Energy Secretary Amber Rudd admits misleading Parliament about missing 25% green energy undershoot
A letter from Energy Secretary Amber Rudd leaked to The Ecologist shows that she misled Parliament by promising the UK was ‘on course’ to deliver on its renewable energy targets (15% of final energy consumption from renewables by 2020) – when in fact there is a delivery shortfall in 2020 of almost 25%. Her plan to fill the gap relies on more biofuels, buying in green power and ‘credits’ from abroad – everything but wind and solar. She says: “The trajectory currently leads to a shortfall against the target in 2020 of around 50 TWh or 3.5% points in our internal central forecasts (which are not public). Publicly we are clear that the UK continues to make progress to meet the target.” However, she has told the House of Commons that the UK is still meeting renewables targets. This puts the UK at risk of legal action taken in the UK, and fines imposed by the European Court of Justice. There could be a full Parliamentary investigation. She also has a problem with hoping that by 2020 biofuels will make up 10% of transport fuels, due to conflicts of deforestation and conflict with land for agriculture. [If the UK is not able to meet its carbon targets, in its carbon budgets, it is not possible for aviation to increase its annual CO2 emissions above 37.5MtCO2. Failure of other sectors to make cuts put the weak aviation target in question.]
See also BBC (Roger Harrabin) article on 10.11.2015 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34774145
Leaked letter: Rudd admits 25% green energy undershoot, misled Parliament
By Oliver Tickell (The Ecologist)
9th November 2015
A letter from Energy Secretary Amber Rudd leaked to The Ecologist shows that she misled Parliament by promising the UK was ‘on course’ to deliver on its renewable energy targets – when in fact there is a delivery shortfall in 2020 of almost 25%. Her plan to fill the gap relies on more biofuels, buying in green power and ‘credits’ from abroad – everything but wind and solar.
The trajectory currently leads to a shortfall against the target in 2020 of around 50 TWh or 3.5% points in our internal central forecasts (which are not public). Publically we are clear that the UK continues to make progress to meet the target.
A letter from Energy Secretary Amber Rudd leaked to The Ecologist shows that the UK is on track to miss its legally binding obligation to achieve strict EU targets on renewable energy by an estimated 50TWh (terawatt hours), or 3.5% of its 15% obligation – that is a shortfall of almost 25%.
This stands in stark contrast to her public position. On 17th September she told the House of Commons: “When it became apparent that we were way in excess of [spending limits on renewables], but were still meeting our renewables targets, it was right to limit the amount of money we were spending.”
As Rudd warns, this impending failure to meet EU renewables targets puts the UK at a double risk – of legal action taken in the UK, which the government would probably lose; and of enormous fines imposed by the European Court of Justice:
“The absence of a credible plan to meet the target carries the risk of successful judicial review, and failing to meet the overall target in 2020 could lead to on-going fines imposed by the EU Court of Justice (which could take into account avoided costs) until the UK reaches the target level.”
But by misleading the House of Commons in her statement, she is now certain to have a more immediate problem on her hands – demands for her resignation and a full-blown Parliamentary investigation.
Her first test will come tomorrow before the Energy and Climate Change Committee tomorrow (Tuesday 10th November) when its members grill her on her department’s annual report and accounts.
The grisly detail of Rudd’s smoke-and-mirrors
The letter, to Cabinet colleagues Philip Hammond (Foreign Secretary), Oliver Letwin (Cabinet Office), Greg Hands (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) and Patrick McLoughlin (Transport Secretary) begins by setting out the scale of what the UK has to achieve:
“The target sets a legally binding obligation on HMG to deliver 15% of the UK’s final energy consumption across electricity, heat and transport from renewable sources in 2020, with a binding sub-target for 10% of transport fuels to be from renewable sources in 2020.
“Beyond a flat rate of renewables for each member state, the effort share for meeting the EU-wide 20% target was based on GDP. As a result of this, and the fact that the UK started from a very low base of renewables deployment, our target requires amongst the most significant annual growth in renewables deployment (16% average annual growth from 2011 to 2020) of any member state.”
And although the UK’s current trajectory is on course for a massive miss of 32-66 TWh (terawatt hours) per year by 2020, with a central estimate of a 50TWh shortfall, the UK’s public position is that there is no problem meeting the target.
Yet her public statements all indicate that everything is on track. As noted above, on 17th September she told the House of Commons: “We had a commitment to limit the levy control framework to £7.6 billion by 2020. When it became apparent that we were way in excess of that, but were still meeting our renewables targets, it was right to limit the amount of money we were spending. That is why we took action quickly to do so.”
The ‘third way’ – buy it in from Norway
Rudd’s third step is certain to cause huge anger in the UK’s renewable energy industry as it involves simply buying it in from abroad, specifically from Norway’s hydroelectric dams. But it comes with one big problem – the required electrical connection to Norway won’t be ready on time:
“Additional deployment of electricity focuses on importing renewable electricity from Norway via the planned interconnector. This could deliver a maximum of 10TWh, depending on market forces. However, my officials do not expect the interconnector to be in operation until late 2021 at the earliest, and therefore would not strictly help the UK to reach its 2020 target.”
But that’s not the only problem: if the renewable power is generated in Norway then how can it be made to count as British just be importing it?
