The government’s policies on lowering carbon emissions aren’t working

Richard Wheal

The Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics, published last month, gives an insight into how government energy policies are playing out. So, are the ministers achieving a low-carbon UK?

The EU targets for 2020 (to have 20% of energy from renewables) are fast approaching and we currently generate about 4% of our total energy requirements from renewables; so good so far. But perhaps the best investment is in Big Energy, rather than smaller installations – or is it?

Last year, electrical generation from gas declined sharply, with fuel use down by some 30%, while this fall was offset by a 32% increase in coal use, which was at its highest level since 2006; this is due to the high gas prices throughout the year. So the downside of Big Energy may well be its sensitivity to the fossil-fuel price.

If small-scale renewables are not achieving much and large-scale energy generation will always rely on the cheapest, most carbon-intensive fuel, what should the government’s solution be to getting a lower-carbon UK?

The total losses in delivering electricity to the socket were about 8%. This underlines the need to use electricity wisely at home and in the office and invest in energy efficiency.

The recent amendments to Part L seem to have missed the point - we need to thermally upgrade the existing housing stock as soon as possible.

The building industry is forging ahead with low-energy developments and is increasingly innovative in its solutions, while the government policies of lowering carbon emissions seem not to have achieved much to date. 

Rick Wheal is a consultant at Arup