Charity makes formal complaint about ‘misleading’ claims made by energy company
An energy group with controversial plans to build a network of wind farms across Wales has been accused of publishing misleading claims about the project.
The countryside charity CPRW has made a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about statements made by companies in the Bute Energy Group on their websites..
CPRW opposes what it sees as the despoilation of Wales’ landscape by wind turbines and prefers offshore renewable energy projects instead.
In a letter to the ASA, the charity’s public and community affairs manager Ross Evans states: “I am writing to express my concerns about misleading information that is being displayed on the websites of GreenGenCymru and GreenGenTowyUsk, both entities of the Bute Energy Group.
I believe the information provided on these sites may be in violation of the codes and standards set forth by the UK ASA, specifically related to misleading advertising and substantiation.”
Mr Evans goes on to outline 11 claims that he takes issue with:
1. GreenGen Cymru makes the claim on their website that they are “acting now to build and operate a green energy network for Wales, that will make sure 100% renewable energy can flow to our homes, hospitals, schools, businesses, and communities.” However, they only propose to take power from their and potentially others’ renewable energy projects to a connection point on the National Grid’s transmission system. This inherently means that the power will mix with the entire UK system’s electricity, which is not entirely green, casting doubt on their ability to guarantee 100% renewable energy flow.
2. They state they are “playing a pivotal role in providing a reliable and robust distribution network,” but as they currently do not have a licence to operate and distribute electricity, this claim is false.
3. GreenGen suggests that Bute Energy will be the sole entity paying a charge for using the distribution network. However, if awarded an IDNO (Independent Distribution Network Operator’s) licence, they would distribute electricity to other homes and businesses, and therefore charge them, making this statement misleading.
4. The claimed “independence” of GreenGen is questionable as they intend to serve Bute Energy wind farms, which is a parent company.
5. They state that their project will improve public health and contribute to local communities’ energy resilience. These claims appear unjustified and overstate their potential impacts.
6. They claim to have a “unique approach in Britain” in improving community wellbeing. However, as per my previous points, their approach seems no different from other renewable energy developers and network operators in the country.
7. In a promotional video, they promote support for green businesses, green heating, and enabling the rollout of EVs [electric vehicles] across Wales. However, the delivery of these promises is not substantiated and appears to be misleading.
8. On the GreenGenTowyUsk website, they suggest their project will have a lasting and positive impact on Welsh people. Given that the power will be exported to the national grid and not ring-fenced for Wales, this claim seems misleading.
9. In the FAQ section, they claim to develop green energy projects to meet Welsh people’s future needs. However, as highlighted in point 8, this claim is inconsistent with their actual operation.
10. The company has stated they’ve applied for an IDNO licence, and Ofgem is currently assessing it. However, without this licence, they cannot fulfil their stated objectives, making their claims premature and potentially misleading.
11. The claim that the public won’t pay for their service contradicts their plan to allow other energy generators to connect to their network, who will inevitably be charged for its use.
Mr Evans added: “Lastly, it is also noteworthy that GreenGen is a stated Bute Energy company, which is actually Scottish-based, with only an office in Cardiff, further confusing their claim of being a uniquely Welsh operation.
“I hope that these concerns are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. Misleading information can cause a significant amount of harm to consumers, and it is vital that companies are held to the standards set forth by your organisation.”
Bute Energy did not respond to the specific points made by CPRW, but issued a statement which said: “As the recent Climate Change Committee Progress Report sets out, the roll-out of renewables in Wales has slowed since 2016 and now new energy infrastructure must be taken forward quickly. A rapid response from industry and other stakeholders is required if we’re to meet future Carbon Budgets, and the Welsh Government’s target for electricity to be 100% renewable by 2035.
“Onshore wind is one of the lowest cost options for clean, green energy that can be deployed at pace, alongside the grid infrastructure needed to support it. Wales and rural Wales in particular needs to prepare for a net zero world where electricity demand will at least double, with a massive increase in the use of electric heat pumps and electric vehicles. The appropriate electricity infrastructure needs to be in place for rural Wales to remain a vibrant place to live now and for future generations.
“We have met with CPRW to discuss our proposals – and they did not raise these concerns at that time. However, if the ASA wants to speak to us, we would be happy to welcome them to our head office in Cardiff.”
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