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Action Needed to Meet Green Energy Targets

September 19, 2008

By David Wilcock

The South West will miss its renewable energy targets unless there is a “massive” and speedy change in the attitude of the Government and councils, according to a new report.

A target of having 15 per cent of energy used in the region sourced from renewable sources by 2020 has been set by the Government and the European Union.

However, a report from green energy agency Regen SW says without drastic changes, the South West will achieve a target of “less than 5 per cent”.

In The Road to 2020, it said it wants to see a raft of measures introduced, including a large expansion in the number of sea-based and onshore windfarms, to help change the situation.

“With the potential of over 1,000 MW of developable onshore wind capacity in the South West, and only about 52 MW built to date, there is scope for a large increase in the rate of installation of onshore wind turbines,” the report says.

The main need, according to Matthew Spencer, Regen SW’s chief executive, is for offshore wind farms to be given planning permission now so they can be ready by 2020. “They need to be given planning permission in the next two years or we have no chance of reaching our targets by 2020,” he said.

He said Government “dithering” and council opposition to many green energy schemes was hindering development, especially wind farms and renewable heat sources for buildings.

“It is going to be a huge market in Europe and globally, because offshore wind is something the UK has taken a huge lead in and it is a market that is going to mature quite quickly,” he said.

“The biggest problem at the moment is that we do not have enough renewable energy projects going forward.”

He said as well as green energy production, massive steps need to be taken to improve fuel efficiency.

The report was a response to the Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy, designed to help the UK meet its share of the EU’s 15 per cent target by 2020.

The private sector gave a cautious welcome to the report.

Richard Freeborn, chairman of Kensa Engineering, a Cornish firm making domestic ground-source heat pumps which use the earth’s residual head to warm homes, said it could have gone further and that there was a need for action at the local and national level.

“It is report after scheme and nothing gets done,” he said. “The Government is once, if not twice, removed from the coal face. Given the current political climate, Government ministers are paralysed until after the next election. But that doesn’t apply to local authorities.”

He said he felt the report could have emphasised programmes like better home insulation that “are the least sexy but would deliver the most change”.

Angela Eagle MP, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, was in Exeter yesterday alongside Ben Bradshaw, the city’s MP and South West minister.

Ms Eagle said the Government would do what it could to stimulate the market for renewable energy to drive an increase in its use. “Clearly the 15 per cent target for renewable energy creates an enormous potential for those who couldn’t think about developing these energies because they are not economic. Now they are,” she said.

Mr Bradshaw said there had been a lot of “noise and opposition” from councils but that was changing and making it easier for green schemes to go ahead.

Countryside group the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England rejected the report as having “misunderstood the UK target for renewable energy”.

Bob Barfoot, chairman of the North Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and who recently co-authored a report into wind farms for the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: “This superficial report is detached from reality. The targets suggested are simply unattainable, and doomed attempts to reach them would be unbelievably expensive and environmentally damaging.”

Read the report at http://regensw.co.uk/downloads/Regen SW_210.pdf

(c) 2008 Western Morning News, The Plymouth (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.