Media play the numbers game with impact of energy bill

Nov 23, 2012

Green gouge or renewable ripple: the new energy bill's true cost to consumers is up in the air

ENERGY companies will be allowed to triple the amount of money they charge households for the development of nuclear power stations, wind farms and other environmental measures under a new energy bill outlined by the government today.

But estimates of the cost to consumers of pumping £7.6 billion a year into green schemes varied wildly from less than £100 to almost £180 as the media responded to Energy Secretary Ed Davey's bill.

The Daily Telegraph erred on the side of fiscal trauma with a story headlined: 'Wind farms to increase energy bills by £178 a year'. The paper said: "Bills will go up over the next two decades by an estimated £178 a year under all the Government's green and fuel poverty policies, with the contribution to nuclear and renewables making up £95 by 2020."

The Daily Mail, not a fan of wind turbines, also quotes the £178 figure, saying bills will rise by that much by 2030. Its article is accompanied by a picture of an attractive woman clasping her hand to her brow at the sight of a power bill.

Davey, who has been locked in a battle with Chancellor George Obsorne to deliver an energy bill that balances the need to wean Britain off carbon fuels and the inevitable, politically unsavoury hit to wallets, was clearly unimpressed.

He told the Financial Times the costs calculated by some newspapers were "utter rubbish" and that the bill would only cost £20 a year per household in 2012, rising to just under £100 in 2020.

The Energy Secretary would have been happier with BBC environment correspondent Roger Harrabin who quoted an estimate from Davey's own department that the measures will add £95 a year, or seven per cent to an average energy bill by 2020.

Readers of The Guardian were given a figure based on government estimates that green measures "make up £20 of the average domestic gas and electricity bill of £1,249 a year".

On that basis, The Guardian reckons the hit to the average household would be "about £80, or £60 adjusted for inflation". The newspaper also points out that government officials argue that, by the end of the decade, the "benefits of energy-saving measures and less reliance on expensive fossil fuel power will mean bills are actually lower than they would be without the green policies."

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