Investor doubts deliver blow to renewable energy programme

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The Government's ambitious green energy programme was dealt a blow yesterday when big City investors warned that the UK would not hit its targets for increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources.

The Government's ambitious green energy programme was dealt a blow yesterday when big City investors warned that the UK would not hit its targets for increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources.

Ministers have set a goal of producing 10 per cent of electricity from green sources such as wind and wave power by 2010, rising to 15 per cent by 2015.

But according to a survey by the Department of Trade and Industry, two thirds of investors think the targets will be missed. Seven in 10 of those polled said the biggest risk factor was the level of long-term commitment to green energy beyond 2015.

The views of the City are critical because it will require £10bn of investment in order to hit the 2010 target - nearly all of which will have to be provided by the private sector.

Currently, just 2 per cent of Britain's energy comes from green sources. To achieve the 2010 target, a further 6,000 to 7,000 megawatts of renewable energy will need to be built at a cost of some £8bn. A further £2bn will need to be spent to upgrade the national transmission and local distribution networks.

An extra 1,000 megawatts of wind powered capacity is under construction or about to be built, while a total of 3,000 megawatts has gained planning consent.

Although the DTI survey found that three-quarters of investors were "definitely interested" in investing in renewable energy, the widespread scepticism about the Government's prospects of hitting its targets will concern ministers.

Stephen Timms, the Energy Minister, is to hold a "green summit" next month to promote the case for renewable energy to City institutions and providers of project finance. The Government's environmental targets, which envisage a 20 per cent reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2010 compared with 1990 levels, also depend in part on the renewables programme.

Mr Timms admitted that it was more likely the renewables target would be undershot rather than exceeded, but he added: "We are seeing the beginning of the momentum we need to achieve our targets."

New planning guidance due to be issued in the next few weeks by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, will help by requiring local planning authorities to consider national targets and not just local environmental issues when assessing applications to build wind farms.

The Ministry of Defence has also recently relented in its opposition to wind farms on the grounds that their turbines can interfere with radar systems, dropping its objections to two big developments in Scotland.

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