Spurred by Higher Emissions, Britain Boosts Renewable

LONDON, UK, March 28, 2002 (ENS) - "The time for action is now," said UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson today, reacting to new figures showing a small increase in emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the last two years.

After substantial reductions during the 1990s, data published in "Energy Trends" shows that despite an overall six percent fall in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990, there was a slight increase for the years 2000 and 2001. This was as a result of increased use of coal in electricity generation and colder weather in the winter months.


Solar panels on a British office building (Photo courtesy Freefoto.com)
Wilson said, "For anyone who might have grown complacent, these figures demand that we must do more to address our environmental obligations. We met the Rio target to keep greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2000, but this is still not enough."

"All sectors of the economy need to contribute to more sustainable use of energy. We need greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy. The government has now created an economic and legislative environment in which the renewables industry can flourish," Wilson said.

Wilson made his remarks while visiting Renewable North West, a new nonprofit company set up by the North West Development Agency and United Utilities. It is partly supported by the government's fund for regional renewables development. The company, which is expected to be fully operational in summer, will lay out a strategy for developing green energy schemes by working with existing agencies and small and medium size companies which specialize in renewable energy technologies.

On Wednesday, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced a UKú20 million ($US28.5 million) fund to support photovoltaic solar power. The funding will be released over the next three years to help cut the cost of solar panels and increase the rate of installation ten-fold.

Thousands of homes and offices across the UK will benefit as installation grants will be offered to both the private and public sectors.

The move was widely welcomed by stakeholders as a first significant downpayment since Prime Minister Tony Blair promised UKú100m of new spending on renewable energies in a speech last year.


House in Wales fitted with solar photovoltaic panels (Photo courtesy Powys Energy Agency)
"This represents a massive boost to solar power in the UK," said the Energy Savings Trust, the body that will lead the grants program.

The trust stressed that another important part of its program would be public education, "not least in dispelling the myth that solar energy is a non-starter in the UK's climate." It also aims to grow the market in solar products, as well as trained and accredited installers.

The government has also recently announced UKú4 million (US$7.1 million) worth of funding for the installation of solar systems on public buildings including schools, galleries, church halls and sports centers across the United Kingdom.

Another UKú4 million program will provide solar power for 380 houses, flats and bungalows.

The UK's Kyoto Protocol environmental target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 percent from 1990 levels by 2010, while the UK's domestic goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels.