Zombie statistics: £200 figure that won't die lurches onto Today Programme

  • 22 May 2012, 13:00
  • Chris Peters

CC vhmh - flickr

Today's Telegraph piece on the draft energy bill, 'Energy reforms will increase household bills, minister Charles Hendry admits', appears to be doing a bit of recycling. We've talked in the past about inaccurate zombie energy stats that just won't die - and it looks like this is another example.

The article, which appears online and in the Business section of the paper, suggests household bills could rise by £200 to finance the reforms in today's draft energy bill:

"Amid claims from analysts that annual household bills could rise by as much as £200 to finance the reforms [...]"

It appears to be repeating a number the Telegraph quoted recently. But the Telegraph ought to know better than to resurrect it, because we (and others) have explained how and why it's wrong. A couple of weeks ago the Telegraph, in its coverage of the Queen's speech , suggested that "new subsidies" introduced as part of the government's electricity market reforms will add around £200 to consumer electricity bills "over the next 15 years".

We found that the way this number had been calculated was wrong - the paper had mistakenly used a figure showing DECC's assessment of how bills would rise without new policies as the amount that they would rise with new policies.

The £200 figure was (roughly) the rise in electricity prices DECC expected without new policy measures, and included assumptions about increasing wholesale fuel costs, as well as the effects of existing government policies such as the renewables obligation. DECC claimed that the increase would actually be £160.

It seems likely that this isn't the last time the £200 stat will burst through the metaphorical door of the energy debate, and it even got a hat-tip on the BBC's Today programme this morning, in an interview with Ed Davey:

John Humphrys: "It's not going to be cheap is it? £200 per household?"

Ed Davey: "We believe, and all our analysis shows, that if [we] didn't do electricity market reform, if we didn't make these changes, bills would be £200 higher. I think that's where you get your figure from. But because we're doing these reforms, because we're taking these very innovative changes, actually that are world-leading changes, game-changers in electricity markets, because we're doing that, we think the cost of meeting this infrastructure investment challenge will be much much less for consumers."

We'll leave discussing whether £160 is "much less" as an exercise for the reader, but a bit more precision on the numbers in this debate would be nice. We sent a letter to the Telegraph last week politely pointing out its mistake, but haven't heard anything back.

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