"Powerful Targets" Controversy: Can emissions be cut without renewables?

In addition to the struggle over wind farms, a new controversy has emerged in renewable power. A recently released report has caught the attention of energy policy makers.

Powerful Targets, a report on reaching UK climate change targets by AF Consult, has stirred up a bit of a storm over its findings and claims. The paper looks at three scenarios to decide the most cost effective way of meeting emissions goals set for 2050. Scenario one looked for the lowest cost generation mix without policy targets being a factor. The second scenario modeled a mix that only included carbon emission reduction targets set by government. Finally, scenario three tacked on both carbon reduction targets and renewable energy targets.

Of its conclusions, its statement that “the least cost way of meeting 2050 carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets is to do so without renewable electricity” and its positivity towards nuclear and gas-fired generation have ruffled a few feathers.

This is not the first time this research has caused trouble. In early February, KPMG, a previous partner with AF Consult, refused to release the initial findings of the report saying that it was “ripe for misinterpretation.” However, despite KPMG’s reluctance, Powerful Targets has made its way into the public eye through AF Consult’s independent release. Its methodology has come under fire with questions on its applicability in the real world and over-simplicity. Ravi Gurumurthy, DECC’s Director of Strategy, states that four factors were overlooked in AF Consult’s report:

  1. Electricity demand is set to increase
  2. Diversity of technology is crucial
  3. The costs of renewables are already being driven down
  4. Gas prices are uncertain

He also comments that solely relying on only two technologies as the paper suggests would be “short sighted.” Backlash from others has come in full force as well with terms such as "shoddy" and "pointless" being used as descriptors for the report. RenewableUK’s Dr. Gordon Edge remarked that “KPMG has been wise to distance itself from the study and its findings.” AF Consult states in its paper that it does not prescribe policy and aims to encourage debate in light of the findings. However, rather than lively debate, it looks though the report has only elicited derisive dismissal.

Want to read the findings for yourself? Download Powerful Targets and tell us whether you agree or disagree in the comments below.