This week the EU decided not to have a renewables target beyond 2020. The EU did agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% on 1990 levels and produce 27% of its energy from renewables by 2030. Does this lack of renewables target matter?
The UK government was a leading advocate of not having a renewables target. I would have kept one. The real reason the renewables target was opposed by my government is they are increasingly wedded to the idea of shale gas and nuclear. Both these are chimeras. However, the move may not be as disastrous as some think. As Ed Davey the Secretary of State writes in the Guardian article above.
“The 2020 renewables target made sense when it was set: it has helped the early investment needed for immature renewable technologies and played a part in driving down the costs of key technologies like solar PV and onshore wind. Yet to repeat this for the 2020s doesn’t make sense. Some renewable technologies are already nearing grid parity, and we need to see investment in other immature low carbon technologies like carbon capture and storage. Our analysis shows that an ambitious emission reduction target will still stimulate massive investment in renewables across the EU, but without all the inflexibility, costs and risks of a technology specific target.”
The march of renewables into our economy is unstoppable. Falling on-shore wind and solar costs will mean that they will be at grid parity by 2020. Even I would question subsidising them if they are not. There are 5GWp of solar PV farms in the planning system in the UK. The merits of a renewables target is threefold. To raise renewables penetration in countries with very low quantities, keep renewables increasing in recessions and possibly encourage some of the more distant less market ready technologies, such as wave and tidal power. However, as I wrote about Japan and their climate target, the outcome may not turn out to be all that bad.