Britain to back EU emissions quotas, oppose renewables targets

May 29, 2013 at 12:02 AM
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LONDON, May 29 (UPI) -- Britain will back 2030 EU targets for emissions reduction but oppose such targets for new renewable energy sources, British Energy Secretary Ed Davey says.

In a statement released Monday, Davey clarified the coalition government's position in the upcoming debate on setting new EU decarbonization targets.

He indicated firm commitment to the European Commission's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 -- but rejected increased mandatory levels for the percentage of wind, solar and other types of renewable power sources in the energy mix.

The latter decision brought immediate condemnation from renewable energy backers, who say Britain's quickly developing wind power industry won't be able to attract sufficient private investment without clear targets for 2030.

Under the European Union's Roadmap 2050 decarbonization goals, most policy scenarios would require a 30 percent share for renewable sources in Europe's energy mix by 2030, up from the soon-to-expire 2020 binding target of 20 percent.

Saying there are "a variety of options to decarbonize," including new nuclear power capacity and capturing carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, Davey asserted EU members "should be free to pick the mix they prefer.

"In the U.K., our electricity market reforms will rely on the market and competition to determine the low-carbon electricity mix. So we are legislating to set a technology-neutral decarbonization target for our power sector.

"We will therefore oppose a renewable energy target at an EU level as inflexible and unnecessary."

The announcement came after widespread reports of disagreements between Davey's Liberal Democratic bloc and Conservative Party critics of wind power, including former Energy Minister John Hayes, now a member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Privy Council as a minister without portfolio.

In an October interview with The Telegraph, Hayes sided with local communities opposed to wind power projects, saying, "Enough is enough."

Meanwhile, fellow Tory George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, has also opposed setting clear targets for 2030, instead encouraging the development of shale gas and as well as the building of at least 20 new gas-fired power in the next decade as a way to meet decarbonization goals.

The Liberal Democrats were only able to gain their coalition partners' support on an emissions target by giving up on their goal for renewable energy quotas, The Guardian reported.

Davey defended the choice by asserting EU member states must be able to "maintain flexibility" in the exact energy mixes they use while touting Britain's efforts to back renewables through the tripling of funding available via surcharges on power bills.

He also cited "the radical reforms" to the electricity market set out in the latest Energy Bill, which will be used to "incentivize renewables to 2020 and beyond."

But renewable energy backers predicted the decision will deal a tough blow to the British industry's fortunes.

"If the government does not send the right signals, then major international companies deciding where to build their big wind turbine factories will go elsewhere," Robert Norris of Renewable UK said in a statement.

"In opposing a renewables target, not for the first time the irrational prejudices of the Tory right seem to have trumped the interests of working people in Britain," Greenpeace political adviser Ruth Davis added.

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