MPs challenge “green Quad” renewables deal
The “green Quad” agreement last autumn was meant to settle energy policy differences inside the coalition. But their decision to defer a renewables target in the government’s Energy Bill until 2016 faces a moment of truth on Monday 4 June. MPs Tim Yeo and Barry Gardiner will table an amendment to introduce a target in the Energy Bill, committing the UK to have a near-carbon free power sector by 2030. An array of manufactures, investors and NGOs, and the TUC, support the MPs’ move, arguing that the government is missing yet another opportunity to link economic recovery and low carbon energy policy. The coalition’s “compromise” was to take powers to introduce the target, but not use them until 2016. Meanwhile, the Treasury might look again at the UK’s faltering energy economy: our net energy import dependency climbed to 43% last year, its highest level since 1976. Were it not for renewables, energy imports would be even higher.
Energy imports in 2012 were at a record high (see DECC graph), with exports at their lowest level since 1989, due to falling UK oil, gas and coal production. As a result, we now import approaching half of our energy needs.
Yet renewables’ share of electricity generation increased to a record 12.5% in 2012. Taking into account energy from nuclear power installations, low carbon electricity’s share of generation increased from 28.1% in 2011 to 30.7% in 2012. The Yeo-Gardiner amendment would have the effect of setting a 2030 target for the UK to reduce the so-called carbon intensity of our electricity by four-fifths, which would encourage continuing, long term investment in renewable technologies, creating tens of thousands of manufacturing and installation jobs in wind, wave, tidal, solar and biomass technology and carbon capture systems.
The largest absolute increase in generation was from offshore wind (up 46% last year). The UK’s Feed in Tariff (FiT) scheme is also powering ahead, with over 358,000 solar and other small scale schemes installed at the end of 2012, an 8.7% increase.
Extending the green Quad deal of last autumn, the government also now opposes a new EU-wide renewable energy target for 2030. The European Commission is midway through a public Consultation and Green Paper on a 2030 Framework for Energy and Climate policies. The EU target of generating 20% of Europe’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 is widely credited with driving huge employment growth in the sector, which now accounts for over 100,000 jobs in the UK alone, including supply chains. But the coalition has again sent mixed messages to the EU, supporting carbon targets but opposing a new and more ambitious renewables target for 2030.