“Should this change, we believe that an intergovernmental agreement would be necessary, under which the UK would be required to make payment(s) to the Norwegian government (on top of that which would be paid for the electricity supplied through normal market mechanisms).”
Which is all very well, but it will cost the Uk money that should be going into our own renewables programme., Moreover there’s no guarantee that the arrangement would be considered valid by the European Commission or by the European Court.
So why not just buy in ‘statistical credits’ from other countries?
Nonetheless Rudd goers on to consider further “Use of co-operation mechanisms” that would allow the UK to finance renewable energy projects in other EU states.
Which raises the question: when the UK has Europe’s richest wind power resource, why would we want to do that? In the process exporting the jobs, expertise and industrial investment to other countries?
“In the absence of other measures to increase renewable energy consumption in the UK, a strategy to meet the target (and to ensure that the target is met in the most cost-effective way) would need to involve the UK purchasing renewables deployment later in the decade from other EU Member States which have over-achieved their target.
“There are two ways to do this The first would see HMG directly support a specific renewables project in another EU or European Economic Area Member State or third country, with an agreed proportion of the renewable energy generated being transmitted to the EU where the project occurs in a third country.”
And another problem then strikes: “However, at this stage there are no projects we have identified with the potential to deploy in the right time frames.” Which leads Rudd to attempt to invent a whole new market mechanism in ‘statistical credits’ for renewable energy from other EU countries.
“The alternative is to reach an agreement with an EU or EEA Member State, which is likely to over-achieve on its target, to buy ‘statistical credits’ from it in 2020. The market for such transactions does not yet exist, and there is a low likelihood that sufficient credits will be available to meet the total UK shortfall of 50TWh.”
Just one small problem there: there is currently no such thing as a ‘statistical credit’ that the Commission or the European Court would recognise. In addition, adds Rudd,
“We believe there is a medium – low likelihood that sufficient credits will be available to meet a shortfall of 30TWh. Costs are, however, also highly uncertain. Nevertheless, trading has the potential to make a cost effective contribution towards meeting the target alongside a package of domestic action.”
Transport Minister warns – biofuels costly, unsustainable
In another problem for Amber Rudd’s plan Andrew Jones, minister at the Transport Department in charge of environment and innovation, wrote to Amber Rudd in a second leaked letter, warning against further increases in biofuel use in transport on cost, food security and ecological grounds:
“I concur with you, however, that meeting the 10% sub-target for renewable energy in 2020 is challenging. It requires a doubling of current biofuel inclusion rates right up to the limits allowed for by fuel standards in regular petrol and diesel in just a few years, and it will also require great care to secure sustainable sources of biomass supply and avoid consumer opposition …
“I should highlight that I do not consider it appropriate to go beyond the transport sub target. As you point out, we understand that demand at such levels appears likely to cause deforestation through new demand for agricultural land, and it could also increase food as well as fuel prices.
“This is why the UK Government argued strongly for the introduction of recently adopted measures to limit food based biofuels at EU level. As a consequence, environmental and social NGOs would be expected to campaign strongly against it.
“I believe such campaigning would be likely to win public support, not least given the estimated total increase of around 3 pence per litre on fuel costs that could result.”
Between a rock and a hard place
This all leaves Amber Rudd in an increasingly untenable position. First, she has effectively admitted to having deceived Parliament. That’s something she will surely struggle to justify to the Energy and Climate Change Committee tomorrow.
Second, she has revealed the disastrous outcome of her policy to destroy the UK’s renewable energy industry. The fact that the UK is seriously considering buying in actual power and non-existent ‘statistical credits’ for renewable energy from other European countries also speaks volumes for her policy failure.
As for the idea of supporting renewable energy projects abroad instead of here in the UK, it’s not hard to imagine how that will go down with the UK’s renewable industry. The solar industry alone is set to lose 27,000 jobs as a result of cuts to solar power subsidies.
And her idea to increase the volume of biofuels in petrol and diesel has rightly been shot out of the water by transport minister Andrew Jones.
There is of course one eminently sensible and achievable solution – to restore sustainable levels of support for wind and solar energy and roll it out in bulk for 2020 at ever diminishing cost.
Rudd, clearly, has lost all credibity at this stage, both politically and with the renewable energy industry that ultimately has to deliver the UK’s targets.
The obvious choice for Cameron is to bring back Greg Barker, who as an MP was a respected energy minister from 2010 to 2014, and remains honorary president of the British Photovoltaic Association. He now sits in the House of Lords.
Loss of face before Paris climate talks
Greenpeace Head of Energy, Daisy Sands commented: “This letter shows us the dark side of the government’s incoherent energy policy in full technicolour. For the first time, we learn that the government is expecting to miss the EU’s legally binding renewables target. This is hugely shocking.
“More deplorably, it is willfully hiding this from public scrutiny. The government is planning on cutting support for the solar and wind subsidies in the name of affordability. But perversely, we see that the government believes investing in renewable energy projects involving buying power from abroad is more desirable than supporting home grown renewable energy industries.
“Even more worryingly, it seems the government is seeking to haggle with the EU to revise down our legal commitments. This policy makes no environmental or economic sense as the UK is losing jobs and affordable clean, renewable energy sources.
“The government’s claim to leadership in the Paris climate negotiations requires us to have targets, but we must meet them too.”
The full article is at
Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.