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Major role for renewables

The Committee on Climate Change has said that renewable energy should make a major contribution to decarbonising the UK economy over the next decades.

The conclusions are set out in the Committee’s Renewable Energy Review which was requested under the Coalition Agreement.

The review concluded that a renewable energy share of around 30% by 2030 would be appropriate, with scope for a higher share (eg up to 45%) depending on the extent to which renewable technology costs fall and possible constraints on deployment of low-carbon alternatives.

It highlights a range of promising renewable energy technologies which could in future become competitive, including electricity generation from wind and marine, air and ground source heat pumps and the use of bioenergy for heat generation.

Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Adair Turner said: “Our analysis shows that renewable energy technologies are very promising, and have an important role to play in helping to meet the UK’s carbon budgets and 2050 target, alongside other low-carbon technologies such as nuclear and CCS. The focus now should be creating a stable investment climate for renewables, making longer-term commitments to support less mature technologies, and putting in place incentives to deliver significantly increased investment in renewable power and heat generation required over the next decade.”

However, some argue that the contribution made by solar energy was underestimated by the CCC.

Howard Johns, chairman of the Solar Trade Association, said: "CCC has made the classic mistake of directly comparing the costs of solar with the costs of centralised electricity like large-scale wind and nuclear. Because solar works directly on your roof it cuts out the costs of networks, supplier profits and all sorts of additional costs. Therefore solar competes directly with what the end-user pays for electricity. That is a critical difference and it means solar will be competitive much earlier than they estimate."