Renewable energy expansion plans announced

Author: By Emily Beament, Press Association

Ministers will also set out measures on low-carbon transport and for ensuring
that the UK benefits from thousands of potential “green jobs” as they
publish the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan White Paper.

But the Government has come under fire for the impact increasing the
proportion of renewables in the energy mix could have on people’s fuel bills
in the future.

The UK has a series of challenging legally-binding ‘carbon budgets’, which
require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 34 per cent by 2020 and
at least 80 per cent by 2050, and a EU target of meeting 15 per cent of all
energy needs from renewables by 2020.

Measures to meet the goals will cover a wide range of sectors including power,
transport, homes, workplaces and agriculture.

Among the schemes to reduce climate emissions to be launched today will be a
“pay as you save” programme for homeowners to receive loans to insulate
their homes, with the money repaid from savings on energy bills.

And people who install small-scale renewables such as solar panels or wind
turbines will be paid, through a “feed-in tariffs” programme, for the
electricity they generate.

There are also plans to increase large-scale renewable energy and in
particular wind – with proposals for some 4,000 new onshore turbines and a
further 3,000 offshore.

The Government’s consultation on renewable energy last year estimated meeting
targets to increase green power could lead to a rise in fuel bills of almost
£230 a year by the end of the next decade.

But officials say revised estimates will show the costs of a switch to green
energy will be lower than that.

Ahead of the publication of a renewable energy strategy launched alongside the
White Paper today, Energy Secretary Ed Miliband warned there would be
“upward pressures” on prices whatever the energy mix.

Continuing on the high-carbon route would force the UK to import more fossil
fuels, leaving the country exposed to oil price fluctuations and conflict
elsewhere in the world, while there would also be costs in shifting to a
low-carbon energy mix, he said.

The Tories accused ministers of failing to address the looming energy crunch
over the past 12 years, leading to a “vacuum where there should have been an
energy policy”.

Householders faced rising bills as the UK became increasingly reliant on
costly imported gas, because it had one of the lowest renewable sectors in
Europe and some of the least energy efficient buildings, shadow energy
secretary Greg Clark warned.

“The scramble to catch up with the rest of Europe will now be more costly than
if action to reduce reliance on oil and gas had been taken in a planned way
over the last ten years,” he said.

Environmentalists remain concerned about the ambition of the White Paper,
which lays out how the UK will meet the targets for emissions cuts
recommended by the Climate Change Committee and made legally-binding by the
Climate Change Act.

While the committee, set up to advise ministers on cutting emissions,
recommended almost entirely de-carbonising the electricity sector by 2030,
green campaigners fear the Government will not go nearly as far as that.

Alongside renewables, new nuclear build and new coal fired power stations – as
long as a proportion of any new plant is fitted with technology to capture
and permanently store carbon emissions – will form part of the energy mix in
the future.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “The Government must
prioritise renewable energy and energy efficiency over everything else in
the sector.

“If they do this, Britain could lead the fight against climate change, whilst
providing hundreds of thousands of jobs. Anything less would be a failure.

“Adair Turner’s Climate Change Committee has recommended that the power sector
should be zero carbon by 2030. The Government has to support this
recommendation if we’re to have a chance of meeting our long-term climate
change targets.”

Other environmental campaigners said they were concerned that sufficient cuts
would not be made in the UK, but “offset” by paying for reductions abroad.

One of the most controversial elements of plans to boost renewables in the UK
are proposals for large scale projects to harness the tidal power of the
Severn estuary.

The Government is expected to confirm a shortlist of five schemes for the
Severn today, including proposals for multi-billion pound 10-mile barrage
across the estuary.

As part of today’s announcement the Government will also be publishing a
transport carbon-reduction strategy.

The Government has already announced several initiatives, including moves to
put electric cars into the reach of ordinary motorists by providing help
worth £2,000 to £5,000 towards buying the first electric and plug in hybrid
cars when they hit the showrooms – expected to be from 2011 onwards.

Last month the Government announced eight new low-carbon vehicle projects were
being launched with some of the schemes involving members of the public
being invited to test out electric cars.

Mr Miliband said today’s document set out a “route map” towards achieving the
2020 targets for CO2 cuts, which he said could generate 400,000 new “green”
jobs by 2015.

He acknowledged that low-carbon energy would be more expensive for consumers,
but pointed out that high-carbon fuels like coal and gas could also be
expected to get more expensive because of increased demand from China and
India.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we are trying to do is to set out
not simply targets for 2020 – which have been set – but a route map to get
there: How we are going to take the carbon dioxide out of the way we travel,
our homes and the way we provide energy.

“Also, we are arguing that it is right to make these changes in our economy –
which are big changes – on grounds of energy security. It will make us more
secure because we will have more home-grown low-carbon energy and it will be
good for employment as well, because there is a big green jobs opportunity
for the future.”

He accepted that the Government had “a job of political persuasion to do” to
counter opposition to on-shore wind-farms. Today’s announcement comes as the
UK’s only turbine manufacturer, Vestas on the Isle of Wight, is shutting
down with the loss of around 600 jobs.

“We need a lot more on-shore wind turbines and that is difficult and part of
my job is to persuade people that the biggest threat to the countryside is
not wind turbines,” said Mr Miliband.

“Of course, there can be local objections which are legitimate, but the
biggest threat to the countryside is climate change, because the beautiful
British countryside will be destroyed if we don’t stop dangerous climate
change.”

He accepted his plans would impose a cost on taxpayers: “We are going to
minimise the costs as much as possible, but it is true there is not a
low-cost energy future out there.

“There is a high-carbon, high-cost future, because we see big growth in demand
from China and India which will drive up prices. We could become more and
more dependent on that and quite insecure in our energy. Or we can go for
more home-grown energy which will also cost, but I actually think the costs
will be less in the end, because the costs of climate change if we don’t
stop it are going to be enormous.

“I think it is the right thing to do. We have got to plan for it and make it
as fair as we can.”

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