UK Renewable Energy Targets: SGR Comment

Press release, 26 October 2007

Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) condemns the government decision to abandon its target of 20% of UK electricity generated from renewable energy sources by 2020.

The government has, for many years, been less than whole-hearted in its support for the expansion of renewable energy. This has been evidenced not least by a lack of significant R&D funding, disorganised and over-complex schemes for demonstration programmes, and a lack of support in the planning process.

While there are real opportunities to make up for this mismanagement, the government has instead - as evidenced by comments to the media in advance of the conclusion of the public consultation - decided to return to supporting new nuclear power.

The government's own advisors, the Sustainable Development Commission, warned last year that a new nuclear power programme would be likely to undermine efforts on the alternative ways of reducing carbon emissions, and that this would likely compromise the overall effort. We believe the abandonment of the renewables target is the first sign of this.

SGR strongly urges the government to think again and to give the emerging renewable energy industry the support it deserves. This should be carried out as part of a considerably enhanced strategy to reduce carbon emissions - especially through implementing much more serious programmes on curbing energy demand - not least in the buildings and transport sectors. The nuclear industry has enjoyed considerable government support over the last 50 years, and yet still only manages to supply less than 4% of the UK final energy consumption. It is time to give other - more promising - alternatives a proper chance.


1. SGR is an independent UK organisation of approximately 900 members across the natural and social sciences, engineering, IT, architecture and design. Its main aim is to promote ethical science, design and technology - based on the principles of openness, accountability, peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability. For more information, see

2. Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, revealed the change in the government target on 23rd October - 'Minister confirms retreat from 20% renewable energy target'

3. The warning from the Sustainable Development Commission - from p.19 of: SDC (2006). The role of nuclear power in a low carbon economy - position paper.

4. The nuclear industry supplies less than 4% of the UK final energy consumption - from p.12 of: Bows et al (2006). Living within a carbon budget. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.