Has Radio NZ misled listeners through failure to disclose conflicts of interest

Yesterday Radio NZ ran a piece about electricity prices.


It was promoted likes this:

The former head of the country’s biggest power company says electricity prices will fall to a third of their current level in a little over a decade because of the spread of solar power.

Keith Turner claimed in that interview that very soon a combination of solar power and batteries would be cheaper than grid power.

That may well be, but I am reliably informed that solar power currently costs about 20 cents/kWh and, further according to recent NZ research, it costs more than 50c to store surplus energy in batteries.

There is currently no technology on the horizon that can reduce the cost of solar power by a factor of 4 and battery storage by a factor of more than 10.  

Like most of the touted green energy projects around the world the solar power industry exists mainly because of massive subsidies paid by the poor gullible taxpayer.

But here is the key thing with this interview. At no time did Radio NZ disclose that Keith Turner had been founding chairman of SolarCity for three years and is now a key advisor. If Keith Turner did disclose it to Radio NZ they certainly didn’t disclose it to listeners.

So what came across as the independent views of a respected industry figure were, in fact, the views of a person who has had a direct financial interest in promoting solar power for a number of years.

According to the Solar City website:

Key advisers
Dr Keith Turner
Keith was the CEO of Meridian Energy for nine years from its establishment in 1999. He is now the Chairman of Fisher and Paykel Appliances, Deputy Chairman of Auckland International Airport, and a director of Chorus. Keith served as Solarcity’s Chairman for its first three years.

Solarcity also claims they are New Zealand’s leading supplier of solar power systems.

Keith Turner clearly has a substantial interest in promoting solar power. That was precisely what he did during the interview with Eric Fryckberg.

I think that the substantial interest should have been revealed during the interview. He can still make the claims but at least we could then judge for ourselves what weight to put on those claims given his interests.

The way it was touted it made Keith Turner sound like he was knowledgeable but neutral commentator, when the reality is he is conflicted and Radio NZ should have disclosed that conflict.


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  • Eddie

    Once again WOBH introduces facts into a media story, exposing extreme bias. No wonder trust in MSM is below politicians.

  • Petem8nz

    Did I not hear on the radio the other day that power companies are about to start charging users with solar panels more for the power they use from the grid?

    • The other Neil

      Not power companies, but the lines companies. It is not about the power that they use, but the fact that they still require a connection. As part of the charges we all pay are based on consumption, when someone adds a solar panel they reduce the amount they pay for the lines. However, the lines will still be used, just less through put. Lines are invested in based on the capacity required, think fuse size, no through put. This has historically not been an issue as solar was not economic or generally available. Now that it is, the lines companies are looking to change their pricing.

      • Second time around

        And that is problematic: because the lines have to designed for peak load, it is probably fair to split the cost as an even charge over all people connected to the network. If the cost is recovered only by the power consumed then holiday homes are not paying a fair share towards the capacity needed at the Christmas holidays, and solar users never pay a fair share.

        • Aucky

          The Greens no doubt want a public enquiry.

  • phronesis

    Surely a pending decrease in electricity prices would be the best reason ever to not invest in Solar?

  • Wayne Hodge

    OMG Radio NZ fails to check facts! How bizarre.

  • Bryan William Leyland

    I am reliably informed that Eric Fryckberg was unaware of Keith’s close association with the solar industry.

    I am surprised and disappointed that Keith did not reveal it at the time of the interview.

  • shykiwibloke

    Angry will be onto this next. It stinks. Calls for inquiry?

  • Doc45

    It is hard to believe it today but some days the sun does not shine and there is something called night when the sun heads off around the globe to warm the solar panels in Germany. What Dr Turner also omitted is that to compensate for the above we run fossil fueled power stations spewing that dangerous CO2 into the atmosphere. We cant just switch on a fossil fueled generator when the sun goes behind a cloud – they have to be working around the clock. Wind turbines and solar are unreliable and will never compete in price with hydro no matter how you rig the pricing.

    • Builder

      A Tesla Powerwall would do the job. https://www.teslamotors.com/en_AU/powerwall?redirect=no

      • Karl

        It had better be a really big (and expensive) one. I understand that most customers peak in winters evenings after days when there hasn’t been much sun. And the 10% losses in the battery don’t help. Doesn’t really fit the RNZ narrative.

  • Dave of the West Bank

    That our tax dollars are funding this unmitigated partisan propaganda is a travesty! Absolute pure bunkum!

    Readers may find this instructive. https://papundits.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/fossil-fuel-power-generation-the-moral-case-video-from-senate-hearings/

  • Keanne Lawrence

    Who is the chicken and who is the egg in yet another sound bite of a contrived nature? It is more like an infomercial with some dubious wishes being offered as a prediction from just one interested part. You seriously expect fact checking from RNZ for a put up job?

  • Asian_driver

    As an aside I went and looked at Solar Citys Solar Zero offer where you generate the power and buy it from them, with their free(ish) system
    2500 up front
    55 per month service fee
    save 20% over existing power price
    My power bill is 300 per month so I pay 2500 up front and 55 per month to save $60 , what a great deal !!

    • Oh Please

      Last time I looked into this it would take over 11 years to get a positive payback. Assuming pricing structures stayed the same for 11 years…

    • Karl

      And who takes the risk for paying for increased line charges if they change to a more fixed or demand shape? You or SC?