An academic who is a vocal critic of the costs of renewable power has been selected by the government to head a landmark review of the cost of energy in the UK. Dieter Helm, an economist at the University of Oxford, has been chosen by the Department for Business, Industrial and Energy Strategy (BEIS) to carry out the review, the Guardian has learned. The Conservative manifesto promised the resulting report would be the first step towards “competitive and affordable energy costs”. Theresa May is among ministers taking an interest in the cost of energy review, which will examine how power prices can be kept down while meeting the UK’s carbon targets and keeping the lights on. But the choice of Helm, author of a new book on the slow demise of oil companies in the face of energy trends, will be controversial in some quarters because of his criticism of wind and solar power. While acknowledging that renewables are rewriting the energy landscape, the professor of energy has attacked the cost of today’s windfarms and solar technology, calling them “expensive” and highlighting the “sheer cost” of electricity generated from renewable sources. Helm has also suggested the existing generation of green energy is not enough to significantly cut emissions. “Current renewables like wind turbines, rooftop solar and biomass stand no serious chance of making much difference to decarbonisation. It’s very simply a matter of scale,” he wrote in the Spectator magazine. Instead, Helm believes funding should be directed at next generation renewable technologies, such as more efficient solar panels. He also backs emerging technologies such as smart grids and battery storage. The new energy minister, Richard Harrington, has already said the government is still committed to a new generation of nuclear power stations, but Helm’s review could provide justification for abandoning those ambitions on cost grounds.
Guardian 12th July 2017 read more »