United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Committee urges rethink of planning

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An influential government committee in Britain has added its voice to the chorus of demands for a continuation of NFFO-like support for renewable energy. In its latest report, the cross-party Trade and Industry Select Committee says the government's 10% target for electricity from renewables will not be met by operation of the free market alone. It recommends using "some form of the NFFO (non-fossil fuel obligation) mechanism."

But the committee warns that, at times, the present NFFO system increases the conflict between renewable energy projects -- particularly wind -- and local environmental concerns. It criticises the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Environment, Transport and the Regions for failing to co-ordinate policy on environmental problems with renewables. "The relationship between the NFFO scheme and local planning mechanisms should be reviewed," it recommends.

Support should begin now under NFFO to help more expensive technologies like offshore wind, biomass and solar to reach the market place. The report predicts that in the next century these renewables might eclipse those most heavily deployed today. In a boost for embedded generation -- that embedded in the grid close to the point of consumption -- the committee says the financial benefits from distributed generation should be recognised in the competitive electricity trading system coming into being.

The government comes under fire from the Labour party dominated committee for failing to produce an energy policy after more than a year in office. Moreover, the committee is surprised that the government took six months before it noted the absence of an energy policy and began the overdue "raft of reviews and rethinks."

Policy endorsed

But the government's approach to targets for renewable energy is endorsed. Targets are meaningless without adequate policies for achieving them, says the committee as it welcomes the government's study of how it will meet its own aim of 10% of electricity from renewable energy by 2010. It also shares energy minister John Battle's reluctance to sign up to the EU's 12% target for renewables' share of total energy consumption. On emissions targets it urges caution, warning that unilateral decisions can act against the national interest and undermine a balanced energy policy.

One of the biggest surprises from the committee was its recommendation for presuming in favour of new nuclear plant over the next 20 years. Despite nuclear's currently unfavourable economics, "the question as to eventual new nuclear build cannot and must not be ducked any longer," it says. It adds that procedural obstacles need to be removed.

The UK's deep mined coal should be safeguarded and the moratorium on consents for new gas plant must end, urges the committee. It refutes the government's arguments for stemming the growth of new gas plant on the grounds of security of supply. The UK will not run out of either indigenous gas supplies or alternatives; UK energy supply will still be more diverse than for most of this century, it claims.

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