United Kingdom

United Kingdom

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The cost of ramping up the UK's use of renewables to 13% of generation in 2010 and 30% by 2020 would not put any burden on the country's economy, according to the results of new economic modelling released last month. "If the government really wanted to kick-start renewables in the UK a higher target would be achievable at very little risk or public expense," says Paul Ekins, director of the research project. Today's target is 10% by 2010.

Using the Cambridge economy-energy-environment model of the UK, the research shows that its projected huge growth in renewables would actually yield a modest increase in economic output. GDP and RPI would both be 0.01% higher in 2020. The slight increase in jobs due to the employment-intensive nature of renewables would more than offset the lower employment in the gas sector due to less gas-fired generation. Onshore wind, offshore wind, energy crops and agricultural and forestry wastes will make the main contribution, while new industries begin to develop in extracting power from the waves and tides. Together, they will reduce carbon emissions by 4.6 million tonnes -- more than 3% by 2010 -- and by 23.1 million tonnes -- 14% -- by 2020.

The research was commissioned by sustainable development charity Forum for the Future and funded by BP Solar, TXU Europe, Greenpeace, the Energy Saving Trust, Combined Heat and Power Association and other charitable trusts. Ekins, who is from Forum for the Future, says: "The UK has a chance to position itself at the head of a range of renewable technologies that are about to become globally important industries at virtually no risk or public expense." But Britain needs even more commitment from government, he warns. "It will not happen by itself. The policy measures are starting but they are not in place for it to happen yet."

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