Five out of the "big six" energy suppliers failed to invest the £30 per customer per year that is required to help the UK hit renewables targets, according to a new analysis from renewable energy firm Ecotricity.
The accusation drew a strongly worded response from energy giant Centrica, which accused Ecotricity of using "highly misleading" figures.
According to Ecotricity's analysis of publicly available investment plans, only nPower hit the £30 per customer target in 2009, investing more than £65 for each customer on renewables. In contrast, ScottishPower spent £16, EDF Energy £9, Scottish and Southern £8, and Centrica and E.ON nothing at all.
The £30 target is based on what it would take for each company to meet its bare minimum legal requirement under the Renewables Obligation to expand renewable energy capacity by around one per cent every year.
Dale Vince, founder and managing director of Ecotricity, said the analysis was an indictment of the mainstream energy firms' failure to adequately invest in the UK's renewable energy industry. "[These] figures show that for the sixth year running, the Big Six energy companies in Britain haven't even come close to meeting their minimum legal obligation to build more new sources of green energy," he said. "As a country we're behind and falling further back all the time."
The findings echo those of a recent Ofgem report, which recommended the government take a more interventionist role to force energy providers to increase investment in renewables.
But a spokesman for Centrica accused Ecotricity of using "misleading" figures to underplay the company's commitment to investing in renewable energy.
"This only takes into account projects completed in 2009," he said. "During that year we won final investment approval for the 270MW Lincs offshore wind farm and rights to develop the Irish Sea zone providing the potential to develop up to an additional 4.2GW. When completed, that will make us the biggest offshore wind provider in the world."
Ecotricity is known to favour measuring renewable investments using a per customer per year metric as the combination of its smaller customer base and its commitment to reinvesting a large chunk of customers' bills directly in the construction of new wind turbines means it tops the table ahead of its larger rivals.
The row comes as today Centrica announced profits of £936m for 2009, prompting fresh calls for the company to reduce energy bills further in line with falling wholesale power prices.
The firm also reported that it generated almost 50 per cent more power from renewables last year than it did in 2008. Renewable energy provided 821GWh of power during the year compared to 548GWh in 2008, with almost all the energy coming from Centrica's five operational wind farms.
However, renewable energy equated to just 3.26 per cent of an overall generation figure of 25,152GWh.
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