Ruling

11120-22 Cozens-Hardy v The Daily Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      13th April 2023

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of correction

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 11120-22 Cozens-Hardy v The Daily Telegraph


Summary of Complaint

1. Raven Cozens-Hardy complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Self-hating Remainers are blind to the EU's flaws”, published on 23 July 2022.

2. The article was a comment piece that gave the writer’s critical opinion of the EU and the eurozone. Part of the article focused on the writer’s views about the connection between green energy and the economic situation within the EU. The article stated that: “Europe’s fragile economy rests on the shifting foundations of its ‘green’ energy policy, in which Britain is supposedly a leader”. The writer argued that Britain was “partly dependent on wind and solar power, but mostly dependent on imported gas” and that “a gas-turbine generator small enough to go on the back of a lorry will produce the same electricity, faster and more reliably, than 10 offshore wind turbines the size of the Eiffel Tower.”

3. The article also appeared online under the same headline.

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because it claimed that “a gas-turbine generator small enough to go on the back of a lorry will produce the same electricity, faster and more reliably, than 10 offshore wind turbines the size of the Eiffel Tower”. To support his position, the complainant referred to a particular wind turbine which he said was nearly the size of the Eiffel Tower with a capacity of 12MW. He calculated that ten such wind turbines would generate 630,000MWh of electricity each year, assuming a capacity factor – the amount of time an energy production method spends producing the maximum amount of energy it is able to produce – of 60%; this being the capacity factor provided by the manufacturer (noting that the    Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) assumed a higher capacity figure of 63%). The complainant calculated that to generate an equivalent amount of electricity from a gas turbine, and assuming a generous capacity of 80%, a capacity of 90MW would be required. He provided an example of a truck mounted generator which had a capacity of only 2MW, meaning that 45 would be required to produce the equivalent amount of electricity. The complainant said that if the largest lorry-mounted gas-turbine generator was used as the comparator – which would require several truckloads to install – three such generators would be needed to produce the equivalent amount of electricity.

5. The publication provided its own calculations; these differed from the complainant’s in that they assumed a capacity factor of 33% for offshore wind-turbines, being the figure used by the National Grid. Using the same capacity figure of 12MW, the publication calculated that the wind turbine cited by the complainant would generate only 40MW offshore. The publication explained that the wind turbines to which the article referred were next generation wind turbines, which are slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower. Using the capacity figure of 33%, they could be expected to generate 5MW each, totalling 50MW for ten turbines. Turning to the gas turbine comparator used in the article, the publication said that a single gas turbine delivers up 65MW of electricity, but assuming a capacity figure of 85% (to take account of time for servicing) it will provide an output of 50MW. The publication said, therefore, that using its figures, it is accurate to state that a gas-turbine generator small enough to go on the back of a lorry will produce the same electricity than 10 offshore wind turbines the size of the Eiffel Tower.

6. The publication said that the reference to the gas turbine being “small enough to [fit on the] back of a lorry” was intended to convey a sense of scale, rather than a statement that it could actually be transported on the back of a lorry. Nevertheless, it provided a picture of the gas-powered turbine it had used in its calculations being transported on a lorry to demonstrate that – in any case –the comparison made in the article was not inaccurate. Additionally, the publication noted that the article referred to the gas-turbine generator and not to the whole “package” which is required to operate it or the “plant” which contains the turbine.

7. The complainant disputed the publication’s use of 33% capacity factor. He said that this was the average of existing windfarms and argued that this was not comparable to new wind farms, which would be using larger turbines that would be situated offshore. The complainant also said that he had spoken to haulier from the publication’s picture, who had told him that the picture of the turbine on the back of a lorry did not actually show the gas-powered generator, Trent SGT-A65TR in question – rather, it appeared to show an engine.

8. The publication maintained that a gas turbine generator would fit on the back of the lorry, and that the comparison did not include the whole “package” required to operate it or the “plant” containing the turbine. It said that, similarly, the article referred to the wind turbine itself and not to the package required to carry it out to sea, build it and transfer electricity from it to the National Grid on shore.

Relevant Clause Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

9. The article under complaint was a comment piece and was clearly distinguished as such. However, the claim that “a gas-turbine generator small enough to go on the back of a lorry will produce the same electricity, faster and more reliably, than 10 offshore wind turbines the size of the Eiffel Tower“ was directly preceded by the phrase: “the basic facts will not go away”, indicating that it   was a statement of fact and the Committee assessed the complainant’s complaint on that basis. The Committee also wished to emphasise that its role was not to be the arbiter of whether the publication or the complainant had used the best methodology in calculating electricity production. Rather, the role of the Committee was to make a finding on whether the publication had breached the terms of the Editors’ Code in making the statement, noting that the statement made comparisons about both electricity production and the comparative size of the two types of generators referenced.

10. While the complainant preferred a different figure for the capacity of electricity production to that used by the publication, the publication had demonstrated that it had taken care when comparing the electricity produced by a gas-turbine generator compared to that produced by ten offshore wind turbines; it had based its calculation on a credible source, namely figures for capacity provided by the National Grid. Turning to the relative size of the generators, the Committee noted that the comparison had referred to a “gas turbine generator” rather than to a “gas turbine” or “turbine” and that the comparison being made was to the electricity produced by the two types of generators. The parties appeared to accept that in order to produce electricity, a gas turbine generator would require additional machinery and plant which together would not be “small enough to go on the back of a lorry”. Whilst the Committee noted the publication’s position that wind turbines require an additional ‘package’ to carry it out to sea, to build it and to transfer electricity to the National grid on shore, the comparison being made was to electricity production, rather than to supply. The Committee, therefore, found that the statement was misleading in circumstances where a gas turbine generator capable of generating electricity – which would include machinery and plant in addition to the turbine – is not small enough to fit on the back of lorry, as claimed. The Committee considered the publication had not taken care to present the size comparison in a way that was not inaccurate or misleading in breach of Clause 1(i).

Furthermore, this misleading statement was significant where it was used to challenge the claimed benefits of “green energy”. As no correction had been offered, this represented a breach of Clause 1(ii).

Conclusions

11. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1.

Remedial action required

12. Having upheld a breach of Clause 1 (i) and Clause 1 (ii), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. In circumstances where the Committee establishes a breach of the Editors’ Code, it can require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the terms and placement of which is determined by IPSO.

13. Although the inaccuracy was significant in context of the article’s central argument, the Committee was also mindful of the fact the inaccuracy related to a single line in a comment piece. As such, the Committee considered that a correction was the appropriate remedial action.

14. In order for the correction to meet the terms of Clause 1(ii), the Committee ruled that it should acknowledge the publication was not able prove that a gas-turbine generator that was small enough to go on the back of a lorry will produce the same electricity, faster and more reliably, than 10 offshore wind turbines the size of the Eiffel Tower. The correction should also note a generator capable of generating that much electricity would be too large to fit the back of a lorry.

15. The Committee then considered the placement of this correction. The correction to the print article should be published in the publication’s Corrections and Clarifications column. With regards to the online article: if the publication intends to continue to publish it without amendment, the correction on the article should be published beneath the headline. If the article is amended, the correction should be published as a footnote.

 

Date complaint received:  12/08/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  22/03/2023