Rudd faces up to renewables shortfall following leaked letter revelations

It is "difficult to say" whether or not the UK will hit its 2020 renewable energy targets, according to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, after a leaked letter revealed there could be a massive shortfall.

The UK has legally-binding targets to source 15% of the UK’s final energy consumption from renewable sources in 2020. Within that goal, the UK has set itself subtargets of 30% of electricity from renewables, 12% of heat, and 10% of transport fuel.

However, in a letter sent by Rudd to fellow cabinet members, and leaked to the Ecologist, Rudd reveals she expects the UK to miss its targets by around 25%, equivalent to a 50 TWh shortfall.

By comparison, the entire renewable electricity output in Q2 2015 was less than 20 TWh.

Appearing in front of the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) today (10 November) to present information on DECC’s annual accounts, Rudd was immediately questioned about the letter and the UK’s 2020 targets.

She said it was “difficult to say at the moment”, whether the UK will hit its 2020 goals, but added that she was “concerned about the work that is being done on [renewable] transport and heat”.

“We don’t have the right policies in transport and heat in order to make those targets but we have four to five years and I remain committed to making those targets”, Rudd said.

The Energy Secretary had previously told Parliament back in September that the UK “is on track” to meet its renewable targets.


In today’s hearing, head of the ECCC Angus Brendan MacNeil told Rudd: “We have looked at the leaked documents and your previous statements to the house and concluded that, whether or not it was your intention to mislead, there has indeed been some misleading use of language and confusion about whether you are talking about renewable energy targets or electricity targets.”

Failing to meet those targets could lead to on-going fines imposed by the EU Court of Justice until the UK reaches the target level.

Amber Rudd’s leaked letter (via the Ecologist)

Filling the gap

Considering how best to make up the shortfall, Rudd writes in the letter that renewable heat deployment could deliver 20TWh by 2020, although she writes that these projections  are “subject to significant uncertainty as the market for renewable heat is at an early stage”.

Rudd also suggests the UK could import up to 10 GWh of electricity from Norway via a planned interconnector.  She adds however: “My officials do not expect the interconnector to be in operation until late 2021 at the earliest, and therefore would not strictly help the UK to reach its 2020 target.”

Other suggestions include purchasing renewable deployment from other EU countries that have surpassed their targets and boosting biofuel and biomethane deployment.

However, wind and solar – two technologies which have seen subsidies slashed under the Conservative Government – were not mentioned. Onshore wind is already cost-competitive with new gas generation according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, while the solar industry says it could be cost-competitive by 2020 with continued Government support in the meantime.

In today’s hearing, Rudd did reiterate that she is confident the UK would meet in 30% renewable electricity sub-target.

Industry reaction

Summarising the events, Dale Vince, founder of renewable energy provider, said: “The leaked letter shows that Amber Rudd’s public position that we are meeting our legally binding renewables target is quite simply not the truth. 

“The government clearly believes we will miss the target and none of the options that Rudd mentions for making up the shortfall are viable, even by her own assessment.

“One option Rudd discusses is to pay other countries to build renewables for us, but there’s no indication at all that this would be cheaper than supporting them in the UK, which has Europe’s best and most economic wind resource.

“And given the reason for Rudd’s cuts to renewable energy support was cost, you’d think that cost ought to be a prominent feature of any discussion. Not only would paying other countries to build renewables for us cost more, but we’d also be exporting jobs and industry… it all seems a little un-thought through.

“Rudd acknowledges the need to meet the target and that we will fail. This has clearly been caused by the recent cuts, which are driven by the false claim that we can’t afford more renewables – the cheapest energy available to us. 

“It rather looks like DECC are panicking, faced with the inevitable consequences of the ideologically driven renewables cull – their Plan A. Plan B appears to be either to pay the fines or to pay another country to do the job for us. Both options are short sighted and economically illiterate.”

The leaked letter emerged on the same day as new analysis from the BBC claimed that the Government’s subsidy cuts were “likely to stem the growth of two of the UK’s cheapest sources of clean energy” and cause emissions and energy bills to rise.

Brad Allen

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