One in four British homes could be fitted with solar heating equipment and 3,500 wind turbines could be erected across Britain within 12 years as part of a green energy revolution to be proposed by the government next week.
The long-awaited renewable energy strategy, a copy of which has been seen by the Guardian, will say Britain needs to make a £100bn dash to build up its clean power supply if it is to reach its EU-imposed target of producing 15% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The UK could cut its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20% and reduce its dependency on oil by 7% within 12 years if it conducts the massive overhaul of energy production and consumption outlined in the strategy document, according to the government.
But at a time of mounting consumer anger over rising fuel prices, it also concedes that greening Britain’s power supply will push up energy bills and increase fuel poverty.
The proposals include:
· New powers to force people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes when they renovate them;
· A 30-fold increase in offshore wind power generation;
· New loans, grants and incentives for businesses and households;
· An area the size of Essex to be planted with trees and other crops to produce biomass energy;
· Forcing people to replace inefficient appliances such as oil-fired boilers.
Although the proposals are contained in a consultation document, the government has committed to hitting the 15% target and ministers accept most of the measures will have to be introduced to achieve it.
The government says the transformation of the country’s energy policy will have “significant impacts on all our lives” but claims it will create big new markets and 160,000 jobs.
In what would be the most ambitious change of energy policy in 50 years, the government says 30-35% of all electricity generated in the UK will have to come from renewable sources to meet the 15% renewable energy target set by Europe to try to stem the effects of climate change.
The renewables strategy concedes that the target will only be achievable if there is a completely new approach to generating energy.
“We might just possibly reach 15% renewable energy by 2020. It will require maximum build rates and a very rapid response from the supply chain,” says the document.
The government proposes jump-starting emerging technologies by removing all barriers to generation of renewables and providing substantial incentives. It will also require the National Grid to be greatly expanded. Loans and grants would almost certainly be made available for people and buinesses to install solar roofs and other green technologies.
The document says that getting to 15% could cost as much as 1% of GDP but under the most plausible climate scenarios it might be able to avoid having to pay up to 20% of GDP.
“We must make hard choices. The scale of the increase in renewable energy we propose over the coming decade will have significant impacts on all our lives. Not all of these will be positive; indeed there will be significant costs,” it says.
The document, expected to be released on Thursday, will raise the political stakes. Last week, David Cameron said the Conservatives would apply new standards for power generation which would effectively reduce the chances of a new generation of coal-fired power stations being built until new technologies have been developed.
Leoni Greene, spokeswoman for the Renewable Energy Association, said: “We applaud the breadth of the imagination and good ideas shown but we urgently need action and not more consultation. Government must take hard measures now.”
John Sauven, director of Greenpeace, said: “If this plan becomes a reality, Britain will be a better, safer and more prosperous country. We’ll create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and use less gas, and in the long run our power bills will come down.”
John Vidal, environment editor
21 June 2008
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