Detailed forecasts of energy demand and CO2 emissions to the year 2020 published by Cambridge Econometrics indicate that the UK will miss renewables targets for 2010 and 2015 by by wide margins.

The independent assessment of the latest energy-environment developments following the publication of the Draft Climate Change Bill, which sets a legally binding target of a 60% cut by 2050, and the May 2007 Energy White Paper, does however find that the country will nearly meet its renewable target for 2020.

The treatment measures the cost-effectiveness of various renewables technologies, taking the income from Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) into account and comparing it with that of conventional combined cycle gas turbine technology (CCGT.) However, only a proportion of required new-build up to 2010 is expected to be from renewables, as several CCGT stations are likely to be profitable and have already been given the green light. The forecast, therefore, suggests that renewables will account for around 5% of total electricity generation by 2010 and fail to meet the 10% target. Nonetheless, if electricity demand grows at around 0.5-1% annually over the period 2010-2020 and fossil fuel prices remain relatively high, the share of renewables in total electricity generation is expected to increase to around 12.5% by 2015, short of the 15% target set by the RO, and will reach 19% by 2020, almost meeting the government’s aspirations of a 20% share.

Looking at carbon, the projected fall in carbon emissions over the period 2005-10 will not be enough to achieve the government’s 20% domestic carbon-reduction goal

Following a 3% decline in 2002, CO2 emissions rose by around 2% in 2003, and increased slightly in 2004-2005, but rose by an estimated 1% in 2006 as high gas prices led to a shift from gas to coal in power generation. Total carbon emissions are expected to decline by around 1.75% annually over 2005-2010. The decline is led by the power generation sector where carbon emissions are expected to fall by about 4.75% annually over the same period.

The forecasts suggest that after 2010 total carbon emissions will stabilise in the period to 2015, as the modest decline in emissions from power generation and industry is broadly offset by the continued growth in the transport and commerce sectors. Over 2015-2020, however, total carbon emissions are expected to decline by around 0.5% annually as emissions from power generation fall more quickly by 1.5% pa, as a result mainly of a phasing out of coal-fired generation not fitted with FGD and the slower growth in emissions from gas-fired generation. The forecast reduction of 12.75% in CO2 emissions by 2010 means that the UK is on course to meet its Kyoto target. Professor Paul Ekins, co-editor of the report said: “Our forecasts show that the government is set to miss not only its 20% carbon reduction goal by 2010, but also its declared target of obtaining 10% of UK electricity supply from renewable sources eligible under the Renewables Obligation by 2010 and 15% by 2015.”