The UK's recently announced Energy Bill was contentious, with the renewable industry celebrating long-term commitments and environmentalists lamenting a lack of clarity on CO2 goals. Some have suggested, however, that it may have been a secret victory for clean energy as it set out a predictable policy environment for renewables - something that natural gas and other fossil fuels may find slipping from their grasp as subsequent governments get increasingly serious about tackling climate change.
The predictability of support for emerging industries is, after all, almost as important as the actual amount of money being provided.Business Green is now reporting that the British government is diversifying its own purchases of electricity through the Government Procurement Service (GPS), initially offering to shift 2% of its annual electricity purchases to lower carbon energy sources through 25-year fixed price contracts:
"Energy for Growth will use the government's clout as the biggest energy customer to shape the market for the good of the country," said Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude in a statement. "The UK is in a global race and that's why we are working to attract investment into our energy industry to create jobs, develop technology and secure clean and diverse supplies for the future.
The initial pilot phase of this commitment is geared toward non-intermittent sources of energy like biomass or waste-to-energy (both of which have significant sustainability issues of their own), but as the scheme expands it is expected to include other sources of renewables like wind and solar. Government sources suggested that purchases could eventually increase to as much as half of the GPS' annual £1.5bn energy bill.
With UK renewable energy output jumping 42% last year, this should be another welcome sign to investors that there is a long-term future for cleaner sources of power. We should not, however, get too complacent. A commitment to possibly purchase 50% of government power from renewables means - in the very best scenario - that 50% will still come from non-renewable sources. Given the increasing urgency of initiating a 100% transition to a zero carbon future, we must continue to push for more.