Report on cost of UK climate goals is so flawed it?s near pointless

A new report claims that the UK could meet its 2020 carbon reduction targets at a lower cost by building new nuclear plants and gas-fired power stations instead of wind power farms, but the report has met strong criticism.

The study, published by AF Consult and picked up by the Sunday Times newspaper, says that opting for new nuclear and gas would be £45 billion (€54 billion) cheaper than wind farms, despite the fact that in reality new nuclear power plants take years to build and gas prices are pushing up energy prices. The UK government said recently that average bills rose by €537 between 2004 and 2011 and 64 % of that increase was down to rises in gas prices. Meanwhile, just 6.5% of the increase was attributed to support for renewable energy.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said that the report was short-sighted. “The report’s assumptions are so flawed the conclusions are near pointless. AF aren’t planning for enough generation capacity; they’re putting all our eggs into just two energy technology baskets and keeping their fingers crossed that gas prices come good.”

Moreover, the DECC’s chief economist, energy director general and director of strategy all said the report was “a very, very poor piece of work” since it didn’t allow for: the rise in electricity demand, the need for a diverse energy mix, drops in the cost of renewable energy and uncertain gas prices.

“AF don’t appear to understand the point of our renewables target. It is an industrial policy aimed at accelerating reductions in the costs of renewable generation…The bargain basement is not the place to look for a responsible long-term energy strategy…All credible analysis agrees that renewable energy has a central role to play in the low-carbon technology race,” the DECC said.

The report was originally linked to consultancy firm KPMG but they refused to publish it late last year saying it was ripe for misinterpretation. Dale Vince, founder of green energy company Ecotricity, said “the fact that KPMG have refused to put their name on this report is a damning indictment.” No new nuclear generators could be commissioned by 2020, he said, and “Britain has precious little oil and gas left, as does the world. We need to harness our indigenous sources – wind energy, solar power and marine energy. That is the only sensible long-term investment.”

Gordon Edge from RenewableUK called for debate on protecting consumers from fluctuating fossil fuel prices, decreasing energy imports and maximising the economic benefits from new forms of energy including wind turbines.

“The case for investment in renewable energy has been made forcefully this week by David Cameron and Nick Clegg – the jobs, emission reductions and control over our energy supplies that wind power provides overwhelm this kind of simplistic analysis,” Edge said.

The report published in the Sunday Times also claimed that wind power was “the most expensive form of power generation.” But a report by the UK government’s Committee on Climate Change has found that the cost of onshore wind farm was lower than nuclear in 2011 and will still be lower in 2020, 2030 and 2040.

 Zoë Casey,