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United Kingdom

Europe 2020: Renewable Energy Plans - Power sector will be key to meeting 2020 targets

UK: Wind energy will supply around 20% of UK electricity by 2020 under government plans for meeting its challenging EU target of 15% of total energy from renewables - up from just 3% today.

Given the UK's vast renewables resources, it is no surprise that the government is aiming to meet its commitments from within its borders, rather than through trade or joint projects with other countries.

The power sector will be key to meeting the target, with renewables providing 30% of electricity, 12% of heat and 10% of transport. Wind is expected to supply more than two-thirds of renewable electricity: nearly 15GW onshore and 13GW offshore. This equates to around 20% of UK supply - 11% of that from offshore, due to stronger winds.

The UK's new Conservative-Liberal coalition government says it intends to be the "greenest ever" and is looking for greater input from renewables.

While the major policy goals remain unchanged from the previous government's 2009 renewables strategy, the new administration plans changes to financial incentives, including a new system of fixed-price support for large-scale renewables. The UK already has a system of feed-in tariffs for smaller projects of up to 5MW. The government proposes to extend this but will also maintain banded Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) - the UK's current main support mechanism.

In addition, the coalition is to take forward the previous government's plans for a green investment bank to help finance clean-energy technologies and the infrastructure needed to support the UK's renewables ambitions. It is also looking at incentives to encourage local communities to host renewables projects.

However, Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, believes the action plan contains too many reviews and too few commitments, creating uncertainty for investors. "Can new power projects move ahead in confidence that their revenue streams will not be undermined by a move to feed-in tariffs?" she asks. "The industry needs to know, and soon."

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