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Harrabin’s Latest Renewables Disinformation

April 7, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby




From Roger Harrabin:


The world added record levels of renewable energy capacity in 2016, according to the UN.

But the bill was almost a quarter lower than the previous year, thanks to the plunging cost of renewables.

Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, says the report from UN Environment.

It follows news that the cost of offshore wind power has fallen by around a third since 2012 – far faster than expected.

But the report’s authors sound the alarm that just as costs are plunging, some major nations are scaling back their green energy investments.

This, they say, reduces the likelihood of meeting the Paris climate agreement.

The paper is published in conjunction with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Ulf Moslener, a co-author, told BBC News: “Things are heading the right way, and the learning and technical costs of renewables have done a large part of their job. But investments are not yet there to meet the structural change agreed in Paris."

solar power

Some countries including China have cut back on their spending on renewables

Europe leads

The report finds that wind, solar and other renewables added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity in 2016 – up 8% from 2015. The added capacity roughly equals that of the world’s 16 largest existing power producing facilities combined, it says.

Recent figures from the International Energy Agency cited the switch to renewables as one main reason for greenhouse gas emissions staying flat in 2016 even though the global economy grew by 3.1 per cent.

As usual with Harrabin, it is what he forgets to tell you that matters. For instance:



1) He always like to talk in terms of capacity, which as we know grossly overstates the contribution of renewables.


The UN report states:

The proportion of global electricity provided by renewables rose from 10.3% in 2015 to 11.3% in 2016.

This figure excludes large hydro. They do not offer a split, but according to BP wind and solar only contributed 4.5% of electricity in 2015, the last year figures are available for.

If the UN numbers are correct, this would suggest that the remaining 5.8% came from burning biomass, small scale hydro, geothermal and marine.

Whenever he writes about renewables, Harrabin always tries to give the impression that we are really talking about wind/solar. This is backed up by photos of windmills and solar panels. (When was the last time he showed a picture of devastated forests, logs on the way to pellet mills, and backlit images of “black steam” coming out of Drax?)

I suspect that if he had quoted the figures for wind and solar, his readers would have been distinctly unimpressed!


2) Another convenient omission is that electricity only accounts for about 15% of total energy consumption.

Renewables therefore only contribute about 2% of total energy.


3) The report also shows the amount of new generating capacity from other sources:




Added capacity from coal and gas is 91GW, almost as great as renewables. Given that modern fossil fuel plants are capable of running at above 80% loading, this new capacity will probably produce twice as much electricity as renewables.

In fact, the new capacity of gas and coal is greater than shown on the graph, as the UN report explains:




Of course, the new coal plants did not directly replace the closed ones. Most of the new ones are in developing countries in Asia and elsewhere, whereas the ones shutting will tend to be in Europe and the US.


4) Investment in renewable energy has been falling for years. Last year, the biggest reduction was in China, India and Brazil – the very countries that are supposed to be leading the way!

In particular, the UN report states that renewable investment in China has fallen by almost a third.




The claim that this is due to lower costs is  ridiculous – if costs really were falling so fast, countries would be lining up to increase investment.



5) By far the biggest drop in investment has been in solar power, which makes a nonsense of claims that it is one of the cheapest forms of new power.





And the only reason why investment in wind power has not fallen as much is the subsidies thrown at it by governments in Europe:

Investment in renewables did not drop across the board. Europe enjoyed a 3 per cent increase to $59.8 billion, led by the UK ($24 billion) and Germany ($13.2 billion). Offshore wind ($25.9 billion) dominated Europe’s investment, up 53 per cent thanks to mega-arrays such as the 1.2 gigawatt Hornsea project in the North Sea, estimated to cost $5.7 billion.

6) It is claimed that the cost of renewable energy is plunging. The renewable lobby has of course been arguing this for years, and using it as a justification for further subsidies.

However, quite apart from the extra costs of connection, Harrabin utterly fails to understand that he is not comparing like with like.

Wind and solar power can only provide electricity intermittently, and to a large extent unpredictably. As such, the power they provide is intrinsically worth less then reliable power provided by fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Cost comparisons are therefore totally meaningless.




