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A Serious™ note from a head of the IEA may be expected to be neutral, fair, balanced, objective - what you will - but not biased by the exclusion of relevant facts and the repetition of similar points to those greatly in use by defenders of an established position in electricity markets.

However, that's what Ramsay does with the wind "subsidy" chestnut. I don't know how much the German government directly subsidizes wind, but essentially the €5bn cover total feed-in tariffs, ie paid by the consumer. Any normally-constituted reader of his paragraph on the subject will conclude that that is the added cost of wind power. That in fact depends on the difference between the guaranteed minimum that is the FIT and the going market rate, and this Ramsay does not say. At the IEA, he cannot be ignorant of the Merit Order Effect and its moderating effect on final consumer prices, (equivalent for Germany, according to one study, to €5bn p.a., oddly enough), yet he doesn't mention it.

Repeating the "wind is subsidized" argument in a supposedly serious discussion of costs, without attempting a balanced appraisal, seems to me like trotting out a talking point.

Symmetrically, he assumes that Germany can go on with some nuclear at no extra cost. Fukushima, in his depiction, is simply something that understandably creates concern in voters' minds. He does not examine the possibility that the cost of nuclear post-Fukushima is likely to rise along with the heightened awareness of risk - not just in voters' minds, but in the hard-headed calculations of the insurance world, for example, and in the increased safety and security requirements that will necessarily follow. He speaks of "economically viable" nuclear plant under "license extensions", but does he examine the possibility that a review of those extensions after Fukushima (a crisis that is not yet over, and the full story of which not yet told, in a station that was accorded an extension) might not have an effect on that "economic viability"?

In other words, he doesn't examine the cost for Germany of continuing with nuclear, and yet his proclaimed goal is to inform German voters of the truth of real costs.

Ramsay also gives a passing mention to the "wind needs backup" point, when he says: "Gas is already expanding to backstop Germany's large wind programme". How one can mention Fukushima at the same time without indicating, in fairness, that nuclear (or any type of generation) may fail and need backup, not necessarily as a result of catastrophe (though the consequences of serious accidents to nuclear facilities are obviously much graver than accidents to renewables), but also in lesser emergencies, or because drought may cause closure for river-cooled reactors, as may happen in France this summer, or simply because reactors are taken offline for maintenance - the cost of backup doesn't count if it's for nuclear?

I don't just find this biased against renewables and in favour of nuclear, I find the points made are neither new nor accurate. And, at the moment, it would seem we're hearing rather a chorus of them. In my view, Ramsay is disingenuous when he pretends to give objective information to the electorate, and is in fact offering talking points in a one-sided discourse.

And so I call it "propaganda". Whether I should indicate my feelings in the comment header is another question. I shall try to be more disciplined in future. :)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 11:28:22 AM EST
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