UK: Disappointment over failure to include solar in proposed climate change targets

Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of the REA stated: “We’re surprised to see no mention of solar power, which should cost the same as conventional electricity by the start of the fourth carbon budget period.”

However James Steynor, chief executive of the British Photovoltaics Association (BPVA) told pv magazine he is not worried by the exclusion. “It’s strange that they haven’t mentioned photovoltaics (PV),” he said, “but it just shows the CCC are not in tune with what’s happening.” He added that as far as the association is concerned, the government is focused on sustainable PV development and they don’t see that changing.

Under its new advice, the committee recommended a carbon budget for 2023-27 and a target for emissions reductions in 2030 – halfway between now and 2050. It said that the recommended target for 2030, to cut emissions by 60 percent relative to 1990 levels (46 percent relative to current levels), would then require a 62 percent emissions reduction from 2030 to meet the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act. It implies a back-ended path for emissions reductions over the next four decades, and therefore sets a minimum level of ambition in 2030 compatible with the 2050 target.

However, when issuing its recommendations, solar power was not mentioned, despite the fact the country’s PV industry has grown relatively significantly since the introduction of its feed-in tariffs in April. Indeed, Ofgem, the UK’s gas and electricity regulator reported this month that the total installed PV capacity in the country reached 39.2 megawatts (MWs). Ash Sharma, additionally told pv magazine last month that while the UK is “no Germany”, it is expected to install around 300 MWs of PV next year, thus helping to turn it into a sizeable and stable market.

Which begs the question, why then has solar been ignored by the committee in charge of tackling climate change? If they don’t have their finger on the renewable pulse, as the BPVA suggests, who can be relied upon to support such industries as solar? pv magazine rang up to discover why, but is still waiting for a reply from the committee.

Instead, the CCC says investment in such low carbon technologies as wind and nuclear energy is advisable. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) applied to coal and gas was also highlighted as a way to help reduce the carbon intensity of electricity usage by 90 percent by 2030 (i.e. from 500 gCO2/kWh to 50 gCO2 /kWh). The introduction of smart meters in homes and non-residential buildings, it added, would provide opportunities for people to better control their consumption, and reduce energy bills.

In order to achieve these “very challenging” levels of investment, said the committee, 25 new large scale low-carbon generating power stations would need to be added to the grid (up to 40 gigawatts), which would require “radical reform” of the electricity market.

Climate change science robust

Through its research, the committee said that the science on climate change remains “robust” and the “case for action is stronger than ever”.

In a statement, it explained: “It is highly likely that this [climate change] is largely a result of human activity (the greenhouse effect is very well understood and accepted; the current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, resulting from human activity, is higher than at any time during the last million years).

“Without action, there is a high risk of warming well beyond two degrees, which will have significant consequences for human welfare and ecological systems over the course of this century and beyond. e.g. (species extinction, widespread flooding, drought).”

As a result, the CCC says the 80 percent emissions reduction target for the UK in 2050 remains relevant. It added that the fourth budget, combined with the 2030 target it recommends, are designed to be compatible with the 2050 target. As part of its advice issued it says that to stabilize global temperatures, emissions need to peak by 2020, before starting to fall by 25 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050.

“Although it looks unlikely that a binding international agreement will be signed at Cancun, the report analyzed the 85 pledges made by countries under the Copenhagen Accord, finding that if these were delivered, they would put the world on the right pathway to achieving a peaking of emissions by 2020,” continued the statement. “A failure to reach a global deal this year should not stop countries from continuing to reduce emissions.”

The committee also issued a number of recommendations to support the country’s drive to reduce carbon emissions, including the development of new technologies, such as electric cars, and more ambitious EU wide policies.