The U.K.’s treasury and business department is seeking ways to scrap the country’s binding EU target of sourcing 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, reports Bloomberg.
Citing an anonymous individual with knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg says that officials are hopeful that a post-Brexit Britain can avoid the fines and penalties associated with missing its EU target if they can find ways to abandon the goal – a goal that the country is unlikely to hit either way.
Fines could run into the tens of millions, and officials believe that rather than fall short and face the penalty, the far easier option for Brexit Britain is to take its foot off the clean energy accelerator, rather than press ahead with scaling up investment in wind and solar power.
If the U.K. is successful in wriggling out of its obligations, it would be another tangible sign that the country is increasingly out of step with the majority of mainland Europe. In late March, British Prime Minister Theresa May officially triggered Article 50, which has begun the formal process of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union.
This process will take a maximum of two years and in the few days since its triggering, Article 50 has already thrown up a series of flashpoints. Wranglings and discussions between the U.K. and the EU are nothing new, but in this post-Brexit climate they come tinged with extra barbs on both sides.
However, if the U.K. were to formally give up on its climate targets, there would be little sympathy within Europe. As things stand, Britain is about halfway towards achieving the goal of 15% renewable penetration by 2020, but the pace of clean energy installation is set to fall, not rise, between then and now. On April 1 the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme was formally ended for solar power, and besides a falling FIT there is very little in the way of support for the sector.
Criticized for its desire to “cherry pick” the benefits of EU membership, the U.K. could be on course for more flashpoints where energy is concerned. In the European Parliament this week, MEPs ruled that industry-specific deals between the U.K. and the EU will not be allowed, and any future deal between the two bodies is conditional on the U.K. upholding the climate and energy goals it agreed to while under EU membership.
A statement emailed to Bloomberg by the U.K. government said that the country is committed to tackling climate change and will meet all targets “while we remain part of the EU”.
“We are proposing a bold and ambitious trade agreement that covers sectors crucial to our linked economies, including network industries,” said the government official.
According to the National Grid, the U.K. will hit 15% renewable penetration no earlier than 2022 based on current projections. The wider 2030 goal agreed by the EU at the COP21 summit in Paris in 2015 is also in doubt from a British perspective, with the government official revealing that the country wishes to “avoid further constraints on its energy mix stemming from the EU”.