FoE threatens govt with court over lack of renewables plan

11th November 2015

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Karen Johnson

Friends of the Earth has threatened the government with a legal challenge if it fails to come up with a credible plan to meet its EU renewables target.

Its warning came after energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd admitted in a letter leaked to the Ecologist magazine that the UK was unlikely to meet the legally binding targets under the renewable energy Directive.

The letter was addressed to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Treasury chief secretary Greg Hands, foreign and commonwealth secretary Philip Hammond and Oliver Letwin, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

It stated that the UK was on course to generate around 11.5% of its overall energy from renewables by 2020, which is short of the 15% it is required to achieve. Since the government came to power in May it has made a series of cuts to renewable energy subsidies and changes to planning policies for onshore wind that will make it harder for projects to gain consent.

It has also failed to set out future funding under the contracts for difference (CfD) system, delaying an auction for energy contracts that industry expected this autumn. The cuts have been heavily criticised by industry and environmental campaigners, and also former US vice-president Al Gore.

The letter suggests meeting the target by buying electricity from other member states who have overachieved on their targets or negotiating with other states in a similar position to negotiate "flexibility" in the targets.

Speaking before the energy and climate change select committee in Parliament yesterday, Rudd confirmed the figures in the letter. She told MPs that the letter aimed to boost cross-department work on the target, particularly in transport. "It is after all, a cross-government target, it is not just for my department," she said.

She added that the energy and climate department was working on policies on renewable heat, an element of the target that is lagging behind.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: "We will be writing to the government to set out our concerns and warn of the potential legal consequences if its renewable energy action plan is inadequate."

Meanwhile, new data has revealed that Scotland is at risk of not meeting its own target to produce 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. A report from Scottish Renewables published today said that Scotland was on track to generate 87% of its power demand from renewables by 2020.

Energy projects that could help it achieve the target are consented, but will not go ahead unless they are allocated a long-term contract for their power under the CfD, the trade body said.

The UK's unclear energy policies have caused it to lose its AAA rating for energy security on the World Energy Council's energy trilemma listing, published today. This ranks countries' energy policies based on energy security, sustainability and equity.

Joan MacNaughton, executive chair of the World Energy Trilemma study said: "If the UK is to remain ahead of the pack, and regain its 'triple A' positioning, the government must give more predictability to investors in the way the electricity market reforms are progressed. More transparency is needed about the future approach to contracts for difference and the levy control framework."


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