Where are the Daily Mail getting their numbers from?
- 14 Jul 2011, 12:00
The Daily Mail has been on an anti green energy roll recently -
but where is it getting its numbers from?
Last month the paper
claimed in a front-page headline and subsequent series of
articles that green measures are currently adding £200 to household
energy bills. After Carbon Brief highlighted
that the £200 figure was based on unsourced claims by the Global
Warming Policy Foundation, the Mail dropped
the claim in favour of Ofgem's estimate of £100, or 10% per year on
energy bills - but continued to
reference back to their original articles, and quote the GWPF
extensively, in their coverage.
Yesterday, the Mail's front page upped their claims a bit further
- with a banner
"£1,000 bill for green energy: families
face huge annual levy to appease the climate lobby"
The Mail's coverage follows the launch by Chris Huhne of the
Electricity Market Reform (EMR)
White Paper on Monday. The reforms of the sector are intended
to put in place power supply infrastructure intended to replace
ageing power stations, put the UK on a green energy track, and
prevent blackouts (something else the Daily Mail has been known to
worried about in the past).
As was reported across the press - for example the
Mirror, the Express and
Evening Standard - the Department of Energy and Climate Change
(DECC) estimated that the reforms of the electricity market will
add £160 to the average household electricity bill.
The Mail however chose to highlight a higher figure. The paper's
article said that:
"...analysts at the Unicredit bank
believe that the true cost will be even higher, with energy bills
set to rise by around £1,000 a year - up to £2,000".
So where does this figure come from? It has proved somewhat
difficult to source. A phone call to Unicredit bank press office
produced an emailed copy of the bank's last paper on the
pan-European electricity market, which referred to the bank's views
on the UK Electricity Market Reform announced by Huhne on Tuesday.
The document however, made no mention of the impact on domestic
energy bills of the EMR.
There is another possible source. The author of the Mail article,
Sean Poulter, wrote an article a few days ago on the same subject,
which included the statement that
"Research by UniCredit, a Europe-wide
banking organisation, says building wind farms and power stations
and installing smart meters will send bills rocketing.
"It said: 'According to our analysis, a
typical UK energy bill could rise from the current level of £1,000
per year to over £2,000 per year by 2015.
'As investment occurs, bills could double every five years until
2020, in our view.'"
The identical quote by Unicredit
originally appeared on a blog by the FT in January of this
year. The blog (which began "here's one for the tabloids to get
stuck into...") said that Unicredit's research attributed the
£1,000 bill to "cost pressures from environmental and social
programs and rising network charges". It referred to modelling
underlying these figures. It has not been possible to obtain any
further information from Unicredit as we were informed that the
relevant person is away for all of this week.
So it is possible that there is some basis for the £1,000 figure.
Even if this is the case however, it is clear that it is something
of an outlier as an estimate. The Mail felt the need to note in its
article a quote from an expert who said that he had not seen "any
credible analysis" to substantiate the figure "unless a complete
mess is made of the financing".
The Government announcement estimated that electricity bills will
go up £160 by 2030. In discussing the Government's figures, the
Mail fails to note in its article something that DECC also made
clear - bills are going to go up irrespective of the introduction
of the reforms proposed. DECC's
analysis makes clear that:
"Average consumer bills are estimated to
rise by around £200 from 2010 to 2030 without reform. Electricity
Market Reform will limit this increase in bills to around £160, a
saving of £40 per customer on the average bill." (Section 7.30,
And the Mail says that DECC's figure of £160 on the average
"...relies on the assumption that
families cut their annual energy use in the home by 30 per cent
over the same period".
We were informed by DECC however, that their figures are based
on a 10 percent reduction in energy use in homes, not 30
The Mail article concludes by quoting (again) the director of the
Global Warming Policy Foundation, who describes the Government's
figure of a £160 rise in electricity bills as
"...fanciful, this has just been plucked
from the air".
The Government's figures are based on modelling by Redpoint Energy,
outlined in different levels of detail in
documents on the DECC website. In contrast, the GWPF have not
yet sourced figures they promoted in the Mail last month. And the
figures in this latest Mail article are at best extremely difficult
This article was altered at 3.30pm on Thursday 14th July after
to reflect the fact that the DECC predictions are for household
electricity bills and not energy bills, and so will not for example
be impacted by changes in the prices of gas. This makes the figures
quoted in the Mail even more difficult to compare to the DECC
figures, as they are for energy bills a whole.