The proposals are designed to ensure that the UK sources 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and fulfills its obligations to the European Union. The groups also want to build a ‘green collar’ industry in the process.
The document, The Zero Carbon Switch: Joint Manifesto for Renewables, highlights that up to one-third of the UK’s generating capacity will be decommissioned within five years, and that the country will become increasingly reliant on imported fossil fuels, with climate change remaining a serious threat.
It proposes 12 steps to deliver targets:
- A need for strong leadership and delivery, combined with a long-term stable investment framework;
- Reform of the regulatory regime to ensure delivery of low carbon measures and enable investment for a significant expansion of renewable energy by 2020;
- A clear pathway for the expansion of renewable energy generation up to 2050;
- Commit to the rollout of a smart grid network by 2030;
- Ensure that Local Development Frameworks conform with national planning policy, including the 2020 targets;
- Develop a strategic plan for the delivery of key energy infrastructure;
- Introduce a streamlined and properly funded accreditation scheme for micro generation and small systems technologies;
- Establish a national business rates relief scheme for renewable energy schemes;
- Improve access to funding for employers to provide vocational training places;
- Ensure that any publicly-backed Green Investment Bank facilitates an improved flow of public and private capital;
- Introduce government-backed low interest loans for initial capital costs of heat and micro-generation technologies; and
- Create a coordinated mechanism to deliver energy efficiency.
“Reaching our 2020 targets will mean that the UK needs to increase seven-fold the amount of energy we get from renewables,” says Adam Bruce of RenewableUK (formerly called the British Wind Energy Association - BWEA). “Clearly, this is a truly significant undertaking and will be the largest single infrastructure investment since the coming of the railways.”
Signatories cover all renewable energy groups
The Manifesto was signed by RenewableUK, UK Business Council on Sustainable Energy, Renewable Energy Association, British Hydropower Association, Combined Heat & Power Association, Ground Source Heat Pump Association, Solar Trade Association, Scottish Renewables and Micropower Council.
“Over the next 10 years, the private sector will invest over £100 billion in developing the UK’s enormous green energy potential,” the signatories agree. “However, in order to unlock this, and ensure that benefits are brought to the UK’s consumers and businesses, the next government needs to lay out a clear energy policy and investment framework, with robust and stable financial support mechanisms to provide investor confidence.”
“The UK has an urgent need to act,” warns the Manifesto. “The emerging scientific consensus is that unless global temperature rises are stabilised below 2% within the next decade, the world will face catastrophic and irreversible climate change.”
Renewable energy has moved from margin to mainstream
“Over the last decade, renewable energy has moved from the margins of the UK’s energy supply to become a central part of Britain’s energy mix,” it adds. “Our industries generate 2% of the UK’s energy, and wind power and hydropower alone accounted for £2.2bn in turnover and 7000 employees last year.”
There was more renewable energy capacity installed in Europe in the past two years than all new fossil generation combined and, over the next decade, “our industries together will invest over £100 bn in the UK and create thousands of jobs.
“If Britain does not take the opportunity of the next decade to switch to renewables and other forms of low-carbon decentralised generation, then we will be locking ourselves into another 40 years of fossil-fuel generation,” it notes. “Britain needs a new proactive energy policy that continues to promote investment in sustainable energy.”
This summer, the UK Government will release a National Action Plan for delivering the 2020 targets. A general election will be held on 6 May.