The Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks MP, discusses the role of renewable energy in the overall energy mix strategy of the Government and highlights the economic opportunities that renewable energy brings to the UK. He confirms renewable energy as a key priority for the UK.

In March I visited one of the country’s new generation of green buildings. Hampton Hill Junior School in Richmond, Middlesex, has installed 50 solar panels using almost £25,000 of Government funding. The school is already producing electricity and using the sun to heat its water supply – reducing its impact on the environment and potentially cutting its energy bills by up to 40%.

Hampton Hill has joined a growing list of public and private organisations generating their own ‘green’ power. Funding for their panels – through the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform’s Low Carbon Buildings Programme – is just one strand of the Government’s commitment to generate 10% of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and to meet our share of the European Commission’s renewable target. Last year EU leaders agreed to generate 20% of the EU’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 – the UK’s proposed target is currently 15%. The most up-to-date figures put our renewable electricity generation at 4.6% in 2006, up from 1.5% in 2002.

Renewable energy - using the sun, sea and wind to generate power - is a key component of the Government’s overall energy strategy. It has never been more important. We have more evidence of the adverse effect of climate change. We are moving into an era when we’ll be importing more of our energy, when relatively low energy prices are unlikely to be repeated and when global demand for energy will rise dramatically.

Renewable energy also has distinct economic advantages.

World Energy Council projections indicate that cumulative investment in renewable technology will be worth between £500 billion and £1500 billion by 2020. Just a 5% share would mean a £25 billion market for the UK. We’ve already established ourselves as world-leaders in the development and deployment of renewable technology, so I’m confident the market share could be even higher.

In the last year alone the Government has consented to a series of large-scale projects, set to make a real difference to the way we generate our power.