By Juliet Davenport, CEO
First up, it seems as if DECC and the Treasury have settled their differences on carbon budgets, and will now accept the recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change (the statutory body that formally advises the Government on green policy), putting the UK ahead of any other country with a pledge to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, and 80% by 2050.
It’s great news that the government is now setting such ambitious targets– but having targets is one thing, delivering them is another. The UK is the laggard of Europe when it comes to renewable energy with only Malta and Luxembourg having a worse record than us – despite the fact that we are surrounded by abundant renewable resources in the form of tidal and wind. Good Energy’s own research shows that the UK can be 100% renewable by 2050 – but it will require massive political changes to achieve this.
The Prime Minister’s intervention in this dispute is welcome, but he must now keep the pressure on by ensuring that the policies that will help us hit those targets are given the same political backing as reducing the budget deficit by 2015. What’s also interesting is that, according to the BBC, the Foreign Office actively supported the targets “to keep up with countries like China in the move towards low-carbon energy, and to retain the UK's international moral leadership on the issue”. This is an interesting development, particularly given that one of the most common reasons for the UK to row-back on its renewables ambition is the use of fossil-fuels in rapidly developing economies like China, and shows how we now need to up the pace of our own reform to match their activity.
One way in which the government can deliver these targets is through drastic reforms of the energy market. This morning, the Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry published its report into Electricity Market Reform. I gave evidence to the Committee earlier this year – and it is good to see that the Committee has taken into account numerous arguments Good Energy made during our evidence session in February, including the need for transparency over Government support for all types of energy. It is important that the Government creates a truly level playing field so that renewable energy doesn't miss out because of hidden subsidies for other technologies, such as nuclear power.
It is green generation that has the long term potential. The reality is that if renewables had received only a fraction of the taxpayer support that nuclear (both fusion and fission) and other energy technologies have had over the years, then we would not be in a position of having to play catch-up now.
We’re also pleased that the Committee has recognised the importance of building the necessary infrastructure to encourage investment in a decentralised energy market, which is, after all, the energy market of the future. Quoting our view that the current proposals will do nothing to encourage energy generation below a certain size, and in turn calling for “different Feed-in Tariffs for different technologies”, the Committee clearly recognises that the Government’s existing proposals are not sufficient to support and encourage local, decentralised, renewable energy.
As the independent Committee on Climate Change rightly pointed out last week, a community-based approach to encouraging this generation is going to be absolutely essential if we’re going to reach our goals for renewables. For example, if you look at countries like Denmark and Germany where onshore wind has played an important role in their energy mix for some time, they have high levels of community involvement in developing sites. Good Energy has tried to lead the way in this area with our work in re-developing our Delabole Wind Farm, so our view is that developers should work as much as possible with local communities by proactively building a positive relationship with them, as well as the local councillors and planning officers. The Government is in the process of reforming the planning system at the moment, and we think it’s important that the outcomes of that process produce a system that places the emphasis on that approach, whilst reflecting our national need to increase our renewable energy capacity. We’re waiting to hear more on those reforms in the coming weeks, so we’ll be watching keenly to see what they say.