It is the job of the BBC to report all of the facts, not just the few that support their agenda.

But we have been here before, haven’t we?





The full UN report can be downloaded here:

  1. markl permalink
    April 7, 2017 10:27 pm

    More fake news about renewables. Until they drop the capacity bs and start using actual outputs based on installation history this is all bs. Unfortunately propaganda like this is meant for the masses few of which know the difference between nameplate capacity and actual output. Saying renewable cost is better than fossil fuel energy is a downright lie.

    • April 8, 2017 12:50 pm

      Hmm I think it’s worse than that. If you cite the total energy produced in a year, wind turbines can sound quite good. If you then take that total energy and divide by the average electrical energy used by a household, you get some fantasy figure like “the windfarm produces enough electricity to power 50,000 homes” or some such.

      What if you ask the question: “How many homes can the windfarm supply if it was the sole source of electricity?” The answer is probably rather close to none.

  2. BLACK PEARL permalink
    April 8, 2017 12:24 am

    Wasn’t it Mark Twain that said … a lie can travel 1/2 way around the world before the truth has got its shoes on

  3. Curious George permalink
    April 8, 2017 12:32 am

    If you want a cheap capacity, go renewables. If you want a cheap electricity, look elsewhere.

    • wert permalink
      April 9, 2017 6:41 pm

      Oh the capacity is not cheap, but just worthless.

  4. April 8, 2017 6:35 am

    One has to wonder if Harrabin doesn’t understand the difference between capacity and output or if he is deliberately misleading the public. I suspect it is both.

    In my experience over 10 years of giving talks and presenting evidence to LPAs and the Planning Inspectorate, 99% of people do not understand the difference between capacity and output (or between power and energy) and it is virtually impossible to get the message across and to get it to stick. Harrabin may be deliberately exploiting this. He is a complete disgrace and should have been sacked years ago. Has the BBC ever sacked anybody for incompetence and/or lying?

    • nigel permalink
      April 8, 2017 8:03 am

      “…99% of people do not understand …it is virtually impossible to get the message across and to get it to stick.”

      In the development of the infant there are crucial stages for each ability (such as sight) and if there is a “hiccup” during that stage, the ability will never be fully acquired. It seems there is a similar stage for gaining an insight into how sensory information has to be reinterpreted into basic concepts of mathematics and science. If the person does not “get it” then, they never will.

      My daughter-in-law is a teacher of maths, who occasionally has to take classes of fifteen- year-olds of normal intelligence who have not got it. She says “They can not even begin to think mathematically, and they never will. They are, literally, harder to teach than six-year-olds.”

    • April 8, 2017 1:30 pm

      Professor Sir David King, government chief scientific advisor 2002-2007, has twice said that Tony Blair was similarly confused as to the difference between power/electricity and energy when he was negotiating the EU 20:20 agreement.

    • April 8, 2017 1:42 pm

      Whenever I write to BBC producers on Harrabin’s duplicitous articles, I politely point out that domestic electricity consumption is only around 38% of total consumption and that no modern household exists independent of social and industrial power consumption.

      It is perfectly simple, instead of periodic arguments about what constitutes average household consumption, to measure any electricity generated by wind (or anything else) as a percentage of total national, or more local, consumption.

      When percentage of total consumption has been used at public inquiries it has hit the wind industry argument hard.

  5. April 8, 2017 6:57 am

    Reblogged this on Wolsten and commented:
    Another telling post explaining clearly why one cannot trust Harrabin and the BBC.

    • wert permalink
      April 9, 2017 6:47 pm

      The problem is one cannot trust ANY media since they have very identical biases across borders. And, still the Western media are more trustable than say China Daily or Russian so Yesterday.

      Where did good conservative media disappear?

  6. CheshireRed permalink
    April 8, 2017 7:07 am

    The way the cost of ‘renewables’-driven electricity is calculated is a blatant fix, too, via the ‘levelised cost indicator’. Rigged figures all the way.

