MPs: heat and transport failings mean UK will miss 2020 renewables targets

The UK will fail to meet legal requirements to meet 15% of its energy needs from renewables by 2020, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee has concluded. The MPs said the electricity target of 30% from renewables would be exceeded – but that would be outweighed because we are less than halfway towards the heat target (12% from renewables) and the renewables used in transport (target 10%) had fallen in 2015.

The MPs said that their “overarching concern” was that the UK would fail to meet its targets “not because they were impossible, but because government departments have not co-operated effectively”. They cited separate incentives from different departments, which led to sectors competing for resources like biomethane and capacity on the electricity network.

But they said, “Creating the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy may enable more joined-up thinking: the government should take advantage through deeper analysis of how best to use scarce resources to achieve renewables and decarbonisation targets across different policy areas.”

Energy and Climate Change Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP said: “The experts we spoke to were clear: the UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements. Failing to meet these would damage the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership. The government must take urgent action on heat and transport to renew its efforts on decarbonisation.”

The MPs sounded a warning over Brexit, and fears that it would allow government to soften its approach to achieving the targets. It said the targets have “many merits” and if the government misses them or “reneges on its commitment” it will undermine confidence.

Sam Hall, researcher at Bright Blue, said: “The select committee is right to highlight the slow progress in decarbonising heat. Low-carbon energy meets just 2.5% of the UK’s total heating demand. More households must be incentivised to install renewable heating technologies, such as heat pumps and biomass boilers, if the UK is to reduce its emissions in a cost-effective way by 2050.

“The government should introduce new low-interest, Help to Improve loans to remove the upfront cost of the installation and to make renewable heating more affordable for households.”