UK Backs Off Firm 2020 Renewables Obligation

When the United Kingdom established a Renewables Obligation in 2000 requiring that 10 percent of the island nation’s energy be produced from renewable sources, the Renewable Energy community cheered. This was good for England, good for the environment and good for RE businesses in the region.

London, England – February 25, 2003 [] When discussion of increasing that aggressive obligation to 20 percent by 2020 began, skeptics asked how it would be possible and lobbying groups for the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries got to work. Now, in a white paper released by the Department of Trade and Industry, that obligation has been softened to an “ambition,” with the 2010 goal called “very challenging.” Last week, details of the report were leaked to British media generating complaints from Great Britain’s Renewable Energy community, which have now been renewed. “The Treasury’s insistence that the white paper drop any reference to a 2020 renewable electricity target sends entirely the wrong signal and will shake international investor confidence in UK Renewable Energy companies,” said Jeremy Leggett chief executive of Solar Century. “The Prime Minister and the Treasury can’t have it both ways – either they believe the Prime Ministers rhetoric about the need for “major technological innovation” in order to achieve global greenhouse gas emission reductions or they don’t. If it is the former, then the Government needs to set clear targets, set out the practical steps required to achieve those targets, and then deliver the step change in investment funding that the PV industry and other Renewable Energy technologies have been calling for.” While the report does not entirely eliminate discussion of the 2020 target, it does seem to lower expectations and suggest that meeting 20 percent may be impossible. “On that basis, our aspiration is by 2020 to double renewables’ share of electricity from our 2010 target and we will pursue policies to achieve this,” the report states. “We remain firmly committed to the current Renewables Obligation and will maintain the level of support it provides as planned until 2027. In 2005/06, we will review progress and will elaborate a strategy for the decade to 2020. This will take account of the experience of carbon prices arising from the emissions trading scheme and of the costs of renewable technologies.” Both coal and nuclear power receive support in the white paper, which does not contain specific proposals for new nuclear plants but does “not rule our the possibility that at some point in the future new nuclear build might be necessary‚Ķ” The report goes on to say “Coal fired generation will also have an important part to play in widening the diversity of the energy mix provided ways can be found materially to reduce its carbon emissions.” According to the report, the UK will need to install approximately 10,000 MW of renewable capacity by 2010 to meet the existing 10 percent obligation.
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