The UK could miss its 2020 European renewable energy target of 15% and a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 34%, according a report from Cambridge Econometrics.
The UK looks likely to meet its first two carbon budgets up to 2017, but may not meet its third budget covering 2018-2022 unless the new coalition government implements strong policies promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency, says the report.
If the third carbon budget is not met, the 34% reduction in emissions by 2020 may be in jeopardy.
Thanks to the economic downturn that has reduced industrial output, as well as a switch from coal to more nuclear power, CO2 emissions fell 10% in 2009, but are unlikely to decline as much in 2010.
The renewables target also looks unlikely. The report predicts that renewables will account for 7% of UK electricity sales in 2010, down on the 10%. This could rise to 11% by 2015 – but still well short of the 15% target. Even by 2020, the UK may only have reached 16.5% renewables.
The issue, says Cambridge Econometrics, is that fossil fuels remain central to meeting UK electricity needs and specifically that new gas-fired power stations rather than renewables are being used to plug the gap left by the decommissioning of the country’s nuclear and older coal-fired power plants.
If the coalition government implements policies to increase the share of renewable energy used to produce electricity, biofuels in transport and renewable fuels for heating, then the targets could be possible.
“The challenge for the new government is to specify firm policies covering the next ten years for these two sectors,” says report co-author Paul Elkins of the Energy Institute at University College London.
“The incoming Government will need urgently not only to set out the details of the ambitious carbon-reduction policies it has inherited, but also move swiftly to their implementation if the UK is to achieve the goal of a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020,” he adds.
For further information:
UK coalition unveils details of energy and climate change plan (21-May)
UK energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions down (25-Mar)
Action needed on emissions, says UK climate change advisor (12-Oct 2009)
UK carbon emissions starting to fall (18-Sept 2009)
24 May 2010