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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

UK lagging behind EU renewable energy targets but leading the way in reducing coal dependency

After renewables accounted for 16% of the EU’s energy consumption in 2014, and an estimated 16.4% in 2015, it is on track to reach its 20% target by 2020 according to a European Commission report.

"Policy changes have slowed deployment of renewables" ©Shutterstock
"Policy changes have slowed deployment of renewables" ©Shutterstock

However the UK, Luxembourg and Ireland have been identified by the commission as falling behind on targets set by the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

The UK is expected to provide 30% of its electricity, 12% of heating, and 10% of transport energy from renewables by the end of the decade, but is estimated to be less than half way towards meeting its heat goal, while transport fuel from green energy has been capped at 4.75%.

Renewable Energy Association chief executive, Dr Nina Skorupska, said: “This is a wake-up call to our government which for the past two years has introduced policy changes that have slowed deployment of renewables.

“While it appears that UK is on track to meet our power targets, we are seriously falling behind in the heat and transport sectors.

“The government should take immediate steps to remove the roadblocks to further renewable energy deployment. This is about building new industry, and positioning Britain as an industrial leader in the 21st century.”

The EU’s progress towards meeting its 2020 targets are reflected in the findings of a report released yesterday by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which shows that coal use in Europe has fallen consistently since 2013.

Competitive natural gas prices, growth in renewables generation, EU air quality directives and weak electricity consumption have all constrained coal generation, and will continue to do so according to the report.

It also reveals that despite lagging behind the EU’s renewable targets, the UK is one of the member states least dependent on coal generation, with its carbon price floor playing a big role in driving down its use on the continent.

The percentage of EU countries' energy generated by coal is shown below:

Source: EIU
Source: EIU

Continued focus on reducing the UK’s dependency on coal was seen in the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy’s plans, set out in November last year, to close all coal-fired power stations by the end of 2025.

RenewableUK executive director, Emma Pinchbeck, said: “As old-fashioned coal is phased out, modern technologies like wind are stepping up to make sure consumers have reliable energy without the damaging health impacts of coal pollution – as well as delivering for the UK economy.”