After years of singularly failing to regulate the bankers that have driven us all to the brink of an economic abyss, the government has at last decided to have a crack down on dubious accounting techniques - and in so doing blocked plans for a £250m wind farm.
BT is now seriously considering ditching plans for what would have been the largest wind farm to be built by a non-energy company in the UK after the government informed it that it had to choose between accessing the financial incentives that make such wind farms financially viable or using the resulting energy to cut its carbon footprint.
Yes you did read that right. It boils down to: give up the incentives or pretend that your carbon emissions are higher than they actually are.
I spoke with Dr Chris Tuppen, chief sustainability officer at BT, earlier this week and he was almost speechless at the fact that at the same time as telling anyone who will listen that it is serious about cutting carbon emissions the government was effectively blocking one of the largest companies in the country from investing in a project to do just that.
The problem for Tuppen, and those within the UK renewables industry, who are calling on the government to change the rules that undermine the BT project development is that technically the government is in the right. Practically it could not be more wrong, but technically its case is unimpeachable.
The reason BT is having second thoughts about the project lies in the complex interaction between two of the government's more labyrinthine environmental regulations: the Renewables Obligation and the Carbon Reduction Commitment.
Both are notoriously difficult to navigate - hence BT's failure to identify the problem earlier - but here, in a nutshell, is the problem.
Under current rules, renewable energy developers are allowed to issue a Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) for each unit of electricity they produce, which they can then sell to an energy company. The energy companies have to surrender the ROCs to the government each year to prove that they are helping to fund the development of renewables capacity and meeting their Renewables Obligation targets.
These ROCs are not technically a subsidy, but they increase the economic viability of renewable energy projects, providing developers with an additional ROC revenue stream alongside the power that they sell.
The problem is that if, like BT, you plan to sell the ROCs but hold onto the energy for your own use then the same unit of energy is effectively being counted twice, once by the energy company and once by the firm using it to cut its carbon emissions.
This scenario becomes even more complex if you consider that under the UK's imminent cap-trade-scheme, the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), companies such as BT will have to report their carbon emissions and adhere to carbon caps or face financial penalties.
The government is rightly fearful that double counting of renewable energy would undermine the integrity of both the RO and the CRC and as such is insisting that BT choose between issuing ROCs from the wind farm or using the energy to reduce its own reported emissions.
For BT this is no decision at all. Without ROCs wind farms are simply too costly, so if the project does proceed that is the road it will go down.
However, that would mean that while it could still use the renewable energy from the the wind farm it could not report the resulting reduction in emissions in its official carbon accounts and would have to assume that the energy resulted in emissions equivalent to the grid average for the purposes of its accounts.
At first this would probably only have a limited financial impact, but as the government tightens the caps within the CRC and it becomes progressively harder for firms to meet their emissions targets BT could find itself facing a hefty bill as a result of its artificially high carbon footprint.
I said it was complex, but whichever way you look at it the government is technically on the right side of the argument. Double counting of renewable energy would deal a blow to the credibility of both schemes and make an almighty mess of the government's attempts to keep track of national carbon emissions and renewable energy capacity.
But that does not make it right that a company that is genuinely trying to do the right thing and invest in developing a lower carbon business model should be obstructed by such ridiculous levels of red tape.
Businesses such as BT have only become interested in building their own wind farms because the incentive framework already in place has failed to deliver enough renewable energy to meet booming demand for green power. If they want to help pick up the slack they should be encouraged to do so, even if that does mean offering them greater incentives than those available to the energy companies.
The government has become a hostage of the disorientating complexity of its own maze-like renewables regulations and must now either a turn a blind eye to potential double counting, or ideally launch an alternative incentive scheme that firms such as BT can access without having to go through the bizarre process of scratching the emission reductions renewables projects deliver from their carbon accounts.
The alternative is to proceed with an overly complex accounting system that will become filled with a confusing fudge of real carbon emissions and ficticious carbon emissions. And if the last few months has taught us anything, it is that little good can come from wilfully hazy accounts that no one really understands.
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