What is Fossil Fuel Divestment?

Divest

With a lot of talk about the future of solar and wind, not to mention other renewables, we often forget that fossil fuels still form a significant part of our energy mix. Over 70% of households across the UK, for example, still use gas to heat their water and radiators.

The mayors of New York and London this week, collaborated in a Guardian Op-Ed to call on cities across the world to divest from fossil fuels.

But what does this actually mean?

It’s about not investing per se but pulling out of investment in companies that are associated with fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. This can include any investment, from pension schemes to stocks and shares, bonds and hedge funds. It’s a clean energy initiative that is currently being carried out by a number of different organisations and institutions including universities and local authorities.

Divestment is intended to send a clear message that fossil fuels are the past and that we should be moving more towards cleaner, renewable energy such as solar and wind. This approach has been used before, most notably to work against the tobacco industry. In the case of fossil fuel divestment the growing campaign has taken hold in recent years and is starting to seriously gather pace.

While governments have been slow to move in the divestment direction, other more prominent people have started to voice their opinions including the two mayors of London and New York. According to the op-ed, divestment is well under way in London:

“Already, less than 2% of the London Pension Fund Authority’s investments of £5.5bn ($7.1bn) are in extractive fossil fuels – this year, the authority has rid itself of a further £700,000 of fossil fuel investments, including stakes in Shell and BP, and has plans in place to divest its remaining investments.”

The reason for divestment is primarily to help save the planet but there’s also the potential financial risk of trillions of pounds still currently invested in fossil fuels. If we do manage to meet the demands of the climate change agreement and move to more renewable sources, these investments could well become almost totally worthless – that means there could be a pending economic crisis looming because so much money is currently tied up in them.

For divestment to truly work at the pace green energy activists want to see, it needs to be done by everyone. While public bodies like the mayor’s office can do their bit, private schemes and national companies also need to do theirs. That’s not always a priority, particularly here in the UK where businesses are more concerned about Brexit at the moment than climate change.

The good news is that it is starting to happen on quite a large scale. Recent reports that insurance firms are starting to divest their coal, oil and gas stocks is heartening. In July this year, Ireland voted to divest their fund over the next five years, while Norway has already put in measures to do the same. But there is still a long way to go.

The truth is that UK councils are still invested quite heavily in fossil fuels to the tune of £16 billion. While organisations such as Friends of the Earth are working to change this, individuals can help by contacting their local council to express their objections.

If we are serious about reversing the effects of climate change, we all need to do our bit. You can find out more about fossil fuel divestment here.

Poll Finds We Do Really Want Solar: So Why Is The Government So Against It?

houses of parliament

A recent poll discovered that 70% of us would decide to make our homes more energy efficient with technologies such as solar if there was help from the Government to do so.

Since the slashing of Feed in Tariff subsidies back in 2016, a lot has been written and said about the negative impact this has had on the solar industry in the UK.

So if people want it, why aren’t the current Tory government trying to provide it?

According to the poll:

  • 62% of people said they were happy to install solar.
  • 60% said they would have an electricity storage device like a battery in their property.
  • 70% said they would join a collective such as a community solar or wind project.

Nearly 70% of people also said that they would like to see the monopoly of the large utility companies weakened, allowing new suppliers who focus on clean energy to thrive.

Where Is The Government?

The Government seems more focused on large scale power schemes such as nuclear or off shore wind at the moment. Since tariffs were cut, home and community installations of solar have stalled dramatically even if we are still getting larger, commercial solar farms. The bad news is that any hope of accessing tariffs for solar will cease to altogether by early next year.

The poll results point to the undeniable fact that people are concerned about climate change and want to do their bit by having ecological technology installed. Solar panels have come down in price in recent years mainly because of the competition in the market place. Subsidies helped all that.

The Government’s lack of interest in solar, particularly on a domestic scale, is equally likely to have a huge impact on our ability to reach our climate change targets. According to MP Mary Creagh who is on the Environmental Audit Committee:

“Billions of pounds of investment is needed in clean energy, transport, heating and industry. But a dramatic fall in investment is threatening the government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets.”

In fairness to the current Government, they did include reducing subsidies for renewables in their manifesto, citing that they wanted to reduce the cost to the tax payer. But if the taxpayer is willing to pay, what is the problem?

The fact the Government seems to be totally out of sync with current opinion, however, doesn’t appear to matter. The recent walk back on the tidal lagoon project in Swansea is a fairly unequivocal sign that the UK, through its Government, has definitely taken a step back when it comes to new renewable projects and the clean energy agenda.

