Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 30

Submission from Greenpeace UK

  1.  Greenpeace UK is an office of Greenpeace International, a campaigning organisation that is independent of governments and businesses, being funded entirely by individual subscriptions.

  2.  Greenpeace was one of the first organisations to campaign for action to be taken to halt anthropogenic climate change. It has built up considerable expertise on the links between energy use and climate change. The expertise includes scientific knowledge, understanding of the economics of the electricity market, analysis of state subsidy and business impacts and behavioural responses to the climate threat.

  3.  Greenpeace's expertise and is recognised in a number of international and national fora. At international level, Greenpeace holds Economic and Social Council NGO status at the United Nations. Greenpeace has participated in and observed the UN's Climate Change Negotiations since 1989. Among Greenpeace staff members are lead authors on reports of the many chapters of Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. Greenpeace also has official observer status and engages in public consultations held by the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank.

  4.  Greenpeace welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry into renewable energy-generating technologies at a crucial time for the future of the UK energy policy and development of the renewable energy industry.

  5.  On 9 March 2007, the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, entered commitments on behalf of the UK that will require radical, although achievable, alterations to how the UK generates its energy. At the Spring European Council, the EU agreed a package of targets on emissions reductions, energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, including committing to a binding target of 20% of total energy to come from renewable technologies. The 20% target encompasses all energy for heat, power and transport.

  6.  This target is commensurate with the nature of the challenge of tackling climate change. If we are to make 80-90% cuts in CO2 emissions from UK by 2050, we will not do it by energy efficiency, switching from coal to gas, and hoping that people don't overfill their kettles before making tea. We will need a complete re-orientation of our energy policy, including (by current standards) huge amounts of renewable energy and combined heat and power. It is entirely appropriate that a challenging target for renewable generation is set as an intermediate staging post. Given that it is now 15 years since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, our current energy sourcing from renewable power of less than 2%—lagging behind our European partners—indicates a lamentable lack of vigour in tackling the threat.

  7.  To date, UK energy policy has tended to focus purely on the electricity sector, neglecting transport and heat energy. This focus neglects the full potential for renewable generation, especially in the heat sector where the government has shown no real interest.

  8.  The UK has an immense renewable resources potential available. Compared to its European partners the UK is in the enviable position of being able to meet its energy needs many times over through renewable resources. Yet the UK lags behind many of its European neighbours on installed capacity for renewable generation, especially Spain and Germany, despite being a manufacturing base for some of the largest developers and suppliers of key renewable energy technologies.

  9.  There are a variety of technologies available, at various stages of commercialisation but all are viable or potentially viable technologies, capable of being deployed on a large/wide scale, including offshore wind, photovoltaic, solar thermal, wave, tidal, anaerobic digestion and biomass heating or CHP.

  10.  The UK can more than adequately meet the EU 20% renewable energy target with the currently available technologies. Although the "burden-sharing" arrangements of this 20% target have yet to be negotiated, the enormous renewable energy potential that the UK has means that reduction of the UK target, so that other countries with less good resources would have to do more, seems politically unrealistic. In any case, Greenpeace calculates the UK can comfortably reach 20% of energy from renewable energy by 2020. The graph and tables below indicate the feasible potential for renewable energy in 2020 on the basis of published data or industry estimates. It assumes that energy consumption remains roughly the same as it is now—in practice we could improve on this considerably.

Contribution to

Renewables Total 20.2%
Bioenergy CHP

Table references

1—4.xls—final energy consumption for transport.

2  Derived from remaining energy used by sector not allocated to power and transport.

3—5.xls—final consumption.

4—4.xls—total final energy consumption.

5  Greenpeace does not believe the 10% RTFO target is acceptable or achievable in an ecological sound way. We have limited biofuel contribution to 5% of transport fuel use for the purpose of this exercise.

6  Assumes currently installed hydro capacity is supplemented by further capacity in small and micro hydro. We are also assuming that the remaining potential large hydro sites are included. This does not indicate any such support for new large hydro.

7  Biomass Strategy, May 2007. For the purposes of this exercise all biomass is used in a heat only boilers at 85% efficiency on district heating networks.

8—as—transport—fuel—june06.pdf Methane potential from anaerobic digestion. Assumed all biogas is used in CHP.

