Nuclear generation could count towards meeting the UK's obligation under an EU proposal for 20% of energy to be sourced from renewable energy by 2020, according to a proposal in a leaked document from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).
The internal document from BERR, until recently known as the Department of Trade and Industry, says that the UK could be asked to take on a target to source 9-16% of energy from renewables, under a burden-sharing agreement. The document, obtained by The Guardian newspaper, concludes that current measures to promote renewable energy in the UK are only likely to increase its use from the current 2% to 5% by 2020. It would cost GBP4 billion ($8 billion) to raise the share to 9%.
Amongst the options the BERR document suggests is to lobby for consideration of the use of other low carbon energy - including nuclear power - towards the UK's target. During the original negotiations leading to the EU renewables target, the French government secured concessions that allowed the use of all low carbon energy sources to be considered when setting the individual country targets.
The document suggests the EU renewables target could impact badly on other climate change measures. If the EU as a whole took on a 20% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2020 the contribution of the renewables target in combination with energy efficiency measures would render other climate change policies, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, largely unnecessary, as the emissions savings from the increased use of renewables and energy efficiency gains would produce the emissions reductions required.
However, the BERR document also points out that relying on renewables to such an extent to make greenhouse gas emissions reductions would be very costly, as renewables would be more expensive than other emissions reduction options.
The UK has a target of generating 15% of its electricity from renewables by 2015. Today around 5% of electricity is supplied from renewables, but the contribution of renewables to other areas of energy use, such as biofuels, is much smaller.
Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
WNA's Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom information paper
WNA's Policy Responses to Global Warming information paper
WNN's EU sets carbon and renewables target, backs nuclear article