Will Britain miss its legally binding renewable energy target?

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In November, a letter written by the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, to her colleagues Phillip Hammond (Foreign Secretary), Oliver Letwin (Cabinet Office), Greg Hands (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) and Patrick McLoughlin (Transport Secretary) was leaked to The Ecologist.  The letter shows that the UK, on its current track, will miss its legally binding obligation to achieve the EU targets on renewable energy by around 50TWh (terawatt hours); missing the target by 25% (3.5% of its 15% target by 2020).

This is contrary to Amber Rudd’s recent statement on 17 September, when the Energy Secretary told the House of Commons: “When it became apparent that we were in excess of [spending limits on renewable], but were still meeting our renewable targets, it was right limit the amount of money we were spending.”

The failure to meet EU renewable targets puts the UK at risk not only of legal action, which the Government would most likely lose, but also of enormous fines imposed by the European Court of Justice.  The energy secretary outlines the risk in her letter: “The absence of a credible plan to meet the target carries the risk of successful judicial review, and failing to meet the overall target in 2020 could lead to on-going fines imposed by the EU Court of Justice (which could take into account avoided costs) until the UK reaches the target level.”

The information has led to a claim of misleading the House of Commons and suggestions of saying one thing in public and another privately on the UK’s renewable energy position, whilst at the same time presiding over major cuts to support for both onshore wind and solar PV.

The UK has subsequently been downgraded from AAA to AAB in World Energy Council’s ‘trilemma index,’ which ranks countries’ energy and climate policies based on the issues of energy security, equity and sustainability.  Earlier this year Britain scrapped subsidies for onshore wind farms, closed support for small-scale solar projects and changed the way other renewable energy projects qualify for payments, saying they were becoming too costly.

For more information, help or advice please contact Andrew Davison on 0191 211 7950 or email [email protected].