Renewable Energy in 2015

Renewable Energy 2015

If we have finally reached the tipping point with renewable energy and are about to embrace it as never before, then you might think that 2015 could well be the year that makes or breaks those of us who believe in developing and using clean technologies that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

There will be a few caveats, however, at least in the UK where a new government is due to be elected this May. How that effects the green agenda will depend largely on the outcome. The odds are on another hung parliament and with organisations such as UKIP currently debating the factual accuracy of climate change, Labour unwilling to lay their cards on the table on subsidies and the Conservatives looking closely at fracking as a valid source of home-made energy, it’s difficult to pin the future of renewables down.

Here are a few possibilities that could come your way over the next 12 months or so:

The price of solar panels could be set to fall even further as more competition comes into the market and householders and businesses see it as a profitable way to get clean energy with the government’s Feed in Tariff. That could see the rise of more companies offering free installation in exchange for a share of the profits. Find out if free solar panels are for you here.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars could finally begin to take off globally sparking a worldwide change in focus as we switch from our reliable gas guzzlers to something new. Most major car brands are now working furiously on these hybrid vehicles and, while they may be out of our price range at the moment, we could see them becoming more the rule than the exception over the next ten to fifteen years.

More technology to help you manage your energy usage could be on its way. The energy companies may have been less than proactive in helping both businesses and domestic premises manage their electricity and gas usage more efficiently – after all, it’s to their advantage if you use more power. But there could be a real sea change on the horizon as better technology starts to be introduced that helps us all micromanage our utilities in 2015.

The countries who will be at the forefront of renewable technology by the end of the year could be different from now. With nations such as Australia stalling in their green endeavours and previously stagnant ones like China suddenly beginning to blossom, we could see the focus change quite considerably. Countries like France have introduced recent legislation that puts a precedent on achieving 32% energy production from renewables by the end of 2030. Where the UK will figure in that mix is probably up for debate until after the next election.

According to Infrastructure Intelligence, the UK needs to be careful that a reduction in subsidies is not frightening off investors who may be turning towards the new kids of the block such as China and India. They quoted the Warren Report that stated: “To continue to compete for international capital, the UK’s market reform and upcoming Contract for Difference (CfDs) regime will have to go a long way to repair the damage or recent policy mishaps.”

Will the Contracts for Difference Work?

There has been speculation whether it’s better to subsidise or whether the new Contracts for Difference initiative will work more efficiently for the creation of new low-carbon electricity generation. According to the Government, the contracts will provide greater investor security and ensure that new capacity is delivered more cheaply. 2015 should tell us whether this has been a success or not with the budget increasing for this year to £300 million.

Renewables on a Grand Scale

Whilst the small projects are doing well across the UK, it’s the big projects that are finding things more difficult. 2015 could see more objections to large scale wind, solar and hydroelectric projects if the naysayers have anything to do with it. One major project that could gather more credence is the development of a huge solar farm in the Sahara desert, according to the Independent recently. Energy created in the desert could be sent to a substation in Rome that could then feed into the European grid, providing power for over 8 million homes in the UK.

There’s no doubt that 2015 will be an important year for the renewables industry whether you are installing solar panels or working on much larger projects like the next off shore wind farm. We could start to see a more and more localised approach with communities setting up self-funded initiatives like hydroelectric plants and more properties starting to invest in green technologies such as heat recovery and rainwater harvesting.

How Renewables Faired in 2014

Renewable energy 2014

It’s been a productive year for renewables in the UK and across the rest of the globe as we all try to do our bit in reducing the global carbon footprint. Back in August 2014 news began to filter through that renewables had provided nearly one fifth of the electricity produced in the UK for the first quarter. The reason? According to many sources it was high winds and heavy rainfall that added a good few kilowatt hours to the grid.

The Guardian reported that “onshore wind generation grew 62%, offshore wind output increased by more than half, and hydropower increased by 78%, reaching a record quarterly level of 2.2TWh.” The UK wasn’t the only country benefiting from bad weather in the first quarter of 2014 with Germany reporting that renewables met 28% of energy demands.

Solar Panels in 2014

They still remain the most obvious symbol of green energy, solar panels continued to provide us with plenty of clean electricity over the last year. A YouGov Poll in November indicated that over half of us are interested in having solar panels installed on our roofs which may be the reason why the industry is doing so well at the moment.

But research is also pushing forward as we try to find more efficient and cleaner ways of producing those panels that fit on our roofs. Earlier in the year Liverpool University reported that it had found a way to use a substance common in bath salts to produce solar PV cells more cheaply and cleanly. And in the future we may well be seeing clear solar cells in our windows rather than the large panels that currently fit onto the roofs of many domestic and business premises.

The one area where solar panels did struggle last year was in the development and production of large scale farms that came under fire from local residents who didn’t want that particular eyesore spoiling their view. There have also been complaints of solar farms affecting food production, taking up valuable grazing areas and land that could be better used for crop production.

Wind Farms in 2014

There’s no doubt that higher winds at the beginning of the year did the popularity of wind farms no end of good. A recent survey also found that many people weren’t so against having them in their back yard as many leading tabloid newspapers would have us believe. In October, whilst the Telegraph railed that wind farms couldn’t guarantee more than 2% energy production, the BBC reported that, for the first time, the UKs wind farms generated more electricity than our nuclear power stations.

Despite this, the future of wind farms in the UK remains uncertain as Prime Minister David Cameron hinted that there were ‘enough’ wind turbines and that generous subsidies for new developments were set to come to an end. This may be due to the Government’s growing focus on setting up fracking developments in the wake of success of the United States where it has helped to bring down energy and fuel prices.

Hydro Electricity on the Increase in 2014

Whilst solar and wind have often taken all the plaudits and get the most news pages devoted to them, getting our energy from water has begun to become more popular with a number of community projects either completing or passing the planning stage during 2014. According to Hi-Electricity almost 12% of the energy production in Scotland comes from hydroelectric power.

From Land’s End to John O’Groats, more and more hydroelectric schemes are beginning to crop up, providing clean energy for the grid and extra finances and investment for local communities. With the Feed in Tariff it means that returns on investment for such projects are much more attractive for individual investors and communities alike.

Other Green Initiatives for 2014

There are plenty of other green initiatives that are under way in the UK and hardly get our attention. Whilst we may be focused on the new tidal barrier being constructed in Swansea, scientists are creating biofuel in a Cornish tin farm that could have far reaching consequences in the future for our sustainability. Using microscopic algae the experiment is designed to clean up harmful waste products from past mining whilst also potentially producing fuel that could be used to power our cars and homes.

There’s no doubt that our attitudes towards climate change and green initiatives are beginning to change more radically. We already recycle our waste as a matter of course but many businesses now incorporate a green energy agenda to help not only save money but improve their individual impact on the environment. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, there’s also the beneficial impact of cutting down on pollution produced by harmful fossil fuels that could save us nearly £500 billion a year in health costs. Not only that there are the number of jobs being created in the renewable energy sector – approaching 7 million by the start of 2014.

Progress in the renewable energy market has faced its obstacles this year with the cutting of subsidies and various governments beginning to review their commitment to green power, but on the ground we are still seeing significant developments with more than 60% of us now sold on the idea of, and need for, renewable technologies to help clean up our environment and provide a more sustainable way to live and do business.