2020 renewable heat and transport targets Contents


1.The Government has targets for the proportion of energy supplied from renewable sources. By 2020, renewable energy must account for 15% of all electricity, heat and transport fuels in the UK.1 At least 10% of transport fuels must be renewable;2 beyond this, the Government has adopted indicative sub-targets of 30% in electricity and 12% in heat.3 These 2020 aims are an important component of the UK’s long-term decarbonisation objectives.4

2.In November 2015, we became concerned that progress in heat and transport was inadequate. The Ecologist reported on a leaked letter—purportedly from the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to Cabinet colleagues—projecting that only 11.5% of UK energy would be renewable in 2020.5 We questioned her: the Secretary of State said “we do not have the right policies particularly in transport and heat in order to make those 2020 targets, but we have four to five years” and confirmed that the shortfall anticipated in the letter was an “accurate assessment of where we are if we do not take action, but I am determined to take action so that we exceed that and reach the 15%”.6

3.We launched our 2020 renewable heat and transport targets inquiry on 9 March 2016, following the conclusion of our initial inquiries for Parliament 2015–20. We invited responses to the following questions:

We received 66 written submissions, and held three oral evidence sessions between June and July. We also held an informal roundtable discussion with academics and Government officials in May. A note of this event can be found at the back of this report. We are grateful to all those who contributed to this inquiry.

4.Two major political developments during this inquiry have changed its context. Firstly, the EU membership referendum on 23 June resulted in a vote to leave. This has implications for the 2020 targets, set by EU directive then transposed into UK law. Secondly, the new Prime Minister has closed the Department of Energy and Climate Change, transferring its functions to a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.7 We discuss these at relevant points in the report.

5.Chapter 2 details the 2020 renewables targets and our evidence as to whether the Government will meet them. Chapter 3 examines the major policies for renewable heat and transport—the Renewable Heat Incentive and Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation—and remaining obstacles to their success. In chapter 4, we consider longer-term issues in decarbonising heat and transport, including electric vehicles and the sustainability of bioenergy. Our conclusions are presented in chapter 5.

Box 1: Working towards our goals

At the start of the 2015 Parliament we set out three goals for our scrutiny work:

  • Holding the Government to account on achieving a balanced energy policy;
  • Setting the agenda on an innovative future energy system; and
  • Influencing the long-term approach to climate targets.*

Our work on the 2020 renewable heat and transport targets cuts across our goals to hold the Government to account on achieving a balanced energy policy and influencing the long-term approach to climate targets. A balanced energy policy requires decarbonisation in heat and transport. Moreover, the Government’s progress towards its targets raises questions as to the role of bioenergy and electrification in the future. Throughout the course of this Parliament, we welcome feedback on our work towards our goals.

*Energy and Climate Change Committee, First Report of Session 2015–16, Our priorities for Parliament 2015–20, HC 368, para 11

1 Directive 2009/28/EC, Appendix I; The Promotion of the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/243), Regulation 3

2 Directive 2009/28/EC, Article 3(4)

6 Oral evidence taken on 10 November 2015, HC (2015–16) 544, Qq4, 7

7 HC Deb, 18 July 2016, col 94WS

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7 September 2016