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Renewable energy industry – reactions to The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan

The UK renewable energy industry has largely welcomed the UK Government’s launch of The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan pledging a 34% cut in emissions by 2020 and £450 million spending on renewable and clean energy.

The Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) Director of Policy Gaynor Hartnell, said: “The renewables industry has had a tough time in the UK for many years and it has missed out on technologies where it should have led the world. What we heard from Mr Miliband today shows a level of understanding and political leadership that suggests that may be about to change.”

The REA said it “strongly welcomed” the remit change at Ofgem, the eligibility for renewable heat projects for the forthcoming Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the initial proposals for local renewable energy, and the support for marine renewables.

A slightly less enthusiastic welcome was given to the changes to the Town and Country Planning Act to aid better and positive decision-making for renewables, the provisions for electric transport, Smart Grids and Smart Meters and the Transmission Access Review.

The REA thought project finance was a cause for concern.

BWEA

Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to delivering on the 2020 targets. They have rightly ignored the siren calls to abandon wind as the driving force for reaching the targets.”

“The RES provides a clear routemap for the growth of a new £60bn industry and the creation of 60,000 UK jobs. However, industry is now looking for a cross party consensus on the detail of delivery. This will help convince investors that the country is serious about fighting climate change and developing domestic, renewable sources of energy.”

AEP

David Porter, Chief Executive of the Association of Electricity Producers (AEP), pointed to the massive investment required and a number of serious issues that have to be resolved:

“Electricity companies need to invest well over £100 billion on new power production in the next 10 years and perhaps another £100bn in the decade after. Companies want to invest, but, these are very large sums of money in a difficult financial climate. So, it is vitally important that the UK is an attractive place for energy investment.”

The AEP said the Government’s plans will be of aid, but that there are “serious practical issues that electricity companies are watching carefully.” These include how to finance back-up power stations for renewables; the need for a credible, long-term carbon price; how to accommodate massive growth of renewables on the electricity network; the need for a business-like planning system is essential; and the cost to customers.

Regional Development Agencies

Speaking on behalf of England’s regional development agencies (RDAs), Richard Ellis, Chair of the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), said: “We welcome today’s initiatives which set a new direction for the UK. The low-carbon sector is already a key economic driver and will, along with sectors such as digital communications and life-sciences, drive the UK economy out of the downturn and lead us to a new low-carbon industrial age.”

Selection of company responses:

Green Ocean Energy, the Scottish renewable energy company’s Managing Director George Smith, said: “It is encouraging to see the Government recognising the need to invest in this sector if it is to achieve its ambitious sustainable energy targets. There’s some fantastic working being done by UK companies to ensure that renewable energy is both effective and economically viable but further financial support both from the public and private sectors is required to develop the renewable industry’s huge potential.”

E.ON also welcomed the plans, but has called for three defined outcomes from the White Paper to make a low carbon future feasible:

  • Confidence in the market so energy companies can invest the billions of pounds needed to give the country the energy infrastructure it needs for the 21st-century;
  • Complete honesty from all parties - including the energy companies - about the costs and implications of the investment programme;
  • A commitment from everyone - government, energy companies and consumers - to a low carbon future.

Kevin Brennan, Head of Sustainability for VELUX Company Ltd, a provider of skylights and windows, said: “We applaud the Government’s ambitious targets for a low carbon economy and, in particular, for setting the highest goal of any member state for renewable energy, at 15% by 2020. However, yet again we are surprised by the relative lack of value placed on solar thermal heating, which sees the renewable heat feed-in tariff scheme put on hold until April 2011, while the ‘clean energy cash-back’ scheme for renewable electricity will be in place by April 2010.

“It is a mistake to put the emphasis on renewable electricity, simply because it is deemed to be easiest to implement and measure. Solar thermal energy can provide up to 70% of a home’s hot water requirements and solar collectors have been proven to be simple and cost effective to install, unlike some other renewable technologies,” he said.


UK attitude to climate change good

At the same time as the UK Government published its plans for tackling climate change, the European Commission published statistics on Europeans' attitudes towards climate change.

The statistics show that the UK ranks high on personal action against climate change. 77% say they have done something as an individual to combat climate change. Only Sweden tops this with its 82 per cent.

Most Brits feel well informed about the causes of climate change and how to tackle it (73% and 72% of the respondents respectively), which places the UK in the same group with the well-informed citizens of Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland.

Despite all this, UK citizens do not rank climate change very high on the list of global problems: 46% see it as the most alarming global problem currently against an EU average of 50%, and Sweden's 82%.

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