ELECTRICITY SUPPLIERS will be forced to provide 10% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010, the Government announced last week.
The Renewable Obligation to achieve this target was set out in the Government's Utilities Bill and will replace the existing Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation arrangements. The proposals also give regulator OFGEM powers to impose fines for non-compliance.
Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe, Helen Liddell, described the plans as a 'clear green signal' to the electricity industry that renewables have a stable future. The 'firm obligation will allow generators to invest in renewable energy technologies with confidence that they will have a market for their product', she said.
The current proportion of electricity generated in the UK from renewable sources is 2.6%. New and renewable energy: prospects for the 21st century, proposes to raise this to 5% by the end of 2003, and then to 10% by 2010 - targets described by Liddell as 'ambitious' but equivalent to saving an extra 2.6M to 3M tonnes in carbon emissions.
The Electricity Association described the new target as 'challenging but feasible', but warned that the 2003 interim target might be unrealistic if the Government carried out its intention to exclude large scale hydroelectric schemes. It also highlighted the 'increasingly difficult planning environment' which saw many renewable proposals turned down.
The British Wind Energy Association echoed this view and said the wind industry 'had been let down by Government'. It criticised the decision to 'leave the process to market forces'.
However, the total amount of non hydro renewables used in electricity generation has increased nearly six-fold since 1988, and the Government anticipates growth in solar and wind technology. This week approval was given for two new 2MW wind turbines sited 1km off the Northumberland coast. The scheme promoter, Blyth Offshore Wind, estimates there is capacity to generate three times the UK's current electricity requirement from the wind.
The Government accepts its proposals for 'greener power' will add about 2% to the cost of electricity, but Liddell warned she was 'not ready to see consumers pay through the nose'.
But the National Consumer Council said the targets 'might not be so immediately beneficial' to poorer consumers dealing with increased electricity bills, despite a clause that caps the price of renewable energy. Andrew Tate
New and renewable energy: prospects for the 21st century is available free from DTi publications, tel: (0870) 150 2500, or at www.dti.gov.uk/renew/condoc/policy.pdf