It seems that energy policy has never been such a hot topic – at least judging by the huge media attention it is now receiving.
Today, and this week generally, has seen a blizzard of European media coverage of energy policy – with wildly differing perspectives, and arguably also in quality of reasoning.
Today in Germany, Environment Minister Peter Altmeier is strongly criticised in the heavyweight Suddeutsche Zeitung for “misleading” statements on the cost of renewables. It is claimed he exaggerates the cost and is not helping his country’s transition from nuclear to renewable energy. Suddeutsche Zeitung accuses the Minister of creating uncertainty and fear.
In the UK the Daily Telegraph reports that an MEP has published a book attacking wind energy in Scotland. The newspaper highlights claims in the book about the amount of rental income gained by, often aristocratic, landowners from wind turbines erected on their land. The Times reported that “the MEP’s views remain outside the political mainstream north and south of the border”.
Professor Gordon A. Hughes
The anti-wind energy Renewable Energy Foundation yesterday published an “anonymously peer reviewed” study by wind energy critic Professor Gordon Hughes (author of ‘The myth of green jobs’ and ‘Why wind energy is so expensive’) claiming that the economic life of wind turbines is 10-15 years rather than the 20-25 years stated by the wind industry.
Given that the author and publisher have a history of attacking wind energy and the fact that they do not say who peer-reviewed the study, perhaps one should not take the study too seriously. But that does not stop it being reported in the British media.
But at least some papers showed some scepticism. The Financial Times reported that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change rejected Prof Hughes’ findings. “Our expectations of wind turbine lifetimes are based on rigorous analysis and evidence,” the department said. “Britain’s oldest commercial turbines at Delabole in Cornwall have only recently been replaced after 20 years of operation, and the technology has come on in leaps and bounds since that project started generating in 1991.”
The nuclear industry’s ‘Foratom’ blog recently criticised EWEA’s argument in a recent report that “massive subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear energy…. remain the rule”.
Foratom instead claimed that “it is renewable energies, especially wind and solar energy that are the most systematically subsidised forms of energy, not nuclear energy.”
Foratom then set out some of the subsidies renewables receive. The highest figure they quote is “In Germany, total subsidies amount to €5 billion per year”.
But Foratom does not mention the massive amounts of public money set aside for nuclear decommissioning. €5 billion is a trivial sum compared to the money the UK Government has set aside just for nuclear decommissioning.
Former UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said in October 2011 “the provisions for nuclear decommissioning costs in total were £2 million in 1970, £472 million in 1980, £9.5 billion in 1990, £22.5 billion in 2000. And now, £53.7 billion.”
UK newspapers have again picked-up on the issue of government subsidies to wind power saying that one Cabinet Office minister – Oliver Letwin – backs an end to subsidies to onshore wind farms by 2020. But the Guardian reported that Mr. Letwin’s comments have “irritated” Ed Davey, the UK climate change secretary, who last week set out his backing for wind energy.
It makes me wonder – how do politicians and media can get away with talking about removing subisidies from renewables without even mentioning the existence – let alone withdrawal – of much larger subsidies for much more established energy technologies? It is hard to understand.
Julian Scola, EWEA Communications Director
We are all getting excited about Global Wind Day tomorrow but one wind “skeptic” group is getting over-excited.
‘Americans for Prosperity’ issued a press release with the title ‘Left wing radicals harness the power of child labor on Global Wind Day‘.
While pleased with all publicity for GWD, the press release contains some misunderstandings that need to be corrected: