As the UK Government steps up their commitments to combat climate change, we are seeing more and more initiatives to support the move towards renewable energy. Read on to understand how these policies are shaping the future of renewable energy in the UK, and what the government has in store for a greener future.
Introduction to Renewable Energy and the Current Use of It in the UK
In recent years, the UK government has shown an increasing commitment to renewable energy and its role in meeting the country’s future energy needs. In 2015, the government set a new target to source 30% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, with a long-term aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050.
The UK has a good potential for renewables; it is estimated that if the country could harness all its available resources, renewable energy could provide up to 60% of its electricity needs. The main renewable energy sources currently used in the UK are wind power, solar power, biomass and hydro power.
Wind power is the most prevalent form of renewables in the UK, accounting for around 10% of total electricity generation in 2015. The majority of wind farms are located offshore, where they can take advantage of stronger winds and have less impact on landscapes. Solar power is another fast-growing renewable energy source in the UK; installed capacity has increased rapidly in recent years and solar photovoltaics (PV) now contribute around 2% of total electricity generation. Biomass is a less well-known renewable energy source but one that is growing in importance; it currently provides around 4% of total electricity generation. Hydro power is a relatively small but significant source of renewable energy in the UK; it contributed 1.4% of total electricity generation in 2015.
Overview of The UK Government’s Policies and Commitments on Renewable Energy
The UK government has a number of policies and commitments in place to support the uptake of renewable energy across the country. These include:
- The Renewables Obligation: This is a key policy instrument which requires electricity suppliers to source an increasing proportion of their power from renewable sources. The current target is for 15% of electricity to come from renewables by 2020, and the obligation is currently being reviewed to consider raising this target.
- The Feed-in Tariffs: This initiative provides financial incentives for small-scale renewable energy generation, such as solar PV and wind turbines. It is open to homes, businesses and communities, and has been successful in stimulating significant growth in these technologies.
- The Renewable Heat Incentive: Similar to the feed-in tariffs, this initiative provides financial incentives for the uptake of renewable heat technologies, such as biomass boilers and solar thermal systems. Again, it has been successful in stimulating significant growth in these technologies.
- The Carbon Price Floor: This is a key policy signal from government which puts a price on carbon emissions from fossil fuel power stations. This acts as an incentive for low carbon investment, including renewables.
These are just some of the main policy measures that the UK government has put in place to support renewable energy. In addition to these, there are also a number of other initiatives, such as the Electric Vehicles Homecharge Scheme, which provides funding towards the installation of home charge points for electric vehicles;
How 2020 Rishi Sunak Budget has invested in Clean Air, Phase Out of Coal & Offshore Wind Power
Although the UK government has been criticised in the past for its lack of investment in renewable energy, it has made some significant commitments in recent years to invest in clean energy sources. One of the most notable examples is the 2020 budget from Rishi Sunak, which included a number of measures to support clean air, phase out coal power, and invest in offshore wind power.
Air pollution is a major problem in the UK, with harmful particulates from traffic and industry contributing to thousands of premature deaths each year. The 2020 budget included a £275 million investment to support local authorities in tackling air pollution, as well as a new £500 million fund to encourage uptake of low-emission vehicles. This is part of a wider government commitment to reduce emissions from transport, which is responsible for around one third of all UK emissions.
Coal power plants are a major source of air pollution, and the UK government has committed to phasing out their use by 2025. In the meantime, it has also invested £1 billion to support the development of cleaner coal technologies. This includes research into Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which could help capture CO2 emissions from coal power plants and store them underground.
Offshore wind power is a rapidly growing sector in the UK, with capacity more than doubling between 2015 and 2020. The 2020 budget included a new £160 million investment to support the development of offshore wind farms.
Impact Of UK Government Programs For Renewable Energy
The UK government has committed to increasing the proportion of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix to 30% by 2030. This target is part of the UK’s legally binding Climate Change Act, which was passed in 2008. The UK has a number of programs and policies in place to help achieve this target, and support the growth of the renewable energy sector.
The Renewables Obligation (RO) is the main policy used to incentivize renewable electricity generation in the UK. The RO requires large electricity suppliers to source an increasing proportion of their power from renewables. The current target is for 20% by 2020, but this may increase to 50% by 2030. The RO has been successful inEncouraging investment in renewables, with over £30 billion invested since it was introduced in 2002.
Feed-in tariffs (FITs) are another key policy tool used to support renewable electricity generation. They guarantee a fixed price for electricity generated from eligible renewable sources, providing a stable income stream that can help finance investment. FITs are currently available for solar PV, onshore wind, hydro, anaerobic digestion and microCHP technologies. The UK government has committed to reviewing the level of FITs every year to ensure they provide value for money and remain an effective way of supporting renewables.
Future Implications Of UK Renewable Energy Policies
The UK government has made a number of commitments to renewable energy in recent years, including a target to source 15% of energy from renewables by 2020. These policies have had a positive impact on the growth of the renewable energy industry in the UK, with investment in renewables increasing by 50% between 2010 and 2011.
However, it is not clear what the future holds for renewable energy in the UK. The government has been increasingly reluctant to commit to ambitious targets or policy measures that would support the continued growth of renewables. In particular, there has been little progress on setting a target for 2030, which is seen as critical by many in the industry.
There is also uncertainty around the future of key policy measures such as the Renewables Obligation and Feed-in Tariffs. The government has already made a number of changes to these schemes, which have led to a reduction in support for renewables. It is possible that further changes could be made in the future which could make it even harder for renewables to compete with other forms of generation.
The result of all this uncertainty is that investment in new renewable energy projects has slowed down significantly in recent years. This is likely to continue unless the government provides more clarity on its commitment to renewables and puts in place policies that would encourage more investment.
Closing Remarks: Developing A Sustainable Economy Through Clean Energy
As the United Kingdom looks to a post-Brexit future, the government is committed to developing a sustainable economy that will help to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. One way in which it is doing this is through its support for clean energy.
In 2018, the government published its Clean Growth Strategy, which sets out how it plans to grow the economy while reducing emissions. The strategy contains a number of measures designed to increase investment in clean energy and make it easier for homes and businesses to switch to low-carbon technologies.
The government has also set ambitious targets for the UK’s renewable energy sector. By 2030, it wants renewable sources such as wind and solar to provide 30% of the country’s electricity. It is also working towards a goal of having net zero emissions by 2050.
To help achieve these goals, the government is providing financial support for clean energy projects through initiatives such as the Renewables Obligation and the Feed-in Tariff. It is also working with businesses and local authorities to promote the uptake of electric vehicles and other low-emission technologies.
The government’s commitment to clean energy was reaffirmed in 2019 when it passed legislation requiring all new homes built from 2025 to be fitted with solar panels and other measures to improve their energy efficiency. This followed on from previous measures such as making available interest-free loans for householders installing renewables.