By Richard Black | BBC News
“Welcome to the electric future.”
That was the key message from the Committee on Climate Change, the government’s new advisory body, as it delivered its recommendations on how the UK should meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
There is a wealth of detail tucked away in its 500-plus page report.
It proposes five-yearly “carbon budgets” that the government should adopt, and suggests a range of policy options for achieving them – among which weaning the nation’s power providers off fossil fuels is clearly the priority.
The targets are incredibly ambitious
Jayesh Parmar, energy analyst
“One particularly important development is the de-carbonising of electricity,” the committee’s chairman Lord Turner told reporters.
“Once we de-carbonise generation, we can apply electricity to new areas such as road transport and the heating of buildings.”
By 2020, renewables – principally wind – could generate about 30% of the UK total. Efficiency improvements, nuclear – a “cost-competitive” technology – and carbon capture and storage (CCS) could all play a role.
Or could they?
“The targets are incredibly ambitious,” said Jayesh Parmar, a partner in the energy and utilities practice of Oliver Wyman, the global management consultancy firm.
“We’re nowhere near on track to meet a 30% by 2020 target. The pipeline of development would have to be extended significantly and accelerated massively if we’re to meet it.”
Currently, renewables provide about 5% of UK electricity.
Frustrated academics, activists and businessmen have long complained that the government does not have the right raft of economic incentives in place, lauding Germany’s use of preferential, set payments for solar electricity and lamenting the UK’s deployment of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs).
“The government would have to look again at economic incentives, for example for offshore wind, where some of the major investors are beginning to question the economics of the business,” said Dr Parmar.
“Reform of the planning process has constantly been talked about; but despite recent moves we are still not seeing planning consent coming through as quickly as we need it to.”
Read on here.