Committee chairman Angus MacNeil said: "The experts we spoke to were clear: the UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements.
“Failing to meet these would damage the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership. The government must take urgent action on heat and transport to renew its efforts on decarbonisation."
Britain’s target is to provide for 15 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources. The overall obligation has three sub-targets: 30 per cent in electricity, 12 per cent in heat and 10 per cent in transport.
The committee said that the UK is three-quarters of the way towards the electricity target and is expected to exceed it by 2020, but it is not yet halfway towards the heat target and adds that “the proportion of renewable energy used in transport actually fell last year”.
The committee said that the government's proposed reforms to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) “are not the optimal pathway to the 2020 renewable heat target. Many heat pumps have proven unsatisfactory in actual use, yet are being prioritised over biomass, which has been successful.
“Biomethane is also crucial to meeting the 2020 target and must remain a funding priority. The government should revise its RHI reforms to reflect these priorities, especially in protecting biomethane support.”
Beyond 2020, the committee believes that heat and transport “will likely depend on some combination of bioenergy and electrification”.
“Bioenergy has an important role in the UK's future energy mix, but there are concerns about its carbon footprint. Electrification is therefore key. However, in heat, it is clear that the government cannot rely on complete electrification – especially given limits to electricity-network capacity.”
And the committee also concludes that “leaving the EU renders the status of the UK’s 2020 renewable energy targets uncertain”.
MacNeil said: "We agreed our 2020 renewable energy targets as part of the EU but they still have many merits, even as the UK government prepares for Brexit. If the UK reneges on these targets, it will undermine confidence in the government’s commitment to clean energy and the climate targets agreed in Paris. Progress has been slow, but this must be taken as a call to action, not an excuse for backtrack."
Juliet Davenport, chief executive of renewable energy company Good Energy and one of the experts who gave evidence to the committee, said that the committee’s conclusions “should ring alarm bells for the government – we’re teetering on a cliff edge of losing our global reputation for leadership on climate change”.
“These are EU targets that will be missed, so now the government needs to show the world that Brexit doesn’t mean they’re throwing the towel in on tackling climate change.”