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Rudd and UK renewables - a question of obstructions

Katie Persaud outlines the obstructions renewable energy companies are facing when it comes to constructing much needed energy plants in the UK.

 
Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has come under fire for providing conflicting statements on the state of the UK’s renewable energy.
 
In a statement made in Parliament in June, Rudd explained that the UK was committed to meeting its renewable energy target. The current target is that 15% of the UK’s energy consumption across electricity, heat and transport should come from renewable energy sources by 2020. 
 
However, in a recent letter to four fellow MPs, Rudd made it clear that in fact she was not confident that the target could be achieved. At the current trajectory, the UK looks set to miss its targets by almost 25%, making the energy consumption from renewable energy only 11.5% by 2020.
 
Not meeting the targets, which are set by the EU and are legally binding, can put the UK at risk of judicial review and possible fines as Rudd acknowledges in her letter:
“failing to meet the overall target in 2020 could lead to on-going fines imposed by the EU Court of Justice (which could take into account avoided costs) until the UK reaches the target level”.
 
Rudd appeared before the Energy and Climate Change Committee on 10th November and gave evidence in relation to the renewable energy target and the UK’s predicted shortfall. She denied claims that she had misled Parliament but did agree that the contents of the letter were accurate and that the UK is not currently on track to meet its target. In her evidence to the committee, Rudd said the lack of correct government policies was to blame.
 
Rudd was clear in her evidence that 20% of the UK’s electricity is currently coming from renewable sources and that the UK is on track to meet its target of 30% of renewable energy in relation to electricity. However, she stated that much more needed to be done to ensure that heat and transport were also contributing to achieving the overall target. 
 
Rudd’s letter explains that the targets are based on GDP. However, as the UK was starting from a low base of renewable energy production, it has the largest improvement to make of all EU member states. One would imagine, given the tough target, that the government would be doing all it can to encourage renewable energy production.

Power cuts

However, since the election in May, the government has announced an ever-increasing list of cuts to renewable energy subsidies and incentives, including cuts to subsidies for onshore wind and solar power, the withdrawal of the Climate Change Levy exemption for renewables and the scrapping of the requirement for new homes to be zero carbon from April 2016.
 
As a result of these subsidy cuts, the World Energy Council, which ranks energy and climate policies, has downgraded the UK from its previously top energy rating. It was lowered from AAA (the highest score) to AAB in the annual World Energy Trilemma Study. 
 
In addition, the renewable energy industry faces other obstacles, such as planning hurdles. The Government announced earlier this year that large onshore wind farms (with a capacity of over 50MW) will be removed from the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime. This will allow decisions on these projects to be made by local planning authorities.
 
Changes to planning guidance have sought to require local residents to have more of a say in relation to solar farms and smaller onshore wind projects. These changes also require wind energy sites to have been identified in a local plan (wind energy companies estimate that only 68 local authorities currently have such allocation in their local plans).
 
The cuts to subsidies and incentives as well as increasing planning hurdles for renewable energy developers are likely to result in a decreased confidence from investors to the renewable sector. Experts are concerned that this decreased confidence could also extend to other energy sectors, such as nuclear, shale gas and carbon capture storage. It is likely that confidence in the sector will not increase until there can be a more predictable approach to renewable energy from the government.
 
So, what next for the UK? Amber Rudd is likely to want to take some swift action to show that she is determined to meet 2020 targets as she stated to the committee. However, given the changes to planning and subsidies, and considering the content of her letter, it appears that Rudd has decided that the improved performance will come from transport and heat, rather than through wind and solar developments.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 

Katie Persaud is an Associate in the Planning and Infrastructure department at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell.
 

FURTHER INFORMATION
 

Posted 02/12/2015 by Michelle Fisher

Tagged under: Amber Rudd , UK , 2020 , Energy , Renewables

RE: Rudd and UK renewables - a question of obstructions
Posted 24/04/2016 by Paul Vann
This an interesting and insightful article. It would be great if the author could provide regular, say quarterly, updates so that we csn see how the UK is progressing towards its target.

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