The Sussex Energy Group have just published a new report commissioned by Friends of the Earth on the UK's renewable energy target - and whether the current policy framework is sufficient to push the share of renewables in our energy mix from the current level of 3% to 15% by 2020.
Our report co-incided with Chris Huhne's first annual energy statement to Parliament. Whilst there was the usual focus on large scale low carbon electricity technologies , he also said that 'we ... need incentives for small-scale and community action'. To make this concrete, he confirmed a regulatory measure had been implemented 'to allow local authorities to sell renewable electricity to the grid.'
In the report, we argue that while the
In the report, we argue that while theCoalition Government has reaffirmed the
This report explains how the It makes policy
It makes policyrecommendations in five areas.
First, there is a clear case for bolder policy intervention to maximise the chances of hitting our 2020 target and to boost the renewables capacity beyond 2020. This does not mean the Government should micro-manage renewables. However, it does mean that stronger intervention is needed to overcome problems in several key areas as set out below.
Second, better financial incentives are needed to attract vital investment for developing renewable electricity. Shortcomings of the current incentive scheme – the Renewables Obligation (RO) – have contributed to the slow progress recorded to date. Recent reforms to the RO will help mitigate these, but it is not yet clear if they will have a significant impact on investor risks. A better approach would be to replace the RO with a feed-in tariff (
Third, it is crucial that we focus on what we have called ‘meso-scale’ renewables in the report (which many discussions classify as 'community scale'). This middle level of renewables falls between large scale investments such as offshore wind farms and small scale generation in homes. Unlike many other northern European countries, the
Fourth, widespread changes in network infrastructures – the pipes and wires that enable our energy system to function – are needed to cope with a rapid growth of renewables. Investment is needed to extend high voltage electricity grids to new locations (e.g. to connect offshore wind farms), to build new heat grids in areas of high heat density, and to ensure the early demonstration of ‘smart’ electricity distribution grids. There is a key role for the Green Investment Bank in co-financing these networks.
Fifth, the return of industrial policy in the energy sector is welcome, as is the commitment of the coalition Government to couple the low carbon agenda with job creation in the