Hugo's howler, Harrabin's howler
Nov 26, 2015
Bishop Hill in BBC, Energy: solar, Foreign, Media

The Spectator doesn't do a great deal on the climate front, but when it does, it does it very well. At the moment they have a long piece (£, but you may get a free look) by David Rose on Judy Curry, which although containing little that will be new to BH readers will be informative for many.

If it's pure entertainment you want, they also have a preview of Paris from Hugo Rifkind (£), a man with a wonderful facility for words, but also one who is just a moderately loud repeater of metroliberal certainties on the state of the climate. His effort this week is rather more thoughtful than usual, but he still retains some odd notions. Observing, quite correctly, that everyone in the UK is backing off green policy, he says that as a country we are starting to look a bit provincial:

Germany’s big push for renewables (which was admittedly predicated on an hysterical and frankly stupid post-Fukushima fear of nuclear) is surging ahead, in precisely the manner that Scotland’s could be if anybody still gave a damn.

This seems strange because according to Wikipedia, renewables as a whole generated just 11% of German energy last year - a strange kind of surging. And the renewables industry are facing a series of reforms to the subsidy regime that is going to make life rather harder for them.

He also seems to think that China is on board with the green cause:

China now worries enormously about CO2 emissions, and doesn’t just pretend to in order to stop Europe shouting so much.

China is famously opening one new coal-fired power station per week, a strategy that would be strange for a nation that was slightly concerned about CO2 emissions, let alone one that was worrying enormously.

But it's when he gets to the new solar power station in Morocco that he really goes off the rails. This facility has been getting greens very excited - see for example Roger Harrabin here - in recent days. Here's Hugo's take:

With far less fanfare, Morocco is opening a vast solar plant next month in its otherwise useless desert, and aims to get 42 per cent of its energy from renewables (far more than us) by 2020.

With weary inevitability this turns out to be complete drivel. Every time a renewable power station is launched, its installed capacity is rapidly transformed into an expected level of power generation. These can easily be different by an order of magnitude, and perhaps by a factor of four for desert-based solar.

A little light Googling reveals that this is precisely what has happened here. The Moroccan government has actually set itself a target of 42% of installed generation capacity being renewables by 2020. So Hugo has made a howler of fairly epic proportions. But he is a wordsmith, and we should therefore be charitable if he struggles with numbers. Roger Harrabin, who is supposed to be a specialist in these areas, did exactly the same thing. There the howler is harder to excuse.

Update on Nov 26, 2015 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Roger Harrabin says he has clarified his article on the BBC website.

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