The UK’s 2020 renewable energy target is in risk of missing the mark. Despite progress with renewable energy in the UK from last year, industry leaders have stated that the UK is not on track to hit their renewable energy targets for 2020. The progress needed to reach these goals outlined by the EU is widely considered to be improbable. What the UK needs to accomplish this year to meet the target is to generate 20% of their energy supply from renewables.

The legally binding targets will be a poor start to our road to net-zero by 2050.


What is the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target?


Under the EU the UK set legally binding targets for renewable energy. Under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive each member of the EU was required to publish a National Renewable Energy Action Plan. Within the plan, members adopted sub targets for their electricity, gas and transport.

The UK’s targets were as follows:

  • 30% renewable electricity
  • 12% renewable heat
  • 10% renewable transport

These targets were published with their plan in 2010 and were described as “purely illustrative” at the time. However, the Secretary of State confirmed these targets as ‘The Uk’s plan’ in 2015.



Are we at risk of missing our target?




As of 2019 the UK generated over 48.5% of electricity from renewable sources meaning one sub target, we can assume, will be met in 2020. The reason why the UK will more than likely miss the target is that our heating and transport sectors are still largely dominated by fossil fuels.



Our transport sector is currently under transformation. The electric revolution is taking shape but is not speeding ahead. This means the majority of cars on the road are still using almost entirely petrol and diesel. Breaching the 10% renewable target for this year. 

Though it has been quite difficult to pint point accurate information on the actual fuel mix for the UK’s transport. According to the Petrol Retailers Association the facts and figures for fuel sales total at 46.5bn litres of petrol (retail) and diesel (for retail and commercial).


Fuel type in newly registered cars in the UK were still overwhelmingly petrol or diesel. 65.9% of newly registered cars were petrol, 26.6% were diesel and 7.3% was alternative fuels. It may seem close to the 10% target but these alternatives fuels include hybrid car sales that will still use petrol or diesel and is therefore, not renewable. 

These figures make it seem like it’s unlikely that renewables will be making up 10% of transport fuel in the UK any time soon. 



The heat sector is not currently on the optimal path towards the renewable target. The government are promoting heat pumps that are not as effective or satisfactory as using biomass. As a result given the current mix and current year, this target will more than likely not be met. 



What about Brexit?

This is a very fair question to ask, after all this target was set up while we were a member of the EU. In truth we don’t know what this will do for the target. 

We can only assume that the majority of the laws created under the EU will continue to be law when we leave.So, much like all other EU laws, the certainty of these goals are completely up in the air! 

The government have understood that whether it is part of law or not, missing this target will sow doubt for the 2050 net zero target. If necessary the UK will have to recommit to these targets. Alternatively, they may need to set entirely new targets under new UK law without EU membership.



What about the recent growth in renewables?


Unfortunately, as briefly mentioned previously, the recent growth in renewable energy is just regarding electricity generation. The advancements do not stretch to both the heating and transport sectors of the UK. It is the remaining two targets that the UK is at risk of missing their planned goal.

There have been a few different case studies around the UK recently revolving both alternative energy in heating networks and development in adopting electric vehicles.

Keel University injected hydrogen gas into their private gas network, a UK first! 20% of the natural gas network consists of hydrogen and is connected to 30 faculty buildings and 100 homes!

Last year was a record level of sales for low emission vehicles in the UK. Despite this, the market share of EV is still minuscule in comparison. 

However, beyond these examples there have been few others and even less done in the government about the heat and transport sectors. 


We hope you found this post informative and it answered your questions! Thanks for taking the time to read this post, have a great day! 

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