MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committee today warn the Government that, on its current course, the UK will fail to achieve its 2020 renewable energy targets – to provide for 15% of its energy needs from renewable sources.
The overall obligation includes three sub-targets: 30% in electricity, 12% in heat and 10% in transport.
The UK is three-quarters of the way towards its 30% electricity sub-target and is expected to exceed it by 2020.
But it is not yet halfway towards 12% in heat and the proportion of renewable energy used in transport actually fell last year.
Angus MacNeil MP, Chairman of the Westminster Energy Committee, said: “The experts we spoke to were clear: the UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements.
“Failing to meet these would damage the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership. The Government must take urgent action on heat and transport to renew its efforts on decarbonisation.”
Juliet Davenport OBE, Chief Executive of renewable energy company Good Energy, one of the experts who gave evidence to the committee, said: “These are EU targets that will be missed, so now the government needs to show the world that Brexit doesn’t mean they’re throwing the towel in on tackling climate change.”
“This report by MPs should ring alarm bells for the government – we’re teetering on a cliff edge of losing our global reputation for leadership on climate change.
The report identifies a number of ways in which the key policies to meet the heat and transport targets – the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) – could be improved:
The Government’s proposed reforms to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) are not the optimal pathway to the 2020 renewable heat target.
Many heat pumps have proven unsatisfactory in actual use, yet are being prioritised over biomass – which has been successful. Biomethane is also crucial to meeting the 2020 target and must remain a funding priority. The Government should revise its RHI reforms to reflect these priorities, especially in protecting biomethane support.
Renewable transport fuels
The UK’s journey towards its 10% transport target reversed between 2014 and 2015, when the proportion of renewable energy fell from 4.93% to 4.23%.
The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) has been capped at 4.75% since 2013. This is well below the level needed to meet the 2020 target. The Committee therefore recommends that the level of the RTFO be raised without delay.
Recent changes to the machinery of government could present opportunities for low-carbon and renewable energy policy, the report notes.
Closing the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and bundling it into the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will, at best, enable more joined-up thinking on a low-carbon economy and place clean growth at the heart of a more influential Department.
However, at worst, the Committee warns, energy and climate change issues could be buried by conflicting concerns.
De-carbonisation beyond 2020
Beyond 2020, heat and transport will likely depend on some combination of bioenergy and electrification.
Bioenergy has an important role in the UK’s future energy mix, but there are concerns about its carbon footprint.
Electrification is therefore key. However, in heat, it is clear that the Government cannot rely on complete electrification – especially given limits to electricity-network capacity.
Central to the Government’s plans for transport electrification is an aim for all new cars to be ultra-low emission by 2040 (presently, only 1.1% are). To achieve this ambition, it should consider re-introducing a tiered system of Vehicle Excise Duty to restore incentives for battery-powered vehicles (BPVs)
Angus MacNeil added: “We agreed our 2020 renewable energy targets as part of the EU but they still have many merits, even as the UK Government prepares for Brexit. If the UK reneges on these targets, it will undermine confidence in the Government’s commitment to clean energy and the climate targets agreed in Paris.
“Progress has been slow, but this must be taken as a call to action, not an excuse for backtrack.”
Angus MacNeil, MP, is also due to deliver the opening address at the 2016 UK Shale Energy Conference. Organised by the Scottish Energy Association, this is being held in Glasgow on 30 September 2016. For more information:
Frank Aaskov, Policy Analyst at the Renewable Energy Association, commented: “The RHI needs to be reformed to further support the use of biomethane on the gas grid and in transport, and biomass heat at all scales. The renewable heat industry has been vocal in their concern about proposed Government reforms, but under the right framework is ready to deliver on the 2020 commitments.”