Business Secretary John Hutton joined Prime Minister Gordon Brown on London’s South Bank to launch a consultation on the Renewable Energy Strategy.

Ministers hope the strategy will allow the UK to meet its proposed 15% renewable energy target by 2020.

Under the plans, the Renewables Obligation would be extended and the level raised to encourage 30-35% of electricity to come from renewable sources – mostly offshore and onshore wind – by 2020.

Ministers are also planning more effective support for microgeneration – which could include introducing feed-in tariffs – and strict sustainability criteria for all biofuels.

Mr Hutton said: “We are opening a new chapter in Britain’s history as a nation of enterprise and innovation, moving from the old, carbon intensive economy of the industrial revolution to the new low carbon technologies of the 21st century.”

Other proposed measures include:

  • New financial incentives to encourage uptake of renewable heat
  • Cutting red tape in the planning system through regional strategies
  • Considering further restrictions on landfilling biomass
  • More support for the development of new renewable technologies
  • Ministers estimate that meeting the 15% target would save about 20m tonnes of carbon emissions in 2020, reduce gas imports by up to 16%, and create thousands of new green collar jobs.

    Draft guidance for Ofgem and a new package of measures to speed up grid connections for renewable energy projects were also published on Thursday.

    The Renewable Energy Association congratulated the strategy’s approach to the potential of renewable in heat, transport, buildings and microgeneration, as well as centralised electricity.

    However, executive director Philip Wolfe said: “The key missing factor is a greater sense of urgency.

    “We have only twelve years left and government still wants to use two of those talking about it.”

    The British Wind Energy Association hailed the document as a “big step forward” but also issued a warning about the need to act urgently.

    Chief executive Maria McCaffery added: “This could be a routemap for a green energy revolution.”

    But the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) said Government’s first priority should be improving energy efficiency to reduce demand.

    “All the Renewable Energy Strategy does is consolidate existing rhetoric on the ‘ultimate ambition’ of using every unit of energy as efficiently as possible while promising nothing on delivery,” EIC director Merlin Hyman said.

    The consultation will run until September 26, and a final strategy is expected to be in place by spring next year.

    Kate Martin

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