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International Energy Agency slams UK renewable strategy

UK comes 31st out of 35 countries in ranking of developed nations' renewable energy programmes

The UK's renewable energy strategy is among the worst of all major industrialised nations, ranking 31 out of 35, according to a damning report by the International Energy Agency.

The study ranked the performance of countries' green energy strategies based on the price and availability of renewable energy.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that nearly 50 per cent of global electricity supplies will have to come from renewable energy sources if the world economy is to halve CO2 emissions by 2050 and meet targets designed to at least minimise the risk of significant and irreversible climate change impacts.

Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA, called on the worst-performing nations to improve their record quickly.

"Only a limited set of countries have implemented effective support policies for renewables, and there is a great potential for improvement," he said. " Governments need to take urgent action."

He added that the UK government must develop policy frameworks customised to support technologies at differing stages of maturity, and eventually apply appropriate incentives such as a carbon price for more mature renewables.

Local opposition to wind schemes, poor climatic conditions for solar technologies, and the immaturity of tidal and wind power systems were all cited as barriers to growth of the sector in the UK.

But the report argued that ineffective incentives had not helped challenge these barriers. It said that while the UK has attempted to encourage increases in renewable energy capacity with tradable Renewable Obligation Certificates "intrinsic problems with the design of the tradable green certificate system, which causes higher investor risk premiums," meant that development remained slow compared to many other countries.

The government needs to take action quickly, argued Leonie Greene, spokeswoman for the Renewable Energy Association, adding that the absence of an effective policy framework was hampering the development of the UK's renewables industry.

"They are still obsessed with the Luddite technologies of coal and nuclear," she said. "We have seen large renewables companies moving their operations overseas because conditions here are so bad."

The government says the Renewables Obligation commits it to support the industry to the tune of £1bn by 2010 and will help ensure the sector contribute some 15 per cent of the UK's energy supply by 2016.

But Greene insisted the targets were not ambitious enough. "It is peanuts compared with what Stern and the IEA recommend," she said. "They need to increase the Renewables Obligation to 40 per cent and they need to introduce feed in tariffs now."

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