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Ideological money laundering

This is a guest post by Ben Pile, of Climate Resistance fame.

As everybody now knows, the headlines from IPCC WGIII report on renewable energy appear to have been written by Greenpeace. When the Summary for Policy Makers was published last month, I was one of many who noted the role of Greenpeace, and the extent to which the SPM's authors were involved in the renewable energy industry. Steve McIntyre's discovery has caused further criticism  of the IPCC's letting such overt agendas near its evidence-making for policy-makers, even from the green camp, albeit only because it is such bad PR. But there is yet more to this story.

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), who co-authored the report with Greenpeace, claims to be an 'umbrella organisation of the European renewable energy industry, trade and research associations' of the renewable sectors. 'EREC represents an industry with an annual turnover of EUR 70 billion and providing over 550.000 jobs'. They consist of a number of partner organisations, each representing one technology sector within renewable energy, such as wind, geothermal and solar, and each of these has as many as hundreds of members. As Mark Lynas points out, then, it is no surprise that the EREC 'are of course enthusiasts for renewable energy’s prospects because they make money from selling wind turbines and solar panels, so hardly count as an unbiased source'.

Do the EREC only make money by selling renewable energy technology? Well, it's member organisations, and the hundreds of companies they each represent certainly do, especially given the subsidies available to renewable energy companies, thanks to EU policy. But Gawain Towler, press officer at UKIP, suggests on his blog that there may also be 'public money floating around this august organisation'. I decided to look more closely at EREC's funding. The EREC, and its eleven member organisations all share an address: Renewable Energy House, Rue d’Arlon, Brussels -- a moment's walk away from the European Parliament. But the EREC are much closer to the political institutions in Brussels than this.

The EU Financial Transparency system -- which only lists accounts between 2007-9 -- reveals that the EREC were the beneficiaries of €1.8million  ($2.5million) from the EU. Just under €1.5 million of this gift from the EU government to a trade association is accounted for as follows:

Commitment position key: SI2.528581.1 Year: 2009    Amount €: 1.479.833,00 Subject of grant or contract: RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICY ACTION PAVING THE WAY TOWARDS 2020 Responsible Department: Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI) Budget line name and number: Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme — "Intelligent Energy — Europe" programme (06.04.06) Country / Territory: Belgium            Expense Type: Operational Action Type: Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme Co-financing rate: Mixed financing Beneficiary Name: EUROPEAN RENEWABLE ENERGY COUNCILASBL Address: 1040 BRUXELLES, RUE D ARLON 63-65

The project for which this money was given -- Renewable Energy Policy Action: Paving the Way Towards 2020 (REPAP2020) -- is in its own words intended 'to facilitate the process of implementation of the RES-Directive, on a national level.'

The main focus of the project is on the National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) which Member States have to notify to the European Commission by 30th June 2010. One objective of the project is to have ambitious plans that ensure the EU to meet the 20-20-20 targets for 2020, as set out in the directive.

The RES-Directive is the EU's rule on renewable energy.

Each Member State has a target calculated according to the share of energy from renewable sources in its gross final consumption for 2020. This target is in line with the overall '20-20-20' goal for the Community.

The question now is, what exactly is the EREC? It appears to be a council of trades associations, each representing a technology sector within the renewable energy industry. But it also seems to have been given a para-governmental role by the EU, to 'map renewable energy pathways' for EU member nations. Meanwhile -- literally, at the same time -- it produces seemingly independent research with Greenpeace. This report is taken by one of its authors to IPCC WGIII, where he is also a lead author on the renewable energy report. That report in turn seems to be intended as advice to policy-makers, including those within the EU.

Many have questioned the IPCC's credibility for having allowed an NGO with such a naked political agenda as Greenpeace to influence its statements and advice. But the problem here is far deeper. Trade associations are not only lobbying for their members' interests, they are being paid to lobby the EU to lobby in favour of the policies the EU has already determined it wants. It pays them also to set the parameters of its policies, and to suggest means by which they can be delivered. At the same time, the EREC publishes research which benefits the EU's preferred policies at the global, intergovernmental level. And this research seemingly has the backing of a non-governmental organisation, Greenpeace, which prides itself on taking no money from business or government.

