Wind turbines or solar panels built by UK companies as far afield as China and India could count towards Britain’s renewable energy targets under controversial government proposals.
Baroness Shriti Vadera, the business minister, told a recent meeting of European Union energy ministers that British investments in alternative energy – anywhere in the world – should count towards the country’s target.
Britain is aiming to raise the proportion of power it gets from renewable energy from the current 3 per cent to 15 per cent by 2020.
But the new proposal would be a considerable shift from previous discussions, which focused on whether Britain could count alternative energy brought to the UK from elsewhere in Europe towards its target.
Lady Vadera also argued that carbon-capture projects at coal-fired power stations should count towards the target as a way to persuade energy companies to clean up plants. She said projects that were still under construction – or even at the planning stage – in 2020 should also be in the tally.
The news came as energy companies submitted the first round of applications for government funding for “clean coal” projects.
It is understood that eight companies, including Eon, RWE Npower and Scottish and Southern Energy, entered the government’s funding competition before yesterday’s deadline. The government has said it will help fund a commercial-scale carbon-capture and storage power plant, in which carbon emissions from burning coal are captured, liquefied and stored underground.
Eon’s entry is the controversial Kingsnorth coal-fired power project in Kent. The company is awaiting planning permission, but environmentalists say the plant would undermine efforts to cut carbon emissions.
Eon asked the government yesterday to delay its planning permission decision on Kingsnorth until ministers made clear what was needed for the plant to be deemed “carbon-capture ready”.
Environmental groups said Lady Vadera’s proposals on renewable energy targets were “backward” and “regressive”.
“Ministers want to be able to lay a foundation stone for a coal plant in China, point at it and say, ‘There, that’s our contribution to the European renewable energy target,'” said John Sauven, Greenpeace executive director. “Renewables are fighting a war on two fronts now – squeezed by nuclear on one side and coal on the other.”
The “mechanics” of how the system will work have not yet been decided, according to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. It confirmed that Lady Vadera had been arguing for the changes to the regime, but said these were “early discussions” that would not be concluded until spring next year.
By Jim Pickard and Rebecca Bream
1 April 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding