European utilities declare a form of war on renewables.

Jeremy Leggett column in Recharge magazine: “The closer renewables get to becoming the first choice for energy, the more our opponents come out into the open and show themselves as the intransigent incumbency they are at heart.”
“Just as BP and Shell chose a time of plunging PV prices to exit solar completely and dig in for unconventional gas and oil, so now most utilities are giving up their pretences about renewables. In September, nine utility bosses went so far as to tell the European Parliament that renewables are threatening the continent’s energy security.
Speaking for the nine, the chief executive of GDF Suez, Gérard Mestralle, said: “We have to reduce the speed at which Europe is building new wind farms and solar panels. At the moment, it is not sustainable.”
What is truly not sustainable, of course, are the business models of these giants. The march of renewables, energy efficiency and community energy threatens them grievously, unless they change course completely.
A solar-power system is being installed every two minutes in Japan today. The US lags behind, at one every four minutes, but there are already more solar workers in Texas than ranchers. Solar generates enough electricity nationwide for the equivalent of every home in Connecticut. A trend-aware president has installed solar panels on the White House.
In China, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that renewables will equal coal by 2030.
In Germany, where the whole push started, renewables produce almost a quarter of the nation’s electricity, and 40% of that renewable energy is generated by small-scale producers. Farmers alone provide 11%. There are more than 700 energy-producing co-operatives — a fourfold rise since 2009. And not all are small: the city of Berlin plans to buy and operate its own grid.
The big four energy companies produce a mere 6.5% of Germany’s electricity. Herein lies one of their main problems. They may have left it too late to be effective transitioners to the zero-carbon future.
Not surprisingly, German utilities E.ON and RWE were among the nine addressing the European Parliament. In August, E.ON suffered a 42% drop in first-half profits, blaming most of that on renewables. The company announced that it was considering closing or mothballing fossil-fuel power plants in the face of “ interventionist” energy policies and regulations that subsidise and prioritise renewables.
RWE fared little better, professing that “due to the continuing boom in solar energy, many power stations throughout the sector and across Europe are no longer profitable”.
The companies seem to be saying: “We have become unprofitable, and the disrupters that are causing our lack of profitability are therefore bad.”
Nobody matches EDF in this kind of arrogance. In February, chief executive Henri Proglio made the amazing assertion that unless the UK government guaranteed him profit from nuclear operations, he would walk away. “We won’t do it,” he said, if the price for the power isn’t high enough.
The utilities do themselves no favours with their cavalier treatment of the public. In the UK, all the Big Six have been investigated by the regulator for mis-selling electricity and gas to consumers. In August 2011, the Financial Times reported that the companies were so hated by the public, and electricity and gas bills were inflating so fast, that the political backlash threatened the viability of their business models.
It would appear to be true. In August, government figures showed that households in England and Wales had cut their energy use by a quarter between 2005 and 2011. As in Germany, it is easy to see the direction in which this is heading. In a September report, the think-tank ResPublica concluded that community-owned renewables capacity is set to soar in the UK as people power builds.
These companies will imperil the course of democracy, if we let them have their way.”