By Renewable Energy Focus staff

A study from the think tank says the renewable energy target is “unnecessarily expensive and damages the prospects for reducing carbon emissions over the coming decades by wasting money that could be better used to fund research and demonstration of a wide range of new, low-carbon technologies.”

The report, 2020 Hindsight: Does The Renewable Energy Target Help the UK Decarbonise?, examines 16 plans for achieving the UK’s target of 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050.

"This report is seriously misguided."

According to Policy Exchange, none of the models show that the UK’s 35% renewable energy target for electricity is needed to reach the carbon emission reduction target.

Report author Simon Moore, says: “The 2020 EU renewable energy target is hugely and unnecessarily expensive. The target diverts current and future resources away from measures that could save the same amount of carbon at a lower cost, such as energy efficiency, nuclear and carbon capture and storage.

“The UK’s commitment to meeting the EU’s renewable energy target is actually damaging the goal of global carbon reduction. If the UK is to set a compelling carbon reduction example to other countries we need to show that emissions can be cut at a reasonable cost. The renewable energy target fails to do this.”

Policy Exchange that the UK should rather:

  • Reform planning rules to facilitate more onshore wind and energy from waste;
  • Enable the use of larger amounts of biomass such as wood pellets in conventional power stations;
  • Make a greater commitment to energy efficiency; and
  • Trade with other European countries.

Simon Less, Head of Policy Exchange’s Environment & Energy Unit, concludes: “While the government renegotiates the renewables target, the UK could still save up to £12.5bn – enough money to insulate every UK household’s roof twice over – by spending money on technologies that will still hit the EU’s target.”

Report “seriously misguided”

The UK’s Renewable Energy Association (REA) calls Policy Exchange’s report “misguided”.

In a statement, REA says: “Policy Exchange will not reveal who funded this report – we did ask. Policy Exchange features senior politicians on its website, but politicians must always be wary of analyses that do not reveal their funders.

“This report is seriously misguided. The UK is almost the poorest performer on renewables in Europe and already has a relatively low target. Renewables are needed for energy security, to boost and rebalance the UK economy, as well as definitely cut carbon. There is now more investment internationally in renewable energy than fossil fuels or nuclear for good reason. With even the chief Economist at the International Energy Agency warning that the era of cheap oil is over, the Policy Exchange’s call to abolish the renewable energy target is frankly dangerous and will drag us into the dark ages.”