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United Kingdom

Closing the renewables gap

Renewable energy generators in Britain are steadily closing the gap between the volume of power they generate and the targets set under the country's green electricity support system, the Renewables Obligation (RO). For the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the shortfall was reduced to 24%, a marked improvement on the 31% shortfall the previous year and a notable improvement on the 44% shortfall in 2003-2004.

The gap, however, may increase again in the current year, warns Fiona Santokie from green power brokers Natsource, the result of a reduction in the number of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) eligible from co-firing in 2006-2007. Until this year, electricity retailers were able to meet up to 25% of their obligation by burning biomass in conventional power plants alongside fossil fuels, but the government has dramatically reduced the allowed level of co-firing to 10%. As the major electricity suppliers all have their own co-firing facilities there is little demand for ROCs from the technology, Santokie points out. This has led to a drop in the ROC price for co-firing to £21 per ROC, compared with an average of £44.25 for other renewables, she says.

The RO requires electricity suppliers to source a rising percentage of their power from renewable sources. They meet their obligation by buying ROCs or by paying a "buy out" penalty. A ROC is awarded for each megawatt hour of renewable generation. During the last ROC year -- from April 2005 to March 2006 -- the level of the RO was 5.5%. It currently stands at 6.7%.

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