The UK’s business department, BERR, has been accused of trying to sabotage Europe’s rules on renewable energy.
BERR is trying to change a line in an EU Directive which mandates that energy sources such as wind and wave should get priority connections to the grid.
Problems with getting electricity grid connection to windy sites is one of the biggest reasons for the UK failing on its current renewables targets.
Greenpeace says BERR has been caught “red-handed” undermining clean energy.
BERR’s attempt to weaken the terms of the mandate was revealed in a leaked document.
It wants to change the phrasing from “shall” to “may” get priority on the grid.
BERR’s argument is that you cannot give total priority to renewables because new gas plants will be needed to back up wind farms when the wind is not blowing.
The gas plants may need priority grid access, too.
Green groups say BERR could have achieved this without watering down the intent of the directive.
They suggest a clause like “renewables shall be given priority although back-up plants for renewables may need to be prioritised, too”.
They suspect the department really wants to expand coal and nuclear, at the expense of renewables.
John Sauven, of Greenpeace, said: “We’ve always said there was a danger that going for nuclear power would squeeze out renewables, but ministers denied it.
“Now we’ve got the ‘smoking gun’. The government has been caught red-handed undermining clean energy across Europe, and all because of Brown’s ideological obsession with atomic power.”
The government denies this. It maintains priority access for renewables is not necessary for the UK to meet its share of the EU renewables target.
“What renewable generators want is quicker access to the grid, not priority access,” a spokesman for BERR said.
“The UK is already taking significant steps to remove grid access barriers for renewables. It is, however, important that all forms of generation have faster access to the grid network to ensure a balanced and secure energy supply.”
By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst
23 July 2008
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