Cause for pause?

The renewable energy industry has called on the government to defer the publication of the Energy White Paper.

In a surprise move, the renewable energy industry has called on the government to defer the publication of the Energy White Paper, so that it can fully reflect the new energy commitments sealed at last month’s EU summit.

In a letter to DTI Secretary of State Alistair Darling, the Renewable Energy Association said that an Energy White Paper that does not reflect the new targets would ‘compromise the future investment needed to achieve the Government’s energy objectives’.

‘Our government had the vision to push these ambitious energy targets through the European Union’, said REA Chief Executive Philip Wolfe. ‘But they just haven’t had time since then to credibly define the measures needed to meet them’.

The Energy White Paper is due for publication within the next month.

In addition to emissions reductions, the new European targets include 2020 commitments for a 20% reduction in energy consumption and increased contributions from renewables to 20% of total energy and 10% of transport fuels.

‘These are very welcome targets’, said Philip Wolfe, ‘but a million miles from where the UK is today’. Renewables account for just 2% of our energy, and biofuels are under 1% of the transport market, while UK energy consumption has risen steadily for many decades.

The target for renewables to produce 20% of total energy in particular represents a major change for the UK, where policies have historically been focussed mainly at just the electricity sector. The total energy requirement will need strong policies for heat and fuels, too.

The combined effect of the new European commitments is to invalidate many of the assumptions used in last year’s Energy Review, on which the White Paper will be based. The review projected an energy gap, as modest renewables growth was unable to keep up with rising consumption and power station closures.

Despite its views on the overall policy, the Renewable Energy Association is calling on the government to press ahead with some of the specific measures in the pipeline. It says that work on the introduction of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, modifications to the Renewables Obligation and development of renewable heat and biomass strategies should continue.

‘These measures could even be accelerated if they are de-linked from the White Paper’, said Wolfe, ‘provided that they are future-proofed for the more ambitious overall energy policy to come.’

‘Calling for delay is an unusual move for an Association that is more frequently pressing for faster action’, he noted. ‘But we can’t keep tinkering with our energy policy – this is the last chance to get on the right path and stay there.’