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Failure to meet renewable energy targets could cost UK £60bn in fossil fuel imports by 2020, report warns

The UK could displace fossil fuel consumption up to the value of £60 billion by 2020 if it meets its European commitment to achieve 15% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020, according to new research.25 Apr 2012

However, the report (9-page / 650KB PDF) by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) warns that without Government action most of this money will have to be used to purchase imported gas, oil and coal to meet the country's 'energy gap'.

"While the Government has shown strong leadership and made great strides in offshore wind and marine renewables, a framework is required which ensures link-up between all relevant departments to capitalise on the full range of benefits offered by renewables," the report said.

The Office for Renewable Energy Deployment, currently part of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), could be relaunched as a cross-departmental office chaired by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to provide this framework, the REA said. It also recommended that the Government appoint a minister within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) with a specific renewable energy remit.

"This report makes it clear that the UK is facing challenges on several fronts, but that taking a joined-up approach which treats all of these problems together will create the single most important economic opportunity of this generation," the REA said.

The EU Renewable Energy Directive requires the UK to meet 15% of its overall energy demand and 10% of its transport demand from renewable sources by 2020. According to DECC's 2009 Renewable Energy Strategy, the UK intends to meet the remainder of its target by meeting 12% of heat demand and 30% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

The UK renewables industry currently supports 110,000 jobs across the supply chain, with an estimated 400,000 workers needed by 2020 if the UK is to meet its European commitments, the REA said.

It warned that the skills 'time bomb' was a "major obstacle" to meeting those commitments, but added that it represented a "major opportunity for putting disillusioned graduates, the unemployed and those in low paid work into high value careers".

The Government should publish a national strategy for renewable energy skills, as well as ensure that employment figures in the sector are monitored by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of the REA, said that the report showed that growing the renewables sector was a "clear answer" to the country's employment, economic and energy challenges.

"Harnessing our renewables creates employment and means that rather than spending money on energy imports we can keep it circulating in the UK economy," she said. "Government needs to take steps to build the skills base and keep the UK on track to meet its renewables targets."

"The REA's report sets out plainly the opportunities and challenges in this area. We are determined to seize the momentum and secure maximum benefit for the UK," Climate Change Secretary Greg Barker said.

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