Britain must begin renewables shift immediately before ‘golden opportunity’ is lost, says NIC

Britain has a “golden opportunity” to switch to greener ways of providing energy to homes and businesses without increasing bills – but only if ministers act now to make the most of it, according to independent advisors.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) admitted that there have long been concerns that changing the energy system to tackle greenhouse gas pollution will hit the pockets of consumers.

However, a move to low-carbon and renewable sources for power and heating and a shift to electric vehicles would see consumers paying the same in 2050 for their energy as they do today, it said.

NIC Chairman Sir John Armitt warned this will only be possible if the right decisions are taken now by government.

These include continuing to invest in low-cost renewable technologies, such as wind and solar, so that these provide at least half the country’s generating capacity by 2030, as well as ramping up efforts to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s buildings and enabling a rapid switch to electric vehicles.

In its first five-year assessment the commission also set out proposals for three-quarters of plastic packaging to be recycled by 2030, rolling out fibre-optic broadband nationwide and making homes more energy efficient.

Half the UK’s power should be provided by renewables by 2030, up from 30 per cent today and 12 per cent five years ago, it said.

Most should be delivered by established wind and solar - which ministers have failed to back in recent years - with “measures to move them to the front of the queue for Government support”.

The commission also said falling costs may mean an energy system based on renewables may prove cheaper than nuclear and ministers should agree support for only one more new reactor before 2025.

“Whether for cooking, lighting, keeping homes warm or electric cars on the road, where the UK’s energy comes from will need to change radically over the coming decades if the UK is to meet its legally-binding climate change targets,” Armitt said.

“If we act now we have a golden opportunity to make our country greener and protect the money in the pockets of consumers long into the future – something few of us expected to be able to do.

“Ministers can seize this chance by investing in renewables and other low-carbon technologies so they become the main players in our energy system – something that was considered a pipedream as little as a decade ago. But they need to act now to realise the full potential of what can be achieved.”

The NIC also called on the government to prepare for 100 per cent electric vehicle sales by 2030, instead of its current ambition for at least half of new cars to be “ultra-low emission” by that date, the commission said.

It called for local councils to be required to set aside 5 per cent of parking spaces for electric vehicle (EV) charge points by 2020 and 25 per cent by 2025, along with government subsidies for installation where the private sector will not build them and for the energy system to be prepared for an increase in demand from EVs.

Yesterday, the Transport Secretary unveiled proposals that would see mandatory EV charging points being installed in all new property developments. 

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