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United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Energy minister Wilson admits UK will fall short on interim renewables target

Energy minister Brian Wilson has admitted the UK will not reach its interim target of 5% of electricity from renewables by 2003. Moreover, the country will not meet its 10% target for 2010 unless three obstacles -- investment, electricity infrastructure and, most importantly, the local planning permit process -- can be overcome. He pointed out in evidence to the parliament's Environmental Audit Committee that two-thirds of projects approved under the previous support regime -- the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation -- never got built because most were blocked at local level. "It will be extremely difficult to meet those targets, so we have to ask people who are in favour in principle of renewables to start squaring their conscience with their intellects and allow some [projects] to happen." All regions of Great Britain have now signed up to indicative regional targets for renewable energy for their areas, and revised planning guidelines on renewable energy for local authorities are to be published by the summer, he said. On the role of energy market regulator Ofgem in obstructing renewables, Wilson revealed tensions between his government department and Ofgem. He said that Ofgem had done nothing to reduce barriers facing embedded generators -- and he agreed that Ofgem's social and environmental guidelines should be strengthened. There are a lot of issues that his Department of Trade and Industry is discussing with Ofgem within the wider framework of the government's objectives, he said. But he warned that it is "glib" to be over critical of the regulator; it had pursued its primary remit of driving down costs "extremely enthusiastically," he said. Nonetheless, he hoped to "make progress" with Ofgem on the issue of new electricity trading arrangements which have penalised small renewable generators. "There are environmental obligations and social obligations as well as merely economic ones," he said.

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