Red tape strangles Whitehall's plans to boost green energy

'Dire' bureaucratic delays and foot-dragging dog the PM's aims for more renewable power in the UK

A A A

Penny-pinching and red tape are suffocating government plans for a rapid increase in the amount of renewable energy used in Britain.

The plans – a cornerstone of ministers' strategy to combat climate change – set out to multiply the proportion of the country's energy provided by renewables by an ambitious five times in just 12 years. But they have yet to make headway because of official foot-dragging.

A government fund set up three years ago to encourage the development of wave and tide power has yet to provide a single penny to any device designed to tap the sea's energy. Civil service obstruction is holding up the deployment of rooftop wind turbines, despite a personal assurance from the Prime Minister that the problem had been solved. And grants for solar power have been cut back.

Peter Ainsworth, the shadow Environment Secretary, is planning to announce this week that he will introduce a Private Member's Bill to clear these obstructions, after coming high in the annual ballot for such Bills last week.

He said yesterday: "The situation is dire. A whole series of bureaucratic blockages are imperilling the rapid development of renewables in Britain."

The revelations come at the end of the most important two weeks for tackling climate change this year, both in Britain and globally. In the early hours of yesterday, the latest round of international negotiations on a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol ended after making little progress.

The talks, in the Polish town of Poznan, were not expected to achieve much – largely because of the hiatus in US policymaking caused by the post-election transition – and amply lived down to expectations. They decided on little more than to set up a fund (which has almost no money in it) to help poor countries adapt to climate change, and to lay out a programme for negotiations next year, leading to a make-or-break December session in Copenhagen, billed as the last chance to take serious measures to limit global warming before it runs out of control.

If a treaty is to be agreed there, enormous progress will have to be made from last week's talks, with rich countries agreeing to cut emissions of greenhouses gases by some 40 per cent by 2020 and poor ones undertaking at least to limit the growth of their pollution. In one of the few breakthroughs at Poznan, Mexico pledged to halve its emissions by 2050, and delegates are hoping that the US president-elect, Barack Obama, will live up to his promise to breathe new life into the negotiations when he takes office.

As the talks were ending European leaders confirmed that EU countries, as a whole, would increase the proportion of energy provided by renewables to 20 per cent by 2020. Britain's share of this commitment is to get 15 per cent of its energy in this way.

Ministers accept this is an "extremely challenging" task since the country now achieves only 3 per cent – the third lowest in Europe after Luxembourg and Malta – despite having the best resources. But Gordon Brown has repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to achieve it, fighting off resistance from John Hutton, the minister previously responsible for energy, and replacing him with the more progressive Ed Miliband.

Still, official obstruction continues (see panel). The delay on rooftop wind is particularly puzzling because Mr Brown wrote a letter on 27 August to David Gordon, the head of one of the main firms producing the turbines, to say the issue was resolved.

Mr Gordon says his firm, Windsave, has 6,500 orders and 25,000 inquiries awaiting the official go-ahead. And a survey of local authorities by the Micropower Council has found only three upheld noise complaints from the several thousand turbines already installed.

The reduction in solar grants has had a similarly chilling effect. Sharp, the country's only manufacturer of the panels, says that only one 50th of its year's production is installed in Britain; the rest is exported to countries with more encouraging policies.

Power play: Water, wind, sun... and hot air

Wave and tide The Government's £50m Marine Renewables Deployment Fund has not given any money to support any device since being set up in 2005. It requires three months of operating experience before it releases funds, whereas the help is needed to get schemes to that point.

Rooftop windmills These do not need planning permission, subject to noise limits agreed months ago by ministers and industry, to make them half as quiet as a gas boiler. Officials have resisted, saying they should be almost four times quieter still. The industry says it cannot achieve this.

Solar power Government grants to encourage householders to install solar electric panels on roofs were rationed, then reduced by two-thirds just as they were taking off. So, only 270 were installed in Britain last year, compared with 130,000 in Germany.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions