The Government should slow down plans to roll out thousands of offshore wind turbines in the UK’s seas by 2020, its climate advisors have indicated.
The Committee on Climate Change said renewables had a significant role to play in cutting carbon from the UK economy, and could provide 30% of electricity, heating and transport energy by 2030 - double the target set for 2020.
But nuclear power would remain the most cost-effective way of providing low-carbon electricity well into the 2020s, the committee said, calling for around 14 new nuclear plants to be built by the end of the next decade.
Such a move would go beyond existing plans to build 12 new reactors on seven sites by 2025.
And the “very aggressive pace” of Government plans for the roll-out of offshore wind turbines - seen as less controversial than onshore turbines and the major focus of renewable development - should be “moderated” because of its expense up to 2020.
Incentives designed to boost offshore wind projects over the next decade will add around £50 to the average household electricity bill by 2020, although householders will see savings on bills as a result of other schemes to improve energy efficiency.
The committee’s chief executive David Kennedy suggested more support could be given to cheaper alternatives, including air and ground source heat pumps to homes and developing more onshore wind farms, to help the UK meet its legally-binding EU target to provide 15% of all energy needs from renewables by 2020.
Under current offshore wind plans, the Government would expect to see 13GW of turbines installed in the seas around the UK by 2020, or more than 3,600 turbines.
Mr Kennedy said: “Offshore wind is a very promising technology and one we should support in the UK. It has a lot of resource potential and is becoming competitive over time.”
However it will not be competitive with other low carbon technologies in the next decade or so.
The Government should be flexible on its plans for offshore wind this decade, potentially installing several fewer gigawatts of power up to 2020, but should not look for a “wholesale change” in the level of ambition, Mr Kennedy said.
However, Government commitments should be made to continue investment in offshore wind in the 2020s because of the importance it will play in the UK’s long term energy mix, the committee said.
The review recommends a “portfolio approach” to “decarbonising” the UK’s power sector, with around 40% of electricity coming from renewables, 40% from nuclear, 15% from fossil fuels with the technology to capture and store carbon emissions, and less than 10% from unabated gas fired plants.
A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “Renewables will be absolutely crucial to securing our energy supplies and reducing our carbon emissions in the decades ahead.
“We are reforming the electricity market to help bring forward a surge of investment in renewables and putting in place the world’s first Renewable Heat Incentive.
“Our renewables target for 2020 is ambitious, but we’re committed to meeting it. Beyond 2020 the importance of developing renewables further will remain and the investment we secure now will drive down the cost of doing this.”