146. Much of the evidence we received focussed on
the potential and problems of wind power and CHP (which although
not, strictly speaking, a renewables technology is generally regarded
as a useful intermediate means of achieving environmental gains).
However, the term 'renewables' covers a wide number of technologies,
at different stages of development, with varying degrees of potential
for the UK and posing a variety of problems. One potentially promising
source of energy is marine technology, but this requires more
work it has not yet moved fully from the research to the
It also, of course, poses similar problems of connection to the
distribution/transmission network as offshore windfarms,
and its technical and economic viability may depend on whether
the undersea transmission cable can be built.
A number of renewables technologies are unlikely to benefit much
from the Renewables Obligation because of the high cost of the
electricity they produce. Among these is solar power, or, to be
more precise, photovoltaic (PV) power. A joint Government-industry
group has made a number of recommendations on the promotion of
photovoltaic technology, and BP brought to our attention one particular
recommendation for a market stimulation programme by the Government
costing about £150 million over ten years, in the form of
grant schemes to fit PV to roofs of both houses and larger non-domestic
buildings. In contrast, the PIU recently recommended Government
investment of not much more than £10 million for PV over
the next three years.
We agree that the Government should not try to 'back winners'
among renewables technologies, but we believe that it should display
commitment to helping with the launch of those technologies unlikely
to benefit from the Renewables Obligation. This might include
help with development costs and with market stimulation programmes.
147. There were also, as might be expected, differences
of view over whether some technologies should be classified as
renewables, in particular energy from waste incineration (which
the CPRE believed should not be supported as 'renewable' but which
was arguably the technology that benefited most from the Non Fossil
While the Renewables Obligation originally excluded from support
all energy from waste (in accordance with the Government's
and EU's policy to promote a hierarchy of waste disposal
methods according to their comparative environmental benefits),
certain types of advanced waste incineration technologies, including
pyrolysis and gasification, are now eligible for assistance from
the Renewables Obligation.
Greenpeace was concerned about the environmental impact even of
these technologies, and believed that the 10% target could be
achieved without the inclusion of waste incineration, if other
technologies were given enough support.
Another such technology was coal mine methane, which we were told
was excluded from support under the Renewables Obligation (unlike
methane from landfill and sewage sites, which is included).
We understand that a minimum of 600,000 tonnes of coal mine
methane (which has a global warming potential 21 times that of
an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide) is escaping into the atmosphere
from abandoned coal mines in the UK every year.
It seems to us desirable on these grounds alone to explore whether
some form of support could be extended to encourage the use of
Least-cost options to the tax payer would be an extension of the
Renewables Obligation and/or exemption from the Climate Change