Deborah Meaden, it seems, is a dragon on Dragon’s Den, a programme I know by reputation but have never watched. I thought it was offensive, by the way, to describe a lady as “a dragon” (remember those green windscreen sun-shades marked “George” and “Dragon”?). But she refers to herself as a dragon, so presumably I can do so too.
She has recently been sending out an e-mail on behalf of “Friends of the Earth”, calling on recipients to write to Ed Davey (described as “Minister for Energy and Climate Change”, following the unlamented Chris Huhne), calling for more renewable energy.
In it, she says: “I’m supporting Friends of the Earth’s Clean British Energy campaign because gas, coal and nuclear are the technologies of the past. We can’t afford not to switch the UK to home-grown clean power. The Government’s upcoming energy bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionise the way we produce electricity in this country”.
Let’s think this through. Gas, coal and nuclear are energies of the past? When the USA is enjoying a new industrial revolution based on cheap, indigenous shale-gas? And shale gas has been discovered in commercial quantities in the UK? Has she noticed that wind power is the energy of the ninth century (according to Wikipedia)? How’s that for “the energy of the past”? She should read some history, and try to get a sense of perspective.
“We can’t afford not to switch” — to expensive, intermittent generating technologies that can never supply base-load power, which will drive up the cost of energy and force jobs and industries and investment out of the UK entirely? Technologies that leave pensioners in fuel poverty, and which will result in power shortages and blackouts by the end of the decade? Can’t afford not to? Get real, Deborah. The truth is we can’t afford renewables.
She is supposed to be a business adviser, yet she is failing to offer the advice investors need in this area. So let me offer it anyway. Never base a business plan on government fiat, which can be changed overnight at the stroke of a pen. Never base a business plan on subsidies or feed-in tariffs or virtual commodities like carbon credits.
She should see the letters I’ve had from investors who set up businesses as installers, and hired staff, based on government subsidies for solar PV, only to be cut off at the knees as the feed-in tariffs were halved overnight. These are real people, real jobs, real money — wasted and ruined because they relied on subsidies.
Hasn’t she seen the disaster of “green energy”? Companies set up in a flush of enthusiasm, destroyed by the failure of green policies. The Chinese solar manufacturers forced to sell below cost because demand lags so far behind their optimistic projections. The American Solyndra project, touted by President Obama as a text-book example of a successful green project, which went belly-up soon afterwards?
Hasn’t she read the research from several countries showing that each “green” job created by renewables costs two, or three, or four real jobs in the real economy — by driving up energy costs and depressing economic activity and growth elsewhere?
Hasn’t she noticed the backlash against wind, led in the Commons by the redoubtable Chris Heaton-Harris MP of Daventry? Or heard George Osborne remark that you can’t save the planet by destroying the economy? The tide, thank heaven, has turned against renewables.
But perhaps she knows these things, and has some good reason not to mention them?
In politics, we have a long tradition of “declaration of interests”. If I must promote an industry in which I have a direct financial stake, I should at least make that clear — or better still, declare an interest and stand aside from that issue. Not so, it seems with a dragon. A quick glance at Deborah’s web-site shows that she has investments in EWS solar power. So here we have a public figure, promoted by the BBC on prime-time television, using her connection with Friends of the Earth to persuade the public to lobby a government minister in favour of an industry in which she has a direct stake. I think that’s a bad thing.