“A stain on the nation’s green register”: renewable energy growth in the UK falls at the lowest rate in a decade

According to a new analysis, the growth of renewable energy in the UK has fallen at the lowest rate in a decade.

Analysis of official figures shared with The Independent shows that total renewable capacity grew by only 2.1% between December and 2020.

This compares with an average annual increase of 18% over the last decade and an increase of 6.1% the previous year.

The growth rate of renewable energies, such as solar and wind energy, has fallen every year since 2015, according to government data.

The findings come as the UK faces an energy crisis, with rising gas prices threatening to plunge hundreds of thousands more households into fuel poverty and several energy companies will crash in a few days.

Boris Johnson has previously pledged to turn Britain into “Saudi Arabia of wind energy” and boosting renewable energy was a key part of its ten-point climate plan announced in 2020.

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the findings reveal “how much renewable energy growth has changed in recent years.”

He said  “Once again we see the signs and the impact of the gap between the rhetoric of this government and reality. They are climate retardants.

“It is the government’s failure to plan ahead by increasing the zero-carbon energy supply that has left our country so dependent on the international gas market and vulnerable to rising gas prices.”

 

Ed Davey, a former energy secretary and leader of the Liberal Democrats – who carried out the analysis – said the figures were “a stain on the nation’s green record”.

“These figures show that the government’s demands on global climate leadership are more fluid and do not take action,” he said.

“Under the Conservatives, the UK’s renewable energy industry has been neglected to the point that coal-fired power plants are soaring.”

Green Party politician Sian Berry said the figures “show a shocking lack of urgency on the part of a government that still does not understand that we live in a climate emergency.”

“If we are seriously considering the fight against climate change and maintaining the rise in temperature to 1.5 ° C, we need to increase renewable capacity urgently,” she said.

“Instead, conservatives are failing us and future generations because they are not going fast enough to drive these industries or to help people generate energy on their own roofs and in their communities.”

As the UK energy crisis continues, analysts have said that a faster shift to renewable energy in the UK could have reduced the country’s vulnerability to rising gas prices.

“The country has become overly dependent on gas, which is exacerbating the crisis we are facing now, which is affecting families in the pocket,” Davey said.

Mike Childs, head of Friends of the Earth policy, said halting the growth of renewable energy could be partly to blame for former Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to block new onshore wind farms.

“With the planet on the brink of catastrophic climate change, the slowdown in UK renewable energy growth is alarming,” he said.

“While the Prime Minister has rightly been enthusiastic about Britain’s offshore wind energy, England’s onshore wind industry has been severely affected by major regulatory barriers, as other land-based renewable energies have no As a result, our electricity supply depends too much on natural gas and the price fluctuations it entails.

“Ministers need to do more to develop the UK’s huge green energy potential, to power our cars, heat our homes and end our dependence on climate-destroying fossil fuels.”

The government abandoned its opposition to onshore wind energy in 2020. But more action is needed to fill the gap in renewable energy sources, experts have said.

Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to “drastically increase” renewable capacity to 80% of all electricity by 2030.

“We are asking the government to invest in renewable energy,” Davey said. “Instead, they are committing a stain on our nation’s past green record.”

The analysis comes just over a month before the start of Cop26, a major climate summit taking place in Glasgow.

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said faster action on the development of renewable energy would be key to the UK’s hopes of being a climate leader.

“Renewable energy needs to be delivered on a large scale and at high speed if the UK is to take the lead in climate in the upcoming climate talks in Glasgow: there is no carbon-free future without it,” he said.

“The Prime Minister’s targets on offshore wind are very good, but they must not only be delivered, but they must be overcome given the climate crisis we are facing.”

A government spokesman said: “The UK is increasing the use of renewable energy at a rapid pace, quadrupling its use since 2010, ensuring that low-carbon electricity in general now gives us around the 50 percent of our total generation.

“We will go even further, having set a world-leading 40GW offshore wind target for 2030, as well as outlining the White Paper on energy plans for a historic transformation of the UK energy system for a cleaner and greener future, including the total decarbonisation of our electricity generation in 2050 ”.

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