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UK Advertising Regulator Upholds GWPF Complaint

William Powell, Natural Gas World

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against Greenpeace and others over misleading claims in an advert about the halving of the cost of electricity generated by offshore windfarms early next decade.

The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) said that, until the windfarms were built, which it said was unlikely, there was no certainty that the cost would have halved, as the original adverts had claimed. That was why it launched its complaint.

The ASA told NGW January 4 that during its investigation, it approached Greenpeace with its concerns about whether an advertised claim could be substantiated: “The advertiser agreed not to use such claims in future advertising, so we considered the case to have been resolved informally.”

Greenpeace told NGW: “Our posters were up in the Westminster tube [metro station] for two weeks in September, as planned. We then had a second two-week slot in November where we added the word ‘future’ to the text of the posters to make it even clearer that these prices are from contracts for future energy supply, rather than payments already made for past energy supply.”

GWPF director Benny Peiser told NGW the same day that he nevertheless remained dissatisfied with the new wording of the advert. He said that the new reference to the auction strike price is “still misleading in that they give the impression that the bid prices are firm, and immediate, whereas the truth is that the contracts do not become effective until the early 2020s. They are unlikely ever to be implemented given that these prices are at present completely uneconomic. Something very similar has been happening in Germany in recent months. There, the grid operator was forced to raise the prices after the auction out of fear that wind projects with low auction prices would never be built.”

Therefore the wording of the advert is still misleading, and GWPF has submitted a further complaint about this advertisement, which ASA is now investigating, he said.

Greenpeace told NGW that it “absolutely” stood by the message. “It celebrates a breakthrough moment for our energy system – the government signing contracts for new offshore wind farms which will provide electricity at half the price agreed in the previous auction, held in 2015. However, not everyone is aware that the contracts are signed and prices agreed before the wind farms are built, rather than afterwards, so we were happy to clarify that.”

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