Report: UK Policy Changes Hinder Renewable Energy Growth Curve

UK policies and renewable energy growth appear to be on different ends of the energy teeter-totter. In spite of record growth, a new REA study states ‘sudden and severe’ policy changes are harming the renewable sector.

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REView 2016, this year’s snapshot report of the UK’s renewable energy sector published by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) states record levels of employment in the sector could be undermined by continued policy interference from the government.

The report suggests that multiple “sudden and severe” policy interventions over the past 12 months by the UK have harmed the country’s position as a global leader in renewables and will serve to slow the growth rates achieved over the past 24 months.

The REA suggests that these recent roll-backs – which included the controversial early closure of the Renewable Obligation (RO) scheme for large-scale solar, as well as severe cuts to the PV FIT – will mean the U.K. is unlikely to hit its legally binding 2020 renewable energy targets, writes pv magazine.

The report REView 2016, produced in association with Innovas and KPMG, is the authoritative annual industry publication on employment, investment, and deployment trends in the UK’s renewable energy industry. This edition reveals growth in the deployment of renewable power and heat, but a decline in the consumption of renewable transport fuels. The report details record-setting employment levels in the renewable energy industry in 2015, and record overall levels of investment and energy consumption.

The report highlights that the repeated policy interventions of the Government are harming the UK’s position as a global leader, are slowing growth rates and are increasing the likelihood that legally binding 2020 renewable energy targets (RED targets for renewable power, heat and transport) will not be achieved.

Here are some of the report’s findings:

  • The total sector market value 2014/15 (for renewable power, heat, and transport) was £15,913 million. This is an increase of £982 million, which represents a growth rate of 6.6%, slightly higher than the 6.1% seen from 2012/13 to 2013/14. Growth of the rest of the UK economy was around 2.5%
  • There were 116,788 employed in the sector in 2014/15, an overall increase of 4,760 people
  • Renewable energy supplied the UK with 22.3% of its power in 2015, 4.6% of its heat in 2014 and 3.2% of its transport fuels in 2015
  • Biomethane is emerging as a promising tool for ‘decarbonising’ the gas grid, and has applications as a renewable transport fuel
  • The consumption of crop-based biodiesel has fallen to only 6% from a high of 84%
  • The rate of installation of grid-scale and behind-the-meter energy storage systems is anticipated to grow
  • Advancements in the Electric Vehicle supply chain and in associated technologies are anticipated to drive new sales
  • Policy changes over the last twelve months are likely to have a negative impact on growth rates in 2016
  • The Government needs new policies in order to meet the 2020 renewable energy targets, particularly in heat and transport.

Concerning policy issues, REA CEO Dr. Nina Skorupska said,

“2015 was another record year for British renewables. Employment, investment, and deployment increased, while costs fell and the industry continued to mature. It was yet another year where the renewables industry outperformed UK growth rates.

The industry was blindsided this year with over a dozen sudden and severe policy changes, which we expect will be reflected in next year’s report. While many businesses have been left reeling and deployment has begun to slow, as an industry we will persevere, we will innovate, and we will continue to grow.”

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