Britain has already approved enough renewable energy projects to hit its EU targets, rendering all 1,000 projects still in the planning system surplus to requirements, new analysis claims.
Government figures show that 35 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity – mainly wind and solar farms and wood-burning biomass plants – is already built, under construction or has planning consent.
This will be more than enough to hit the legally-binding target of sourcing 15pc of energy from renewable sources by 2020, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF).
REF – which, despite its name, is a stern critic of renewable energy costs – said that “if all capacity in the pipeline were refused immediately, the 2020 target would still be met”, even allowing for the likelihood that some of the consented projects would not ultimately be built.
The UK’s 15pc target for 2020 covers all energy, including heating and fuels – and in practice is expected to require at least 30pc of electricity to come from renewable sources.
If all 18GW of such projects currently in the planning system were consented and built, the UK would exceed that level by 50 per cent, REF calculates.
Dr John Constable, one of the authors of the REF study, said there was “vastly more speculative activity in the planning system than is required by the targets or can be afforded by the consumer”.
The report is likely to strengthen Tory calls to curb the expansion of wind and solar farms, which are subsidised by energy bill-payers.
Britain has no binding renewable targets beyond 2020 and ministers have said they are happy to use other low-carbon technologies, such as nuclear or ‘clean’ gas, if they offer a cheaper route to decarbonising.
REF’s analysis comes as Tim Yeo MP, Tory chairman of the energy select committee, said government plans for expensive offshore wind farms may have to be cut, in light of new figures showing the rising cost of green subsidies.
Documents quietly released by the Treasury last week show that ministers expect to sign deals this year committing consumers to paying £28.8bn in subsidies for a series of projects over coming decades.
The projects include at least five offshore wind farms, Hinkley Point nuclear plant, and three biomass plants.
Mr Yeo said the figures showed the need for ministers to be “very hard-headed about the cost-effectiveness of different technologies”.
“We may need to revise downwards how much offshore wind there will be,” he said. “A couple of years ago the government was suggesting offshore wind will have a really big part to play. I don’t think we can afford that.”
He said that solar and onshore wind farms were “better value” and suggested that blocking onshore wind farms would push up bills.
“We do need to be aware that the cost of respecting people’s concern about the environmental impact of onshore wind is to add greatly to the costs of producing low-carbon energy,” Mr Yeo said. “The public need to understand that there is a cost to saying no to onshore wind.”
The comments appear to echo those of Ed Davey, the energy secretary, who has claimed that Tory plans to curb onshore wind in favour of costlier offshore turbines could push up bills.
However, Mr Yeo said a formal curb on onshore wind deployment were unlikely to many any difference because developers were already finding it “almost impossible to get planning consent”.
A spokesman for the energy department said: “We are well placed to meet our 2020 targets. We are working with industry to actively manage deployment and ensure value for money for consumers.
“Now more than ever should we invest in home-grown energy sources like nuclear, renewables and carbon capture storage to reduce our reliance on foreign imports and protect bill-payers from shocks caused by volatile world markets, which will keep the lights on for years to come.
“Our long term aim is for renewable energy projects to compete on price meaning only the most cost effective projects will receive support, giving customers the best deal.”
The Renewable Energy Association, which represents the green energy industry, said last week: “The UK is currently broadly on track to meet its legally binding 2020 target of 15% renewable energy.”
Overall growth in renewable energy deployment must continue at an average 17% per annum to achieve the target – one of the most demanding growth rates across the whole EU.” It said that £30bn had been invested in renewable energy since 2010 and that twice that amount was needed by 2020.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding