By Susanna Twidale
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain could miss its medium-term goals to cut carbon dioxide emissions even after extensive reforms to the UK electricity market, a government advisory body said on Tuesday.
The country has set binding targets for greenhouse gases over four five-year periods to 2027, known as carbon budgets, which aim to put it on track towards cutting emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by the middle of the century.
Under the current rate of progress, emissions in Britain are likely to be cut by 21-23 percent from 2013 to 2025 rather than the 31 percent reduction needed, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said in a report to parliament.
The government has embarked on a sweeping reform of its electricity market, introducing incentives for renewables investment through guaranteed pricing contracts and providing incentives for low-carbon nuclear power generation.
But the CCC reiterated its calls for the government to go further and introduce a carbon intensity target for the power sector in 2030.
The CCC said the carbon intensity of power generation could be reduced to an average of 50-100 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilowatt-hour by 2030 from the current 500 gCO2/kWh.
This would limit new gas-fired power plants after 2020, unless they are fitted with as yet commercially unproven technology to capture carbon emissions and store them underground or else as back-up for intermittent renewables.
Many businesses and campaign groups support a 2030 decarburization target, arguing it would give more certainty to clean energy investors and provide jobs, while opponents worry it could lead to higher energy bills for consumers.
In the past, the government has mostly heeded the CCC's advice, approving all the carbon budgets that the committee has proposed so far.
Lawmakers last year rejected a proposed amendment to the government's Energy Bill to set a decarburization goal for electricity generation for 2030 no later than April 1, 2014, but said they could revisit the issue in 2016.
The committee also recommended a number of other measures to improve Britain's chances of meeting its carbon budgets, including a push to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road and measures to increase residential energy efficiency, such as loft and wall insulation.
(Reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Dale Hudson)