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Missing the target

Source: Public Sector Executive Mar/Apr 12

Kate Ashley reports on a new piece of research that has drawn brickbats from the renewables industry.

'Powerful Targets’ is a controversial report that aims to demonstrate how the UK could achieve EU carbon emission reduction targets without investing in renewable energy sources.

The report, produced by AF Consult alone after KPMG withdrew following earlier involvement, has been heavily criticised by environmental groups and the Department of Climate Change (DECC), for ‘oversimplifying’ the costs and benefits of different energy sources as well as working from faulty assumptions.

The report portrays three possible scenarios: one with no targets, one with just carbon emission targets, and one with targets in place for carbon emissions and renewable energy commitments – our current policy. The authors conclude that scenario two would be significantly cheaper than three, and would still enable the UK to achieve its emissions targets by using a mixture of gas and nuclear power. The fact that the country has binding obligations to both reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable energy sources seems to be a minor detail to the authors, who promote instead wider use of new nuclear and gas.

DECC responded: “All credible analysis agrees that renewable energy has a central role to play in the low carbon technology race under way. The consumer is at the heart of the decisions we’re making today to design tomorrow’s energy system, but the bargain basement is not the place to look for a responsible long term energy strategy.”

According to DECC, there are also several key reasons why the conclusions of this report are invalid. Firstly, the demand for electricity is set to increase dramatically, meaning that we must invest in sustainable energies to meet this.

Secondly, diversity in energy technologies would afford the UK a lower risk; the relative costs of different energy sources in the future are difficult to predict and relying on only two forms of power, particularly when the price of gas is potentially more volatile than that of renewables, may be unwise.

Additionally, renewable costs are being driven down as the technology matures. To eliminate them from long-term policy based on a short-sighted cost/benefit analysis is to ignore the savings these sources could generate in the future.

With more than just business prosperity at stake, decisions regarding our current and future commitments to renewable energy should be taken with the utmost care and be based on objective evidence.

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