24 February 2003
Sussex scientists question viability of government's green White Paper
Government plans to generate 20 per cent of Britain's electricity from renewable sources by 2020 are over ambitious and will require fundamental changes to our energy system, according to researchers at the University of Sussex.
Dr Jim Watson and Dr Adrian Smith at SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex - suggest that widespread expansion of environmentally friendlier energy production is being hindered by a variety of factors: planning regulations, network access and electricity trading rules.
The long awaited White Paper on energy, released today, aims to cut carbon dioxide releases by 60%, phase out nuclear power and significantly boost the usage of non-fossil fuel forms such as biomass, solar and wind power by 2020. The plan has been a commitment since Labour took office in 1997.
However, in reality it may never be met: "This doubles the challenge for the Government. They already have a target for 2010 of producing a tenth of electricity by renewable sources and they are struggling with that - let alone an 'aspirational goal' of 20% by 2020," says Dr Jim Watson. "They have to get serious about implementation of the policy."
One of the main obstacles is the difficulty in obtaining planning permission for renewable energy projects. For example there are no wind farms in the entire south-east of England.
Further stumbling blocks are the New Electricity Trading Arrangements (NETA), which dictates how electricity is generated and bought for supply, and the rules governing the connection of small generators to the electricity grid. These reward large generators, particularly companies that can predict exactly how much energy they will supply and penalises those that fail. With wind power, however, the amount of electricity supplied can vary according to the weather. This uncertainty could lead to fines for wind energy companies, making its generation more expensive.
Dr Watson's findings are that while the sentiment of the energy White Paper is welcome, in practice much more needs to be done to stimulate innovation in the field of renewable energy.
Notes for editors
For further information, please contact Benedict Brook, or Alison Field, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, EMail: B.J.Brook@sussex.ac.uk or A.Field@sussex.ac.uk
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