Saturday, 12 November 2011

Huhne: 'Wind turbines are certainly here to stay'
9 Nov 2011

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has rushed to the defence of the wind power sector, following a series of media reports arguing that the government's green energy policies are responsible for energy bill price hikes. Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, Huhne hit out at the growing number of voices calling for the UK to abandon investment in renewable energy in favour of developing domestic shale gas. Huhne said that shale gas is unlikely to become a game changing technology anytime soon, and criticised those touting it as a more "realistic" technology than wind turbines.

"A golden age of cheap energy looks increasingly unlikely, and wind turbines are certainly here to stay", he said. "Shale gas has not yet lit a single room in the UK, nor roasted a single Sunday lunch. Yet those who clamour loudest for 'realistic' energy policies would have us hitch our wagon to shale alone". Huhne's article followed a series of newspaper and television reports claiming that greater supplies of renewables will push up energy bills.

A number of organisations in the green energy sector are now preparing official complaints and responses to the BBC and The Sunday Times over the newspaper's reporting of a new study criticising the cost of renewables, and the latest edition of Panorama, which laid much of the blame for rising energy bills on renewables subsidies.

Trade association RenewableUK and independent energy supplier Ecotricity are preparing to file separate complaints to the BBC over the Panorama programme on Monday. A RenewableUK spokesman told BusinessGreen that the organisation is concerned that the programme was biased and "editorially flawed", and that RenewableUK should have been interviewed to give an industry perspective. "We would have wanted to be included in the programme and they should have spoken to the body representing the industry. Not to do that is a serious oversight on their part", he said.

An Ecotricity spokesman told BusinessGreen that it is concerned that the show was polemic and relied on dubious sources. Panorama's reporter, Tom Heap, defended the BBC's position today after Guardian journalist Damian Carrington also criticised the programme for failing adequately to recognise the role that rising wholesale gas and electricity costs play in pushing up energy prices, failing to interview green NGOs, and making no mention of the climate change threat that underpins much of the UK's green energy policy.

Heap responded by arguing that The Guardian is unwilling to recognise the expense of renewable energy technologies and their reliance on subsidies. The Panorama programme was preceded by a story in The Sunday Times about a KPMG report arguing that the UK could save £34bn by ditching wind power subsidies. KPMG's methodology was immediately criticised by RenewableUK, which deemed the findings inaccurate.

BusinessGreen has learned that WWF has also drafted a letter to The Sunday Times, backed by green energy companies and investors, arguing the case for renewables and criticising KPMG's report. Meanwhile, it remains unclear when the controversial KPMG report will be released. A spokesman told BusinessGreen on Monday that the report is finalised, and a press release stated that the full study was to be published yesterday. However, a separate KPMG spokeswoman today denied that the report was ever finalised, and insisted that no release date has been set.