U.K. Seen Missing Green Target Without Help for Transport, Heat

  • Committee in House of Commons says reaching 2020 goal unlikely
  • Renewable power advances can’t compensate for heat, transport

Britain is unlikely to meet a legally-binding green-energy target for use by the end of this decade, Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee said, prodding the government for new incentives.

The government had pledged to provide 15 percent of its overall energy needs with renewables by 2020. Even through the U.K. is on track to achieve its ambition to get 30 percent of electricity from renewables, the committee said that green-power goals of 10 percent for transport and 12 percent for heating are unlikely to be met.

“The experts we spoke to were clear: the U.K. will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements,” committee chair Angus MacNeil said. “Failing to meet these would damage the U.K.’s reputation for climate change leadership. The government must take urgent action on heat and transport to renew its efforts on decarbonization.”

Uncertainty over whether the U.K. could achieve its targets grew in November after the leak of a letter written by former Energy Secretary Amber Rudd to former Chief Secretary of the Treasury Greg Hands. In the document, Rudd outlined concerns that heat and transport targets were unlikely to be met. She warned the European Union could impose fines on the U.K. for failing to keep its pledge

“I am concerned about work being done on transport and heat,” said Rudd in response to questions from lawmakers on the Energy and Climate Change Committee in Parliament on Nov. 10. “I recognize that we don’t have the right policies, particularly in transport and heat, to make these targets. But we have four to five years, and I am engaging with other secretaries of state to address this.”

The U.K.’s renewable energy target was established by the 28-nation bloc’s 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, which collectively aims for 20 percent of total energy consumption to come from clean sources by 2020.

Because of the U.K.’s June decision to leave the EU, the threat of penalties for missing the renewable targets may recede. Set to grow their place, however, are uncertainties over the country’s future clean energy and environmental policies.

“We agreed our 2020 renewable energy targets as part of the EU but they still have many merits, even as the U.K. government prepares for Brexit,” MacNeil said. “If the U.K. reneges on these targets, it will undermine confidence in the government’s commitment to clean energy and the climate targets agreed in Paris.”

Policy Exchange, a London-based think tank, advocated for the government to ditch the EU’s renewable-heat target in a report on Friday. It said plans to install electric heat pumps in most homes by 2050 would cost 300 billion pounds ($401 billion) and suggested taking cheaper energy-efficiency measures instead.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee is also calling for reforms to the renewable heat incentive and renewable transport fuel obligation

“This is a very serious issue for the U.K.,” said Michael Wilkins, managing director of infrastructure ratings at S&P Global Inc. “Post-Brexit, it could be more difficult to hold the government accountable for air quality standards.”

S&P said last month that air quality may be compromised after the U.K.’s exit.

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