Environmental Audit Committee

22 July 2002

A Sustainable Energy Strategy?

Renewables and the PIU review

The Environmental Audit Committee published today its Fifth Report.  The Chairman of the Committee, Mr John Horam MP, commented:

"The UK cannot claim to be sustainable, unless it puts sustainability at the heart of energy policy.  But we rank thirteenth in the EU in the amount of renewable electricity supplied, and - on the present rate of progress - we are likely to fall well below even the modest targets which the Government has set."

"Current energy policy is at a historical turning point.   We need renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions and fill the gap left by the decline of coal and nuclear. The White Paper due later this year must not turn out to be yet another vacuous policy document.  We see the Government's primary task now as being to translate the implications of the PIU Energy Review into a set of specific policy commitments and an energy action plan."

Key conclusions of the inquiry

  • Britain has the greatest potential for renewable energy of any country in Europe.  It currently produces less than 3 per cent of its energy from renewables-a tiny proportion which compares very unfavourably with almost all other European countries.

  • The Government has set a number of targets for renewable production.  We will certainly not meet the interim target of 5 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2003.   On the basis of present trends,  we are unlikely to achieve much more than half the 10 per cent target for 2010.

  • There is an urgent need for the Government to show leadership and address the difficulties in gaining planning applications, indicate tried and tested technologies which will deliver over the next decade, and address the conflicting priorities of market liberalisation and cheap electricity as against our Kyoto obligations. 

  • The Government must also carry out as a matter of urgency, before the White Paper is issued, a number of other actions:  

  1. The Government must ensure that Ofgem's review of the New Electricity Trading Arrangements (NETA) in its first full year place primary importance on environmental impacts, including the impacts on renewable generators and on carbon emissions.

  2. The Department of Trade and Industry should review options for incentivising the development of renewables under NETA, so that the playing field - so far from being tilted against renewables as at present - should favour them.

  3. The Department of Trade and Industry should prepare and implement legislation to amend the statutory duties of Ofgem in order to incorporate the promotion of sustainable development as a primary duty.

  4. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister should revise planning guidance for renewables and incorporate a presumption in their favour.