Government consults on green electricity plan

The Government is seeking views on its plans to prioritise support for emerging renewable technologies and to generate 20% of the UK's electricity from 'green' sources by 2020, set out in the Renewables Obligation (RO) consultation published on Monday.

More support for emerging technologies is needed if the UK is to reach its renewable energy targets of 60% by 2050, Alistair Darling said as he launched the consultation on changes to the RO, the UK's main policy mechanism aimed at increasing renewable power generation.

The consultation proposes to encourage emerging technologies like offshore wind, wave and biomass through a 'banding' system that would differentiate between Renewable Obligation Credits (ROCs) associated with different technologies. Many of these technologies are at present too expensive to compete on the market, the DTI has said.

The Renewables Obligation has successfully encouraged onshore wind, landfill gas, hydro power and the co-firing of biomass with fossil fuels, the consultation says. ROC-eligible electricity generation rose from 1.8% in 2002 to 4% in 2005.

But the policy has proved less successful in promoting newer forms of renewable energy generation. The consultation sets out 'banding' system designed to offer additional support to emerging technologies.

Giving more than one Renewable Obligation Credit (or ROC, so far equivalent to 1MWh) to emerging technologies like wave power, and less than one ROC to relatively established technologies like onshore wind, is the preferred option of implementing this outlined in the consultation.

Another possibility would be to create separate obligations for different technologies with different prices and targets.

The RO currently requires power companies to source an increasing amount of electricity from renewable sources such as wind and hydro, building up to 15.4% by 2020. If approved, the changes will see 2020 targets rise to 20%.

Launching the consultation at the opening ceremony of the construction of Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow (see related story), Alistair Darling said:

"The Energy Review found that if we want to tackle climate change and ensure the security of our future supplies there has to be a significant increase in the amount of clean, green electricity we produce from renewable sources.

"There is no doubt that reaching 20 per cent will be tough. It means we must get more power from offshore wind farms and other emerging technologies like biomass and wave and tidal, while maximising the contribution from those technologies that are already being deployed," he said.

If approved, the new 'banded' RO with higher targets could become law by April 2009.

Lesser administrative changes to the Obligation included in the consultation, designed to give smaller-scale generators easier access to the market could come into force by April next year.

The consultation will feed into an Energy White Paper expected next spring, which will set out the conclusion to the proposed changes.

The full consultation can be accessed on the DTI website.

Goska Romanowicz


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