Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Fifth Report



In March 2007, the European Union adopted a common Energy Policy. This policy commits the EU to generating 20 per cent of total energy consumption from renewables by 2020. In a draft Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, published January 2008, the European Commission proposed national renewable energy targets for each Member State. It was suggested that 15 per cent of UK energy be derived from renewables by 2020.
Renewable energies comprise three sectors: heating and cooling, transport and electricity. In order to meet the EU Mandated Target of 15 per cent renewable energies by 2020, it will be necessary to generate approximately 35-40 per cent of electricity from renewable sources. This represents a considerable challenge, and one for which the Government's targets for renewable electricity generation are wholly inadequate. Presently, National Targets require 10 per cent of electricity to be sourced from renewables by 2010 rising to 20 per cent by 2020. It is essential that the Government revise these targets, and align them with the UK's EU Mandated Target, as a priority.
Currently, developers of renewable electricity generation projects have to negotiate a crowded funding landscape, a protracted—and often costly—planning system, and a poorly conceived regime for accessing the UK electricity transmission system. Further, the ability of developers to deploy renewable electricity-generation technologies is being hampered by a growing shortage of personnel with the necessary skills to develop, install and maintain these devices. It is essential that the Government engages with the renewables industry in order to remove current barriers to technology deployment, and develop a coherent policy framework to bring on the development of pre-commercial technologies.
In 2006, renewable electricity accounted for 4.6 per cent of gross electricity consumption. Although we believe it is still feasible to meet the 2020 renewable energy targets, we are keenly aware that the finite period of time available to make the necessary change is fast running out. It is therefore critical that the Government take steps to support the widespread deployment of renewable electricity-generation technologies as a priority, both at the level of macro and microgeneration. Throughout this inquiry, however, we have been consistently disappointed by the lack of urgency expressed by the Government—and at times by the electricity industry—in relation to the challenge ahead. We expect the Government to take a greater lead on this matter, and hope that a clear strategy for progress, will be forthcoming.

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Prepared 19 June 2008