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Goverment excludes aviation to hide failure on renewables target, reports Guardian

9th March, 2012

The UK is committed to sourcing 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. For aviation, however, the only alternative to fossil fuel is biofuel, and while the industry likes to talk up the possibilities of making sustainable biofuels commercially viable, the Department for Transport predicts that even by 2050, such fuel will represent only 2.5% of the total for UK aviation. Including aviation in the calculations for UK fuel consumption, as has historically been the practice, therefore increases the pressure to ramp up renewable energy use in other sectors.

Now, reports Juliette Jowett in the Guardian (27th February), the Government has dropped aviation from its calculations in order to make its figures look better:

The government and energy industry have quietly shelved plans for windfarms equivalent to four large traditional coal and nuclear power stations, amid growing public and political anger over the cost and sight of the turbines….

A Decc spokesman said: “…We specifically don’t dictate to the market exactly what the share of each technology will be. But in any future scenario, whatever the level of demand, we intend to meet the UK commitment to meet 15% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources.”

The pledge to supply 15% of energy from renewables can be met despite building less generating capacity partly because since the last analysis, aviation emissions – which would have to be offset by renewable electricity in the short term at least because of the difficulty of finding affordable alternatives to kerosene – have been removed from the calculations.

AEF recognises that powering aircraft with renewable energy from sustainable, commercially viable biofuels is not currently possible. But omitting aviation from renewables calculations to hide the sector’s dependence on fossil fuels is injustifiable and goes against the grain of recent policy developments. Airlines are now included in the EU ETS and the Committee on Climate Change is required to take account of aviation emissions when setting the UK’s carbon budgets.

Just as with the climate targets, if aviation can’t meet the renewables standard then other sectors will simply have to work harder to make up the shortfall. In the absence of new policy measures to constrain the sector’s growth, Government forecasts are for aviation’s fuel use to increase in future so if aviation were taken into account, pressure on other sectors would be likely to grow over time.