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Limited Progress for Renewable Energy Investment in UK

By Katie Anderson on January 3, 2012

Figures published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have shown that investment in renewable energy in the UK remains low despite a small improvement over the year.

In 2010, around £2.1 billion was invested in green energy by companies operating in the UK. According to the DECC, investment rose to £2.5 billion in 2011 (April to December), which represents little progress in terms of the country becoming less reliant on fossil fuels.

The figure of £2.5 billion, although larger than the previous year, is disappointing in so far as it represents a huge fall on previous spending. In 2009, for instance, £7.1 billion was invested in renewable energy in the UK – 65 per cent more than last year.

Of course, economic constraints were always expected to limit investment in the renewable energy sector, but the extent to which funds have decreased ought to raise serious doubts over the UK’s ability to meet carbon emission targets; without investing heavily in green technology, the UK is unlikely to be able to honour its environmental obligations.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, believes that £2.5 billion represents a reasonably good level of investment considering the circumstances. Mr Huhne said: “Renewable energy is not just helping us increase our energy security and reduce our emissions. It is supporting jobs and growth across the country and giving traditional industrial heartlands the opportunity to thrive again”.

Although a complete move from fossil fuels to renewable energy is highly desirable for obvious reasons, current wind, tidal and solar photovoltaic installations account for very little of the UK’s total energy consumption. According to the DECC, just 3.3 per cent (or 54TWh) of total energy used was derived from renewable sources in 2010 – a 27 per cent increase on the previous year. Conversely, investment in oil and gas central heating remains strong in the UK, where 46 new licences have been granted for energy firms to prospect for gas and oil in the North Sea.

Mr Huhne added: “Our renewable target is less demanding than other EU member states, but… I do not want the UK to be left behind by turning our back on the green economy”.