The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has today published its Carbon Plan, outlining the anticipated steps to reaching the country’s 2020 emissions targets. The document has been released in draft format, with a full version expected this autumn.

Aiming to encourage the UK to cut its carbon footprint while at the same time promoting green jobs and investment in the country, a revised version of the Carbon Plan will be released each year.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said, “This Carbon Plan sets out a vision of a changed Britain, powered by cleaner energy used more efficiently in our homes and businesses, with more secure energy supply and more stable energy prices, and benefiting from the jobs and growth that a low-carbon economy will bring.

“But it does more than that. It shows exactly how we will deliver that vision and play our part in the global effort to tackle climate change and build a green economy through specific, practical action across government, month by month and department by department. We want the public to tell us where we can be even more ambitious, and hold us to account on delivering what we say, when we say.”

The Carbon Plan sets out three main objectives for the UK including a shift away from reliance on fossils fuels and towards low-carbon alternatives, a change in how buildings are heated by focusing more on renewable, low carbon options and improving public transport by reducing the amount of vehicles on the road as well as improving motor technology, perhaps towards electric versions.

Also outlined in the document are the three ways in which the Government has already begun promoting the use of low carbon technology:

  1. Feed-in tariff (FiT)
  2. Renewables Obligation (RO)
  3. Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)

While two of the three incentives are actually in place, the RHI is yet to be fully revealed. The Renewable Energy Association (REA) expects that details will be announced this week for full implementation in June 2011.

Further, the Carbon Plan details the Government’s intention to create a carbon price floor by April 2011, award the first UK CCS demonstration contract by the end of 2011 and to identify further projects by May 2012, get the Green Investment Bank operation by September 2012 with the first annual data released on the funds and size of investments made by May 2013, develop a nationwide strategy to promote electric vehicle infrastructure by June 2011 and to reduce central Government emissions by 10% by May 2011.

The Plan also reiterates the Government’s original deadline to review the solar photovoltaics feed-in tariff in April 2012, with any adjustments to be made in April 2013. Under the title ‘Feed-in Tariffs’, the document states, “Long-term contracts would provide more certainty on the revenues and make clean energy investment attractive still. A ‘contract for difference’ model for low carbon generation is proposed (guaranteeing a certain price to generators for their electricity, and contracting for the Government to meet the difference between this and the current market price), as this should control costs for consumers, provide stable returns for investors and maintain the market incentives to generate when electricity demand is high. However, because of complex design and implementation issues, the Government is also consulting on a premium feed-in tariff (a fixed payment which generators receive on top of the market price) as a credible alternative.” It is unclear at this point what this will entail.

Although the Carbon Plan outlines positive Government action in order to meet the UK’s carbon emissions targets, it has been met with mixed reviews. Many in the renewables industry are keen to see the Government outline its intentions to accelerate the reduction of carbon in the UK, and see the Carbon Plan as a positive move towards the 2020 goals. Others however, are still unconvinced that the Government will continue its support for certain renewable technologies.

Seb Berry, Head of External Affairs, Solarcentury said, “Since 7th February, an unnecessary cloud has been hanging over the UKs fledgling solar PV industry. Ministers knee-jerk response to the perceived “threat” of “super size” solar farms has created chaos in our sector. But the shock decision to rush through an immediate solar PV feed-in tariff review and to bring forward the review of all other technologies by fully twelve months, flies in the face of the facts. In the first 9 months of the scheme, the total spend on all feed-in tariff technologies was just £6m and the projected output from new PV in the first year of the tariff is going to fall well below the Government's expectations.”

He added: “Far from being the “goldrush” feared by Ministers, the UK solar PV industry is still taking its first tentative steps in a feed-in tariff scheme which they derided for being far to modest whilst in Opposition. If Ministers are really serious about accelerating Britain's progress towards becoming a low carbon economy they need to take actions that are consistent with their rhetoric, not the opposite. They should start with lifting the ridiculous 50kWp threshold for the immediate feed-in tariff review and sticking to the timetable set out in their own Carbon Plan. “

A White Paper is also expected to be released “later in 2011” which will set out proposals to reform the electricity market. Again, full details were not revealed.

The full Carbon Plan can be accessed here.