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Investing in renewables
Late last year the coalition government reaffirmed its commitment to meeting EU renewable energy targets, and the UK published an update on progress to source 15 per cent of all energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Research from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) shows that so far this financial year, companies have announced plans for almost £2.5bn of investment in UK renewable energy projects, with the potential to create almost 12,000 jobs.
But with the 2020 deadline only eight years away there is a pressing need for the UK to step up its renewables output. In its report to the EU Commission at the end of 2011, government reported that it had achieved a 27 per cent increase in renewable energy consumption from 42.6TWh in 2008 to 54TWh in 2010 –’ representing 3.3 per cent of total energy consumed.
The UK increased wind generation by 46 per cent between 2008 and 2010, from 7TWh to 10.2TWh, and in 2010 achieved 5GW of offshore and onshore wind capacity. On the transport front, the UK witnessed a threefold increase in the use of biofuels in transport from 1 per cent of total road transport fuel supply in 2007/08 to 3.33 per cent in 2010.
“Renewable energy is not just helping us increase our energy security and reduce our emissions,” Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said at the report’s launch. “It is supporting jobs and growth across the country, and giving traditional industrial heartlands the opportunity to thrive again. Our renewable target is less demanding than other EU member states, but the effect is bringing real jobs and investment.
“I do not want the UK to be left behind by turning our back on the green economy. The agreement to negotiate a global deal secured at Durban has reinforced major nations’ commitment to cutting carbon. We cannot afford to stand alone while the world wises up.”
Elin Twigge, account director at green sector lobbyists PLMR, is heartened to hear that the proportion of the UK’s total energy consumption from renewables has increased. But she feels that in order to stand a real chance of meeting the 15 per cent renewables target by 2020, much more needs to be done to increase renewables deployment over the next decade.
“As acknowledged in DECC’s first renewables progress report to the European Commission, significant measures must be taken to extend renewable energy generation and to continue to reduce carbon emissions,” she says. “DEFRA’s proposal for tougher recycling targets to help divert 400,000t of packaging from landfill by 2017 is a step in the right direction.
“In light of the Chancellor’s disappointing Autumn Statement for the green sector – which supported just one renewable project, alongside a host of coal and gas-fired developments – all eyes are on the government to take clearer and stronger action in 2012 to match our consumer habits with responsible energy policy.”