Daily Mail attributes the entire cost of upgrading the UK energy system to “wind farm pylons”
- 17 Jul 2012, 15:00
- Christian Hunt
Upgrades to gas and electricity networks will cost households
£88 billion over eight years, Ofgem says. But why is the Mail
saying this money is going to be spent on "wind farm pylons"?
Telegraph's lead, the
Mail has decided that electricity pylons are the new front in
its ongoing campaign against green policies in general, and wind
farms in particular.
Under the headline 'Wind farm pylons will cost every home £88
as part of £22bn project to link them to national grid' the paper
"Every home will pay £88 to build a vast
network of pylons in a £22 billion project to link wind farms to
the national grid. Bills will start to rise next year under the
controversial plans revealed by industry regulator Ofgem
yesterday. An average of £11 will be added annually for eight
years, making £88 in total on top of any other increases.
"The scheme is part of a £200 billion programme to switch to
'green' energy and build nuclear power stations to meet targets to
cut carbon emissions ..."
Financing gas and electricity transmission
The figures are taken from
an announcement by Ofgem yesterday, outlining its
suggested plan for financing the upgrade of the UK's energy
transmission systems which consumers will pay for through a payment
added to their energy bills.
Because it is now standard practice for some newspapers to
engage in all kinds of bizarre mathematics to inflate the apparent
cost of 'green' policies to consumers, Ofgem preemptively provides
an estimate for how much this is going to cost an average
"The impact of the total ... package
announced today is estimated to lead to household bills being
around £7 higher in 2013, rising to around a £15 increase in 2021.
The average increase on annual household bills across the eight
years of the price control is around £11 compared to this
Over eight years, this will comprise £88 per household, which is
the figure the Mail has alighted on for its piece.
What is this paying for?
Although the amount is right, the Mail's description of what
consumers will be paying for is not.
In total, the plans will costs £22bn, Ofgem says:
"The majority of the proposed
investment, around £15 billion, would include the upgrade and
renewal of the high voltage electricity network in England and
Wales and the high pressure gas networks across Britain … An
estimated £7 billion would help to ensure that our low pressure gas
networks, which deliver gas to homes and businesses, remain safe
In other words, the money is paying for upgrading electricity
and gas networks, and so it is misleading to suggest it is solely
the cost of building pylons to connect wind farms to the grid.
This looks like deliberate misrepresentation on the part of the
Mail, because Ofgem actually breaks down the costs to
"The £11 average increase to a household
bill [per year] breaks down into around £4 for National Grid
Electricity Transmission (NGET), £2 for National Grid Gas
Transmission (NGGT) and £5 for the gas distribution companies."
So applying the Mail's calculation correctly, the average
household will pay £32 over eight years for electricity
transmission upgrades under the proposals, which will enable a
range of new energy sources including wind farms, new gas plants
and (in theory) nuclear power, with £56 going to pay for gas
Where did the Mail get the inspiration for its "windfarm pylons"
headline? It's not entirely clear, as Ofgem doesn't break down the
spend on electricity infrastructure by energy type.
This document from the Energy Networks Strategy Group - the
body that advises the Department of Energy and Climate Change on
future infrastructure needs - examines similar costs in a scenario
where the UK meets renewable energy and carbon reduction targets
for 2020. It suggests around 60 per cent of new capacity will be
from wind power - onshore and offshore.
These numbers don't provide a detailed picture of how much
transmission infrastructure costs will be for each new technology,
but they do show that taking the entirety of spending on new energy
grid infrastructure as applying to "windfarm pylons" is not
So a more accurate headline might have been: "Electricity
upgrades will cost every home £32 over the next eight years". But
then that doesn't really have the same ring, does it?