Even though the electricity sector is doing well, the UK is not on track to meet its overall renewable energy targets

UK likely to miss renewable energy targets for 2020

The UK won’t meet the legally binding European renewable energy targets for 2020, according to a report published today by a parliamentary committee. 

According to the document issued by the cross-party Energy and Climate Change Committee, the UK will fall short of the 15 per cent target mostly due to the lack of progress in the transport and housing sector.

As the UK may not even be part of the European Union by 2020, it will likely avoid a fine the European Commission would otherwise impose.

However, the committee’s chairman Angus MacNeil asserted the prospects of Brexit should not encourage the UK to slack off in its attitude to fighting climate change, as that would send a discouraging signal to other countries - especially to the developing world.

"The UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements," MacNeil said.

"We agreed our 2020 renewable energy targets as part of the EU but they still have many merits, even as the UK Government prepares for Brexit. If the UK reneges on these targets, it will undermine confidence in the Government's commitment to clean energy and the climate targets agreed in Paris."

Together with the rest of the EU, the UK has committed to covering 15 per cent of its overall energy consumption by renewable resources by 2020. That includes 30 per cent of electricity, 12 per cent of energy used for heating and 10 per cent of energy for the transport sector. So far, only the electricity sector appears on track to meet or even exceed the goal.

In 2015, the UK was covering a little over eight per cent of its energy needs by renewables. Especially heating is lagging behind, being less than halfway towards the goal. According to the report, the proportion of renewables used in transport actually decreased last year.

The report suggested policy changes are necessary to encourage the two lagging sectors to step up the game. According to the committee, a stricter cap for the percentage of transport fuels coming from biofuels should be put in place as well as a system of duties that would encourage the uptake of electric cars and other ultra-low emissions vehicles.

The committee also criticised the government’s approach to the residential heating sector. Currently, the government aims to achieve the renewable target by focusing on heat pump technology. However, according to experts, heat pumps, which harness energy from the ground and the ambient air, are not only expensive but also inefficient. They require houses to be well insulated to provide sufficient heat.

The UK government plans to switch most homes to heat pumps by 2050. Implementing the technology would cost £12,500 per household. The experts believe same, or even better, outcomes could be achieved by simply replacing old boilers with new efficient models and replacing gas with biomethane from food waste. The measures, however, wouldn't be enough without properly insulating buildings first.

In December last year during the climate talks in Paris, the UK together with other 190 countries committed to strive to keep the progressing global warming below the 2 °C threshold compared to pre-industrial levels.

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