Media Spreads Scare Stories About Cost of Low Carbon Future


Image credit: J Nathan Matias, used under Creative Commons license.
Massive hikes in energy bills are nothing new, and some even say that rising energy costs may have caused the Great Recession. But some folks are now using the inevitability of more expensive gas and electricity as a scare story to smear plans for low carbon economies. In the UK, one paper is claiming that the Government's low carbon plans could lead to price hikes of as much as GB£500 (US$750) a year. The trouble is, say others, they are talking nonsense.Under a headline that would have even the most eco-conscious working families worried, the Telegraph newspaper reported that we would need GB£500 on Energy Bills to Pay for Green Energy. Reading through the details, of course, we learn that the Government disputes these figures, and even claims that the plans will actually lead to lower energy costs than a business-as-usual approach.

James Murray over at BusinessGreen was quick to call BS on the Telegraph's cost analysis of the government's low carbon plans. Not only do the numbers differ wildly from the Government's own projections, but they are based on a report that is over 18 months old and has not taken into account the latest market data:

"You had to read to the fourth paragraph to discover that the £500 projection comes not from the government, but the price comparison website uSwitch. It is also at this point that you find out the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) disputes the figures. Although "disputes" does not really do it justice; as anyone looking at the government's proposals knows, it is predicting the reforms will lead to an increase in electricity bills, not energy bills, of £160 by 2030. Moreover, that increase is expected to be £30 lower than what would happen if we continued under the current market framework. What the Telegraph story does not tell you is that the £500 figure to which it gives such prominence comes from a report released by uSwitch on Monday 22 June, 2009 - that's right, it is 18 months old."

Murray goes on to explain that uSwitch themselves admit that the report is outdated, and they are currently predicting a more modest increase of £450 by 2020. It should also be noted, as far as I can tell, that this figure is intended to be a projection of energy rises in total—not a hike that can be directly attributed to any plans for extra green energy. (Someone more familiar with the numbers can correct me if I am wrong.)

By all means let's make our plans for cleaner energy based on all available data and analysis. But let's do so rationally. Scaring the heebie-jeebies out of cash strapped families is hardly the way to contribute to the debate.

More on Energy Prices and a Low Carbon Future
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Tags: Economics | Electricity | Energy Efficiency | Renewable Energy

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