UK ‘To Miss Renewable Energy Targets Without Urgent Action’
By Paul Homewood
Britain is set to miss its renewable energy targets by the end of the decade, MPs have warned.
The UK has a target to meet 15% of its energy needs from green sources by 2020, including 30% of electricity, 12% of heat and 10% in transport.
The electricity sector is on course to meet its expected contribution to the target but energy used in transport and for heating homes and buildings is well behind what is needed, a report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee said.
Committee chairman Angus MacNeil said: "The experts we spoke to were clear: the UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements.
"Failing to meet these would damage the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership. The Government must take urgent action on heat and transport to renew its efforts on decarbonisation."
Ministers must raise the cap for the percentage of transport fuels coming from biofuels, and consider reintroducing a system of vehicle excise duties which restores incentives for electric cars and other ultra-low emissions vehicles, the report said.
The renewable target is a legally binding commitment set by the European Commission.
Britain could be fined by the Commission if it misses the target, although Britain’s decision earlier this year to leave the EU means the status of such targets is unclear.
However, MPs said a lack of clarity should not deter the country from trying to meet the goal.
"We agreed our 2020 renewable energy targets as part of the EU but they still have many merits, even as the UK Government prepares for Brexit," Mr MacNeil said.
"If the UK reneges on these targets, it will undermine confidence in the Government’s commitment to clean energy and the climate targets agreed in Paris."
A Government spokesman said renewable energy "already makes up around 25% of our electricity and we’re on track to hit our overall targets".
"The latest Climate Change Performance Index shows the UK is the second best country in the world on tackling climate change," he added.
Last year, more than 190 countries agreed at climate talks in Paris to limit increases in global temperatures to well below 2C.
Britain has been seen as a leader in efforts to fight climate change and has a domestic target to cut emissions by 80% compared with 1990 levels by 2050.
According to Eurostat, the UK produced 7.0% of its energy consumption from renewable sources in 2014, against the target of 15% for 2020.
DECC figures show this increasing to 8.3% last year, so at the current rate of increase, we could get to about 13% by 2020.
But as Figure 1 shows, we are not the only country to be well short of the target so far:
When national targets were agreed in 2008, there were extremely wide variations, depending on where countries started from. Sweden, for instance, was already getting 44% of its energy from renewable sources, largely because of the huge amount of hydro capacity available, which currently supplies 32% of electricity. Consequently its target is 49%
At the other extreme, were countries like the Netherlands, which had very little in the way of natural resources and was given a target of 14%.
While many nations are well on course to meet their targets, others such as the Netherlands, France, Ireland and Luxembourg are as far behind as the UK.
Figure 2 shows how much renewable energy’s contribution has increased since 2007:
In the UK, the share of renewable has risen from 1.8% to 7.0%, a rise of 5.2%. This compares favourably with several other countries, even somewhat surprisingly Germany, where renewables have only increased by 4.7%, albeit from a higher base.
Again we find that France and the Netherlands are lagging well behind.
One of the reasons why the UK still has so far to go to hit its target of 15%, is that we agreed to the stiffest goal of all, as the next chart makes clear.
Figure 3 shows the increase in renewable energy from 2007 levels required to hit the 2020 target.
So, for instance, the UK needed to increase renewable share from 1.8% to 15.%, an extra 13.2%. This is the highest increase of any country, with France close behind on 12.8%.
By contrast, Germany only had to increase from 9.1% to 18%.
It seems fair to say that it was Tony Blair who pushed through this punishing target, for reasons we may speculate about. But what is true is that we will almost certainly face EU fines if we don’t achieve it, unless of course we leave the EU first.
Blair certainly did enough damage to the country and we can add this one to the list.
Angus MacNeil, chair of the Energy Select Committee, is a member of the SNP, which will doubtlessly fill us all with great confidence. He appears to care more about the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership, than the interest of the country.
1) Data from Eurostat