Twenty twenty vision

By the time you read this, a group of EU leaders will have sat down, bashed their heads together, and (hopefully) agreed on the EU’s renewable energy targets

By the time you read this, a group of EU leaders will have sat down, bashed their heads together, and (hopefully) agreed on proposals that, by 2020, will enable Europe to produce 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.

Somewhat refreshingly, if the comments of Malcolm Wicks on Tuesday’s Today programme are anything to go by, the UK is up for the challenge.

Although Wicks warned that elements of the proposed package of measures could damage free trade, he also suggested that the 20 per cent target, while challenging, is eminently achievable in the UK, and represents a fantastic opportunity for our burgeoning renewables sector.

This is all quite cheering news, and also a little surprising, given that just a few months ago the minister told BBC’s Newsnight that Blair’s pledge to source 20 per cent of our power from renewables was unachievable, and that 10 per cent, from a current level of two per cent was far more realistic. He even had the cheek to suggest that a 20 per cent Europe wide target could still be met even if some of the member states (ie the UK) weren’t quite able to manage it.

So why the change of heart? Political expediency would probably be the guess of any moderately cynical observer, but perhaps, just perhaps, the government has a better grasp of the facts than it did before Christmas.

Perhaps back then it hadn’t factored in the five per cent contribution that could be made by the Severn Barrage alone (a proposal which appears to be gathering momentum once again). Perhaps they hadn’t taken into account the numerous wind power schemes around the UK that will be connected to the grid in the coming years. And perhaps they also hadn’t considered that with a number of coal, gas and nuclear plants about to come off stream, there is a fantastic opportunity to overhaul the national grid and provide more opportunities to connect renewable generation schemes.

If the government has just started taking factors such as these into account, it will have realised that the 20 per cent goal is perhaps not as tricky as it once seemed, and it could explain Wicks’ new ‘can do’ mentality. Political expediency or not, for the moment it’s refreshing to see the government not trying to wriggle out of its renewable energy commitments.

Jon Excell