The next question to ask is this... Can an organisation that represents commercial enterprises really offer governmental organisations impartial policy advice? Imagine the furore that would ensue, were oil companies so instrumental in the design of EU policies and their implementation. Lobbying is one thing; such proximity to policy-making is quite another.

The organisations involved make no secret of the fact that they enjoy a privileged relationship with EU policy-makers. EREC member, the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF), for instance, proudly states that,

ESTIF has actively participated in the development of the Directive on the promotion of the use of Energy from Renewable Sources (RES) thus ensuring a favourable legal framework for the Solar Thermal sector.

Indeed. And the EU paid ESTIF €2,000,000 between 2007-9, so that it could better ensure favours for the sector it represents. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), boasts 600 member organisations across the EU. Yet these members seem to be so hard-up (in spite of the massive subsidies they enjoy) that the EU gave the EWEA €1.8 million so that its 'lobbying activities' (their own words) would continue to 'help create a suitable legal framework within which members can successfully develop their businesses.' The EREC and its members enjoyed gifts of at least €8.2 million between 2007-9 so that they could lobby MEPs, and do research in favour of the policies the EU had already determined it wanted.

And it gets worse. Look into the partner organisations of REPAP2020, and the reports that have been published, and there is evidence of yet further funding from the EU. At the top of the 'Renewable Energy Roadmap' produced by the UK's Renewable Energy Association, for instance, are the words 'With the support of Intelligent Energy Europe' -- yet another mysterious EU organisation. An EU press release from earlier this year proudly announces that,

With € 730 million funds available between 2007 and 2013, the Intelligent Energy – Europe (IEE) programme reinforces EU’s efforts to meet its 2020 energy targets to ensure a secure and cost competitive supply of energy while fighting climate change.

€730 million is a great deal of money for research and lobbying. But it is nothing compared to the billions more that EU sustainable energy directives will cost the population of the EU. Renewable energy firms are being allowed to design and lobby for the policies which will put cash in their pockets, nodded (or is that nudged and winked?) through by democratic representatives and NGOs. And within each member of the EU, the story is the same. Organisations with unclear public functions, and opaque funding arrangements such as the UK's Carbon Trust, and the Energy Saving Trust are established between government, industry, and NGOs to further the sustainable energy agenda, all without accountability and scrutiny.

The lines between governments, companies, trades associations, 'non-governmental' organisations such as Greenpeace, and supranational organisations such as the IPCC under the FCCC are now fully blurred. A greedy ecosystem of organisations have been created across the EU, each with the appearance of independence, working in cahoots with radical environmental NGOs and governments. Yet few, if any, of these organisations offer accounts of their funding sources, let alone explain what kind of organisation they are: how accountable they are, how independent from government they are, and who they really represent. It is as if no membrane delimits their functions from the functioning of the state, except to conceal its operations.

So where does that leave the report from Greenpeace and the EREC? Greenpeace are proud of their independence from government and industry. Yet here we see them working with a trade association in the development of advice to policy-makers that will benefit that industry. The advice it produces will further the agendas of those policy-makers. The suggestion here is not that money has changed hands -- Greenpeace doesn't need the money; what  it gets for the favours it does the establishment is influence. The service it provides is to give government-funded, agenda-ridden 'research' the superficial appearance of independence and legitimacy: ideological money-laundering. It makes clean the millions of Euros of public money given to the renewable energy sector for its PR.

It is no surprise that the EU and governments, spurious quasi-autonomous organisations and NGOs are in cahoots. It has long been known that organisations such as Friends of the Earth and WWF are paid by the EU to lobby the EU in favour of the policies that the EU wants. And it is no surprise that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change takes research that benefits the agendas of governments. We all knew this much.

What is surprising is the sheer scale of this shameless enterprise. We all knew that 'grey literature' -- non-scientific and non-peer reviewed 'research' -- found its way into IPCC reports. What surprises is the extent to which 'grey organisations' -- para-govermental institutions with public functions, but little or no democratic accountability or transparency -- are involved in the production of policy and evidence-making, benefitting a narrow industrial sector and serving a particular political agenda.

But what really grates is that to ask questions about this process is to identify oneself as a 'denier', in hock to fossil energy interests and 'well-funded' PR organisations. Pointing out the implications for democracy and the economy when self-interested NGOs and industry-associations enjoy such privilege from government is characterised as 'denying scientific evidence'.

