboards, have self drying clothes and be able to talk to our TV, because it’s the future date Marty McFly went to visit in 1985.

In the Back to the Future sequel, he time travels to October 21 2015. Aged 17, I looked at the future on the screen and wondered if it might come true. Today at 47, I look back and realise what’s changed from the 80s.

The demise of leg warmers, the lack of decent music (come on One Direction???), the telephone box, the A-Z, the walkman and the fax machine. Just some of the things I grew up with now confined to the history books.

What struck me today in particular, was the news of the massive Chinese nuclear deal for Hinkley and potentially two other power stations. Here I think is the biggest change – politics.

China

China was in the 80s, part of the red menace of communism. Brutal, (Tiananmen Square), unliked, solitary and economically insignificant on the global stage.

Today it’s the world’s second biggest economy, manfacturing everything I pretty much own, owning huge industries in dozens of countries and with immense financial and political muscle.

Somehow its brutality and still to this day censored Orwellian society, is no longer a big issue, well not enough to prevent us along with much of the West, doing deals.

The ‘red menace’ is now associated with the green colour of cash. And Chinese cash is talking.

France (EDF) and China will now build our nuclear future. Chinese engineers are being actively encouraged to come here. Chinese billionaires are welcome to buy up prime real estate. Chinese steel is flooding the market.

I’m not saying any of this is bad or wrong but I am just wondering where it all went? The UK nuclear industry was at the forefront of global research and building when I was a kid. Today it’s full of ageing men (sadly it is still overwhelmingly so), ageing kit and a dearth of young blood. The steel industry looks like it is about to head the same way as mining.

Do you care who pays?

Infrastructure projects are no now longer funded by the British state and energy is no exception. But somehow we are happy for other states to fund them?

Today’s deal in fact this week’s visit¬† by the Chinese Premier, raises some questions about where we are heading when it comes to building our energy future.

Does it matter that the Chinese state could soon own a significant chunk of the UK’s power sector? The Germans, French and Russians are already here. Who cares who owns it providing it works right?

I have my own views, personally I think who you sell to should matter but then again I am not going to be offered ¬£25bn for my modest flat, if I was perhaps I’d be happy to grab the cash too.

I’d be interested to hear your views on this and it’s something we will be discussing at the Energy Live conference in just over two weeks.

I’m looking forward to hearing Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom’s take on it and that of Ed Davey, our former Energy Secretary who I’m delighted to announce will be closing the conference this year. I’m sure his views on where our energy policy is going will be enlightening now he’s no longer an MP. There are just a few tickets left so do book up if you haven’t.

For now, it’s probably my age but I’ll be celebrating Marty’s journey through time, looking back at the 80s where things were perhaps a bit clearer, or maybe that’s the joy of remembering things through the eyes of a naive teenager.

Time to put on the Power of Love and get fluxing!