When consultant reports go bad

07/03/2012 Comments Off on When consultant reports go bad

A UK consultancy, AF Consult, produced a report that’s causing a stir.

The government and renewable energy businesses have slammed the findings of a controversial report that claimed 2020 carbon reduction targets could be achieved more cost effectively by building nuclear and gas-fired power stations instead of wind farms.

It turns out that KPMG was also involved at an earlier stage, but ducked out. At the time, KPMG kinda sorta released bits of it, but not all, and wouldn’t say how it was done.

KPMG is refusing to publish the full findings of a controversial study examining the cost of the government’s green energy policies, which was originally used as a basis for a series of media reports attacking the cost of renewable energy.

Green energy groups and the UK government are attacking the report. KPMG is refusing to stand behind their old co-researchers. It starts sounding like this AF Counsult might be industry shills.

But dig a little deeper and it isn’t so clear. A spokesperson tries to explain why KPMG is credible, but says maybe too much:

She also maintained that KPMG had close ties with the green energy industry, was not “anti-wind” and had last week been involved in a major wind farm deal.

So, is it that KPMG wants to be independent, or is it that they have business with renewable energy firms and don’t want to mess that up? And the people criticising these reports? Renewable energy firms, with a stake in the argument. Government officials with a stake in the policy. Nobody’s disinterested here.

The AF Consult report asks interesting questions (I haven’t looked at the method, so I can’t vouch for the conclusions). The questions are: what is the cheapest way to meet the UK carbon targets for energy production? and then, what will it cost to meet those targets with renewable sources? The idea is that meeting carbon targets and using renewable sources are actually separable. You can put a price on each one. And that is good information for both policy-makers and the public.

Several people claimed the method is flawed. If that’s true, then someone should do the analysis correctly. But the questions are still valid.



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