Mail doubles impact of green policies on bills, again
- 20 Feb 2012, 17:00
- Robin Webster
The Daily Mail have again confused their readers over the amount
of an energy bill that is due to social and environmental costs, or
'green taxes'. (We've
been here before.)
On Saturday a
large-ish article appeared in the paper titled:
Official: Green taxes add 15% to your
bills: at last, admission of why families are paying so much for
From the headline, you might guess that the government has just
released some new analysis which finally vindicates the
misleading reporting the paper has produced on the
issue. This isn't the case. In fact the article refers to
released by DECC last November, which the Mail devoted
front-page to at the time.
So what's changed? Apparently nothing.
Electricity prices and energy bills are not the same
If correct, the eye catching headline would back up the
assertion that "15-20%" of an energy bill is made up of
But the headline is wrong, as the first sentence of the article
Electricity prices are 15 per cent more
expensive than they should be because of green policies, Whitehall
officials have admitted.
The Mail has yet again
mixed up electricity prices with energy bills.
Here's why this is the wrong thing to do: Most households use both
gas and electricity, so the average energy bill is determined by
the price of both.
The average household spends more on gas than electricity, and
green policies add less to gas prices than to electricity prices -
about 5%, according to the figures the Mail is quoting.
Hence, a 15% rise in the price of electricity doesn't mean a 15%
rise in the overall bill.
Figure 1: Proportion of the average energy bill accounted
for by electricity and gas. Source:
DECC projections, November 2011
The Mail should have got this right, because the DECC figures it
quotes make the point quite clearly. The DECC report states, in the
first point of the summary, that
The costs of energy and climate change
policies are estimated to make up around 7% of the average
household energy bill - not accounting for the energy they help
Confusing energy bills with electricity prices is a basic error,
and one that we know the Mail are aware of, because we've written
to the editorial staff about it before.
Once again, the effect of the mistake is to double the amount that
'green policies' allegedly add to a bill.
The article also makes predictions about the future, and contrary
to the DECC analysis assumes that energy consumption will not fall
at all in the future.
The Mail suggest that "£200 could be added to the average energy
bill by 2020", a statement that appears to come from assuming
energy usage will be exactly the same in 2020 as it is now, and
comparing bills with and without green policies on that basis.
Here they are on safer ground, because there are plenty of
others who agree the government's predictions about energy
efficiency are over-optimistic.
This projection is based on government figures, but assumes the
government's energy efficiency plans will have no effect to reduce
energy use. Fair enough - it seems like an open question whether
the 'Green Deal' will effectively cut energy use over the coming
But weirdly, the Mail appear to have missed a trick - DECC's
analysis actually suggests a theoretical rise
of £280 to the average energy bill as a result of green
policies by 2020, if energy efficiency measures are ignored - as
the Mail has
itself pointed out in previous coverage.
DECC has defended their assumption that policies will cause energy
use to fall,
arguing in a blog that even householders that don't take up an
insulation measures and are not eligible for a 'Warm Homes discount
rebate' will see a rise in their bill of only £44 by 2020.
But again, these predictions are based on accepting that
government policies (like a universal roll-out of Smart Meters, or
a fall in wholesale electricity costs as a result of more power
coming from renewables) will have a substantive effect, which
remains to be seen.
That aside, the article headline, and the claim that green energy
measures are currently adding 15% to householder's bills, is, to
use the phrase of the PCC editor's
code "inaccurate, misleading or distorted information" - words
with which we are becoming increasingly familiar.