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UK: 2010 energy targets 'wishful thinking'

Britain will not meet the government's target of producing 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010, energy experts say.

David White, an energy consultant at David White and Associates, argued at a press briefing yesterday that fossil fuels would be important for several decades yet and the government should focus its efforts on developing ways to trap the carbon dioxide produced when they are burned - the process known as carbon sequestration.

Professor Ian Fells, chairman of the New and Renewable Energy Centre, added that Britain would also need more nuclear power stations to meet the increasing energy demands, contrary to current government thinking.

"We will get to 6% renewables by 2010 if we're lucky," he said. It was "wishful thinking" to suppose that we would reach the 10% target set out by the government in last year's white paper on energy.

The government insists that not only is this target attainable, the aspirational target of shifting 20% of energy production to renewable sources by 2020 is also feasible.

In consequence it has poured money into the development of several offshore wind farms.

By 2005 Britain will have more than 500 offshore windmills, between them generating more than 1,000MW of power - enough for almost 1m homes.

Dr White said wind would not provide all the answers.

"The government has been too ambitious with wind farms," he said. Wind power was too unreliable, and could provide a maximum of 4% of Britain's energy needs by 2010.

Jim Footner, an energy campaigner at Greenpeace, denied that there were such fundamental problems with renewable technology. "Our wind power alone could power the country many times over. We are still on track to meet those targets," he said.

Prof Fells said the looming energy crisis could only be solved by building more nuclear power stations. The government has vetoed this idea.

He said the latest designs produced only 10% of the waste of older stations and used fuel 60 times more efficiently.

Mr Footner said the nuclear industry was in no shape to start building new stations.

"The [nuclear] market needs massive amounts of government subsidy. If you look at the two UK nuclear companies - BNFL and British Energy - both are in debt massively. That is not a great case for nuclear energy."

Another reason, he said, was that there was still no solution for the nuclear waste problem.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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