The government's renewable power strategy is "ineffective and very expensive", according to a damning review by the International Energy Agency.

A study of 35 countries, including all the major industrial nations such as the US, Germany and China, puts the UK near the bottom of the class on green energy. While ministers like to boast that the Britain leads the field, Paolo Frankl, author of the IEA report and head of renewables, believes its overall record is poor.

"We estimate that, in 2005 terms, it [British green power] costs around 13.5 US cents per kilowatt hour over 20 years and registers 3% on our effectiveness indicator. This compares with costs below 10 cents and effectiveness of almost 12% in Germany," said Frankl, author of Deploying Renewables: Principles for Effective Policies.

Frankl said the UK had not improved in relative terms since then. "Things may have changed but I would not say drastically, especially compared with countries which have changed and become very efficient such as Spain and Portugal."

In overall terms, the renewable power sector in the UK was "ineffective and very expensive". That could be attributed to administrative problems such as getting connections to the National Grid and winning over communities to support windfarms and other schemes. Britain ranked 31st in the cost league of 35 countries, prompting criticism from environmental group Greenpeace.

"Our renewables industry has been left to wither on the vine while our European neighbours have raced ahead, creating new jobs as well as fighting climate change and securing their energy supplies," said Jim Footner, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace. "The Department for Business must urgently ditch its obsession with coal and nuclear, and focus properly on the true technologies of the 21st century."

The Department for Business said it had not seen the report but could take comfort at not being the only one singled out for criticism. Too few countries had implemented effective support policies for green energy to be in a position to meet G8 goals of providing 50% of global energy supplies and helping halve carbon output by 2050, said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA.

"Governments need to take urgent action ... Setting a carbon price is not enough. To foster a smooth and efficient transition of renewables towards mass market integration, renewable energy policies should be designed around a set of fundamental policies, inserted into predictable, transparent and stable policy frameworks and implemented in an integrated approach." Frankl's report argues that there are "significant barriers" to swift expansion and which increase the costs of accelerating renewables into the mainstream.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.