UK to accelerate pace for renewable energy target
LONDON - Britain today will widen the gap versus the United States in the fight to prevent global warming by setting tough new goals for the share of renewables in the UK energy market.
The long-awaited UK energy review, to be released to parliament, is expected to call for a near ten-fold increase by 2020, to 20 percent of the energy mix, in the amount of electricity to be generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar, government sources said.
Britain\'s plans are expected to contrast sharply with an announcement from Washington today for a more conservative approach on tackling emissions of greenhouse gases, blamed by many scientists for contributing to global warming.
The Bush administration was likely to settle on a gradual reduction of emissions in order to avoid hurting the U.S. economy, the White House said yesterday.
Backing the shift towards green power, Britain\'s Energy Minister Brian Wilson said yesterday in a statement:
\"The energy review will highlight the important role that renewables have to play in our energy mix.\"
A government source confirmed the review, into energy policy over the next 50 years, will be released to parliament today.
The government-commissioned review is also expected to say the country should keep an open mind about nuclear power and should not worry about having to rely on imported natural gas.
When Prime Minister Tony Blair initiated the report last year he said he wanted it to look at tackling global warming and ensuring \"secure, diverse and reliable energy supplies at a competitive price.\"
Undertaken by the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU), a Downing Street think-tank, the report is expected to call for an extension of the current target for renewables in the nation\'s power supplies of 10 percent by 2010 to 20 percent by 2020.
At present only 2.8 percent of UK energy supply is classed as renewable. The government has set a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent from 1990 levels by 2010, in excess of targets agreed in Bonn last year as part of the 1997 Kyoto protocol.
U.S. GOES IT ALONE
Washington pulled out of the pact last year, saying that its Kyoto target of a five percent reduction from 1990-2010 would damage its economy. The U.S. Department of Energy currently is projecting 47 percent growth of greenhouse gases from 1990-2020, assuming no changes in regulations.
Environmental groups said Britain\'s 20 percent goal for the share of renewables in the energy mix would still leave it slightly behind several European countries in the green energy stakes.
\"This (20 percent target) is not ambitious. We want to see a 2020 target that will asssume an increase in renewables growth rate - not 10 percent by 2010 followed by 20 percent in 2020. That is business as usual,\" said Roger Higman, senior energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
Denmark and Finland are planning for 30 percent renewables by 2010. The European Union average is 22 percent.
Current targets may be difficult to achieve, let alone 20 percent by 2020.
\"The government\'s 2010 target of 10 percent electricity generation from renewables ... implies unprecedented rates of growth from these technologies,\" the Sustainable Development Commisison, a UK government-sponsored think tank, said in an October 2001 report.
The PIU report is also expected to say the risks of relying on imported gas can be managed through enhanced diplomatic activity, highlighting the fact that 70 percent of of world\'s gas supplies can be accessed from Europe.
Worries about gas supplies are on the increase as Britain edges towards becoming a net importer of the fuel in the next couple of years. By 2020 the country is set to be 70 percent dependent on imported gas.
On the politically-sensitive issue of nuclear power, the review is expected to leave the option open, pointing out that nuclear offers zero-carbon emissions.
Anti-nuclear campaigners say Britain should phase out nuclear power, as Germany intends to do, but nuclear\'s supporters say carbon emissions would rise if plants were closed.
At present Britain produces 26 percent of its electricity from nuclear, about 40 percent from gas, 30 percent from coal and the remainder from oil and renewables.
Story by Matthew Jones
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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