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



1. In 2006, the Government reviewed the UK's energy mix in the face of two long-term challenges - climate change and energy security.[1] The Government's 2007 Energy White Paper, Meeting the Energy Challenge, built on the findings of this review and committed the UK to a 60 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050, with real progress by 2020.[2]

2. Displacing energy produced from fossil fuels with that sourced from renewables will be key to meeting the UK's greenhouse gas emissions targets. Further, the European Union's common Energy Policy, adopted March 2007, mandates a 20 per cent share of renewable energies in overall EU consumption by 2020, together with a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Individual country contributions to the overall EU 2020 renewable energy target will vary across Member States. It is proposed by the European Commission that 15 per cent of UK energy be sourced from renewables.[3]

3. Renewable energy is used in three sectors: heating and cooling, transport and electricity. The 2007 Energy White Paper pledged to source 10 per cent of electricity supply from renewables by 2010, with an ambition for this level to double by 2020.[4] The proposed EU Mandated Target of 15 per cent renewable energies by 2020 will require nearer 40 per cent of UK electricity to be sourced from renewables by this date.

4. Critical to meeting the UK's renewable electricity targets will be the widespread deployment of renewable electricity-generation installations. We therefore set out to explore current support for, and barriers to, Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment of (RDD&D) renewable electricity-generation technologies in the UK.

The inquiry

Terms of reference

5. Witnesses to this inquiry were asked to submit evidence on the following points:

6. The inquiry also drew upon evidence submitted to the 'renewable energy-generation technologies' inquiry announced by the former Science and Technology Committee. Memoranda received in response to either call for evidence is published in Volume 2 of this report.


7. We appointed two specialist advisers to this inquiry.

8. We are grateful to the advisers for their expert advice throughout the course of this inquiry.


9. The inquiry comprised four oral evidence sessions. During the course of these sessions we heard from representatives of the UK renewables industry, Regional Development Agencies and Research Councils, together with individuals from organisations involved in the transmission, distribution and supply of electricity. We also took evidence from Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister for Energy, BERR.

10. We benefited from an informal seminar at the start of this inquiry. We would like to thank the UK Energy Research Centre for hosting the event, and Dr David Clarke, Dr Rob Gross, Professor Jim Skea, John Loughhead and the specialist advisers for their participation. In addition, we undertook a visit to Berlin where we spoke with policy makers and policy analysts in the energy field. Germany is often held up as a role model for the deployment and encouragement of renewable energy and we appreciated the opportunity to explore what could be learned from their experience and applied in the UK.


11. In this report, we first consider UK and EU targets for renewable electricity production. We then discuss a range of renewable electricity-generation technologies, and examine available funding and support for technology research, development, demonstration and deployment. Finally we consider barriers to the deployment of renewable technologies - gaining access to the UK electricity transmission system and current planning regulations, for example - together with the potential for social scientists to contribute to the renewables policy arena and the growing skills shortage in this sector.

1   Department of Trade and Industry, The Energy Challenge, Cm 6887, July 2006 Back

2   HM Treasury, Meeting the Energy Challenge, Cm 7124, May 2007  Back

3   Memo on the renewable energy and climate change package (Memo/08/33), January 2008, Commission of the European Communities. Back

4   HM Treasury, Meeting the Energy Challenge, Cm 7124, May 2007, p14 Back

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