Fresh concern over green energy targets

Setting targets for the number of household solar panels and wind turbines in Britain could undermine a commitment to cut carbon emissions, Energy Minister Mike O'Brien has said.

Insisting on how many people should install microgeneration equipment would promote the cheapest goods rather than the greenest or most cost-effective, O'Brien argued.

Ministers will draw up a "renewable energy strategy" early next year in place of the targets, which were required under the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006, he added.

The Tories described the move as "very disappointing" and accused the government of "failure" with regards to microgeneration.

In a written ministerial statement, O'Brien said the government had undertaken research on whether or not to impose targets for microgeneration.

It concluded that the targets most likely to encourage suppliers were those about sales volume rather than specific technology.

The government has committed to cutting the UK's carbon emissions by 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

"Setting a target based on the total number of microgeneration installations has the potential to undermine other government targets which are more flexible and outcome-driven, in particular the government's CO2 targets," O'Brien said.

"A target to ensure that a particular number of microgeneration systems are installed in England and Wales and electricity microgeneration systems are installed in Scotland could drive the installation of the cheapest forms of microgeneration, rather then the most cost-effective of carbon-efficient."

The minister also said the target could divert investment from larger-scale technologies which could have a "greater potential" to help the UK fight climate change.

He added: "Small-scale generation clearly has a role to play in combating climate change, the securing of a diverse and viable long-term energy supply and in alleviating fuel poverty.

"To play its part in the most effective way, however, broader consideration of its place within the energy mix is required."

As a result, the government will launch a renewable energy strategy in 2009 which will also include detailed proposals on feed-in tariffs to guarantee a fee for the electricity generated from renewable sources.

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