Renewable Energy Foundation

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About REF

The Renewable Energy Foundation is a registered charity (1107360) promoting sustainable development for the benefit of the public by means of energy conservation and the use of renewable energy.

REF is supported by private donation and has no political affiliation or corporate membership. In pursuit of its principal goals REF highlights the need for an overall energy policy that is balanced, ecologically sensitive, and effective.

We aim to raise public awareness of the issues and encourage informed debate regarding a structured energy policy that is both ecologically sensitive and practical. The issues of climate change and security of energy supply are complex and closely intertwined. REF contributes to the debate surrounding these issues by commissioning reports to provide an independent and authoritative source of information.

  • REF was founded in 2004 by a group of individuals and conservation bodies concerned at the lack of balance in the United Kingdom's energy policy, and at the information available regarding the major renewable energy technologies. REF has attempted to supply this deficit by commissioning studies from major academics and professionals.
  • We are responsible for publishing the most comprehensive and accurate data relating to renewable energy generation in the UK. The Renewable Energy Data files give monthly load factor statistics for all 5,000 plus renewable energy generators in the UK that are registered under the Renewable Obligation. This data set runs from 2002 up to the present, and is updated on a regular basis.
  • We are also responsible for the first attempt to use hourly Met Office data to model the likely behaviour of a large wind carpet, 25 GW, spread over the United Kingdom, a study widely acknowledged to be an important and novel contribution to debate. A further extension to this study is now under way.
  • REF has also supported and published ground-breaking work on the relationship between wind energy output, electricity spot prices, and international electricity trading in Germany and Denmark.
  • In addition REF responds to public consultations, and REF speakers make regular appearances at meetings around the UK. Our policy positions can be found in the Foundation's publications, presentations, and press releases.
  • REF has consistently argued that the Renewables Obligation, a subsidy mechanism inaugurated in 2002, has severely distorted both the renewables and the conventional generating sector, to the detriment of consumer interest, the development of the renewables sector, and climate change policy. We have argued that the subsidy was failing to produce cost-effective emissions reductions or a broad spread of experimentation in renewable energy technologies. In fact the system was actively suppressing the development of higher value technologies, and allowing whichever happened to be the currently least capital intensive to dominate the field. Thus, while apparently a market-based mechanism it implicitly "picked winners", and used criteria that did not deliver value for money to the subsidising consumer. Initially this winner was Landfill Gas, and in recent years has come to be onshore wind.
  • REF argued that the Obligation should be revised in order to give investors an incentive to move towards other technologies, even if more capital intensive, both to ensure that high value, firm renewables (such as biomass and tidal energy), were adopted, and also to create an atmosphere of experimentation.
  • REF was not alone in putting these arguments forward, and they have gradually widespread, with support in bodies as diverse as the Carbon Trust, the National Audit Office, and Ofgem, the regulator of the Gas and Electricity Markets. We are delighted that in the Energy White Paper of 2007 the Government has now accepted these arguments and moved to introduce a banded system which will ensure a pluralistic strategy aimed at long term development and technological advance rather than a hothouse growth spurt that is unhealthy and unsustainable. However, we believe that a more economic and efficient long-term method of breaking the inertia holding back renewables must be found, and we hope to contribute to the formation of such a policy redirection.