Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 16:10 UK

Low carbon way 'to reshape lives'

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Wind turbines at night
Seven thousand new wind turbines may rise from land and sea by 2020

Ambitious plans to generate one third of UK electricity from renewables by 2020 form the centrepiece of government plans for a low carbon future.

Financial packages for wind and wave energy and changes to planning procedures are among key components of the Low Carbon Transition Plan.

"Smart" meters are to be deployed in 26 million homes by 2020.

The government says the plan will create up to 400,000 "green jobs" without a major hike in energy prices.

"The strategies we are launching today outline the government's vision for achieving a low carbon future for the UK, reshaping the way we live and work in every element of our lives," said Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

LOW CARBON PLAN

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"This is a challenge that every economy is facing, and we are determined that by setting clear policy now, Britain positions itself to benefit both economically and environmentally from the transition."

The measures are designed to meet the UK target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 34% from 1990 levels by 2020, and the EU-derived target of producing 15% of energy from renewable sources by the same date.

Currently, greenhouse gas emissions are about 22% below the 1990 baseline, according to government figures, including cuts that companies have purchased through the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).

Proposed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions per UK sector (Image: BBC)

Every sector of the economy will be expected to cut emissions, although electricity generation and heavy industry will bear about half of the reductions.

Among the measures designed to stimulate expansion of renewable power are:

  • up to £120m to advance the offshore wind industry
  • up to £60m to stimulate progress in wave and tidal technologies
  • £6m to explore geothermal energy potential
  • a new facility to research nuclear technology
  • financial incentives for home generation
  • the government will exercise powers to speed up grid connection for renewable installations

While the renewables target is 30% share of the electricity sector by 2020, the low carbon target is 40% - the difference implying a 10% share for nuclear.

Ed Miliband: The transformation would be like switching from "town gas to North Sea gas in the 1970s"

Seven thousand new wind turbines may rise from land and sea by 2020; and Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband said resistance to the technology would have to change.

"It is important to be sensitive to people's issues around wind power," he told reporters.

"But our default position as a country needs to change. The biggest threat to our beautiful countryside isn't wind turbines, it's climate change."

In addition, the mission of the regulator Ofgem will be expanded to include a mandate for cutting emissions.

Many observers believe the targets are stretchingly ambitious.

"We need a sixfold increase in renewable energy generation in just 11 years," commented Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust.

"This can be achieved but will require not just a transformation in technology, but in political, economic and industrial thinking."

The government says these measures, when combined with an expansion in home insulation and smart meters, will not raise energy prices up to 2015, though probably will do by 2020.

UK electricity generation sources (Image: BBC)


From 2011, the poorest households will receive mandatory help with fuel bills.

Outside energy and industry, transport emissions are to be tackled though a combination of better fuel efficiency on the road, electrification of the rail network, the use of sustainable biofuels, infrastructure for recharging electric vehicles in up to six cities, and measures designed to increase cycling.

Farmers will be asked - and encouraged - to cut emissions by changing agricultural practices, paying for the creation of woodland, and support for facilities that use farm waste for energy.

The government believes the changes will usher in a new post-recession era of sustainable green growth.

Ministers also say the plan puts the UK in a leadership role in the months leading up to December's critically important UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

But while generally welcoming the plan, campaigners suggested it did not go far enough.

"The government's plans are good news for UK energy security, jobs and progress towards a low carbon economy," said Christian Aid's climate policy expert Alison Doig.

"Our fear is that they will not achieve enough to help keep the global temperature rise below 2C (3.6F) and safeguard people in developing countries from dangerous climate change. We also question whether the government has shown enough ambition to inspire courageous commitments by other industrialised countries."

Richard.Black-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk



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