UK Falling 'Woefully' Behind On Renewable Energy Target

Wind turbines
The setting sun illuminates the sky behind wind turbines of a wind park near Neusiedl am See, December 22, 2014. Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters

The UK is "failing the environment" by falling behind on its renewable energy targets.

Recently released EU statistics revealed that renewable energy made up 5.1% of the UK's total gross energy consumption in 2013, an increase of just 4% since 2004, and without a dramatic increase in renewable energy, the figures suggest that the UK is unlikely to meet its 2020 renewable energy target of 15%.

Only Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands had smaller proportions of renewable energy than Britain. Sweden was found to be the most renewable-friendly EU member state, with over half of its energy coming from renewable sources.

Baroness Jenny Jones, a Green Party politician in the UK and a member of the House of Lords, says the figures are unsurprising given the current government's energy policy.

"The UK's share of energy from renewables is woeful, but not altogether surprising given the prime minister's and the mayor of London's enthusiasm for fracking and a new generation of nuclear," says Baroness Jones.

She adds that for the UK to have a sustainable future, the government must shift its focus to renewable sources such as solar, tidal and wind energy. "Maintaining fossil fuel interests is redundant and ultimately self-defeating," she says.

Green Party energy spokesman Andrew Cooper adds: "It's derisory. It shows that the [so-called] greenest government ever is anything but and that UK energy policy is failing the environment."

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DEEC) said that Britain could still hit its targets. "The UK is making good progress towards the EU 2020 target on renewables. The UK was in line with the first EU interim renewable energy target for 2011/12 and is firmly on course for the next one in 2014/15."

The DEEC spokesperson added that around £50bn of investment in renewable projects was expected by 2020 and that the UK government was supporting the development of advanced biofuels, which are produced from biomass and have low CO2 emissions, with £25m of funding.

The UK recently fell to its lowest position in 12 years on Ernst & Young's renewable energy country attractiveness index, which ranks nations on their ability to gain investment for renewable projects. The report said that confusion over the UK's contract for difference scheme, in which which green energy providers bid for the the lowest guaranteed price they would accept for power they supplied to the national grid, had affected investor confidence.

In the Netherlands, the renewable share of total energy consumption was 4.5% in 2013. The country's target for 2020 is 14%. A spokesperson for Henk Kampf, the Netherlands' minister of economic affairs, says that the government believes it will meet its 14% target by 2020, but didn't indicate how they would do this.

As well as being one of only three EU members to meet their 2020 targets already, Sweden is the only state to reach the 10% renewable share of transport fuels.

The Swedish minister for energy, Ibrahim Baylan, said that the country's long-term ambition was to become 100% renewable.

Baylan said: "We have such different circumstances for renewable energy, so each country has to find their solutions. But I think the key to success for all is to take a holistic approach to energy - to simultaneously watch the supply and distribution of energy as well as the demand and markets to get effective solutions."