Chair of the parliamentary renewable and sustainability group Alan Whitehead said there was every chance that the UK could reach its 2020 renewable target of 15% consumption from renewables, but that obstacles could hinder the challenge.

Talking at the Energy Solutions show in London earlier today, he described the target as a vital staging post to get past and said the future for energy looked “very grim” if the target was not met.

“As a nation, we are actually really good in setting ourselves targets and then single-handedly ripping up the railway tracks ahead of us and then being surprised that the engine hasn’t arrived at the station after all.”

I think we can get there and with the rage of technologies that make up for the shortfalls. These massive technologies that are striving towards that 15% target mean that, with the trajectory, it looks like we certainly can get to that target.”

However, Whitehead described how uncertainties over legislation could act as a potential obstacle.

“Plans may start to suffer from attrition as we go through the next period, should we have either an unfavourable investment climate, or a climate whereby the certainty of decision making becomes disrupted. Then I think we will see some serious problems.”

According to Whitehead, all the renewable technologies need financial support in order to meet the target and he laid out a series of obstacles that could stand in the way.

He noted that changing the incentive support regime halfway through a period would undermine investment stability. He also urged that planning systems needed to remain stable and that if a new energy bill was introduced, removing the Renewables Obligation (RO) would have a detrimental effect.

“It’s the decisions being made now and in the next couple of years that I think will cause [renewables] to sink or swim and if we don’t see at least the present (ROs) extended to 2020…then I think we will see a considerable hiatus in terms of development,” he said.

Whitehead did not agree with some government estimates on how much energy different technologies would produce in the future. He thought ministers had “unduly pessimistic views” on the potential of marine energy and had “seriously underestimated” solar PV output.

Conor McGlone

Live from Energy Solutions at Kensington Olympia

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