Critics argue renewables obligation review biased in favour of wind

The Government published the plans for the review of the Renewables Obligation (RO) this week, amid criticism that the plans do not cater for all forms of renewable energy and are biased in favour of wind.

Following the publication of the draft terms of reference in August this year, the DTI received over 90 comments from key stakeholders. “There was strong support for the proposal of a limited review to improve the effectiveness of the RO, while avoiding changes to the key operating principles,” the DTI said in a statement.

The RO ensures all electricity suppliers produce a specified and increasing amount of energy from renewable sources. The level of the RO has risen from 3% when it was introduced and now stands at 4.9% for 2004/05. It will increase each year to reach 10.4% in 2010/11 and secondary legislation is likely to raise that to 15.4% by 2015/16.

Energy Minister Mike O’Brien said: “After two years in existence, this is a good chance to assess the impact of the RO and how we can refine it to provide the best environment for producing renewable electricity. Confidence in the RO framework over the long-term is important to us. Wherever we consider possible changes to the Obligation during the review, maintaining that confidence will be a key consideration.”

Among the key areas that the review proposes to examine are:

  • the effectiveness of the RO since it began in April 2002;
  • all aspects of the working arrangements of the RO;
  • the levels of RO beyond 2015/16;
  • the potential impact of the EU emissions trading scheme on carbon prices and the future cost competitiveness of renewable technologies;
  • energy from mixed wastes.

    The proposals have not been welcomed by all, however. The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) claims that the proposals do not do enough to encourage other forms of renewable energy apart from wind.

    In particular, the CLA expressed “astonishment” that the RO was not being extended to include biomass, despite numerous EG SIR BEN GILL & TASKFORCE AND RCEP reports this year of the need for biomass (see related story).

    “The CLA have long argued that communities should be offered a choice of renewable energy sources, not just a single option of wind turbines, to help address climate change,” said Mark Hudson, CLA President. “The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has set out the potential benefits from biomass power. One biomass power station can deliver as much renewable energy as more than 20 large turbines at the same time as delivering much greater greenhouse gas savings and creating new income opportunities for woodland managers and farmers.”

    By David Hopkins

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