Renewable energy target "entirely achievable" - Greenpeace

Last edited 22 January 2008 at 11:49am
22 January, 2008

The next twelve years will see Britain embark on an unprecedented push to build clean energy projects as ministers across Europe prepare to embrace new, more ambitious renewable energy targets.

Greenpeace understands that,under figures to be announced tomorrow, the UK will be required to generate around 15 per cent of its total energy (electricity, heat and transport) from renewables by 2020. Different EU countries have been allocated different targets depending on their circumstances.

Although the UK's 15 per cent target is lower than most, its successful implementation would mean Britain is about to witness a clean energy revolution. The new target is part of an EU push to provide 20 per cent of Europe's energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The target refers to "total energy" - that is heat, transport and electricity. Because there is less scope for using renewables for heat and transport, this will mean that around 40 per cent of our electricity will need to be generated from renewable sources - a fact the British Prime Minister recently accepted (1).

With the best renewable resources anywhere in Europe, the government's own figures show that the target is wholly achievable. Greenpeace believes that a totally new mode of thinking within government and business will be required, but that Britain has the resources, engineers and entrepreneurs to deliver. Currently the UK generates just 2 per cent of its energy from renewable sources - the lowest proportion of any major European nation.

The so called "energy gap" which the government claims will be caused by the closure of old nuclear, gas and coal plants is estimated to represent around 30 per cent of the UK's total electricity supply. This means that the growth in renewable electricity by 2020 - that ministers are now mandated to achieve - will more than make up for any shortfall while safeguarding the environment.

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace Executive Director John Sauven said:

"The government should be congratulated for signing up to these targets, which will deliver a massive chunk of renewable energy and set a real example to the rest of the world. If Gordon Brown makes good on his commitment we can close the UK's energy gap with clean renewable energy. This is the technology of the future, but it will need a new industrial policy to achieve this goal.

The government needs to give its full support to the engineers and entrepreneurs who can make a clean energy revolution happen. For too long naysaying civil servants in the Department for Business have held sway, denying that delivering clean energy is possible."

The announcement also details the extent to which member states will be allowed to "trade" a proportion of their obligations with countries which have overachieved on their own targets. This could potentially mean that the UK is able to 'buy' its way out of its target at a later date.

Sauven continued: "With the best renewable energy resources in Europe, some of the best engineers in the world and a highly skilled manufacturing base it would be a cause of real embarrassment if Britain had to rely on its neighbours to hit this target. What's more, if we want to maintain any kind of international reputation for tackling climate change we simply have to meet our own responsibilities to the planet. The fact is Britain needs a massive and successful domestic renewable energy sector to compete in the 21st century."

Greenpeace has prepared a comprehensive briefing on the subject of Europe's renewable energy targets and the implications for the UK.


For more information contact Greenpeace on 0207 865 8255.

(1) The Executive Director of Greenpeace, John Sauven, questioned the Prime Minister on this point at a Q&A session in December 2007:

JOHN SAUVEN - I just wanted to push you a bit further on the EU 20 per cent renewable energy target because I know you're waiting for the EU to report on that, probably in January. Do you accept that for the UK it will approximate at about 15 per cent of total energy which would translate, since most of it would come from electricity, at about 40 to 45 per cent of our electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020.

GORDON BROWN - Yes, I do accept that it would be a very demanding target for Britain and whether it's the figure that you mentioned or a figure around that figure we are going to have to change quite fundamentally.

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