Policy overhaul needed to meet EU renewables target

A major overhaul of UK energy policy is required if it the UK is to have any hope of meeting the EU target for it to deliver 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

That is the warning today from a major new report by the government's independent Renewables Advisory Board (RAB), which warned that based on current policies and business as usual projections the UK will fall well short of the target, generating just five to six per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, RAB co-chair Alan Moore said that a number of radical policy changes need to implemented as soon as possible in order to bolster investor confidence in the sector and ensure more renewable energy projects are undertaken.

"The grid will need strengthening to cope with power from on and offshore wind as well as other renewables, and that work needs to start quickly as it will take around ten years," he said. "We also need streamlined planning processes, both in terms of better guidance at a national level and ensuring that is implemented by local councils."

He argued that with many renewable energy projects likely to calculate their return on investment over decades the government also needed to extend the Renewables Obligation incentive mechanism, which is currently due to expire in 2027, by at least ten years.

These new policies would need to be underpinned by bolder political leadership, according to Moore, capable of reassuring investors that the sector would continue to receive support.

He added that while proposed changes to the planning system designed to fast track approval for renewable projects were welcome, the government still "needs to go further than it has done to date".

He also argued that it should appoint one department to take overall responsibility for the delivery of the EU target. "Too much activity is spread across too many departments," he added.

The report, entitled 2020 Vision, said that the implementation of such policies would result in around 14 per cent of UK energy being generated from renewable sources. It added that the additional one per cent required to meet the EU's targets could be attained through the installation of the proposed Severn Barrage, half of which would count towards the 2020 target provided construction begins before 2016; the development of a further 6GW of wind power, mostly offshore; or a further 30 per cent increase in energy production from on site renewables.

Responding to the report, Secretary of State for Energy, John Hutton said that the government remained committed to meeting the 15 per cent target and was on track to launch a consultation this summer on how it should be achieved. He added that progress was also being made currently with investment in renewable energy continuing to rise. "There is great momentum in this field at the moment, " he said. "We will soon be the world leader in offshore wind and we are pioneers in marine energy."

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