In last week’s speech to Renewable UK’s annual conference, Chris Huhne praised the renewable energy industry for its ongoing contribution to the British economy. In a response to the naysayers, he addressed the topics of investment, capacity, popularity and job creation. He looked to a future of high targets linked to a growing market in corporate and domestic needs and talked about the government’s plans to continue their support in both financial terms and policy changes.
On the topic of investment, Chris Huhne said “Last year, global investment in renewable energy rose by 32% to $211 billion. And $142 billion of that was new financial investment, which excludes government and corporate R&D.
Renewables are grabbing a large and growing share of new energy investment.
We subsidise renewables to bring on deployment and reduce costs. And we’ve seen some remarkable successes: the cost of solar energy just keeps on tumbling.”
Although many disagree, the government say that this success is borne out in the recent reduction in subsidies for domestic solar panel installations. Although unpopular to those whose plans for an installation have stalled, it is testament to the fact that the initial investment has paid off.
Chris Huhne also addressed the question of capacity; “Today, more than 10 gigawatts of our electricity capacity is renewable. That’s enough to power six million homes.
And with every passing year, renewable energy takes over another percentage point of global electricity capacity.”
“Renewable energy can make our system more secure – not less. According to the International Energy Agency, renewables increase the diversity of electricity sources, making energy systems more flexible – and more resistant to shocks.”
The popularity of renewable energy schemes was also discussed; “Earlier this year, Ipsos MORI polled a thousand UK adults on which energy source they preferred. Eighty-eight per cent of those polled viewed solar power favourably; 82% for wind, 76% for hydroelectric, 57% for biomass.”
On the subject of job creation, Chris Huhne said “Across the United Kingdom, renewables are providing jobs, investment and growth. And the numbers are really starting to add up. Over the last financial year, nearly 4,500 new jobs were created in the low-carbon sector, which grew by 4.3%.”
The subject of EU and UK targets was discussed; “By the end of this decade, we must cut our carbon emissions by 34% on 1990 levels. By the end of the next decade, they must be halved.
To hit our EU renewable energy target, we must generate 30% of our electricity from renewables by 2020. That means a fourfold increase in deployment – turning our back on an inheritance that ranked us as the dunce in class, 25th out of 27 EU countries for renewables.”
As we have seen in recent announcement regarding solar subsidies, the government are reviewing their renewable subsidies across the board. “Where new technologies desperately need help to reach the market – where they can be scaled up significantly while bringing down costs over time – we are raising support.
Where investors are on the cusp, we will give them the short-term impetus they need. So marine energy projects up to 30 megawatts will receive five ROCs under our plans.
Where market costs are coming down – in onshore wind, for example – we’re consulting on reducing the subsidy.”
Support of research into new technologies is key to being at the forefront of the market for being technology providers as well as simply providing cheap, green energy. The government has “allocated up to £30 million over the next four years to fund innovation to reduce offshore wind costs. We’ve also allocated up to £20 million to support the world’s first commercial-scale marine energy arrays.”
Finally Chris Huhne talked about measures to be taken to facilitate the development of this array of sustainable energy projects. “Over 1,000 pages of local planning policy for England are being replaced by clearer and more streamlined National Planning Policy Framework. And the Government will consult on measures for a ‘planning guarantee’.”