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Reader Comments (111)

Yes, tongue was firmly in cheek and a permanent state of precariousness means a continued need for someone to manage the system carefully, for a small fee. Or it just keeps energy prices high which much of the energy sector probably won't mind. If you're a bureaucrat, the absolute last thing you need is stability because then there's much less scope to intervene, manage, generate fees and work for your mates.

I'd add wave and tidal power to intermittent RE's requiring storage and the report did mention thermal storage. For large amounts, that should be fun. Fight global warming by generating heat! Then again, it may be another scam to get more subsidies if it's renewable heat under DECC's RHI. Pumped hydro is part of the green jobs programme. Once you've dumped what you've pumped to make up for any shortfall, which is either a very large amount of water or a very short time, you then need power to pump your water back up the hill again. So use a bucket brigade and create more green jobs!

Shame the SPM didn't include the actual costs rather than it's levelized costs because then the 'up to 80% claim' the IPCC trailed in it's press release really makes no sense. Yet much of the media dutifully reported it.

Jun 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer


Just one thing. I think you will find that bureaucrats actually crave stability.

Jun 18, 2011 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

So when does every country stop funding the UN and hold it to account? Maybe this economic downturn is a blessing in disguise, it has bought out the true costs of 'going green energy' - and allowed the true designs of the EU / UN (wealth transfer and on going economic control through endless red tape) to be held up to the light.

Jun 18, 2011 at 1:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterHelen Armstrong

In line with Atomic's mention of security concerns, the really big security vulnerability that I find extremely worrying, are 'Smartmeters', which are an essential if the proposed energy stupidity is imposed.

There's a word that should give serious pause to anybody considering such a folly - and that word is 'Stuxnet'.

From the perspective of Smartmeters, there's the potential for far worse than Stuxnet, and the ease of access for the introduction of such a virus *to the complete system* is mind bogglingly simple ('Smart' ID Cards have similar vulnerabilities too, and in some ways, even worse).

The ease with which such a control system can be turned most damagingly against those who seek to control via their use, seems utterly lost on those promoting them.

Why do people that should know far better (and they are usually highly paid to know far better), have such an utter failure to grasp logical consequences?

Jun 18, 2011 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Witch is Dead

The Witch is Dead

You are correct to point to smart meters as a potentially very serious threat to national security. This paper by Anderson and Fuloria of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory presents an excellent overview of the problems.

From the abstract:

We’re about to acquire a significant new cybervulnerability. The world’s energy utilities are starting to install hundreds of millions of ‘smart meters’ which contain a remote off switch. Its main purpose is to ensure that customers who default on their payments can be switched remotely to a prepay tariff; secondary purposes include supporting interruptible tariffs and implementing rolling power cuts at times of supply shortage. The off switch creates information security problems of a kind,
and on a scale, that the energy companies have not had to face before. From the viewpoint of a cyber attacker – whether a hostile government agency, a terrorist organisation or even a militant environmental group – the ideal attack on a target country is to interrupt its citizens’ electricity supply. This is the cyber equivalent of a nuclear strike; when electricity stops, then pretty soon everything else does too. Until now, the only plausible ways to do that involved attacks on critical generation, transmission and distribution assets, which are increasingly well defended. Smart meters change the game. The combination of commands that will cause meters to interrupt the supply, of applets and
software upgrades that run in the meters, and of cryptographic keys that are used to authenticate these commands and software changes, create a new strategic vulnerability, which we discuss
in this paper.

Jun 18, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Helen Armstrong

You are right to suggest that the crisis of 2008 exposed the real cost of renewables subsidy. The abrupt cessation in growth in super-subsidised solar PV in Spain and Germany, and the growing electoral discontent with high energy bills in both countries are evidence of this.

Note also the emergency revision of the FIT for SPV >50kW in the UK to stem the investor-driven bubble. Odd how one set of people sees renewables as planet savers, and another as an irresistible 'investment opportunity'. Or put another way, as a mechanism for removing money from all our pockets without our consent or often even our knowledge.

Jun 18, 2011 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Re The Witch

The ease with which such a control system can be turned most damagingly against those who seek to control via their use, seems utterly lost on those promoting them.

