Every person in Britain will need to pay about £5,000 a year between now and 2050 on rebuilding and using the nation's entire energy system, according to government figures. But the cost of developing clean and sustainable electricity, heating and transport will be very similar to replacing today's ageing and polluting power stations, the analysis finds.
The forecasts come from a unique open-source analysis package, called the 2050 pathways calculator, which was created by Professor David MacKay, chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
The predictions challenge suggestions that the costs of embracing low-carbon energy and meeting the UK's legally binding commitments to tackle global warming will be higher than the bill would be for using traditional energy sources. They are also supported by a major EU project that found developing renewable energy was no more expensive than alternatives.
"The calculator takes the poison out of the debate," MacKay told the Guardian. "The key thing is that any scenario you choose has to add up." He said the tool, constructed with the help of hundreds of experts and a thorough literature review, is used to enable "open source policy making", where anyone can see and challenge the assumptions made and the data used. "You can play at being secretary of state, and you have to make a plan which is not too unpopular."