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Whilst Government scenarios tended to rely heavily on the future availability of nuclear power, the environmental group stressed that the UK could also successfully decarbonise its economy through a major focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

WWF UK's Positive Energy report [2] showed that if the renewables industry was allowed to grow at a steady rate over the next 20 years, renewables could provide well in excess of 60% of the UK's electricity by 2030, a finding echoed by other major reports such as the Government's own Offshore Valuation Report [3].

Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK said: The continued cost escalations and construction delays facing the nuclear industry should not undermine the UK's ambitions to decarbonise its economy. Concerted efforts on both deploying renewable energy technologies at scale and prioritising energy efficiency could deliver the bulk of the UK's decarbonisation ambitions."

WWF-UK also highlighted that several renewable energy technologies were falling rapidly in cost such as onshore wind [4] and solar PV [5], whilst newer technologies like offshore wind could substantially reduce their costs towards the end of this decade and beyond [6] and help revive the UK economy.

A recent report from Cambridge Econometrics found for instance that with only marginal impacts on consumer bills, a sustained deployment of offshore wind in the UK over the next 20 years could by 2030 add £20bn to UK GDP annually, create 70,000 more net jobs, reduce gas import bills by £8bn/year and deliver carbon emissions 3 times lower than if the UK went down the route of another dash for gas [7].

Nick Molho added: "A focus on renewable energy technologies, where the UK is often an industrial leader, could deliver both huge cost reductions and a substantial boost to UK economic growth. But this will only materialise if the Government shows that it believes in the long-term potential of renewables, puts an end to political infighting and provides the industry with the clear long-term investment certainty it needs to invest in the UK."

WWF-UK also added that it would be a huge missed opportunity if the UK Government did not fully exploit the potential of energy efficiency. Recent analysis by consultants McKenzie for DECC showed that electricity demand in the UK could be 40% lower by 2030 than currently projected, which could reduce power sector costs by some £10bn/year by 2030 according to a recent report by WWF UK and Green Alliance [8].

Nick Molho concluded: "We need to move from an approach to policy that is overwhelmingly focused on building new power stations to one which gives far more importance as well to reducing our demand for energy. Energy efficiency could reduce our power sector costs by £10bn/year by 2030 to the benefit of consumers and our economy, we would be mad not to seize this opportunity."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. Building New Nuclear, The Challenges Ahead, Energy and Climate Change Select Committee: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/energy-and-climate-change-committee/news/building-new-nuclear-the-challenges-ahead/

2. Positive Energy: How renewables could transform the UK by 2030, October 2011, WWF UK: www.wwf.org.uk/positiveenergy

3. DECC, Crown Estate and industry, Offshore Valuation Report, July 2010: www.offshorevaluation.org. This report showed that by using a third of its practicable offshore renewable resources, the UK could become a net exporter of electricity by 2030.

4. A recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed that the levelised costs of onshore wind (a measure which takes full account of the capacity factor of onshore wind technology over its lifetime) had fallen dramatically in recent years and that the best onshore wind farms in the world already produce power as economically as coal, gas and nuclear generators: http://bnef.com/PressReleases/view/172

5. A recent Report from the Pew Centre showed that the price of solar modules fell by 50% in 2011 alone. See The Pew Centre, Clean Energy Race Report 2011: http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/reports/whos-winning-the-clean-energy-race-2011-edition-85899381106

6. The Crown Estate Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Pathways Study, which is the most in depth review of offshore wind involving over 120 stakeholders across the industry, shows that there are several pathways that could result in the costs of offshore wind going down to £100/MWh or less by 2020, with further substantial cost reductions possible in the 2020s. See http://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/media/305094/Offshore%20wind%20cost%20reduction%20pathways%20study.pdf

7. Cambridge Econometrics, The Economics of Gas and Offshore Wind in the UK, December 2012: http://www.wwf.org.uk/wwf_articles.cfm?unewsid=6342

8. WWF-UK and Green Alliance, Creating a Market for Electricity Savings, October 2012: http://www.wwf.org.uk/wwf_articles.cfm?unewsid=6243

For more information:

George Smeeton, Media Relations Manager WWF-UK
Tel: 01483 412 388, Mob: 07917 052 948, email: GSmeeton@wwf.org.uk
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