UK renewables investment to drop 95%, says study

Analysis by a UK non-profit expects a ‘cliff-edge’ between 2017 and 2020 due to a shrinking pipeline of projects.

The UK will fail to meet carbon-reduction pledges if it does nothing to address a looming collapse in renewable energy investment, according to non-profit Green Alliance.

Through the analysis of updates released by the government on its infrastructure pipeline, the London-based NGO found that renewables spending had fallen by £1.1 billion ($1.4 billion; €1.3 billion) over the last six months.

This should be attributed, its report argued, not to a reduction in renewable energy costs but to “a shrinking pipeline of projects”. It did not elaborate on what it thought were the latter’s underlying causes.

The UK in July 2015 announced wide-ranging renewables subsidy cuts, including the end of the Renewable Obligations scheme for projects under 5MW by April 2016, a year earlier than expected. Launching a consultation to review the feed-in-tariff scheme, it then said it intended to cap related spending at £100 million between 2016 and 2018-19, which insiders expect will prevent some 6GW of renewable generation from getting developed by 2020-21.

The report anticipated an even more drastic drop in investment in the coming years, with 95 percent less spending on the sector between 2017 and 2020. “This cliff-edge needs to be avoided if the UK is to meet its world-leading carbon budgets and Paris agreement pledge,” Green Alliance noted.

Its research had more positive things to say about low-carbon investments as whole, which it found had been rising relative to high-carbon investments in 2016 for the first time in four years.

“This is primarily because of a decline in private sector investment in high-carbon assets, rather than a strategic change in UK government priorities. But it is good news,” it said.

Low-carbon transport spending had risen £2.3 billion since spring 2016, the non-profit found, with bus, light rail, walking routes and cycling facilities seen as the main beneficiaries.