  7. Europeanonion permalink
    April 8, 2017 8:42 am

    Right, right, right. But if we cannot present all this assiduous work to the general public we will be forever deniers who lurk on the Internet obsessing about ‘proven’ data; virtual train spotters. Whatever is noted here is for the clan. Nothing will change as long as our witness stays at this level. I was a member of the RSPB for years. During that time bird numbers, nature generally, declined alarmingly. In the period that we have been tackling climate issues the investment in green alternatives has risen astronomically. We are now at a stage where too much money has been advanced for such technologies to be seen to be failing, to many reputations at stake. I stopped my RSPB membership in response to observation of published fact. Where is the methodology to confront AGW? We are ‘no platformed’.

    • nigel permalink
      April 8, 2017 8:59 am

      The PR battle IS lost. The only thing that will “work” * is a definite cooling phase in the climate that can not be explained away, and an expansion of snow and ice. A mere continuation of the pause will not be enough. And a slow up-trend producing “evah hotter years” will perpetuate the PR disaster.

      * In the sense of changing the public’s automatic head-nod for “97% of climate scientists agree” to an automatic head-shake of disgust at having being fooled.

      • dave permalink
        April 8, 2017 9:02 am

        Of course, two terms for Trump will do for the whole nonsense. One will not be enough.

    • April 8, 2017 9:22 am

      Europeanonion is Right,right,right.
      Climate is an excluded subject in my family. The eyes of many of my friends glaze over at the mention of it and as for any challenge or query sent to the warmist proponents ? —:Totally ignored.
      No idea what to do. Total frustration.

      • April 8, 2017 11:37 am

        Have just sent the following comment to the BBC:

        “I ask you to look carefully at the reports and purported News Items produced by Roger Harrabin your Environment Analyst
        Information on this may be obtained on the “notalotofpeopleknowthat” site by Paul Homewood.
        It appears here that there are many misrepresentations, omissions and dubious comments in Mr Harrabin’s contributions which need to be assessed if a balanced view on climate and energy matters are to be presented to the public.
        The public does need accurate reports not obfuscation.”

        Waste of time I suspect.
        (The comment was constrained to 500 words, hence somewhat benign!)

  8. nigel permalink
    April 8, 2017 9:20 am

    I should qualify my

    “The PR battle IS lost” to

    “The PR battle IS lost in the Middle Class.

    he one third of the population comprising the Lower Middle Class and the Working Class – the “Just about managing’s” and the “Don’t blind me with science!” people – might still wake up a bit.

    • mikewaite permalink
      April 8, 2017 6:28 pm

      Your comments and those of others about the difficult PR exercise to persuade people to take a more sober , sceptical look at global warming are very true.
      However help may come from possibly the least likely direction , namely the rise of feminism in the late 60s and 70s.. Up to then, as I can testify , the under achievement of females in academic and business life was taken for granted , not least by many women themselves It took one “shocking” book by Germaine Greer ; “The Female Eunuch” and its successors to change that mindset completely .
      What is needed is a similar shockingly titled book or film to highlight the narrow minded prejudices , driven partly by personal greed , shown by politicians , the media and assorted “luvvies” . I wonder if Germaine Greer thought first of the title , then expanded her thesis from there .
      So my contribution is a sceptical , and satirical look at the hysterical response of some who should no better at the real but overplayed problem of global warming , entitled “How to make a monkey out of a Prince”. (I hope the allusion is obvious ).

  9. dennisambler permalink
    April 8, 2017 9:30 am

    “According to a press release from Eurelectric, Europe’s energy utilities have signed a historic pledge that no new coal-fired plants will be built in the EU after 2020.

    The European power sector is determined to play a key role in providing clean energy for all Europeans and make electricity a central energy carrier for the low carbon economy.

    That is the message emerging from a meeting of EURELECTRIC’s Board of Directors on 23 March 2017, where the sector agreed its joint position on the Clean Energy Package.

    In a statement adopted by the Board of Directors, the sector reiterates its commitment to deliver on the Paris Agreement. In addition, it announces its intention not to invest in new-build coal-fired power plants after 2020.”

    But where is all this electricity to come from?

  10. martinbrumby permalink
    April 8, 2017 9:41 am

    Many charitably assume that Harrabin and the Beeb are not really mendacious fundamentalist AgitProp purveyors. They shy away from the fact that brown envelopes are extremely likely to be involved. I’m afraid I am of the opinion that both Harrabin and the Beeb are absolutely irredeemable.

