UK Commits to 15 Percent Renewable Energy

Just a week after the U.S. Congress failed to gain adequate support for a broad and contentious energy bill, the UK has passed their own comprehensive energy legislation. And it dwarfs the piecemeal efforts made toward renewable energy in the U.S. senate.

London, England – December 2, 2003 [] The new bill, published this week, will help promote renewable energy and competitive and reliable energy supplies for now and generations to come in the UK by building on and implementing recommendations in a recent White Paper report on energy which was hailed by the renewable energy industry. “The Energy White paper was a milestone in energy policy,” Energy Minister Stephen Timms said. “It set out a new strategy for the long-term, based upon four goals: environmental protection, energy reliability, competitive markets and affordable energy for all. This Bill demonstrates that we are serious about meeting the challenging targets of the White Paper, with measures which will help us ensure that 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by the year 2010. The Energy Bill, introduced in the House of Lords, will implement a range of commitments made in the Energy White Paper: Our energy future – creating a low carbon economy, published in February. The White Paper saw increasing use of renewable energy as both a positive and necessary step for the country. Apparently, their U.S. counterparts across the ocean in the U.S. Congress didn’t see renewable energy in the same light. Legislation contained in earlier incarnations of the U.S. energy bill also called for a similar 10 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) but this was dropped in the final conference version. Congressional opposition to lawsuit protection for the manufacturers of the known pollutant MTBE largely shelved the bill until Congress resumes debate in January. While there remained some important legislation for the renewable energy industry, most of the failed energy bill favored the traditional fossil fuel and nuclear industries. Despite its faults, failure of the larger energy bill also allowed an embedded tax credit, crucial for the U.S. wind industry, to expire which could have dire consequences for the industry in the U.S. The UK has clearly taken a different approach. Not only does the new UK legislation establish a sizeable RPS standard but it actually raised the originally anticipated percentage. According to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), the legislation’s Renewables Obligation will increase by 50 percent. In addition to calling for the country to source 10 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2010, the UK is now calling for the Renewable Obligation percentage to increase to 15 percent by 2015. “This is a wonderful early Christmas present for the UK wind and renewables industry,” said Marcus Rand, BWEA’s CEO. “We are delighted that the Government has listened to advice and acted so decisively by significantly increasing the nation’s renewables target. It is the icing on the cake of a great year for wind energy. We will now go forward into the new Year with a massive boost of confidence.” BWEA said this recent expansion of the Renewables Obligation to 15 percent by 2015 will foster the installation of an additional 5,000 MW of new renewables capacity, or enough to supply power for 3 million average UK homes. While the renewables obligation will source all renewable energy options such as solar, ocean energy and biomass, the projected total of 5,000 MW could be accomplished with the installation of an average of 2000 onshore wind turbines and even less using larger offshore machines. New legislation included in the bill would improve the possibilities for increased offshore wind projects. “The Bill will help support our renewables goals, by enabling us, for the first time, to explore building projects beyond our territorial waters,” Energy Minister Stephen Timms said. “This will mean that developments can be on a larger scale, and that we can exploit the potential not only of future offshore wind farms, but also of wave and tidal power schemes. The bill also deals with the UK’s nuclear legacy of the past by establishing the Nuclear Decomissioning Authority. “For the first time, one public body will have complete responsibility for the decommissioning and clean-up of the UK’s civil nuclear sites, and for the safe and effective management of our nuclear waste,” Timms said. The bill further addresses market and transmission issues pertinent to the contemporary energy climate in the UK. Timms said the establishment of the new British Electricity Trading and Transmission Arrangements (BETTA) will help ensure competitive and reliable energy supplies for consumers well into the future. This will create a single wholesale electricity market for Britain, and mean that Scottish consumers, particularly, will enjoy the benefits of a more competitive energy market. BETTA will also help the growth of renewables, by spreading the cost of grid reinforcement – which is needed to accommodate renewable energy – across all users throughout the country, said Timms.
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