Who also for some reason seek to avoid liability for loss or damage. The government could make it simple for consumers to claim against meter operators and boost confidence. Other parts of the system could also be vulnerable. Scotland had 100mph+ winds recently which would have meant turbines could have been damaged, if their operators had lost control of their systems.

Jun 18, 2011 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Did you realise that Prof. Jim Skea, a founding member of the Committee on Climate Change (one of the "independent" advisors specially chosen to advise the Government on that act of treason known as the Climate Change Act 2008), is/was Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group III? Also a Director of UKERC - and now the link to EREC.
Or am I posting too near the mark?

Jun 19, 2011 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterNorfolk Dumpling

There is a revolving door between the NGO's and government. E3G is a quasi-governmental organization in the UK, with constant interchange of staff between government and E3G.

Founding Director & Chief Executive Nick Mabey was a senior policy adviser to Tony Blair, and former Head of Sustainable Development in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Environment Policy department. Before he joined government, Mabey was Head of Economics and Development at WWF-UK

Founding Director John Ashton was appointed as Special Representative for Climate Change by the UK Foreign Secretary under the Labour Government, (Margaret Beckett). He is on secondment to the government from E3G, where he had previously been Chief Executive since its inception. He worked under Chris Patten in Hong Kong.

Matt Findlay joined E3G in February 2008 on secondment from the FCO.

Tom Burke is a Founding Director of E3G, and Special Advisor to three Secretaries of State for the Environment from 1991-97 after serving as Director of the Green Alliance from 1982-91. Formerly Executive Director of Friends of the Earth and a member of the Executive Committee of the European Environmental Bureau 1988-91.

Katherine Silverthorne leads E3G’s climate change program in the U.S. Her job is to help promote climate change legislation in the U.S. and push for ratification of the Copenhagen Accord. Before joining E3G, Silverthorne was the director of policy for the U.S. Climate Action Network (CAN).

CAN was co-founded by Michael Oppenheimer, currently at Princeton since 2002, after more than two decades with Environmental Defense, to whom he is still a Scientific Adviser. He is a long-time participant in the IPCC, a lead author of the Fourth Assessment Report and now a coordinating lead author of a special report on climate extremes and disasters. He was instrumental in the the negotiations that resulted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (signed at the 1992 Earth Summit) and the Kyoto Protocol.

Tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Jun 26, 2011 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

The European Wind Energy Association does NOT receive public funding to lobby. It does receive funding from the European Commission to coordinate European-wide research projects usually of a technical nature.
The projects, involving EWEA as part of a consortium, are the result of successful applications to calls for proposals. If you want to know more about these projects see EWEA’s website, or the websites of the individual projects.
Renewable energy receives a tiny proportion of EU research funding, for example renewables get approximately 2.2% of ‘FP7’ funding, the main current EU research budget, of which wind is just one of several renewable energy technologies.

Ben - An excellent piece and excellent research. This covert and evasive public funding of the climate change business is the right track to be following, and it needs more attention and research (to which I am personally willing to contribute).

As you note, in addition to the direct EU contributions received by EREC, its member companies are also the recipients of billions (Euros and US dollars) of direct and indirect government subsidies and legislation.

Add to that the many 100's of millions in grants (Euros and US dollars) to academia, to think tanks, and - most inappropriately - to advocacy and lobbying groups such as EREC along with hundreds (thousands?) of other rent-seeking CAGW alarmist groups. The numbers would add up, and the annual sum of public monies provided covertly or otherwise through to the CAGW alarmism "business" must be staggering.

Just think next month's COP 17 in Durban SA. I'd be willing to make a large wager that 90+ percent of its 15,000+ "delegates" looking for 8,000 hotel rooms and 50,000 taxi trips with 450,000 meals and 135,000 "bed nights" will ultimately and almost entirely be living on the public dole (to wit, taxes), and not on much at all of private donations or self-funding (e.g., a "delegate" whose advocacy group is 50 percent funded by government grants is basically on the dole at Durban).

It would be an enormous and tedious undertaking, but your article points to the way toward uncovering at least some of the sleazy financial underbelly of the CAGW alarmism beast that is overwhelmingly supported by public monies.

When you add up the subsides, the grants, and the public budgets shoveled toward advocacy, academia, and the rent-seeking "climate industry," the numbers must be hundreds of billions if not even higher.

Oct 7, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterGarry

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