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If you don't measure you can't succeed! We need clear, binding national targets for 2030July 2014

Written by Kystyna Dawson, Senior Manager in BSRIA's Worldwide Market Intelligence.

The new 2030 policy framework for climate and energy is shaping up nicely according to a review of the consultation process by the European Commission released at the end of June. The targets voted for by the members of the European Parliament in February 2014 are more ambitious than those initially proposed. The final draft of the document is due for release in October.

Members of the European Parliament have generally been progressive in their voting, including towards:

  • 40% cut in greenhouse gases  which would see levels fall to 1990 levels
  • A minimum 30% of energy generated from renewable sources (against 27% initially proposed)
  • 40% improvement in energy efficiency (initially no target on energy efficiency was mentioned).

Members of the European Parliament have also voted for the introduction of binding national targets in each of the above areas (the Commission proposed to set up targets at European level only).

However, the UK is among those Nations who lead a campaign for one common European target, without imposing national targets. Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, argues that binding national targets for increased renewable energy sources (RES) are associated with too-high a cost that will ultimately be carried by the public.

It is true that the cuts in carbon emissions needed to tackle climate change will come at a cost, and no-one likes to be the bearer of bad news - especially as the general election draws near.

However, we have not seen any particularly negative effects where we have previously introduced national targets, such as from the 2020 energy framework. According to the latest European review, it is likely that the 2020 policy goals will become a success story.

Indeed, targets are vital. In this case they may provide the stimulus to encourage governments to find innovative solutions, and promote new investment in green technologies.

The clarity that comes with well-defined targets is very much needed but in isolation it is often not enough to move things forward, performance against the targets needs to be measured and delivered through political leadership. It is worth looking at countries like Japan, Sweden or Germany for examples of governments who have followed through on their promises:

  • Japan faced major energy shortages due to the closure of its nuclear plants in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, so it decided to boost national energy generation by de-centralising the installation of residential fuel cells. The government set a clear target (1.4 million units installed by 2020) and provided a generous, long term subsidy program which increased trust in the technology at both manufacturers and end-user levels.
  • Sweden believes that heat pump technology is the one to benefit the state and end-user most thanks to its efficient energy use. The government has consequently supported the technology at the manufacturing and consumer level for nearly 20 years.
  • Germany has not focused on one chosen technology. The country is well advanced, though, in promoting de-centralised clean energy generation together with its efficient use by promoting the concept to the public, clearly outlining policies and supporting relevant technologies in the longer term. It is not without reason that the German public has the highest environmental awareness and is most open to adopt renewable technology products amongst European countries.

The UK is lagging behind by comparison. Whilst the Renewable Heat Incentive and Green Deal are steps in the right direction, the road ahead is long and poorly signposted at the moment. We need our binding targets for clarity, guidance and sustainable planning. Industry needs them, consumers need them – we all need them for our safe and prosperous wellbeing in the future.

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