BBC : Craven Power Muddle

Once again, the BBC has allowed to pass unchallenged the impression that green power policy and renewable energy investment are behind the dramatic rise in British domestic energy prices.

Disappointingly, this has come from John Craven, whose accuracy is renowned.

However, on this occasion, he has allowed a blooper meme to consolidate in the public mind.


Here’s how Countryfile went yesterday evening :-

[ Countryfile, BBC One, 16 October 2011, 18:25. Part way through recording, starting at approximately 20 minutes 32 seconds. ]

[ Ellie Harrison ] Earlier in the programme we were looking at the expected huge rise in wind power across the UK. But in the race to create more of our energy this way, who will win and who is set to lose out ? Here’s John again.

[ John Craven ] Earlier, I discovered how the plan to put wind power at the heart of our future energy supply is creating a building boom in wind farms, both on land and out at sea. With billions being poured into wind power, and with it being at the centre of the Government’s strategy on renewables, the future seems certain. So who will the losers and winners be in this wind revolution ? The most obvious winner is the environment as less fossil fuels are burnt. But who else benefits ? Well, another clear winner is big business. Companies building the wind farms get a generous price for the electricity they produce. […]

[ John Craven ] Electricity is bought from producers at an average price of 5 pence per kilowatt hour. But wind farms get bonuses. For offshore wind that’s around 9 pence extra per kilowatt hour, guaranteed for 20 years. And when you’re talking about nearly 3 million of these units every day, that figure soon adds up. […]

[ John Craven ] Even if a lot of the big business profit goes abroad, at least some much-needed jobs will be created here in the UK. But while a handful people might benefit from new employment, critics say it’s the majority of us, already feeling the pinch, who’ll pay a high price for embracing wind. So what’s your prediction then about how much fuel bills are going to rise for everyone because of green power ?

[ Tony Lodge ] Well, fuel bills up until 2030 could well double. The Government acknowledges there will be an increase. It claims there will then be a decrease, but for every 1% increase in fuel bills, 44,000 households slide into fuel poverty, which is a social crisis.

[ John Craven ] Supporters of wind farms say that although we do pay a green premium in our electricity bills, those figures are vastly exaggerated. Just how much we’ll really end up paying seems uncertain. […]

[ End ]

The reason why this is so disheartening is that it avoids mentioning the wide variety of forces affecting power prices, and instead, appears to lay all the blame at the door of the UK’s sustainable energy policy.

Why are household energy bills so high ?

Well, for one thing, the price of Natural Gas has not been stable – and much of our electricity is generated by burning Natural Gas for heat to turn turbines :-

And then, the Great British oil and gas industry is in decline as the North Sea reserves suffer irreversible depletion of their fields, and the country as a whole has become a net Natural Gas importer, which will obviously have something to do with prices for both heating and electricity at home :-

The Government appears to blame the consumers for not shopping around in a “competitive” marketplace, but evidence of “cartel” activity from the energy suppliers in hiking up the prices means that people cannot win this game :-

Here’s a recent Parliamentary briefing :-

http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN03995

Anybody commenting on energy prices on British television and radio should pay attention to the diverse sources of pressure on household bills. To blame green policies for energy price rises is essentially a deceit, and stokes the fire under the “small state” arguments for removing Government incentives for green energy investment.

In terms of public debate, only the Carbon Brief appear to be on the platform contradicting this irrational line of reasoning. They want the Daily Mail to review their stance, and they’ve got evidence from the energy regulator, Ofgem, to back them up :-

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/10/green-policies-not-to-blame-for-rising-energy-bills,-says-ofgem

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