Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has been warned to slam the brakes on the renewables sector or face having to find at least £1.5 bn a year in extra subsidies. A new report reveals that her predecessor Ed Davey, a renewables fanatic, ramped up permissions for renewables projects in his last year in office, meaning that Britain is now on track to massively overshoot its renewables electricity targets.
To comply with the EU’s Renewables Directive, the British government set itself the target of generating about a third of the country’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020, equivalent to 110TWh. But research by the Renewable Energy Foundation has revealed that, thanks to Davey’s crusade for renewables, Britain is now on track to overshoot that target by a whopping 34 percent, up from a mere five percent last year when the survey was first undertaken. For communities blighted by wind turbines and solar farms, the overshoot is nothing less than insult added to injury.
Unfortunately for Rudd, the overshoot has not been factored into the Treasury’s Levy Control Framework, which set a limit on subsidy costs of £7.6 bn a year, meaning that her department will have to go cap in hand to the Treasury for a further £1.5 bn a year if all the projects which have been given the go-ahead are to be constructed.
The picture becomes even gloomier when all the projects which have applied for permission are taken into account. If they were all to receive assent, which the REF admits it unlikely, the overshoot could rise as high as 67 percent over target.
Despite some attempts by DECC to cool down the sector – it has already closed the Renewables Obligation to solar ahead of schedule – REF is now urging Rudd to pour cold water on the sector to prevent a catastrophic overspend.
Dr John Constable, director of REF, said: “The renewables sector overheating created by Mr Davey when he was in charge of DECC has left the new Secretary of State, Amber Rudd, with considerable budget and planning difficulties.
“In addition to the action on subsidies already underway and due to take effect next year, she will also need to cool the industry down immediately by issuing clear guidance to local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to the effect that harm to the local environment should now outweigh contributions towards renewables targets that are in principle already met.”
21.2 GW of generating capacity has already been built in the UK, including 4,000 onshore wind turbines capable of generating 8.4 GW, 3.8GW of solar capacity and 3.7 GW of biomass. But projects a further 28.2GW of capacity are accounted for by projects which have already been given the go-ahead but are awaiting construction. That figure includes offshore wind farms capable of generating 12.6GW of power. Rudd will have to actively axe some of these if DECC is to remain within target range.
One such project is the Rampion offshore wind-farm located in the English Channel, eight miles from the Sussex coastline. Davey ignored objections from National Heritage, the South Down National Park Authority, and numerous local councillors and residents to bulldoze through plans for the array, insisting that there was an “urgent national need for such projects.”
Work, which will include ripping up a 30 metre wide corridor through downlands sheltering rare species to lay cabling, begins on the Rampion project next month. The wind farm is expected to come online in 2018.
Earlier this week Rudd announced that all new applications for wind farms would have to meet with the approval of local councils before being given the go-ahead, but conceded that the rule to be introduced next year, would not be retrospectively applied to 3,000 turbines which have been granted permission but are as yet unbuilt.
A spokesman for REF said: “About half (7 GW) of the capacity still seeking consent in the planning system is onshore wind (equivalent to approximately 3,500 Turbines), but the new Secretary of State, Amber Rudd, has indicated that, in accordance with the Conservative Party manifesto, new legislation will be introduced ensuring that there can be no subsidies for future onshore wind capacity. In the short term this is likely to result in a frantic rush to secure consent and register prior to whatever changes are made to the existing subsidy arrangements.”