Wind blows into trouble in the UK.....
The UK won't be able to meet its renewables targets...
A major threat to Britain's ambitions for renewable energy will emerge this week when wind industry leaders admit that targets set for 2020 are looking increasingly unrealistic.
They will use a high-profile conference in London to warn Gordon Brown that there is little chance of achieving the government's goal - of wind generating one third of all UK electricity within 12 years - without a huge injection of public money.
It comes as an Observer investigation reveals that planning delays, long delivery times, escalating costs, 10-year hold-ups in connection to the national grid and technical problems in building offshore windfarms all threaten to derail Brown's ambitions. The result could be electricity shortages by 2020, failure to meet climate change and energy targets and possible hefty fines from Europe.
The developments will come as a blow to the government. Last week Ed Miliband, the new minister for climate change, said Britain would increase its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 60 to 80 per cent.
Brown will tell delegates at the annual conference of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) this week that the UK industry is now a world leader. But others will claim that there is a severe shortage of engineers and companies are reviewing their commitments to wind energy because of spiralling costs. Britain is legally committed to generating 15 per cent of all energy from renewables by 2020. This means that wind power, which presently contributes about 4 per cent of UK electricity, must expand to generate 36 per cent within 12 years.
New studies warn of looming financial and supply problems. Last week the Carbon Trust, a government agency, warned that the steep rise in the price of building offshore farms could undermine the whole project. 'Currently the risk/return balance for offshore wind is not sufficiently attractive, and regulatory barriers would delay delivery well beyond 2020,' it said.
Tom Delay, the Trust's chief executive, added: 'Industry costs have become very, very expensive, and both government and companies need to work hard to tackle this. Without urgent action, there is a risk that little additional offshore wind power will be built by 2020.'
Cambridge Energy Research Associates says that Britain should expect a 20 per cent increase in offshore wind capital costs over the next few years on top of the 50 per cent increase in the past three years.