China is now the world’s leading producer of energy from renewable sources. Meanwhile the UK continues to talk and talk about renewables with yet another consultation released recently by government.
The Climate Group says that, despite its coal-dependent economy, China has become a world leader in the manufacture of solar photovoltaic technology – its six biggest solar companies have a combined value of over $15bn (£7.57bn).
The group’s report, China’s Clean Revolution, shows that supportive government policies investing billions of dollars in energy efficiency and renewables are driving huge levels of innovation in China.
The country already leads the world in terms of installed renewable capacity at 152 gigawatts. In the next year, China will also become the world’s leading exporter of wind turbines and it is also highly competitive in solar water heaters, energy efficient home appliances, and rechargeable batteries.
“For too long, many governments, businesses and individuals have been wary of committing to action on climate change because they perceive that China is doing little to address the issue,” said Steve Howard, chief executive of the Climate Group.
“However, the reality is that China’s government is beginning to unleash a low-carbon dragon which will power its future growth, development and energy security objectives.”
Meanwhile, back in talk, talk UK we find ourselves at the bottom of the European renewables league table. A useful summary of the dire situation the UK finds itself in can be found at the Practical Law Company;
At present, only around 1.5-2% of the UK’s overall energy (not just electricity) comes from renewable energy resources. Under existing policies and incentives, the government expects this to rise to 5% by 2020. How then is the UK is going to bridge the 10% gap by 2020?
The story so far. The consultation document starts off with the government patting itself on the back about everything it has done so far to promote renewables, primarily:
- The Renewables Obligation, and the changes it is proposing to make to this through the Energy Bill to increase incentives for less well-developed renewable technologies.
- The changes it is proposing to make through the Planning Bill to simplify and speed up the way in which consent is obtained for large-scale energy infrastructure projects (such as large wind farms and upgrades to the national grid transmission network).
- Round three of the UK’s offshore wind farm leasing programme, which is being carried out by the Crown Estate and is expected to result in a significant increase in the amount of electricity generated using wind power.
What else can the UK do? The principal proposals include:
- Making additional changes to the Renewables Obligation to improve the way in which operators can benefit from supplying renewable energy through the centralised national grid.
- Improving the national grid to make it easier for renewable energy operators to connect to it.
- Introducing new incentives to encourage heat to be produced using renewable energy sources.
- Considering (but not necessarily endorsing) the introduction of a feed-in tariff for microgeneration (that is, electricity produced by households and businesses onsite using small-scale renewable energy technologies).
The biofuels wildcard. The government estimates that to meet the 15% target by 2020:
- 32% of the UK’s electricity would have to come from renewable sources (compared to 5% at present).
- 14% of the UK’s heat would have to come from renewable sources (compared to 1% at present).
However, these calculations are based on the assumption that 10% of the UK’s road transport fuels will come from biofuels.
The government has a very short time in which to persuade the private sector to make considerable investment.
- The government wants to convince the EU that there should be some sort of renewable target trading scheme, whereby member states that have exceeded their EU target can transfer their surplus to member states that are lagging behind.
- Plans to build a new fleet of nuclear power plants, which at present do not count towards the 15% target but might provide a back-up plan if the UK is unable to deploy enough renewable energy in time.
Personally? I think it’s time for a change of government. Too much hot air and not enough action. Oh, and too many vested interests in the nuclear industry.