Comment on Centre for Policy Studies report on ‘blackout Britain’
Responding to a report from the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) which argues that policies supporting renewable energy represent poor value for money and that phasing out coal power is increasing the risk of power cuts, Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said that spending on low-carbon power represents a prudent and popular investment for the future.
“Britain’s energy strategy does indeed need some reforming, but it’s a shame that organisations feel they have to resort to ‘Project Blackout Fear’ in order to get their points across,” he said.
“Critics of decarbonisation have been warning that ‘the lights will go out’ for 10 years, and one suspects people are a little confused given that the lights have stubbornly stayed on, apart from when storms bring down power-lines or sub-stations get flooded.
“The reality is that Britain, along with many other countries, is in the middle of a transition to a low-carbon energy system based largely around renewable generation. In the midst of change, things can look a bit messy – but done right, we’ll come out of it with a system that delivers reliable low-carbon power at low cost – and what look like subsidies now will turn out to have been prudent investments for the future.”
A recent survey carried out by ComRes for ECIU found that 84% of Britons support subsidies that reduce energy waste, and 83% back subsidies for renewable energy. These figures were far higher than for any other type of energy investment. An ECIU report last year found that there has been only one power cut related to generation problems in the last 10 years, and that citizens of Germany and Denmark experience fewer power cuts than Britons despite those countries producing a greater proportion of their electricity from renewables.
ECIU energy analyst Jonathan Marshall also questioned some of the assumptions in the CPS report:
“The quality of findings in reports such as this are highly dependent on the data used and methodologies applied. In this case, both areas are somewhat lacking,” he said.
“The report uses an unsubstantiated estimated of balancing costs more than six times the widely accepted value, and apportions 100% of policy costs to householders, when the residential sector accounts for just one-third of electricity use.
“This method inflates the real cost per household by a factor of four. It also ignores the fact that the expansion of renewable generation in the UK has seen average wholesale prices fall by around 25% over the past five years, savings that can be used to offset subsidy costs and deliver good value to bill payers."