Wind power and other renewables form cornerstone of the UK’s ambitious decarbonisation plan
The laudable notion that humankind can replace its dangerous addiction to burning fossil fuels with a green, low-carbon future gained credibility last week when the British government announced greenhouse gas emissions would be cut to 34% below 1990 levels by 2020 and more than 30% of UK electricity would come from wind power and other renewables.
In a video announcement of the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan set against a backdrop of an onshore wind farm, Ed Miliband, energy and climate change secretary, said “the transition to a low-carbon economy will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century.”
“With the discipline of carbon budgets, legally binding limits on emissions, we plan to drive change in every area: the way we generate energy, the way we heat our homes and workplaces and the way we travel,” said Miliband.
“In Britain, as our own reserves in the North Sea decline, we have a choice: replace them with ever-increasing imports, be subject to price fluctuations and disturbances in the world market and stick with high carbon; or make the necessary transition to low carbon, right for climate change, energy security and jobs.”
An accompanying document, the UK Renewable Energy Strategy, said about two-thirds of the more than 30% of Britain’s electricity generated from renewables in 12 years could come from onshore and offshore wind power. Also playing a role in providing green electricity will be biomass, hydro and wave and tidal.
The document says it provides a path for the UK to meet its legally binding target of 15% of energy coming from renewables by 2020. It also says it will help Britain tackle climate change, promote energy supply security and possibly create up to 500,000 more jobs in the renewables sector as a result of about €115 billion in new investment.
“As the entire world gears up for the transition to a new, low-carbon future, the UK needs a robust and thriving renewable energy sector to maximise the economic and employment opportunities this will inevitably bring,” the strategy document says, adding the government will provide continued support for large-scale renewable electricity generation and consult on proposals to increase financial support for offshore wind.
Noting that the Stern Review stated that the costs of inaction on climate change far outweigh the costs of action today, the strategy document also predicted the Low Carbon Transition Plan would add six to eight per cent to today’s average household energy bills by 2020.
The European Wind Energy Association understands that a lot of hard work and politicking has gone into the UK government’s commendable goal of embracing a new green energy revolution. As a starting point, both the Low Carbon Transition Plan and the Renewable Energy Strategy are valuable benchmark documents that will continually be referred to in the coming years.
What is need now, however, is for Britain to show the rest of the European Union, and the world, that it is indeed serious about creating a healthier economy for future generations.
Plans are fine, but results matter more. Get on with the job.