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BBC’s Matt McGrath Gets His Name Right, But Not Much Else

June 1, 2016

By Paul Homewood  

 

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36420750

 

Matt McGrath’s latest piece is little more than an advertisement for the renewable industry:

 

New solar, wind and hydropower sources were added in 2015 at the fastest rate the world has yet seen, a study says.

Investments in renewables during the year were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants, the Renewables Global Status Report found.

For the first time, emerging economies spent more than the rich on renewable power and fuels.

Over 8 million people are now working in renewable energy worldwide.

For a number of years, the global spend on renewables has been increasing and 2015 saw that arrive at a new peak according to the report.

 

Falling costs key

About 147 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added in 2015, roughly equivalent to Africa’s generating capacity from all sources.

China, the US, Japan, UK and India were the countries adding on the largest share of green power, despite the fact that fossil fuel prices have fallen significantly. The costs of renewables have also fallen, say the authors.

"The fact that we had 147GW of capacity, mainly of wind and solar is a clear indication that these technologies are cost competitive (with fossil fuels)," said Christine Lins, who is executive secretary of REN21, an international body made up of energy experts, government representatives and NGOs, who produced the report.

"They are the preference for many countries and more and more utilities and investors and that is a very positive signal."

Investment in renewables reached $286bn worldwide in 2015.

With China accounting for more than one-third of the global total, the developing countries outspent the richer nations on renewables for the first time.

When measured against a country’s GDP, the biggest investors were small countries like Mauritania, Honduras, Uruguay and Jamaica.

"It clearly shows that the costs have come down so much that the emerging economies are now really focussing on renewables," said Christine Lins.

"They are the ones with the biggest increases in energy demand, and the fact that we had this turning point really shows the business case – and that is really a remarkable development."

The UK’s high position in the global renewables table may come as a surprise to some as there have been a series of substantial cuts to green subsidies over the past year. The UK’s solar industry saw tariff support tumble by over 60% last December.

Despite a significant fall off in European investment in renewables, down around 21%, green power is now the leading source of electricity, providing 44% of total EU capacity in 2015.

The authors say that while the Paris Climate Agreement came after this report was compiled, the fact that countries were getting serious about rising temperatures has already been reflected, to some degree, in their investments. As of early 2016, 173 nations had renewable energy targets in place.

It’s not just nations that are taking big steps towards a greener future. In the US, some 154 companies employing 11 million people have committed to 100% renewable energy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36420750

 

The Renewable Global Status Report referred to comes from the Renewable Energy Policy Network, or REN21, and is available herehere. According to their website:

REN21 is the global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network that connects a wide range of key actors. REN21’s goal is to facilitate knowledge exchange, policy development and joint action towards a rapid global transition to renewable energy. REN21 brings together governments, nongovernmental organisations, research and academic institutions, international organisations and industry to learn from one another and build on successes that advance renewable energy. To assist policy decision making, REN21 provides high quality information, catalyses discussion and debate and supports the development of thematic networks. REN21 is an international non-profit association and is based at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Paris, France.

In other words they are simply a lobby group for renewable interests, and are in no way independent or objective.

Reading the BBC report, one would be excused for thinking that renewables will soon be supplying most of our power, but let’s take a look at some of their key claims, which McGrath has naively regurgitated:-

 

 

1) Investments in renewables during the year were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants

This is a pretty meaningless statement, since the world already has plenty of coal and gas plants, which do not need replacing.

Indeed, the real story here is hundreds of billions are being wasted on renewable energy, when we already have plenty of cheap, reliable fossil fuel power.

The REN21 report itself tells us that $286 billion was invested worldwide on renewable power and fuels, making a total of more than $2 trillion in the last ten years.

Much of this has been wasted because it has simply displaced existing capacity. The investment that has gone on adding new capacity could arguably have been spent more effectively on conventional technology.

 

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This is not some academic argument. Just think of the good that could have been done if this money had been spent on genuine needs.

