Between a ROC and a hard place

13th September 2011 Posted by

The Government’s renewable energy market reform is intended to ensure a reliable, affordable and low carbon energy supply. It’s expected to deliver a replacement for 25 per cent of all existing capacity by 2020, equating to around 30 per cent of all our electricity needs coming from renewable sources.

These ambitious targets will require significant support from all tiers of Government to ensure this policy becomes a reality. To this end, the Government favours the idea of subsidising certain renewable energy forms with, amongst other things, Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). These add significant costs which will ultimately be picked up by consumers, both domestic and commercial.

Criticism is growing around the viability of more politically popular forms of renewable energy such as wind, which will require constant subsidies throughout their life to be economically viable.

Surely there are other renewable energy alternatives which are robust technically and economically viable?

Biomass seems to be flavour of the month as the power companies seek to shift from coal. However, this too requires subsidies and one can begin to question the environmental benefit of shipping in millions of tonnes of virgin biomass from across the world.

I have long advocated the use of energy from waste as part of the overall solution of reaching the Government’s targets to decarbonise the economy.

The thermal treatment of residual waste, already a significant part of the renewable energy mix in Northern Europe, could according to the Institute of Civil Engineers provide the UK with 17 per cent of its electricity needs. This equates to around eight per cent of the UK’s renewable energy needs.

So why I wonder is there not a clamour to grasp the opportunity which energy from waste presents? This energy ticks the box in terms of being renewable, base load and in most cases subsidy free. It seems that energy from waste is stuck between a ROC and a hard place where its potential is ignored and less viable options continue to be promoted. Let’s hope this missed opportunity doesn’t cost us all dear and that come 2015 we have enough power to keep the lights on!

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