So far, efforts to develop renewable energy have concentrated on electricity. But heat accounts for about a third of UK energy demand and the Government has largely overlooked the potential to stimulate renewable heat sources such as wood, straw, solar thermal and ground source heat pumps.
Last year, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution called for a renewable heat obligation loosely modelled on the existing renewables obligation for electricity suppliers (ENDS Report 352, pp 11-12 ). The Government promised to consider the proposal alongside this year's review of the renewables obligation (ENDS Report 355, pp 43 ).
In a bid to speed up the decision-making process, Scottish Nationalist MP Mike Weir introduced a Bill which would have given the Government powers to introduce a renewable heat obligation on heating fuel suppliers.
Nearly 200 MPs signed an early day motion in support of the Bill, which was due have its second reading in the House of Commons on 4 February. Earlier debates that day used up the available debating time, but the Bill could still have progressed to Committee stage had the Government not objected to it.
Friends of the Earth was "bitterly disappointed" by the move. "The Government is way behind its targets for reducing carbon dioxide and needs to start implementing ideas like this, not opposing them," it said. However, Energy Minister Mike O'Brien has offered to meet Mr Weir to discuss the matter further.