 

2) Over 8 million people are now working in renewable energy worldwide.

I always treat these sort of numbers with suspicion, but let’s assume they are right.

 

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The figure for the US, 769,000, compares with a number of 569,000 quoted by the EIA in 2012 as working in the oil and gas industry there (incl support workers). If many more are now employed producing a pitifully small amount of renewable energy, it simply proves just how inefficient renewables are. (According to BP, energy from oil/gas amounted to 1531 Mtoe in 2014, compared to just 65 Mtoe of renewables, excl hydro).

It is also worth noting how China is dominating the solar and wind industries, something that is hardly beneficial to western economies.

 

3) About 147 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added in 2015, roughly equivalent to Africa’s generating capacity from all sources.

The BBC always love to quote big numbers like this, without making any attempt to put them into perspective. This is what REN21 show:

 

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Renewables at 23.7% sounds impressive, eh? But craftily, they include hydro, which accounts for two thirds of this figure. Ten years ago hydro was already supplying 16% of the world’s electricity, just the same as it is now.

We all know that adding much more hydro is not possible, and generally speaking is not sensible from either environmental or agricultural reasons.

And that leaves wind and solar, which produce less than 5%.

But when we look at total energy consumption, and not just electricity, the contribution from wind/solar becomes vanishingly small:

 

image

 

  

4) "The fact that we had 147GW of capacity, mainly of wind and solar is a clear indication that these technologies are cost competitive (with fossil fuels)"

This is simply self serving nonsense.

The only reason renewable capacity is increasing in developed countries is because they are heavily subsidised and/or fossil fuels are being regulated out of existence.

In the UK, for instance, the latest CfD auction has awarded 15-year, index linked prices to offshore wind farms of £126/MWh, which is three times the market price. Solar farms subsidies are not much less, getting guaranteed prices of £83/MWh.

For Matt McGrath to republish this claim, without even questioning it, is unprofessional, to put it mildly, and must call into question his objectivity.

 

5) Investment in renewables reached $286bn worldwide in 2015. With China accounting for more than one-third of the global total, the developing countries outspent the richer nations on renewables for the first time.

Another thing the BBC like is to put up “big” numbers for China. There is a very deliberate reason for this, and that is to persuade the public that China is serious about decarbonisation.

So, again, let’s see what the actual numbers mean.

 

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China now have wind and solar capacity of 145 and 43 GW respectively. According to BP, the capacity utilisation for these are 15% and 12%, which would give annual generation of about 236 TWh.

However, China’s total generation of electricity in 2014 was 5650 TWh, meaning wind and solar are still only capable of contributing just 4% of total power.

 

 

6) Despite a significant fall off in European investment in renewables, down around 21%, green power is now the leading source of electricity, providing 44% of total EU capacity in 2015

I have no idea what the EU’s total capacity is, but it is grossly misleading to claim that green power is now the leading source of electricity.

Because of the woeful inefficiency of renewables, wind and solar only supplied 11% of the EU’s electricity in 2014, according to BP. The figure won’t be much higher for last year.

Hydro adds in another 12%, but this has not increased this century, and nobody in their right minds would suggest it should.

 

 

 

Summary

This sort of journalism from the BBC is all too common. Too often, they report a highly biased presentation from a vested interested group as if it was 100% fact, but fail miserably to question, or put such claims into a proper perspective.

When you complain, they simply revert to a “we are only reporting what they said” defence.

Such journalism, if I can be excused from calling it that, is shoddy, unprofessional and blatantly biased.

A more accurate headline would have been:      

 

 

Renewable Energy Surges From 2% to 2% Around The World

 

 

Not quite the same ring, I agree, but a darned sight more accurate!

 

                                            

39 Comments leave one →
  1. Bitter&twisted permalink
    June 1, 2016 8:29 pm

    What else do you expect from the Biased Bulls*** Cartel?

