Thursday, December 06, 2007

Carbon Reduction Advisory Partnership

Ecowibble meets the real world: why businesses don't implement carbon reduction measures

If you're a taxpayer, you need to listen up. The Major and I are launching a new public service to save you from Armageddon.

As you will understand, we are facing a Carbon Crisis. Thanks to an Unprecedented Confluence of the IPCC, the Stern Report, and the BBC, taxpayers are being milked for billions to fund the carbon reduction industry.

Experts are divided on exactly how bad things will get. Some say it will only be a few billion, hardly noticeable against the rising tide of taxation. Others say it will be billions of billions- what scientists call a Quackadakadoodoo. That would be extraordinarily serious.

But by taking action now, while there's still time, we can head off the worst effects of disaster. Time is of the essence! To facilitate early action, the Major and I are establishing the Carbon Reduction Advisory Partnership (hereinafter referred to as CRAP).

Taxpayers are used to the highest standards of public service excellence, so we will be benchmarking CRAP against the government's beacon eco quango, the Carbon Trust. Luckily, this has just been analysed by the National Audit Office (here), and reviewed yesterday at the Public Accounts Committee.

Key Carbon Trust features, and CRAP's proposed value enhancements are as follows:

Costs: Carbon Trust- £103.2m pa, all of it charged to taxpayers (although the Trust describes itself as a private company); CRAP will ensure even better value by charging just £100m pa

Activities: Carbon Trust- pestering commercial businesses to switch off the lights, hiring hundreds of external consultants at a cost of £45m pa to do the same, spending £9m pa on glossy ad campaigns, making interest free loans for "good works", funding a private equity fund with public money; CRAP will streamline operations and reduce the burdens on business by doing none of the above

Results monitoring: the Trust has devised convoluted and opaque calculations for estimating how much carbon their activities save; CRAP will deploy Herr Docktor Professor Franz Kuntz's improbability algorithm to deliver comparable assurance

As you can see, CRAP will deliver exactly the same high standard of service as you've come to expect from the Carbon Trust, but at a fraction of the cost (the fraction in this case being 100/103.2).

Meanwhile, some other points to note from the NAO report:
  • How does the Trust cut carbon emissions? Mainly by giving advice to companies and public sector bodies. But in reality, only 12% of big energy users have had any working contact with them. Even among those that have, most ignored/rejected most of the Trust's recommendations.
  • What sort of advice is it? Mainly the bleedin' obvious- eg they "helped" Manchester United FC by suggesting they turn off the lights in the stands at night. Brilliant. No wonder 20 per cent of actioning customers say they would have made exactly the same changes without any Trust involvement, and 68 per cent would have made some of the same changes
  • Does anyone actually pay for this advice? Hardly. The Trust's consultancy services are free to "customers", and while they reckon the "market" for advice is growing by 20% pa, the NAO says "there have been few new entrants to the market... growth is likely to reflect the Carbon Trust’s own market position"
  • So how do we know we're getting anything at all for our £103.2m? We have to trust the Trust's own calculations of how much carbon reduction its advice generates. Hmm. As the NAO notes: "Measuring impact in carbon terms is a relatively new area of expertise, robust methodologies for which are still being developed". Quite.
  • What's with that "private equity"company? According to the NAO: "CT Investment Partners LLP 75 per cent of which is owned by Carbon Trust Fund Management Holdings Limited (which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Carbon Trust) and 25 per cent by Clean Tech Venture Partners (a partnership owned by two employees of CT Investment Partners). As part of the partnership arrangements, it was agreed that any future carried interest would be split 75 per cent to Clean Tech Venture Partners and 25 per cent to Carbon Trust Fund Management Holdings Limited. Clean Tech Venture Partners paid £50,000 for its interest in CT Investment Partners." Get the picture? Those two lucky employees have put up just £50 grand, and on a multi-million tax funded pot, stand to cream 75% of all the CTIP's "carried interest" returns (which will be 20% of all fund returns above a hurdle return of 6% pa). The head of the Carbon Trust suggested to PAC that a total £10m fund might generate a 3x return in three years, which on our calculation would leave the two employees with £2.7m: nearly 300%pa. Nice deal if you can get it... which you never would from private sector investors. A member of the PAC noted that this was the first public sector private equity fund he'd ever come across. Let's hope it's the last (NB as far as we can tell from the NAO report, there is as yet no actual fund- an attempt to raise £75m from private investors failed totally.... we wonder why)

This is all a grotesque waste of public money. They may talk the talk of "customer offer" and equity returns, but the Carbon Trust is producing zilch pay-off in terms of cold hard cash. And while they witter on about government intervention being necessary to correct "market failure", with oil at $100 per barrel, we reckon the market will take care of things a lot more dependably than this wibbly bloated quango.

We were disappointed the PAC let off Defra and the Trust so easily yesterday. It may be only £100 mill, but a hundred here, a hundred there.... etc.

PS Just as a reminder, here's the start of the "contoversial" C4 Doc on the Great Climate Warming Swindle:


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