Has Europe pulled the plug on renewables?

The fossil fuel backed Global Warming Policy Foundation, not content with spreading misinformation in the UK, is now doing it in The Australian.

On August 10, The Australian published an article from Benny Peiser of The Global Warming Policy Foundation entitled ‘ Europe pulls the plug on its Green Future ’. Peiser argued that Europe is turning its back on clean technology and renewable energy. He also used research by my firm CCgroup , ‘How the media treats renewables’,  to validate his argument.

First, Peiser is incorrect to say that green growth is dwindling. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Renewable energy is the world’s fastest-growing energy source, increasing by 2.5 per cent a year according to a new report by the Energy Information Administration. The report also predicts that world energy consumption will grow by 56 per cent between 2010 and 2040. The value of listed clean tech companies grew 18 per cent last year. Parallel to this growth, investors and pension funds such as Storebrand in Norway are pulling cash from the fossil fuel industry – particularly coal – due to its ‘high investment risk’.  If we take the case of the UK as a European example, green products and services accounted for £128 billion in revenue last year, the UK market growing by 5 per cent while the majority of other sectors shrunk. Investment is pouring into the sector. For wind power alone we’re seeing £66 million to help regional development, join up industry, government and academic thought. This is far from ‘Europe turning its back’. But with such high calibre and fast growth competition, you can understand why the fossil fuel backed GWPF might be worried.

Secondly, CCgroup’s November 2012 research ‘How the media treats renewables’ does not prove Europe is turning its back on renewable energy. The main finding is that renewables should be aware of the power of oil and gas public relations efforts and start investing in communications. The backing of Peiser’s inaccurate article only serves to  illustrates this further.

Our research shows that media sentiment is out of sync with both investment trends and public sentiment and the renewable energy industry should amplify its voice. We found that national media sentiment towards the renewable energy industry is overwhelmingly negative and neglects the voice of the industry. I should imagine similar findings are likely in Australia. Using the example of the UK, recent research from the Department of Energy and Climate Change shows that 82 per cent of the British public want to see more renewable energy. Our study indicated that the renewable energy industry is facing a communications challenge. As a communications company, we know the media plays a substantial role in any industry’s success and we argue, from a PR perspective, that it should step up its communication efforts to increase its pace of growth. This is simply common sense.

Fundamentally, a green future is inevitable and the next industrial revolution will be low carbon. Why? Because clean technology is fast becoming recognised as lower cost financially, socially and environmentally than carbon-dense alternatives. The sooner it’s recognised as the low cost political road, too, the better. 

Charlotte Webster is head of CleanTech at CCgroup based in London.