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Act now on renewables, warns industry

The Government needs to act urgently to boost renewables if it is to stand a chance of meeting ambitious European Union (EU) targets on renewable energy production, industry figures have warned.


The European Commission has suggested that the UK sources 15 per cent of consumed energy from renewables by 2020. Only 1.3 per cent of the UK’s final energy consumption came from renewable sources in 2005, putting Britain near the bottom of the EU renewables table.


“Fifteen per cent will be a great challenge and will only be achieved if the Government can make the market work and provide incentives,” said the HVCA’s technical director  Bob Towse.


“A huge amount of training is needed to deliver a workforce for that level of renewable installation,” hesaid. “There is no demand at the moment from clients, apart from a few enlightened ones, because the benefit for the average domestic or commercial consumer does not warrant the extra cost.”


The UK renewables target was dwarfed by Sweden’s 49 per cent target and Finland’s 38 per cent, while France had a target of 23 per cent.


“The European Commission has been gentle giving us a below-average target, especially considering we have the best wind, wave and tidal resources in Europe,” said the Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) executive director Philip Wolfe.


“We won’t even get close to that, however, if we carry on at the snail’s pace that has kept us at the bottom of the European renewables league,” he added.


The REA said it was calling for feed-in-tariffs for onsite renewables – both for microgeneration and for larger installations at small factories or warehouses, for example. The group also urged the Government to boost renewable heat supplies, particularly through the development of community heating networks.


The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) described the UK’s 15 per cent target as “daunting and potentially costly”. Director-general Richard Lambert said: “The Commission’s proposal for an EU renewable trading scheme is worth exploring but is not a panacea.” A CBI spokesman said, however, that the body would not lobby the Government to have the target reduced.


A spokeswoman from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform could not immediately respond when asked if the Government would amend its recently published Energy Bill in light of the proposed EU targets.


The Energy Bill aims to increase the UK’s generation of electricity from renewables to around 15 per cent by 2015. But the Government has acknowledged that the UK would need to generate 40 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020 in order to meet the overall target proposed by the EU.