  2. June 1, 2016 8:44 pm

    If we just look at the Solar Energy figures in the Renewables Global Status Report

    The world invested $160 billion in new solar energy in 2015. This investment resulted in an extra 50GW of global solar capacity. So the net cost of new cheap solar is just over $3 billion per extra GW, and that is without any energy storage. Load factors are probably 15% at best, but lets be generous and assume a 20% figure.

    Therefore to compare this to new build nuclear (>90% load factor) we need to scale to net power delivery. Solar costs are then $15 billion per GW power whereas Hinkley C costs are $6.7 billion per GW. However it is worse than that because

    Lifetime of solar panels = 20y
    Lifetime of Hinkley C = 60y

    So the 60 year lifetime costs of solar power are some 6 times greater. Oh – and for the UK solar doesn’t work at all in winter without batteries.

    • DMA permalink
      June 2, 2016 3:13 am

      Your numbers look reasonable but I can’t tell if cost of land is a factor. Siting and getting power from wind farms is much more expensive than siting and grid connection for nucs.
      Most renewable cost estimates don’t include backup to level the production but I think your load factor handles that problem.

    • June 2, 2016 12:35 pm

      @Clive notice how “tricky Greenpeace”/eco-NGOs speak
      – ‘Hinkley at $20bn is too expensive and risky’
      – ‘ cheer cheer $160bn in new solar energy in 2015’

      over 60 years for 3GW/yr
      – ”Hinkley at $20bn’ + FUELS
      – Solar $135bn …………from $45bn times 3

      and just think of that, solar is so bad that the entire worlds solar building/year is only a bit more output Hinkley alone

      (site cleanup has not be included for either but should be)

  3. June 1, 2016 8:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “Renewables at 23.7% sounds impressive, eh? But craftily, they include hydro, which accounts for two thirds of this figure. Ten years ago hydro was already supplying 16% of the world’s electricity, just the same as it is now…

    And that leaves wind and solar, which produce less than 5%.”

    —–

    Such an insignificant amount of expensive, intermittent and ‘unreliable’ power generation despite Europe, alone, spending literally a €Trillion on wind and solar over the past decade.

    Talk about carbon footprints, when each turbine consists of 260T of cement, steal and rare-earth magnets, shipped all the way from eco-friendly China/India.

    —–

    “A more accurate headline would have been:      

    “Renewable Energy Surges From 2% to 2% Around The World”

    Correct Paul!

    Good read…

  4. Curious George permalink
    June 1, 2016 8:57 pm

    This ad is all about capacity (a theoretical ability to generate power) and scrupulously avoids the power actually generated – and what happens to it when a peak of generation does not coincide with a peak of demand.

  5. June 1, 2016 9:20 pm

    This is so misleading, one would think that renewables comprise the bulk of energy, but what they fail to note is that energy is produced when the sun shines, about 30% of the time if one is lucky and at best 25% of the time if the wind blows. Like I said, misleading 100% of the time.

  6. Graeme No.3 permalink
    June 1, 2016 9:35 pm

    Morocco has just started Noor No.1 a 110MW solar heat tower. It will work during the day and cool down during the night. Before dawn the built-in gas station will start up, supplying electricity while the hot exhaust warms the molten salts so they are fluid enough to circulate and start capturing sunlight when the sun is well clear of the horizon.

    Normally the presence, and necessity, of the gas station to these tower plants is glossed over or ignored, so the claim to ‘renewable’ is flawed. The output is estimated by the Moroccans to cost 9 times that of a coal fired station. Why did they then install it? Simple, it cost them very little with donations from the EU, World Bank and the UN, so it doesn’t have to meet normal financial conditions.
    I wonder how much of the ‘enthusiasm’ for ‘renewables’ by developing countries relies on getting them for free?

  7. AndyG55 permalink
    June 1, 2016 9:51 pm

    OT: UAH global dropping fast.

    Down to +0.55ºC from +0.71ºC last month.

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2016/06/uah-global-temperature-update-for-may-2016-0-55-deg-c/

    The El Nino was only ever going to be a transient effect.

