The aim of this paper is to look at the UK’s renewable energy policy in the context of its overall decarbonisation and energy policies. This will allow us to explore the precise nature of the ‘failure’ of UK renewables policy and to suggest policy changes which might be appropriate in light of the UK’s institutional and resource endowments. Our focus is on the electricity sector both in terms of renewable generation and to a lesser extent the facilitating role of electricity distribution and transmission networks. We will suggest that the precise nature of the failure of UK policy is rather more to do with societal preferences and the available mechanisms for encouraging social acceptability than it is to do with financial support mechanisms. Radical changes to current policy are required, but they must be careful to be institutionally appropriate to the UK. What we suggest is that current policies exhibit an unnecessarily low benefit to cost ratio, and that new policies for renewable deployment must pay close attention to cost effectiveness.