    And I am afraid that, although eventually truth will out, it will take many years, probably decades to do so. I always thought that people would wake up to reality after a period of shivering in the dark. Whilst that is probably true, HMG and Whitehall have chosen to ‘double down’ and spend so much extra cash with diesel generators, interlinks and so on that, even North of Watford Gap, rolling blackouts are much less likely than they were.

    But eventually they will run out of other people’s money to spend.

    • April 10, 2017 1:46 pm

      “But eventually they will run out of other people’s money to spend.”
      Whilst Mrs Thatcher had a good turn of phrase, it simply is not true these last 100 years or so. Igf the Gov. wants more money, they simply ask The Bank of England to “print” it. That is the truth of our current economics. There is no shortage of money when HMG simply writes up a Bond for a cool £2 Trillion and the money appears. This is a Keynesian world we live in, there is NO constraint on money supply.
      When inflation rears its ugly head again at 5, 10, 15%, as has happened before, then the DEBT goes down by 5, 10, 15%.

      If they need money, they will simply print to the moon,


  11. Dung permalink
    April 8, 2017 9:46 am


    You are right but people like Phillip Bratby are constantly writing to the powers that be reminding them that he knows exactly what they are doing. There are many others who do this including me (much less and much less effective than Phillip) so come and join the fight ^.^

  12. A C Osborn permalink
    April 8, 2017 10:47 am

    Paul, will the fact that the BBC will from now on be policed for policy and bias by OffCom make any difference to our chances of getting anything changed by complaining?

    • April 8, 2017 11:31 am

      Very doubtful, the BBC is scrupulously balanced in its politics programmes, but much of its remaining output is politics by proxy, such as when they cover wildlife, farming, the plight of migrants, and the implications of Brexit.

      One area that may be worth complaining about is their coverage of Trump, who is now getting the treatment once meted out to UKIP and Farage.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        April 8, 2017 1:52 pm

        Sorry, but this
        ” the BBC is scrupulously balanced in its politics programmes”
        and this
        “One area that may be worth complaining about is their coverage of Trump, who is now getting the treatment once meted out to UKIP and Farage.”

        do not go together, the BBC has never been unbiased on Politics, especially anything pertaining to the EU.

    • April 8, 2017 6:04 pm

      I complained to OFCOM about Channel 5 a while ago, and they refused to even look at it!

      Doesn’t give youmuch confidence

      • April 9, 2017 9:24 am

        It is quite difficult to believe that there isn’t a conspiracy going on and that the loose ends of discontent are being tidied up in a fairly orchestrated fashion. I was reminded yesterday of then DECC minister Greg Barker’s instruction to the power utility companies to refuse to disclose the extents of “voluntary” green levies and – pertinent here – the BBC’s tooth and nail fight to block disclosure of the attendee list for that 28Gate seminar organised by that obliging Mister Wheeliebin.

        As far as complaining about damaging dishonesty and bad behaviour is concerned the tortured trajectory of the assorted consumer protection statutory bodies that Parliament has spent millions of man hours on tells its own story.

        I note that the Electricity Consumer Council has been de-fanged to the point where billing disputes are now slope shouldered to the tutting retired teachers of the Citizens Advice Bureau. Trading Standards departments similarly have been eviscerated in terms of service but not – afaics – spending.

        We have a profound crisis of competence in our public sector and their response is to evade confrontation by any and all means to hand while simultaneously displaying incontinent indulgence of any hare brained eco scheme that their chums wander into the office with (Swansea lagoon being a case in point)

  13. tabnumlock permalink
    April 8, 2017 8:23 pm

    Wind and solar have negative value. All they do is disrupt the grid.

  14. Gerry, England permalink
    April 9, 2017 3:06 pm

    The people will only wake up when something hits them in the face such as cold weather that increases their heating bills – on top of the climate change cost increases – and blackouts caused by grid failures. They are that disinterested and in many cases too stupid to learn what is going on.

  15. April 9, 2017 4:15 pm

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

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