‘A stain on the nation’s green record’: UK renewables growth drops to decade low
Renewable energy growth in the UK has collapsed to its lowest rate in a decade, new analysis has found.
Analysis of official figures shared with The independent shows that the total renewable energy capacity only increased by 2.1% until December 2020.
This compares to an average annual increase of 18% over the past decade – and an increase of 6.1% the year before.
The growth rate of renewables, such as solar and wind power, has declined every year since 2015, according to government figures.
The findings come as the UK faces an energy crisis, with soaring gas prices threatening to plunge hundreds of thousands more households into fuel poverty and several energy companies going bankrupt within days. .
Boris Johnson has already pledged to make Britain ‘the Saudi Arabia of wind power’, and boosting renewable energy was a key part of his 10-point climate plan announced in 2020.
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said the results reveal “how much renewable energy growth has weakened in recent years.”
He said The independent: “Once again, we see the signs and the impact of the gap between this government’s rhetoric and reality. They are climate retardants.
“It is the government’s failure to plan ahead by increasing our carbon-free energy supply that has made our country so dependent on the international gas market and vulnerable to soaring gas prices.”
Ed Davey, former energy secretary and leader of the Liberal Democrats – who carried out the analysis – said the numbers were “a stain on the nation’s green record.”
“These numbers show that the government’s claims regarding global climate leadership are all boastful and without action,” he said.
“Under the Tories, the UK renewable energy industry has been neglected to the point where coal-fired power plants have been put into operation.”
Green Party politician Sian Berry said the numbers “show a shocking lack of urgency from a government that still fails to understand that we are living in a climate emergency.”
“If we are serious about tackling climate change and keeping the temperature rise at 1.5 ° C, we urgently need to increase renewable capacity,” she said. The independent.
“Instead, the Conservatives are betraying us and future generations by going far fast enough to boost these industries or to help people generate energy on their own rooftops and in their communities.”
As Britain’s energy crisis continues, analysts said a faster switch to renewables in the UK could have reduced the country’s vulnerability to gas price spikes.
“The country has remained too dependent on gas, exacerbating the crisis we are currently facing, which is hitting families in the back pocket,” Davey said.
Mike Childs, policy manager at Friends of the Earth, said the blocking of renewable energy growth could be partly blamed on former Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to block new onshore wind farms.
“With the planet on the brink of catastrophic climate change, the slowdown in the growth of renewables in the UK is alarming,” he said. The independent.
“Although the Prime Minister has rightly been enthusiastic about UK offshore wind, the UK onshore wind industry has been hit hard by significant regulatory barriers as other onshore renewables go without funding. As a result, our electricity supply is too dependent on natural gas and the resulting price fluctuations.
“Ministers must do more to develop the UK’s enormous green energy potential, to power our cars, heat our homes and end our dependence on climate-destroying fossil fuels.”
The government has dropped its opposition to onshore wind in 2020. But more measures are needed to address the renewable energy supply gap, experts said.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to “dramatically increase” renewable capacity to 80% of all electricity by 2030.
“We call on the government to invest in renewable energy,” Davey said. “Instead, they stain our country’s green past.”
The analysis comes just over a month before the start of Cop26, a major climate summit taking place in Glasgow.
Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said faster action on renewable energy development would be key to the UK’s hopes of being a climate leader.
“Renewable energy needs to be delivered on a large scale and quickly if the UK is to be seen as a climate leader in the upcoming climate talks in Glasgow – there is no zero carbon future for us without it, ”he said.
“The Prime Minister’s targets for offshore wind are great, but not only must they be met, but they must be exceeded given the climate crisis we are facing.”
A government spokesperson said: “The UK is ramping up the use of renewables at a sustained rate, quadrupling their use since 2010, ensuring that low carbon electricity now provides us with around 50% of our energy. total production.
“We will go even further, having set a global offshore wind target of 40 GW by 2030, as well as plans in the Energy White Paper for a historic transformation of the UK’s energy system for a cleaner and greener future – including a full decarbonization of our electricity production by 2050.