    Gone now… Strong La Nina predicted.

    AMO starting to head downwards.

    The Sun having a snooze

    This is probably the last year of the zero temperature trend of this century.

    A cooling trend is coming that will be a wake-up call to all those sucked in by the AGW alarmism.

  8. June 1, 2016 9:55 pm

    Some might say Matt is well meaning but misled – I think he’s just stepped up to the plate to replace the awful Richard Black – who is now in only slightly less taxpayer funded wingnut liar propagandist employ…

    These embedded propagandists really are like ticks …

    • CheshireRed permalink
      June 1, 2016 11:02 pm

      Absolutely right tomo. McGrath knows what he’s doing. Just another Green mouthpiece for Green propaganda, simple as.

  9. martinbrumby permalink
    June 2, 2016 3:42 am

    Of course, the thrust of REN21’s report also reminds us of the famous tale about Milton Friedman:-

    While travelling by car during one of his many overseas travels, Professor Milton Friedman spotted scores of road builders moving earth with shovels instead of modern machinery. When he asked why powerful equipment wasn’t used instead of so many labourers, his host told him it was to keep employment high in the construction industry. If they used tractors or modern road building equipment, fewer people would have jobs was his host’s logic.

    “Then instead of shovels, why don’t you give them spoons and create even more jobs?” Friedman inquired.”

    • June 2, 2016 11:55 am

      The West Virginia coal and other industry was burdened by such ridiculous policies governed by unions in decades past. They had to hire people whose jobs were no longer necessary. For example, carpenters had to use hand saws instead of power ones. Finally this led to a much higher rate of mechanization. Many other jobs were prematurely eliminated by business reading the handwriting on the wall.

      Oh, the “unintended consequences.” It is hard to outsmart human nature–especially by those on the left who never grasped the notion of actions producing predictable consequences. Dr. Friedman, as a capitalist, understood that well.

      The left is always stunned when their schemes, so well thought out in the faculty lounge with like-minded, are met with the push back of reality practiced by the rest of us. Their answer is to just call us stupid and move on with their next failing scheme. Thus they violate a principle of Dr. Thomas Sowell: “Reality is not optional.”

  10. June 2, 2016 6:13 am

    As I posted over at Bishop Hill yesterday morning when I read McGraph’s article on the BBC website: That Matt “McGrath article is unbelievably misleading and biased. No mention of costs/subsidies and as you say, it deliberately conflates capacity with production. But of course REN21 is a lobby organisation for the renewable energy scam, so no good correspondent would refer to it without taking its claims apart. We all are aware of the bias shown by Matt McGrath, another of the BBC’s many environment correspondents.”

  11. June 2, 2016 6:51 am

    Time for a class action complaint? Interestingly BBC reporting was never a problem for my wife but even she is fuming following the EU referendum coverage. The bias there is more subtle, this is blatant!

    • June 2, 2016 12:14 pm

      It is easy to imagine that the UK press is as biased and as clueless to substance as the American media. They also are befuddled as to why a lot of us are absolutely cheering Donald Trump. Finally someone is calling these leftist boobs for what they are. Finally, someone is calling their bilge, bilge. Finally, someone is not allowing them to destroy him. As they did not create him, they cannot take him out and that has their panties in a wad. Finally, someone is not even buying their premise, let alone the follow up to their false narrative. Finally, we have someone saying that “man-caused global climate change” is a hoax. Finally, we have someone standing up for WV and the other coal-producing states. Finally, someone is calling a spade a spade and a whole lot of us are jumping up and down cheering. FINALLY. We are done with the “sophisticated nuance” squad who has sold us down the river, thinking that we are too stupid to notice. And now that media is whining that Trump is calling them names??? They’ve called me “stupid, uneducated, hillbilly, terrorist, tea-bagger, anti-woman, extremist,….” for decades. And when I dared to question their monikers? I was told by them to “get over it.” Now I say to them: “get over it.”

