Industry leader warns that green energy plans will fail unless government acts now
Group CEO of the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), Steve Bratt, has warned that the UK will face escalating challenges to meeting its 2020 carbon targets, and that even before 2020, energy supply may become the main problem.
‘Customers will face greatly increased energy bills and even energy shortages if government uncertainty over its green plans is not replaced by decisive leadership and action, and soon,’ said Bratt.
Bratt said the UK ‘is pointing in the right direction’ on carbon reductions, but emphasised that compared to the task ahead, it
has barely set off, and there’s still a very long way to go.
‘The government target is to achieve a 34 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2020, with 80 per cent by 2050, but since the 1990 baseline, UK carbon reduction has been about 17 per cent – and that was the easiest 17 per cent,’ said Bratt.
Around 15 per cent of the UK’s energy requirement, and 30 per cent of our electricity, needs to come from renewable sources by 2020, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The current UK contribution from renewables is only 6.7 per cent. ‘We can’t rely solely on building renewables capacity. We need to greatly reduce our energy demand, and soon, if we are to make real progress with reducing carbon and crucially, avoid national energy shortages. Government must provide leadership and certainty in relation to financial support for both energy efficiency and renewables. If they don’t then investment in both is set to stall,’ said Bratt.
On microgeneration, in light of the recently announced Review of Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), the ECA has urged government to reconsider the level at which it is to reduce the tariff. Bratt commented, ‘Without doubt, FiTs have helped increase electricity generated from micro-renewable sources, with home owners and businesses taking the opportunity to install photovoltaic (PV) panels because of clear and attractive price signals. While it seems that there’s not enough money in the pot for FiTs to cover larger installations such as solar farms, government should still find a way to stimulate all PV installation, rather than preside over some sort of ‘zero sum game’ between business and domestic PV investment.’
Bratt continued, ‘Earlier this week, the ECA recommended that the new limit for lower FiTs should be 150kW, not 50kW. This would encourage community scale projects, such as solar panels on school and local authority buildings.’ He added, ‘Any significant re-alignment of the tariff away from small scale PV technology could fundamentally damage the micro-generation sector.’
Bratt concluded, ‘The government must support, not create confusion around incentives such as FiTs, which are clearly working. Government needs to keep in mind only certainty and clear price signals mean renewables are actually installed, while marginal or mixed signals mean inertia.
‘We also call for government to finally confirm the details of key policy instruments such as the carbon reduction commitment and the Green Deal. When it comes to energy supply and carbon reduction, time is literally running out – we need urgent and decisive government action now.’