The UK government will vote today on the ‘Energy Bill’ – measures to decide how the UK will structure its energy sector in the future, including a possible 2030 decarbonisation target. The target has been backed by an alliance of 55 energy companies, trade unions, environmental and faith groups – including SSE, RES, Vestas, EDP, Repower, Scottish Renewables and Renewable UK – and, last week UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey called on the EU to set an emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030.
Leading business figure and member of the UK House of Lords, Lord Sugar, also backs a decarbonisation target. He said in a letter (‘cutting our carbon would help UK business’, 2 June) published in the Financial Times that “renewables companies have shown they are ready to invest in Britain, but they need to see a commitment from this government that they are serious. To create jobs here, they need real certainty – and that will require a proper “decarbonisation” target in the forthcoming energy bill,” he said.
But Sugar, despite his business savvy, has only identified part of the solution. To have a real impact on UK business and jobs, a decarbonisation target must be accompanied by an equally ambitious target for renewable energy to ensure that investments in the energy sector are channelled into the technologies that really will cut pollution from fossil fuels for the long-term and significantly reduce our dependency on imported fuels – like wind power.
Last month both the French and German Environment Ministers backed an EU-wide renewable energy target, highlighting the importance of renewables in transforming the European economy, improving energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Their arguments centre on the significance of renewables in freeing Europe from the shackles of importing large amounts of its energy for the future competitiveness and economic and industrial development of the EU. “A common energy policy is vital to assure the competitiveness of Europe,” insisted the ministers in a joint letter published by Le Monde and Der Tagesspiegel.
Sugar employs similar arguments pointing out that the UK renewable energy sector is “good for UK industry, consumers and our economy…the renewable industry could help unlock our crippled manufacturing sector.” He adds that the UK parliamentary committee on climate change believes that “long-term savings for consumers could be as much as £1,600 (€1,873) per household if we go down the low-carbon path rather than gas.” Even if that means in the short term “we will need to pay an extra £10-20 each year to subsidise the renewable sector.”
But the UK should go a step further and back a renewable energy target. It is the current EU target for 20% renewables in the overall energy supply by 2020 that has boosted wind power and other renewables to the position they are now – and this success should be replicated beyond 2020 with a new EU-wide binding target for 2030.
Additional reporting by Philippa Jones