    • June 2, 2016 12:58 pm

      Yes it is corruption and has CONSEQUENCES..even if their is not a money trail as McGrath and Harra create these deceptions presumably cos of their GREEN RELIGIOUS BELIEFS that the planet is so at risk they have to cheat to push renewables over fossil fuels.

      Each deceptive BBC report is another brick in the wall, that causes more renewables to be built and CONSUMERS BILLS to rise.

      I noted yesterday that every half hour the BBC World Service news carried McGrath’s report about 3 minutes in.
      ..but you can almost hear the newsreader thinking ‘Do I have to read this, I have checked the facts and I know it’s crap ?’

      So what’s the MAGNITUDE of the effect of these deceptive reports ..if many people like the newsreaders know they’re rubbish the effect will be ever diminishing..and I would say has already damaged the BBC’s CREDIBILITY.

      • June 3, 2016 9:28 am

        Has anyone met Harra and McGrath etc ?
        I have met a number of media people like Adam Rutherford, and they seem just full on true believer activist evangelists convinced of both CAGW and that solar/wind are magic solutions.
        So I expect that is Harra and McGrath’s motivation …. unlike billionaire Greenhedgefund man and alarmism funder J Grantham.

    • June 2, 2016 1:04 pm

      So BBC bosses start the clean up against these deceptive reports from the BBC-Eco team ..and you’ll earn your pension.

      But if you sit back and are complicit in the deception, which breaks the BBC’s Charter ..I don’t see why you get to keep your pension, when the consequences is £200/year per household thru increased energy bill and prices of good/services whose suppliers mass on their higher energy costs..

      We document the deceptions, but should we start a petition or something ?

      • June 2, 2016 6:38 pm

        We could but the problem with a petition is that unless it involves harm to animals (polar bears or famous lions or gorillas!) or orphaned immigrants, we are in a small minority of concerned citizens. How could anyone possibly object to auntie worrying about the environment?! It would take a possibly expensive legal action to get redress and even then one might end up with them getting the equivalent of a slapped wrist. Look how long the Saville affair went on in the Beeb!

      • June 3, 2016 9:30 am

        Is this the BBC’s Phone-Hacking ? ‘ends justify the means’
        Last week’s Media Show talked about in the old days journalists used to go drinking with police,
        but then it was realised that journalists should ‘NOT be in bed’ with their sources.

        Yet in 2016 we have Harra handing out Eco-awards.
        How can he impartial in his work ?
        That is Harra being in bed with sources he should be challenging.

        So can Harra and McGrath going native and today’s BBC bias be traced back 28gate ?
        I think that’s it at that meeting it was decided that being impartial was not good enough as “it’s the future of the planet that is at stake!”
        And that is the same thinking as News of the World working with police to hack phones on the premise they were getting the “bad guys” poofs, paedophiles and hypocrites etc. so ends justify the means.

      • June 19, 2016 8:52 am

        Unfortunately this will never be a burning issue for the general public. Most people will defend the BBC to the death despite the biased reporting and excessive wages for their ‘talent’. The energy taxes are a possible line of attack but then we come across as not caring about the planet. The legal route seems like the only option that would have an impact but in all likelihood the best result might be a Pyrrhic victory.

  12. June 2, 2016 8:18 am

    Matt’s report fell apart at the first glance yesterday.

    “green power is now the leading source of electricity, providing 44% of total EU capacity in 2015.”
    …em which of course is a complete deception
    cos CAPACITY is not PRODUCTION or source
    Surely that is so obvious it cannot have been an error by McGrath, but deliberate.

    It’s OK saying there is a lot of “renewables” capacity but unfortunately intermittents like wind/solar spend much off their time off and in low production, whereas the capacity factor of conventional power stations is MUCH higher so CONVENTIONALS are the “LEADING SOURCE” of electricity.

