Renew On Line (UK) 70

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 170 Nov-Dec 2007
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         
 

Contents

1. Dodging the EU Target: or room to grow?

2. Scottish green power cut off? or growing with the Marine Obligation

3. SCD on Tidal Barrage: 4.4%, or 25% from tidal current power?

4. Renewables progress: 4.6% but could be much more with a UK REFIT?

5. The Nuclear decision: wind a better bet? New Energy Bill

6. CAT s Zero carbon plan: 474TWh or wind by 2027!

7. Energy and Climate Policy: Carbon tax messes

8. EU News: New German plan

9. Global News: Biofuels v Food

10. Nuclear News: UK problems

11. In the rest of Renew 170

 

1. Dodging the EU Target

Environmental groups and the renewables industry reacted angrily to the suggestion in an internal government briefing paper, leaked by the Guardian back in August, that Britain had no hope of getting remotely near the new European Union target of getting 20% of EU energy from renewables by 2020 that Tony Blair signed up to in the spring. They were even more incensed by the suggestion that ways be found to wriggle out of it, for example by statistical interpretations of the target . See right.

The internal briefing paper for ministers, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian, revealed that officials at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR), think the best the UK could hope for is 9% of energy from renewables by 2020. It says the UK has achieved little so far on renewables and that getting to 9%, from the current level of about 2%, would be challenging . The paper was, it seems, produced in the early summer, around the time the government published its Energy White Paper, which, as reported in Renew 168, did indicate concerns about the EU 20% energy target (at present the UK only has a 20% by 2020 electricity target). Like the White Paper, the briefing document said that, under current policies, renewables would reach only 5% of energy by 2020.

The European Commission is working out how the new 20% energy target can be reached- and how to apportion the burden around the various EU countries. Some, like Sweden, Austria and Finland have already reached over 20%, while Germany is very keen on pushing things ahead (see Reviews section Renew 170). DBERR officials fear that Britain may end up being told to get to 16%, which it describes as “very challenging”. According to the Guardian, the paper suggests that ministers lobby certain EU commissioners and countries such as France, Poland and Italy to agree to a more flexible interpretation of the target, by including nuclear power, for example, or investment in solar farms in Africa . But it notes that these flexible options are ones that may be difficult to negotiate with some member states such as Germany, who we expect to resist approaches that may be seen to water down the renewables target .

The option of taking account of the nuclear contributions for some countries in setting national targets was added, under pressure from those with large nuclear capacity or plans, during the setting up of the 20% target, and since then there has also been a lot of lobbying on the arguably better idea of importing electricity from CSP- Concentrating Solar Power- units in North Africa. See the Feature in Renew 170. But it would be tragic if CSP was used as a way to water down the EU targets. Even worse, if nuclear ended up doing that. But then, perhaps that s why Blair signed up to 20%?

* Downing Street said that the UK was fully committed to renewables but added it is no secret that these are ambitious targets and it will be a major challenge to meet them, not just for the UK, but for all EU states. It is now for the commission to propose how the EU-wide targets should be met. Maybe by yet more certificate trading?

Reactions

This briefing reads like a wriggle and squirm paper, said Andrew Simms, director of the New Economics Foundation. It combines almost comic desperation from civil servants suddenly realising that they actually have to do something to promote renewable energy, with a breathtaking cynicism as they explore every conceivable get-out clause to escape the UK s international commitments. NEF, Greenpeace, the Renewable Energy Association and Friends of the Earth wrote to Brown saying it would be unfortunate if the leadership shown by the UK in getting these European targets adopted in March was now eroded by a serious lack of ambition in our domestic policy. Our European colleagues will be looking to the UK to propose a realistic contribution, especially as we have the EU s best resource of wind, tidal and wave energy. Such lowly domestic ambition also threatens to undermine the credibility of the new climate change bill, which puts into statute the commitment to long-term emission reductions. The letter called on Brown to commission an open assessment of the 20% target. We look for your reassurance that the intellectual capital of the government is being invested in defining ways of meeting our renewable energy commitments, not wriggling out of them .

Adam Bruce, British Wind Energy Association chair, said: It is simply wrong for civil servants to now suggest that the 20% EU target cannot be met- the UK wind energy industry is confident that it can meet these new renewable objectives if the government takes the necessary measures to support it . The BWEA added the UK has 40% of Europe s entire wind resource and with these abundant resources we should be a world leader in renewable energy generation .

But although the UK currently trails behind our European partners levels of renewable generation, the UK has doubled its wind energy capacity over the past 20 months. The equivalent of 6% of the UK s electricity supply remains held up in the planning system from onshore wind energy projects alone, which means the UK can meet its 2010 targets and set the stage to meet for more ambitious targets to 2020.

The BWEA said the government should :   

• Accelerate new site awards for offshore wind- the industry says it could realistically supply 20 GW by 2020 from offshore wind alone.  

• Expand the Renewables Obligation to encourage investment, by extending its life beyond 2027 and raising support above 20% by 2020.

 • Unblock the logjam in the onshore planning system which currently holds the equivalent of 6% of potential UK electricity supply. If just one quarter of these projects were approved within the next 6 months, said BWEA, the 10% renewable electricity target could be more than met by 2010.

The Guardian leak also created political fallout. Conservative shadow secretary of state, Alan Duncan said: This is a staggering revelation and shows the government has known all along it won t meet its targets but has deliberately avoided admitting it. They have been living a lie. Lib Dem Chris Huhne said: This news confirms that the government has said yes to an EU target of 20% of renewable energy without any visible means of achieving it. If the government s policy is now to have any credibility and not be seen as a cynical attempt to woo green opinion, ministers must stop fudging and start acting.

Gloom or Room to Grow?

A key Cabinet Sustainability committee has been downgraded and it seems the 10% renewable Merton rule for local councils may be dropped in the new planning guidance. There is no shortage of gloomy commentary like this, on the UK s eco-policies and its tragically slow progress with renewables. The Guardian noted recently that, with the level of grants in the LCPB household programme being cut back, Thermomax, the UK s largest maker of solar thermal panels, has just gone into administration. Britain s climate change strategy, such as it is, is crumbling , it said and the new leak hasn t improved this view. But putting a more positive spin on it, James Vaccaro, head of investment banking at Triodos Bank, argued that the under-exploitation of UK renewables is creating excellent investment climate for new projects, a view reinforced by a report from Ernst & Young which concludes that the UK is one of the best places in the world to invest in renewable energy. Vaccaro commented Britain has and always has had great resource in renewable energy in terms of wind and water resources . And the new proposals in the Energy White Paper for extra support for wave and tidal power should help “The other big force of course is the fact that the Government is maybe kind of recognising that the UK hasn t done quite so well in the previous ten years or so. The UK has got so much opportunity precisely because we haven t really exploited our resources to the full extent.

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