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Progress on AD praised in green report

National policies on waste, renewable energy and other issues relevant to the sector have generally been well-received in a report from an environmental think tank.

Climate Check, produced by Green Alliance in conjunction with Christian Aid, Greenpeace, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the World Wildlife Fund, analyses progress on all of the Government’s 29 low carbon commitments.

The report concludes that seven are making good progress, 13 are progressing moderately and six are failing.

One of the seven to get a ‘green light’ rating is anaerobic digestion (AD) on which ministers pledged:  “We will introduce measures to promote a huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion”.

The report concludes that good progress has been made through raising the level of financial incentives available and a focus on addressing non-financial barriers facing the industry.

“While some industry players expressed disappointment that the level of increase in financial incentives was insufficient, others welcomed the increase at a time when support for other technologies was being cut back.

But progress on a commitment in the 2011 Budget for a Green Investment Bank (GIB) is seen as only moderate.

The report acknowledges that ministers have kept their promise and committed to an independent bank with substantial initial capitalisation and but is concerned that full borrowing powers from 2015 will happen only if public sector debt is cut as a percentage of GDP.

“It is this caveat that is the problem,” say the authors. “Delaying the bank’s borrowing powers until 2015 means the current low carbon investment hiatus will continue longer than it needs to. A bank that can support the transition to a low carbon economy at the scale and speed required to deliver the targets in the Climate Change Act would ideally be up and running much sooner.”

The report also notes “moderate” efforts towards deploying renewable energy across the UK so that at least 15% of energy comes from renewable sources by 2020 but concedes there has been relatively little time to influence construction of new generating capacity.

It points out that while the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review allocated £200m to support the development of low carbon, £90m remains unallocated.

Green Alliance says the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) banding review, due in the Autumn, needs to deliver “a credible level of subsidy” if the UK is to meet its 2020 targets.

“A major risk is that under-delivery in both on and offshore wind will leave the UK reliant on high levels of large scale electricity-only biomass, which would represent an inefficient use of scarce bio-energy resources that could be better used in decarbonising other sectors of the economy.”

Comment from Dustin Benton, senior policy adviser, Green Alliance

“Climate Check took an in-depth look at how the Government is meeting its own commitments on renewables. While the picture is mixed, overall a few highlights stand out.

In particular, the Renewable Heat Incentive has been a real success so far. It puts the UK at the forefront of global efforts to decarbonise heat and addresses an oft-neglected area. New measures to encourage anaerobic digestion are also positive, as long as reducing food waste is also prioritised. And the electricity market reform (EMR) white paper – the framework for renewables development after 2017 – is a strong first step, with Contracts for Difference providing the basis for investment-grade policy.

However, there have also been some low points. These include missed opportunities in community-owned renewable energy schemes, and the early review and reduction in the solar feed-in tariff (FiT), which had a negative impact on investor confidence.

The report only assesses the first 16 months of this government: a range of major decisions are due over the next year which will dramatically affect the government’s performance. These include: decisions on the delivery of the grid; the role of the Green Investment Bank in speeding up investment in renewables; a further review of the FiT; adequacy of financing available through the Renewables Obligation and EMR; and reform of the planning system.”

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