Commissioned by the DTI as part of its preparations for the establishment of agreed regional renewable targets, the report indicates that the lower estimates provided by the regions would fall more than 34% short of target. However, the projections are subject to significant uncertainties, states the report, in particular “whether economic, technological and planning assumptions turn out to be reasonable by 2010”. It is not certain by how much generation costs will fall over the next decade, says the report.

Half of the regions’ assessments are based on wind power, with landfill gas and biomass at around 15% each and energy from waste at 7%. Marine technology – wave or tidal stream; anaerobic digestion and photovoltaics provided a negligible contribution. The distribution of the targets between regions seems to be fairly even relative to population, electricity supplied, and landmass, with the exception of Scotland, which makes a high contribution, and London, which offers almost no potential.

The report also pointed out that the technology mix envisaged in the regional assessments might not be identical to the mix offered by the market. Offshore wind and energy from biomass are the greatest unknowns with the commercial potential for offshore as yet unclear. Current uncertain economics for biomass make this an urgent case for further research.

If either offshore or biomass generation prove uncompetitive, the report warns that a massive deployment of onshore wind would be needed to meet the target, which would bring with it major planning constraints. The 2010 target overall requires a build rate of slightly less than 1,000 MW/year from 2002 to 2011, which, under the high target technology mix, translates to 470 MW/year for onshore wind and 165 MW/year for offshore. This compares with recent builds of 300-350 MW/year in Germany and Denmark; and 50 MW/year in the Netherlands. Biomass build rates would need to be 90 MW/year.

Improvements in the planning system to deliver the targets were suggested by most of the regions surveyed. There is already a relatively high coverage of renewables in regional development plans – around 75% of plans contained general renewable policies but few had begun to include technology-specific policies. Also only 6% of the sampled local plans identified areas suitable for wind energy. Giving renewable energy targets similar status to brownfield housing targets was suggested.

Launching the report, Energy Minister Brian Wilson said the research indicated that the 2010 target is challenging but achievable.

“The recent Scottish Renewables Study, published after this report was compiled, suggested that Scotland alone had the potential to supply even up to 30% of the UK’s electricity supply from renewables,” said the Minister. “Also this report did not take account of larger wind farms, which are further offshore than the initial 18 sites allocated by Crown Estates. We cannot, however, expect offshore wind and Scotland to deliver our targets.”

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