The head of German utility RWE’s renewables wing has attacked “the climate of fear” behind current renewable energy policies in a withering assault on the climate-change lobby.

The effect of carbon dioxide and other power generation emissions on the world’s climate have been vastly overstated by influential organisations, RWE Innogy CEO Dr Fritz Vahrenholt told Power Engineering International.

While the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) claims man is responsible for 95 per cent of global warming, “nearly 50 per cent of today’s climate change can be explained by the influence of solar cycles”, he told PEi.

Dr Vahrenholt’s views have startled the power industry in Germany, where his book Die Kalte Sonne (The Cold Sun) is already a best-seller. Before heading RWE Innogy, he already ranked among Germany’s most prominent supporters of renewable energy.

In fact, Dr Vahrenholt remains committed to expanding renewables-based power. But he fears alarmism will trigger a backlash against renewables when, in five or ten years’ time, forecast changes to the world’s climate fail to occur.

“What we need is a new foundation for development that isn’t about climate change,” he told PEi.

“Because of a climate of fear we are doing this no matter what the cost, and in the quickest possible time. Because we believe there is a catastrophe on the way we are doing silly things.”

Germany is a global pioneer in renewables, which are planned to provide 80 per cent of its electricity by 2050. The country already spends €8bn ($10.4bn) a year on solar energy.

Dr Vahrenholt’s scepticism over climate change science was sparked by finding “hundreds of errors” in an IPCC report on renewable energy he was asked to review.

“The IPCC is not a purely scientific body – it is a political body,” he told PEi.

“If you look at the core writing team of 34 people, one third of them have connections to WWF and Greenpeace.”

While Vahrenholt remains committed to cutting carbon dioxide emissions, he argues that the sun’s current cool period provides an opportunity for a more measured expansion in renewables.

“The sun has given us time to do it properly and robustly in a way that does not destroy economic growth, the labour workforce and the possibilities of energy supply,” he told PEi.

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