Investment in UK renewables to fall significantly

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On December 12, 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal at the Paris climate conference (COP21), which is also known as the Paris Agreement. Some of the deals made under this Agreement include cutting emissions in EU territory by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and to boost the share of renewables to at least 27% of EU energy consumption by 2030.

However, it has recently been revealed that investments in the renewables sector in the UK is set to decrease dramatically over the next three years due to significant subsidy cuts. This raises serious concerns about the UK’s ability to meet emissions targets as set out in the Paris Agreement.

A thinkthank has learnt that investment in wind farms will fall off a “cliff edge” over the next three years which will put the UK’s greenhouse gas reduction targets at risk.

When the Green Alliance recently analysed the government’s latest pipeline of major infrastructure plans, it found that over £1 billion of future investment in renewable energy projects disappeared over the course of last year. Its findings also revealed that investment in wind, solar, biomass power and waste-to-energy projects will decline by 95% between 2017 and 2020.

Following several subsidy schemes getting the chop by ministers over the last 18 months, the slowdown in green energy investment was foreseeable. However, the figures revealed just how dramatic the decline was to be.

“This cliff edge needs to be avoided if the UK is to meet its world leading carbon budgets and Paris Agreement pledge,” Green Alliance said in its analysis.

Renewables investment will fall 95% between 2017 and 2020

Source: Green Alliance

The government committed to cutting carbon emissions by 57% by 2030 on 1990 levels shortly after the EU referendum, but has so far failed to spell out how it will support low-carbon energy, such as offshore wind farms, beyond 2020.

"Renewables will be cheaper than new fossil power stations by 2025 at the latest if we allow companies to build, learn, and cut their costs. But the government has been holding back the final bit of support needed to make renewables subsidy free. It’s also blocked the cheapest renewables from being built,” said Dustin Benton, acting deputy director at Green Alliance, referring to the government ending subsidies for onshore wind. “Unsurprisingly, the result is a 95% fall in investment.”

The thinktank’s analysis found that high carbon infrastructure, which it defines as fossil fuel power stations, airports and road building, was faring little better. For the first time since 2012, high carbon investment had stopped growing, and will be down by two-thirds by 2020.

“The picture of private sector investment is very clear: it is rapidly moving away from high carbon infrastructure. In contrast, public sector high carbon investment is rising, although slowly,” the authors wrote.

A government spokesman said: “We are fully committed to a low-carbon future and the Office for Budget Responsibility recently projected that £8.4bn will be spent on renewable projects in the UK in 2020/21. We are one of the best countries in the world at tackling climate change with £52bn invested in renewable projects in the UK since 2010. Last November we reaffirmed our commitment to spend £730m of annual support on renewable electricity projects over this parliament.”

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