KPMG: we don't want our renewables report to be misunderstood
- 07 Feb 2012, 15:35
- Christian Hunt
Remember the KPMG report which suggested that the Government's
renewables programme is adding an "additional £34bn" to the cost of
energy? It was trailed in a major article in the Sunday Times back
in November, and cited prominently in an episode of Panorama which
aired the next day.
Both said that the report would be published within days - but
that schedule kept slipping, and the website BusinessGreen has
revealed today that KPMG have finally admitted that the report
will never be published.
The first mention of the research was a
Sunday Times article headlined
Ditching wind farms 'will save £34bn'; A
new study says Britain can hit its carbon targets more cheaply with
gas and nuclear power.
A controversial report by KPMG, the
accountants and adviser on government energy policy, will this week
say that Britain can reach the 2020 target on reducing pollution
imposed by the European Union for a third less than predicted, a
potential saving of £34 billion.
To do so, says the report, entitled
Thinking About the Affordable, the proportion of wind power
envisaged in the current plan would need to be slashed and the
energy shortfall made up by new gas-powered stations and nuclear
A day later the figures from the report were used prominently in
an episode of Panorama entitled "What's fuelling
your energy bill", which ended up concluding - on the strength
of the KPMG work - that
"by moving rapidly from coal to gas and
growing wind more slowly, we could meet our carbon targets, but
save the public 34 billion pounds, saving the world for less".
KPMG however seemed less confident in the findings than the
journalists were. When we tried to get a
copy of the report, we were told that the Sunday Times story
was based on "preliminary findings" and "...the full report itself
is still being written". Meanwhile KPMG
told BusinessGreen that the company was aiming to release the
report at the end of the year, arguing that
"Due to the technical nature of the
report were are trying to make sure we get it totally right so we
can publish it and allow people to examine it and criticise at
Oddly, BusinessGreen also got hold of a draft
press release from KPMG which had been doing the rounds,
complete with an impressive level of detail, including additional
numbers, lengthy quotes and bar charts.
But today, a spokeswoman for KPMG
told BusinessGreen that the company had decided not release the
full report as researchers had deemed it was "ripe for
"The assumptions and parameters used in
the model - which examined the investment and lifetime costs of
different energy generation sources - produced large swings in the
financial outcomes," she explained.
"To avoid any misinterpretation we have
decided not to publish any findings, although we are discussing our
analysis with interested clients and stakeholders in the energy
She added that
"Unfortunately things do get boiled down
into a headline and the findings are too complex for that," she
This might have been a strong argument a few months ago, before
the report had been highlighted by a Sunday newspaper and the BBC's
flagship investigative programme. Coming two months after the
report has made headlines, it doesn't really sound so convincing.
The only way those figures, which are already in the public domain,
can be interrogated is if the work behind them is made
At the moment, it seems pretty mystifying that a reputable firm
like KPMG would be briefing the Sunday Times and the BBC's Panorama
about inconclusive research, which they've subsequently
prevaricated over for three months and then disowned.
Without the report being published - in whatever form - it's
impossible to understand the calculations and assumptions behind
UPDATE 16:00 7th Feb: It appears that a week ago Panorama have
published a 'clarification' to "What's fuelling your energy
bill". The clarification recognises that "the rise in current
energy bills is predominantly linked to the increase in winter gas
prices", referencing figures from Ofgem.