The Renewable Energy Association and Solar Trade Association have issued a joint statement over what they say is a lack of ambition for renewable energy in the EC’s proposed 2030 energy and climate change framework, published 22 Jan.
The framework sets a binding greenhouse gas target of 40% reduction (vs 1990 levels) and sets a binding renewable energy target for the EU as a whole of “at least 27%”, but with no specific targets for Member States.
Instead, the proposal states that “Attainment of the EU renewables target would be ensured by the new governance system based on national energy plans.” The UK Government has been pushing strongly for a ‘technology-neutral’ approach, downplaying the role of renewables.
The REA and STA support binding targets for Member States as a means of sending a clear signal to industry of sustained Government ambition for renewables . The existing 2020 targets have been key to the recent growth in renewables and have been particularly valuable when negative rhetoric from Ministers has damaged market confidence in the UK.
We will continue to push for binding Member State renewable energy targets with our European partners. We will look further into the details of this “new governance system”, but our initial impression is that an EU-wide renewables target, without binding targets for specific Member States, will only give very limited impetus for expanding renewables in the UK.
REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: “We’re about to find out what happens when theoretical economics meets the real world. Theory suggests a ‘technology neutral’ approach is economically efficient.
"But experience shows that binding renewables targets do two things: First, they give a major long-term boost to investor confidence, helping accelerate market growth and technology cost reduction. Second, politics frequently trumps economics in the real world, and when politicians go wobbly on renewables, the targets help keep investment flowing.
“New binding targets for Member States would accelerate the cost reduction potential that is unique to renewables. Renewable generators are smaller and more numerous than fossil and nuclear generators, so the combination of greater competition and mass production leads to major cost reductions – as well as more jobs, community participation and greater resilience. Many renewables will be cheaper than nuclear well before 2030, and will be cost-competitive with fossil fuels – and no longer require subsidy – sooner with binding targets than without.”
The Government’s opposition to binding 2030 renewables targets comes as it is enthusiastically promoting the nuclear and shale gas industries. It also follows a series of damaging comments in recent months and years from certain Ministers with regard to renewables. The REA is urging the Government to demonstrate its ambition for renewables in order to send a clear signal to investors and accelerate market growth and the associated benefits: cost reductions, more jobs, community participation and greater resilience.
The REA chief executive said: “The Government’s rhetoric on energy is very lopsided. Senior Ministers frequently trumpet the benefits of nuclear and shale gas while playing down their drawbacks. Yet they do the exact opposite for renewables – even though renewables have several of the same benefits: reducing our exposure to international energy markets, creating jobs on UK soil and increasing the tax take for HMT. It’s clear the Government envisages a major role for the nuclear, CCS and shale gas industries going forwards, but what is its vision for renewables in 2030, 2040 or 2050?”
On transport, which accounts for 25% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, the Commission “does not think it is appropriate to establish new targets for renewable energy or greenhouse gas intensity of fuels used in transport”. This removes any direct incentive to decarbonise transport. Expanding renewable electricity will help electric vehicles contribute to decarbonisation, but sustainable biofuels offer more cost effective emissions savings in the shorter term.
The UK is one of a number of countries having to urgently replace ageing power capacity to meet current electricity demand, let alone the significant increase in capacity required for a wide rollout of electric vehicles.
Skorupska said: “Sustainable biofuels offer cost-effective emissions savings. But the Commission’s proposed framework removes the impetus for decarbonising transport, at a time when the sector is suffering from chronic uncertainty under the existing EU framework. The Government is currently consulting on advanced biofuels and how to support them, but this programme is unlikely to progress without a European framework that supports it. At the very least a decarbonisation target is required for transport, or else we will just be ignoring around a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions until 2030.”
The STA is also concerned about the slowing down of renewables deployment and of the cost reductions resulting from market expansion.
STA Head of External Affairs Leonie Greene said: “It is something that Europe has agreed a 40% emissions reduction target, albeit not high enough, but renewable energy stands at the heart of achieving this. From a climate perspective Europe needs to expedite, not slow, renewables deployment.
"From an economic perspective weakening ambition is nonsensical given the massive investments in renewables our international competitors are making. The 27% renewables target is no more than the Commission expects under business as usual, so the Council and Parliament must improve this significantly if it's to have any meaningful effect.
“It’s shocking that the UK Government, one of the poorest performers on renewables in Europe, sought to squash such a valuable target. Let’s be clear, a target is not the same as public support. Solar is likely to need no public support in the next decade, but a target will provide the whole renewables industry with the confidence to invest for strong expansion going forwards.
"Now under this pan-EU target approach, we are likely to see a scenario where countries like Germany that take a long term perspective continue to strongly back their renewables industry into the next decade, while we fall even further behind.”