4 June 2008 - Paul Golby, of E.ON UK has criticised the quality of debate about the UK energy future, calling on London to take a lead in improving understanding of just how serious was the challenge to "avoid the lights going out".
Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Golby criticised in particular the notion that moving towards renewables was cheaper. "We must dispel the myth that renewables are cheap. Because we have all been silent on this, people think it won't cost anything.
"I'm not saying that moving to renewables is not the right thing to do. But we need to be honest with our customers. Moving to a low carbon economy is going to cause some economic pain in the short term," Mr Golby said.
E.ON believes that building the necessary new generating capacity - from renewables, nuclear and coal and gas - could cost between £50bn and £100bn ($100-200bn). All this must be paid for, Mr Golby said.
Parts of England suffered blackouts last week after unscheduled power plant production halts. That's an indication of the "ageing infrastructure we have in this country," Mr Golby warned. The cost of creating new network connections, as well as operating the new infrastructure in meeting these targets, will cost tens of billions of pounds.
The UK currently has 76 GW of generating capacity, with about 25 GW of this coming to the end of its life as ageing power station are decommissioned. But Mr Golby said that by 2020 the UK will need more than 120 GW of capacity.
The European Union's carbon emissions reduction targets mean the UK may have to build about 50 GW of renewable capacity.
E.ON has a working assumption that Britain will have to spend £50bn-£100bn on new generation and infrastructure if it is to secure the energy it needs. The company is currently reviewing the cost and hopes to publish a more detailed breakdown of its estimates in a few weeks.
The cost of large-scale renewable projects are soaring, with a shortage of wind turbines and engineers pushing up costs.