    Then @Phillip Bratby pointed out : The report was actually an uncritical cutNpaste from a REN21 report
    ..and REN21 is the lobbying org of the Renewables Industry.

    and I could see McGrath’s game
    based on the hashtag #CrookedHillary
    should we use #CrookedBBC or #CrookedEcoBBC to be more precise

  13. June 2, 2016 8:23 am

    Then there’s the new story by other BBCEco RHarrabin
    Cooling technologies set to become red hot sector
    It’s a fawning report after reading a report on “the Cold Economy”/
    You’d expect an IMPARTIAL BBC enviro reporter to have challenged and tested assertions like a proper journalist !

    Strange how i get BBCEnviro and Greenpeace pages mixed up
    It’s another one to put down as #BBCFreeGreenAds

  14. June 2, 2016 8:58 am

    If these BBC reporters had to live on the output of wind and solar energy alone for a month, maybe in winter, they might find out what the reality is.

    Failing that, their deluded green bubble mentality will continue as long as the BBC encourages it.

    • June 2, 2016 10:13 am

      If only these public funded parasites were to rely on renewable output…paying the full unsubsidised price…then sanity would quickly be restored.

  15. Andrew Duffin permalink
    June 2, 2016 10:04 am

    “a clear indication that these technologies are cost competitive (with fossil fuels)”

    Oh for goodness’ sake.

    A clear indication would be that they no longer require any subsidies and can sell their output in a genuinely competitive market.

    Wake me up when that happens.

    • June 2, 2016 12:45 pm

      Wishful thinking greens always assumed that Sheikhs with easily available gas would hold out for $100/barrel even if renewables cost $95/barrel
      What has been proven is Sheikhs can go down to $50 and below
      …wishful thinking is a dream

  16. June 2, 2016 10:14 am

    Reblogged this on CraigM350 and commented:
    “Renewable Energy Surges From 2% to 2% Around The World”

    But at what cost?

  17. June 2, 2016 12:08 pm

    (reposted with better formatting)
    McGrath’s report fell apart at the first glance yesterday.

    “green power is now the leading source of electricity, providing 44% of total EU capacity in 2015.”

    …em which of course is a complete deception
    cos CAPACITY is not PRODUCTION or source.

    Surely that is so obvious it cannot have been an error by McGrath, but deliberate.
    It’s OK saying there is a lot of “renewables” capacity but unfortunately intermittents like wind/solar spend much off their time off and in low production, whereas the capacity factor of conventional power stations is MUCH higher so CONVENTIONALS are the “LEADING SOURCE” of electricity.

    Then @Phillip Bratby pointed out : The report was actually an uncritical cutNpaste from a REN21 report..and REN21 is the lobbying org of the Renewables Industry.
    and I could see McGrath’s game

    Based on the hashtag #CrookedHillary
    should we use #CrookedBBC or #CrookedEcoBBC to be more precise ?

  18. johnbuk permalink
    June 2, 2016 2:37 pm

    Matt McGrath, Head Regurgitator – Greenpeace/ BBC Division

  19. Gamecock permalink
    June 4, 2016 1:01 pm

    ‘For the first time, emerging economies spent more than the rich on renewable power and fuels.’

    People should go to prison for this. “Hi, I’m from the West, and I’m here to help you.”

    ‘”It clearly shows that the costs have come down so much that the emerging economies are now really focussing on renewables,” said Christine Lins.’

    Westerners using indigenous people as guinea pigs. Again. “No, no, no! You don’t want a coal fired electric plant! You want this nice solar plant! We’ll help you get it going.” Putting the poor on the bleeding edge of technology is sinful.

  20. June 4, 2016 4:57 pm

    Don’t BBC greenies read the Guardian any more? Only two months ago it said:

    ‘European clean tech industry falls into rapid decline’

    ‘Investment in low-carbon energy in Europe last year plummeted by more than half to $58bn, the lowest level in a decade, analysis shows’

    ‘Prospects for the struggling EU clean energy industry look poor overall, said analysts. ‘
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/23/european-clean-tech-industry-falls-into-rapid-decline

    Did BBC climate spin doctors bin that news?

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