Last week Jeremy Corbyn pledged that under a future Labour government renewables would cover 65% of our electricity needs by 2030.
Is this achievable? There’s no reason why not.
Others in Europe are already close: renewables power more than 60% of Sweden’s electricity, and 52% of Portugal’s.
It’s true that some of Europe’s most renewable-friendly countries have hydroelectric resources unavailable in the UK, but not all. And besides, the UK’s geography gives us our own advantage: tidal energy, on the verge of taking off.
The only thing holding UK renewables back is policy commitment, or a lack of it.
Other countries have maintained generous subsidies for those renewables not yet as cheap as other energy sources. The UK Government has not – slashing feed-in-tariffs and cutting support for wind and solar energy.
Reinstating this support, and increasing investment in renewables, would likely see us hit these ambitious targets.
So 65% is achievable, but would it be too expensive? Would it harm the economy?
The UK’s economic competitiveness hasn’t been affected by climate policy so far and the industrial performance of Sweden or Germany show ambitious renewable targets don’t have to hinder industry.
Renewable energy is no longer substantially more expensive than fossil fuels, either. Onshore wind and solar power are already competing head-to-head with gas and coal.
The cost of renewable energy is declining so rapidly that a situation where offshore wind and other renewable technologies compete with gas and nuclear by 2020 is realistic, particularly when factoring in the costs of carbon emissions. The Department of Energy and Climate Change had already suggested this before it was scrapped.
This and technological innovations mean renewable subsidies wouldn’t be needed forever. In contrast, both fossil fuels and nuclear are still receiving extremely generous subsidies.
Let’s use this taxpayers’ money that’s supporting dirty and failing sources to replace them with clean and popular renewables.
Maybe then we’d hit these ambitious targets.