The UK still has some way to go to hit its 2020 renewable energy target
As we’ve just about reached the point where it doesn’t feel completely unnatural to write the date as being 2018, rather than 2017, we can begin to look ahead to 2020 – and specifically our legal obligations to increase our share of renewable energy, first signed up to back in 2007.
The 28 EU countries agreed to a cumulative 20% of energy coming from renewables. As we started from different points, however, this wasn’t a flat 20% for everyone. Sweden, for example, was already approaching 40% back in 2004, so had the target of 49% – an aim it has already beaten.
The UK, on the other hand, started from the low point of just 1.1% in 2004 and pledged to hit 15% by 2020 – a breakdown that includes 30% electricity, 12% of heat and 10% of transport. At various points in the last few years, we’ve been on target and way off, so where exactly do we stand with two years left on the clock? Well, this chart from our friends at Statista shows how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve got to go. Data comes from Eurostat’s 2016 health check.
While at first glance, it feels like it echoes our average Eurovision song contest performance, there’s more to it than meets the eye. We did, after all, start from one of the lowest bases as the light green bar shows, with only Malta and Luxembourg producing less renewable energy than us back in 2004. And while jumping from 9.3% to 15% in two years is still a big ask, it’s worth noting that others have bigger gaps to close. France, for example, needs a 7% increase, while the Netherlands is still 8% shy.
It’s also worth noting that the goals that make up the target – electricity, heat and transport – are proceeding at different rates. Last year, we hit 28% on the electricity score, but are still less than halfway to the heating and transport targets. The Clean Growth Strategy aims to tackle these last two points, though the government’s own climate change watchdog has expressed doubts that they go far enough to help our wider commitment to saving the planet.
Still, 11 EU nations have already gone above and beyond their targets, softening the blow of slowpokes like us underperforming. As a whole, the European Union is just 3% off the 20% target, which looks promising.
Of course, by the time the countdown completes, the UK will no longer be part of the EU, and for a time it was suggested that the target would be scrapped upon Brexit. Talk of that seems to have been abandoned for the time being, but it could still be a handy get-out clause if we do insist on letting the planet down.