9  Includes onshore and offshore wind currently installed, in planning and the potential Greenpeace believes at least this could be achieved by 2020. Total practicable potential is 150TWh is stated in

10  With proper support Greenpeace believes could be delivered by 2020, through wave power, tidal stream and including the development of marine energy in the Severn.

11  2OC ( state geopressure capacity of 1GW by 2010.

12  Figures derived from those in Study of Renewable Energy Potentials carried out by IPA Energy Consulting on behalf of REA ( Microrenewables includes solar thermal, solar PV and heat pumps.

13  Remaining energy is derived from fossil fuels.

  11.  Our framework for thinking about renewable energy should no longer be "how much is appropriate for the UK?". Instead, our framework for policy should be "How do we best reach 20% renewable energy given the enormous resource available and the binding commitment we have entered into?".

  12.  In short, the focus of energy policy should be on delivering the 20% renewable energy target whilst simultaneously reducing carbon emissions and driving energy efficiency to reduce gross demand for energy.

  13.  Reducing energy demand should make the 20% target more achievable. Thus an important way that the UK can help fulfil its commitment of 20% gross energy consumption is by a shift from the current, wasteful centralised electricity system to a decentralised energy system.

  14.  Currently, two thirds of the energy used in electricity generation is wasted as heat, resulting in a greater demand for primary energy than is necessary. The base load of heat and electricity required could be provided by one generating technology, a CHP plant, close to the point of end use, distributing heat and electricity, rather than having electricity generated far from the point of use and heat provided by gas or oil boilers on-site.

  15.  With a large proportion of electricity generating capacity reaching the end of its useful life, the UK has a unique opportunity to move towards a decentralised power system with a focus on renewables, cogeneration and energy efficiency.

  16.  Further information about the cost, emissions and security benefits can be found in the annexes on Decentralising Power: an Energy Revolution for the 21st Century[42] and Decentralising UK Energy: Cleaner, Cheaper, more Secure energy for 21st century Britain.[43] London has also committed to deliver substantial amounts of the capital's energy this way.[44] The reports are appended for information (not printed).

  17.  There are limited figures on costs. However given the threat of climate change and the likely impact on developing countries, it has often been referred to as a moral question, including by the new Prime Minister.[45] We agree it is a moral issue, and thus costs should be seen in the same way as, for example, the costs of tackling racism in the workplace or the costs of providing a minimum wage or decent state pension.

  18.  The renewables sector needs to have complete confidence in the position of the government to ensure the investment in the industry required to ensure the growth required to enable the UK to meet the 20% target. Current support for a new generation of nuclear and coal fired power stations will undermine the future investment in the renewables industry, as stated by Patricia Hewitt on 24 February 2003 in a statement accompanying the 2003 Energy White Paper:

    "It would have been foolish to announce, as the hon Gentleman apparently wanted us to do, that we would embark on a new generation of nuclear power stations because that would have guaranteed that we would not make the necessary investment and effort in both energy efficiency and in renewables..."

  19.  The figures we present here for renewable energy supply are indicative. Equally, the policies required to deliver this level of renewable energy would need to be worked out by a thorough study.

  20.  A full audit of supporting policies is required, and two of the documents Greenpeace submitted to the 2006 Energy Review dealing with reform to the electricity market and the Renewables Obligation are attached. But what is apparent is that the current ideology and market framework are wholly inadequate to the task. A revolution in the way we think about energy and the importance of inserting new and renewable technologies into the market are manifest. Nothing in the Energy White Paper is remotely near to the task in hand. And a few dodgy nuclear power stations will barely make much difference, even accepting their huge downsides.

  21.  Just one example is the Renewables Obligation. It would need to be raised to (at least) over 30% by 2020 to meet the EU target. Nothing remotely like this is on the table. Microgenerators are not appropriately rewarded. There is no regulatory framework or support for renewable heat. There are no guarantees that biofuels will not make greenhouse gas emissions worse not better.

  22.  These policies need to deal with the market pull for renewable technologies—using existing, viable technologies. Additional R&D for eg deployment and grid issues, could be funded through the Energy Technologies Institute. It is important that this new organisation has an open, transparent and publicly-participatory decision-making process in terms of the financial allocation process. Half of the money is being supplied by public funds. It would be inappropriate for those funds to entrench the competitive position of the donating companies. A revolution is needed in our energy supply and use—it may—or may not—be something that those companies are best place to take advantage of.

July 2007

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