By Sarah McLean, energy and climate change correspondentThe British government is facing a backlash after announcing that it will lose out on the billions of pounds it spends on the solar power sector in 2020 as part of its Renewable Heat Incentive programme.
According to a government spokesperson, the change will allow the government to spend the money on energy efficiency and renewable energy instead.
The Renewable Energy Act 2015 requires the government “to make savings by 2030 on all energy purchases, including those associated with the renewable heat incentive”.
However, the announcement also says that the government will be able to buy up to £4bn worth of renewable energy over the next five years.
“The government will no longer be required to make savings in relation to the supply of renewable heat energy in 2020,” the spokesperson told the BBC.
“Instead, it will be free to buy renewable heat power from the Government of the Crown and to invest in other energy infrastructure, such as building new power stations and upgrading existing power stations, or to create new renewable heat projects in other areas, such a as building more energy-efficient buildings or buildings that are more efficient in terms of energy consumption.”
The spokesperson added that the £4.5bn of savings in 2020 will come from the £2bn saved in the previous year’s Budget by the government.
It’s worth noting that the announcement comes just two days after the government announced that it had achieved its first major cut in CO2 emissions in over a decade.
While the cuts were announced, the government has been facing criticism from a number of climate campaigners and activists.
As well as the cuts to the renewable energy targets, the UK also faces an expected increase in air pollution in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
On Tuesday, the Environment Agency said that air pollution was expected to rise by a whopping 17% in 2020 over the past three years, according the Guardian.
Meanwhile, a group of green activists and campaigners have warned that the renewable-heat programme is costing the country more than £4 billion a year, according TOI.
A spokesperson for the Green Party told The Guardian that the coalition’s plans to cut CO2 emission by at least 40% by 2050 are “absolutely unacceptable” and that the cuts are “the wrong thing to do”.
“This programme is being used as a political weapon, a way to score political points,” the Green party said in a statement.
Other campaigners have also called for the coalition to rethink the programme.
“It is an enormous waste of money, and if the government is so keen to make money, they should not be in the business of making climate change happen,” Sue Smith, a campaigner for the campaign group We Are Change, told the Guardian on Tuesday.
There are currently more than 60,000 new solar-powered homes on the grid in the country, with the Government’s own research estimating that the average home will need to install 2,500 panels by 2030.
This article originally appeared on The Conversation.