UK likely to miss legal 2020 renewable energy target

Offshore wind turbines

The UK is failing to add enough new on- and offshore wind capacity to meet its renewable energy targets

Energy secretary Chris Huhne focuses on 2050 targets in first major policy statement but admits the UK faces 'short-term challenges' to meet targets for renewable energy

The current rate of growth of renewable energy in the UK is too slow to meet EU targets for 15 per cent of energy to come from renewable sources like by 2020, the energy secretary Chris Huhne has admitted.

His admission comes as an analysis published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows the UK needs a 'quantum leap' in offshore wind capacity to meet renewable electricity's contribution to the target.

The UK Government assured the EU in its Renewable Energy Strategy last year that it envisaged 30 per cent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020 - the vast majority being on- and offshore wind. PwC says less than half the average annual roll out of new capacity is currently being achieved.

Compared to the rest of Europe, the UK is already lagging behind in the renewable energy stakes, with the third lowest contribution of sustainable energy (at around 3 per cent) to overall energy consumption - the worst of any major EU country.

Labour failings

In a statement on energy policy made in Parliament today, Huhne blamed the previous Labour government for failing to exploit the UK's 'wealth of potential renewable energy resources' and said the UK could not continue on its current 'dead-end' pathway of 'high-carbon, highly dependent on imports, highly volatile prices'.

However, Huhne admitted that long-term plans for the UK to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels would not stop it exploiting its remaining oil and gas reserves.

'The low carbon economy must happen, but it will not happen tomorrow. There are potentially twenty billion barrels of oil equivalent remaining in the UK Continental Shelf...we must maximise economic production while applying effective environmental and safety regulations,' he said.

He said the Government would act as a catalyst for private sector investment in low carbon technologies and help incentivise small-scale and community action by allowing local authorities to sell renewable electricity to the grid.

No to nuclear power

Friends of the Earth sustainable energy advisor Alan Simpson said the time for mission statements had passed and that the UK needed to move quickly into renewables or risk a energy shortage.

'Reducing the UK's carbon emissions will save us facing huge bills in the future - and improve energy security, create new jobs and protect us from unpredictable fossil fuel prices,' he said.

However, he cautioned against a jump towards nuclear power, which the Government continues to support, saying, 'solving one environmental problem by creating another is not the answer - nuclear power will create a centuries-long legacy of toxic waste and divert funds from clean, safe technologies that could put us at the forefront of the green manufacturing revolution.'

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