Technical challenges have been missed in a report that examines how renewable energy can be used to meet the UK’s climate targets, engineers say.
The Renewable Energy Review by the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body that advises the government, said renewable energy should make a major contribution to decarbonising the UK economy over the next decades. Britain should use a mix of energy sources to meet its climate targets, including renewables; nuclear; and coal and gas with carbon capture and storage, it said.
However, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said the report lacked “rigorous analysis of many technical issues that are essential to meeting UK renewable energy targets”.
Professor Roger Kemp, a member of the IET’s Energy Policy Panel said while the report identified finance and planning as key barriers to rebuilding the energy supply infrastructure - technology and the industry’s capacity to deliver had been “glossed-over”.
In letters to the Guardian and Independent newspapers, Prof Kemp said the scale of technical challenges involved in decarbonising the UK’s energy supply infrastructure had been missed.
“The CCC’s plans say that, by 2030, renewable energy should supply 45 per cent of our needs, compared with 3 per cent today.
“Bearing in mind that energy infrastructure is designed for a life of 30 plus years, this represents a massive engineering challenge.”
He continued: “We have not operated large fleets of offshore wind turbines for long enough to understand what maintenance regimes are needed in the inhospitable marine environment; our experience of wave energy is restricted to a few prototypes, not the thousands of installations that will be needed; carbon capture has, so far, been limited to a few megawatt prototypes, not the tens of gigawatts that will be required.”
The Renewable Energy Review also made a number of other recommendations:
- A flexible approach to ambition for offshore wind generation in 2020 is appropriate. If a set of alternative options can be found to meet the EU renewable energy target, then offshore wind ambition in 2020 could be moderated.
- The Green Investment Bank would be more effective if it were able to borrow from its inception.
- New commitments on funding for renewable heat investment in the period from 2015 to 2020 and in the 2020s will be required in due course.
- Training and accreditation of renewable heat installers should be a priority if supply chain bottlenecks are to be avoided.
- Approaches to energy efficiency improvement through the Green Deal and renewable heat deployment through the Renewable Heat Incentive should be integrated.
- Pursuing electrification and improved efficiency of transport was an urgent priority, given sustainability concerns over the use of biofuels.