The Committee of Public Accounts in the UK recently published a report on government funding for renewable energy technologies. Speaking at the time that the report was released, the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “Given the urgency and importance of the issue, progress in meeting renewable energy targets has been unacceptably slow over the last decade.
“Ten years ago the proportion of the UK’s electricity supplied from renewable sources stood at 2.7 per cent. By 2009 it was just 6.7 per cent, well short of the Department of Energy & Climate Changes’s target to generate 10 per cent by the end of 2010. Some £180 million [US$280 million] of the funds allocated to support renewable energy technologies had gone unspent.
“New and substantially more demanding targets are now in place. The Department will have to have a greater sense of urgency and purpose if it is to achieve the dramatic increase in renewable energy supplies needed to meet them.
“We are concerned that the department agreed to the legally binding EU target to supply 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 without clear plans, targets for each renewable energy technology, estimates of funding required or understanding how the rate at which planning applications for onshore wind turbines were being rejected might affect progress.
“As for meeting the longer-term 2050 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent, the department has yet to set out the timescale against which innovations in renewable energy technology will be required.”
Mrs Hodge said that developing renewable energy technologies is “vitally important” if the UK is to help tackle climate change and maintain secure national energy supplies. “The Department told us, however, that it is going to miss its target to supply 10 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010,” she said, noting that in the committee’s view the Department and its predecessors “had not done enough” to address the slow progress in increasing the supply of renewable energy. As a result it does not expect to meet the 10 per cent target until 2012, from a starting position of 2.7 per cent in 2000.
The committee said the Department “is counting on a massive growth in wind power during the next decade” to meet the 2020 target. However, while the technology may now largely be in place to meet the 2020 target, there is considerable lost ground to make up and difficult obstacles to overcome. For example, the 6,000 2.5MW or 10,000 1.5MW onshore wind turbines the Department estimates will be needed to meet the 2020 target will have to overcome financing constraints and obtain planning approval, which typically results in around 40 per cent of proposed projects being abandoned.
“Achieving the 2050 target for an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will need further innovation in renewable energy technologies to increase supplies after 2020,” said the report. “We observed that the Department has developed pathways to achieving the 2050 target but has not set out the innovation milestones that it will need to meet if it is to achieve its longer-term goals.” OSJ