Britain to double low carbon power role by 2020

Other News Materials 15 July 2009 22:22 (UTC +04:00)

Britain will double the share of its electricity generated from low carbon sources by 2020 as part of plans to cut emissions and counter global warming, the government said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said 40 percent of Britain's electricity will come from nuclear, wind, solar, marine and cleaner coal, compared with a fifth today.

By 2020, renewable energy sources will provide 31 percent of Britain's electricity, up from 6 percent today, while nuclear's share will fall to 8 percent from current levels of between 15 percent and nearly a quarter, depending on the variable output of nuclear plants.

"Our plan will strengthen our energy security...it seizes industrial opportunity and it rises to the moral challenge of climate change," Miliband said in a statement.

The pledge shows Britain's commitment to climate talks in Copenhagen in December that aim to secure a global deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol on reducing emissions, he added.

Attempts to reach a new accord have foundered on fears that environmental targets could hamper any economic recovery and rows between rich and developing nations on emissions cuts.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who chaired the Major Economies Forum this month, failed to convince China, India and others to agree to a G8-supported goal of halving world emissions by 2050.

With Britain in its worst recession in 50 years and the ruling Labour Party trailing in the polls with an election less than a year away, the government has been keen to talk up the benefits of the growing environmental sector.

Analysts said the proposals could help Britain's economy, but warned that it is still well behind some other countries.

"Others are finishing the quarter finals, while we are still planning the best stadium," said Stuart Haszeldine, geosciences professor at the University of Edinburgh.

The plan will help Britain to meet its 2008 pledge to the European Union to meet 15 percent of its energy demand through renewable sources by 2020, up from 1.3 percent in 2005.

But this target is less ambitious than those of Spain and France, which signed up for targets of 20 percent or higher, and of Sweden which agreed to a 2020 goal of 49 percent.

The government reaffirmed its commitment to making coal-fired power stations less polluting by funding research into carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).

The technique of removing carbon dioxide from a coal plant's smoke and burying it underground could reduce emissions by 90 percent, the government said. Britain will help fund four CCS trials and require new coal-powered plants to fit the technology within five years of it being proved viable, probably by 2020.

In a series of policy documents, Britain said the global market for low carbon goods and services could expand to 4.3 trillion pounds ($7,047 billion) by 2015 from 3 trillion pounds in 2007/08 and grow even faster if a deal is struck in Denmark.

Miliband said Britain's low carbon sector will be one of the few areas of the economy that will grow during the recession and beyond, expanding at over 4 percent each year up to 2014/15.

The number of people employed in the sector could rise by 400,000 to over 1.28 million by 2015, compared to 880,000 today.

Action to tackle climate change will add about 8 percent to household energy bills by 2020, Miliband said. This estimate relies on consumers using less energy.

About a fifth of the emissions cuts by 2020 will come from cleaner transport, including government subsidies of between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds for each electric car. A further 15 percent of the emissions cuts must come from making homes more energy efficient, while 10 percent will come from the workplace.

Britain was the first country to set legally-binding emissions targets. It wants to cut its output of planet-warming gases by 34 percent by 2020, from 1990 levels.