There has always been a suspicion that the Tories have never been terribly attached to renewable energy. It goes back to David Cameron letting slip that we need to ‘get rid of that green crap’ back in 2013. It was only an almost unholy alliance with the Liberal Democrats that enabled any form of subsidy to continue in the first place. Once the Conservatives managed to get a majority you could sense a serious cooling to the idea of solar and wind and the imminent withdrawal of support.

There’s also another problem the industry has to face, one that has largely gone unreported. New solar and wind farms will now have to pay to connect to the grid where before this was free. That’s under new policies by the Government which allow network companies to charge even before any project has been agreed and rubber stamped.

While Labour may have plans to be more renewable energy friendly if they get in power, their strategy is not entirely clear, aside from taking snipes at the current Government when it suits them. According to MP Rebecca Long-Bailey:

“It was the Tories’ recent reforms that allowed for these outrageous financial demands to be made, which will have serious repercussions right across the renewables sector and for the future of clean energy.”

Don’t expect much support to given to the solar or wind industries for the foreseeable future. While climate change may well be the biggest challenge mankind has ever faced, everyone seems focused on more ‘immediate’ issues such as Brexit. We can only hope that, sooner or later, someone gets into power that can see sense.

Find out more about solar here.

Solar Is Making a ‘Comeback’ in the UK

Solar Storage

We’ve had one of the most prolonged hot weather spells globally, fires and droughts have been rife. Elon Musk seems to be undergoing his own personal mid-life crisis, Trump is on the verge of impeachment while rolling back the Clean Power Plan, fascism is on the rise and Brexit is turning out to be a major debacle.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the world is in meltdown. Carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy like solar seems to be the last thing on people’s minds. But is it really that bad?

The End of the World is Nigh: Or Is It?

The truth is that news outlets tend to focus on the bad rather than the good. It’s compounded a lot nowadays by social media where everyone seems to be shouting and screaming at each other and points of view have become polarised.

In actual fact, we live in an age where poverty is at it’s lowest point, teenage pregnancies have reduced dramatically, murder rates have dropped and we’re living healthier and longer lives. It’s easy to see why these good news stories don’t make it regularly into the media spotlight.

Let’s take a quick look at renewable energy and carbon emissions. The recent heat waves across the UK, Europe and America as well as many other parts of the world, led to a lot of doom mongering. Yes, it’s bad. Yes, it’s just another sign we are heading for a global warming catastrophe. But the world is not going to end tomorrow.

What you should be looking at are the remarkable changes we’ve made already over the last decade or so.

  • Anyone over the age of 40 will look out over the landscape today and recognise that it has altered dramatically. Off shore we have huge windfarms.
  • Drive around your local area and you will come across solar panels on rooftops and solar farms out in the country.
  • We all have recycle bins nowadays and religiously sort our paper and plastic for weekly collection.

Is Solar About To Become Self-Reliant?

We are biologically tuned to react more to bad news. That’s why we often have a skewed view of what is happening. Take the world of solar, for example. It’s generally accepted that the 2016 slashing of tariffs by the Tories damaged the solar industry and set it back almost irretrievably.

That’s true to a certain extent. The lowering of subsidies did have an impact.

But we ignore the fact that solar, as it has around many parts of the globe, has reached a tipping point. It’s cheaper to install than ever before and one project in the UK in particular may suggest that we reaching a place where large scale solar, at least, has enough to survive without subsidies.

Cleve Hill in Kent is set to deliver 350 MW across 1,000 acres if it goes through to completion. That would make it by far the biggest non-subsidised solar farm and it’s a project that is also going to include solar storage.

If you take into account the number of solar installations on farms and on the rooftops of homes and businesses, there are now nearly a million panels converting the light from the sun into electricity. Over the last decade, supply and demand has gone up and down, often in response to changes in subsidies. What the Cleve Hill installation shows is that solar is far from on its last legs – in fact, many experts believe this will lead to more solar farm projects getting the go ahead.

Combine that with wind and you can begin to see how the mix of renewable sources is already having a huge impact on our energy profile. As the Independent said recently:

“The UK has benefited this year from an unusually sunny summer. In June and early July, PV generation peaked at more than 9GW (gigawatts) each day for a week. At midday on Saturday 30 June, solar supplied 30 per cent of the national demand for electricity. If that day had also been windy then a further 30 per cent could have come from wind.”