British Government Expects Renewables Revolution

British energy minister Brian Wilson predicts that 2002 will be “the year of renewables” in which the alternative power sources market will be transformed.

LONDON, England, UK, 2002-01-18 [] The government’s renewables obligation, which comes into effect on April 1, will require electricity suppliers to purchase a portion of their power from renewable sources at a premium price. While less than 3 percent of electricity in Britain comes from renewable energies now, the government is committed to a target of 10 percent by 2010. Wilson says regional targets will be established throughout the country to help ensure that reasonable expectations are set and monitored. The government is investing £260 million to develop renewable technologies over the next three years and the renewables obligation will guarantee a market of £750 pounds for electricity generated from renewables by 2010. A substantial part of the funding earmarked by government will be dedicated to deploy the first generation of off-shore windfarms and power plants using energy crops, thought to be two of the biggest potential growth areas. Wilson says there are opportunities for small projects at the community or household level, but he warns that it is pointless to set ambitious targets for renewable energies which, in the short term, are not capable of being met. “I certainly want to see us aiming higher than 10 percent in the years beyond 2010,” he says. “The reality is that we are starting from a low base and it will take a lot of commitment, not least by government itself, to reach the 10 percent target for UK renewable energy.” Wilson says his government will act to ensure that renewables projects are treated fairly by the planning system. “This may involve a challenge to the integrity and consistency of some environmentalists,” he explains. “They cannot, on the one hand, say that the future lies with renewables but, on the other hand, that they object to just about every specific project that comes forward.” “There also has to be a sensible balance between encouraging renewables and recognizing that, in the short term at least, this is going to increase the cost of electricity,” he adds. “That is a factor which cannot be ignored if public support is to be maintained.” Britain’s distribution system was built for an economy based on coal and steel, and he says the national grid must to be updated in parts of the country with the greatest potential in wind and wave power. A feasibility study, commissioned by his department to examine a underwater cable along the western shore is a “major step” in that direction. “It should never be forgotten that we had world leadership in wind power 20 years ago but did next to nothing with it,” says Wilson. “The Danes took a different view and now have a £4 billion a year manufacturing industry.” “I am determined that the same thing should not happen with wave power, biomass and other technologies in which we are well placed to lead the world.”
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