"a juggernaut of cost"

The BBC interviewed Professor Sir Dieter Helm, an economist at Oxford University. It starts at 32 minutes into the program.

www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001471v
BBC: I started by asking him why he’s called the current spike in energy prices the first net zero energy crisis.

Professor Sir Dieter Helm: Well, there are two reasons at play here. The first is that transforming an economy which is overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels to one that going to be net zero by 2050 and indeed the power sector, the electricity sector is supposed to be completely net zero by 2035 in thirteen years is a massive task. And it’s quite naïve to believe that something on this scale could be done other than at considerable cost. We should do it, but it’s going to be expensive. And then there’s the particular issue which comes up now. Yes, gas prices have risen, but there’s a fundamental question as to why the rise in gas prices globally has hit the UK so badly and part of that is because we are extremely reliant on gas to back up the intermittent renewables, particularly the wind, and we haven’t thought through how to do the back-up bit, the security of supply bit, while we’ve been at the same time pursuing decarbonisation.

BBC: So that’s why you’re not convinced, then, that even when this spike in gas prices on the wholesale market is done with, our energy bills will be cheaper?

DH: There’s a juggernaut of cost to come, even if gas prices fall back, and there’s no certainty they will, but they might. And if you look at that juggernaut, you can already see it in your bills. £250 is going just on the legacy costs for those renewables in the past, and there’s a lot more of those subsidies and supports to come. And we’ve got to find other ways of doing this and, I’m afraid, more expensive ones.

BBC: You believe we’ve been peddled some myths about renewables paying for themselves, even maybe working out cheaper in the long run.

DH: They may well work out cheaper in the long run, but as the famous economist Maynard Keynes once said, in the long run we’re all dead.

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