Local action key to meeting UK green energy target, report says

The government needs to focus on local projects and allow a greater role for communities if the UK is to meet its target to produce 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, says a report out today (Tuesday 27 July) by Sussex academics.

Major policy changes such as better incentives are needed to plug the UK into green power recommends the report, led by sustainable energy experts from the Sussex Energy Group at the University, Dr Jim Watson, Dr Ivan Scrase and Dr Lee Stapleton.

The report, commissioned by environmental campaigning charity Friends of the Earth, stresses the crucial role local authorities have to play in generating community-scale energy through schemes like hydro plants and wind turbines.

While the UK is making progress on large-scale energy generation such as offshore wind, and small-scale generation such as domestic solar panels, a much greater focus is needed on community-scale schemes to hit the renewables target, the report advises.

Dr Jim Watson, Director of the Sussex Energy Group and lead author of the report, says: "The UK needs to raise its game if it is to meet the 15% target for renewable energy by 2020. Whilst there has finally been recognition by politicians of all parties that more needs to be done in the last couple of years, the forces of inertia that have slowed renewables for too long remain strong.

"The coalition government needs to make it much easier for communities to generate their own renewable energy - and to couple the understandable focus on big technology solutions with more attention to local projects."

The report also advocates better financial incentives to attract essential investment for developing renewable energy.

It says shortcomings of the current system - the Renewables Obligation (RO) - have slowed progress so far, and recommends replacing the RO with a feed-in tariff (FIT) that delivers a more certain return.

The report’s other main findings include:

A Green Investment Bank is urgently needed, which should focus its attention on funding an overhaul of the UK’s energy networks - the pipes and wires that enable our energy system to function - so they can cope with a rapid growth of renewables.

Industrial policy should be transparent, and balanced between supporting technologies that will help meet our EU target and those that could make big contributions beyond 2020, with independent monitoring to promote success and identify failure.

Last updated: Tuesday, 27 July 2010

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