Friends of the Earth Wants More Spent on Renewable Energy in Britain

The renewable energy industry in Britain is being starved of government research funding, while the country’s nuclear industry receives the bulk of government spending on energy.

LONDON, England 2002-02-18 [SolarAccess.com] Only 23 percent of government energy R&D funding was spent on renewable energy in 2000, according to Friends of the Earth (FOE). Fifty-eight percent went to nuclear power, while the remaining 19 percent was spent on fossil fuels. The environmental group used International Energy Agency data from the year 2000, the latest available. “Why is the government still spending so much money on developing nuclear power when it is uneconomic, unsafe and unpopular?,” says FOE’s Bryony Worthington. “Britain will not be at the forefront of a green industrial revolution if the government continues to spend so much money on this discredited dinosaur and so little on renewables. More money and tough new targets for expanding wind, wave and solar power are desperately needed if (Prime Minister Tony) Blair really wants to be a world leader in green energy.” Over the last 25 years, nuclear has received more than three-quarters of government funds, he explains. Britain spent less in total on renewable energy research than Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Japan and the United States. Renewable R&D spending per capita is ten times greater in Denmark and Switzerland than in Britain, while spending in Germany and the U.S. is three times higher. FOE released its analysis just before a British Cabinet Office released its review of energy policy. The study refers only to energy sources and does not include energy systems, conservation or storage. Britain’s R&D budget for renewables from 2001 to 2004 is £18.5 million per year, plus £5 to £10 million from Research Councils. This is slightly higher than the £16.6 million annual average spent over the last 25 years, but is minor compared with the average of £230 million per year spent on nuclear over the same period. Last March, Blair said Britain must be a leading player in the green industrial revolution by drawing on its “many strengths” in offshore wind, wave energy and tidal power. FOE says the Cabinet Office Performance & Innovation Unit review that recommends Britain set a target that 20 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020 is “pitifully low.”
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