Does the Construction Industry Back Renewable Energy Solutions?

construction_site

Construction has long been one of the UK’s most vital sectors. It fuels our economy, provides millions of jobs and stimulates other sectors too – literally building the foundations for growth.

Research done by Haven Power, one of the UK’s largest business electricity suppliers has revealed that over 60% of construction firms are now backing renewable energy solutions in 2018. Two fifths of those surveyed think that more needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions and to ensure a clean future.

The survey was set up to assess future energy requirements and indicated that the construction industry saw energy usage as one of their top three business priorities alongside employment and office management. The industry’s appetite for sustainability was further highlighted by learning that three out of the five firms liked the idea of selling energy back to the grid. By way of comparison, research has shown that only 40% of businesses in the Food and Beverage sector liked the idea of reselling energy.

Even though the construction industry has been one of the more progressive industries in bringing about sustainable change there was still a reluctance to get started initially. They saw cost as an obstacle to reaching their sustainability goals and were uncertain as to how to approach their investors or senior management team.

Paul Sheffield, Chief Operating Officer at Haven Power commented:

“It’s extremely encouraging to see that such a high proportion of firms in the construction sector believe in renewables, with a third already having onsite battery storage installed (35%). However, it’s clear more needs to be done to demonstrate the wider opportunities and benefits of renewable energy, as some firms in the industry are still unsure how to broach the subject with senior teams. To ensure the future of British business is low carbon, conversations are needed from the board level down.”

There is no doubt that in the case of solar energy, the way construction works around the globe is being revolutionised. Construction trends are rapidly adapting to solar energy; the industry is embracing it instead of seeing it as an offbeat approach. It’s changing job bids and architectural planning all for the better.

In the construction industry multiple companies will bid on one job and come in with their unique angle after which the client makes a choice. Solar energy is no longer an afterthought for these big companies. They want their new buildings to be energy efficient, cost-effective, and that plays into job bids.

Construction firms were asked to list whose responsibility it was to lower carbon emissions. They cited energy suppliers in shared top position with manufacturers ahead of the government. Most other industries put the responsibility largely on the energy provider.

The future is full of potential and opportunity for the construction industry and it’s increasingly looking a vibrant shade of green, too. Legislative and policy targets to lower carbon emissions mean our homes, offices and other buildings of the future need to be efficient, sustainable and have the lowest possible impact on the environment. So, the ever-increasing demand for renewable construction skills also means many new opportunities for the UK.

In summary, Paul Sheffield from Haven Power says:

“Understanding of renewable energy and its benefits varies greatly from sector to sector, but it’s great to see construction firms are taking steps towards a more sustainable future. It’s imperative that organisations of all sizes work together with their energy provider to implement changes that will be beneficial to everyone. Here at Haven Power we are keen to help businesses understand the wider benefits of renewables.”

Find out more about solar here.

The Future of Solar Power is Bright

Solar Panels

The growth of solar energy globally is being determined not only by large power plants but also by individual and local use and plummeting manufacturing costs.

For those emerging economies that don’t have energy infrastructures and power grids it can present a way for isolated inhabitants to benefit from simple stand-alone power solutions. Collecting the sun’s heat using ‘black bodies’ is the most direct way solar energy can be used. By converting sunlight into heat, solar thermal collectors can power equipment such as home solar water heaters.

Solar energy is an immense energy resource which can be used for so many of our everyday needs including electrical power, heating and cooling, water heating, industrial process heat, cooking, transportation, fuel production and even environmental clean-up. We receive this sunlight as radiation which is pure energy which is the highest form of energy and this can be converted into many other forms for our everyday use.

Research has shown that only a tiny amount of the solar energy that falls on the earth would be enough to care for all the needs of our planet. However, it is only available during day time and then not during cloudy or rainy times. It is obvious therefore that if we are to depend on solar power in the future we must be able to store it efficiently and cost effectively. It is interesting to note that wind, biomass, ocean energy, hydro etc. are the indirect forms of solar energy, that is, nature converts solar energy to these forms for our benefit.

Much research is currently being concentrated on the following three goals:

  1. Increasing the efficiency of conversion to other forms while also reducing the cost.
  2. Storing energy more efficiently and reducing the costs.
  3. Finding newer ways to convert solar energy to useful forms.

As electricity has become the favoured form of energy for most of our needs more emphasis has been placed on research in how to increase the efficiency of conversion to electricity and reduce the costs. The two main methods of converting solar energy to electricity are photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal power (commonly known as CSP, acronym for concentrating solar power).

The current research trend for PV is to look for earth abundant materials as some of the materials used today such as Cadmium, Tellurium, Gallium, indium, selenium etc. are not abundant. However, silicon the major material used currently in solar cells is abundantly available on earth. Research is being done into using earth abundant dye sensitised solar cells (DSSC), polymer solar cells and Perovskite solar cells (PSC) to improve their efficiency and stability over time.

Costs of PV have come down a great deal in the last decade making it difficult for CSP to compete commercially in the world.

However, many scientists are confident that this will change as CSP has the following two advantages over PV:

  1. It uses the same thermal power conversion as the conventional thermal power (fossil fuel or nuclear based) and can therefore be integrated with the existing power infra-structure easily.
  2. It uses thermal energy storage which is about one tenth the cost of battery storage.

A fifth of the world’s electricity is produced by renewable energy today. 2016 saw the inclusion of 160GW of clean energy installations globally which was 10% more than in 2015 but cost almost a quarter less. New solar power gave the biggest boost, providing half of all new capacity followed by wind power, which provided a third, and hydropower, which gave 15%. Added Solar capacity outstripped any other electricity-producing technology for the first time in history.

In the words of Sir Norman Foster:

“Solar Power is not about fashion, it’s about survival.”

Find out more about solar here.

Why isn’t adapting to Climate Change top of the Political Agenda?

storm

It may seem like a distant memory now but back in the summer the UK experienced weather so hot and dry that there were Indonesia-style peat fires raging across our moorlands. In fact, many parts of the world were in the grip of extreme heat. Montreal had its highest temperature ever with 33 deaths attributed to the scorching heat in Quebec. Oman spent an entire 24 hours never going below 42.6C in June. Should we all expect more of these sweltering temperatures and should we be getting prepared to deal with this in the future?

Though there have always been occasional extreme weather events both warm and cold, what we had was extra short-term warmth from the jet stream being further north than usual which added to the long-term trend of rising global temperature. The evidence is clear: the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have shown that all 18 years of the 21st century are among the 19 warmest on record. 2016 was the warmest year ever recorded. Since the industrial revolution the temperature of global surface air has risen by 1C. It is highly likely that extreme heat will become a feature of our summers.

Some people suggested at the time that the heatwave this year was related to the to the every-few-years shift of Pacific Ocean currents that affects global weather patterns, known as El Niño but the heatwave was attributable to the earth moving to an ever warmer state as had been expected.

The magnitude of the challenge we face is huge. Back in in 2009, representatives of industrialized nations met in Copenhagen and agreed on the advisability of preventing global average temperatures from rising more than 2 °C above their pre-industrial levels. In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that doing so would require cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40 to 70 percent from 2010 levels by midcentury. These targets then guided the Paris Agreement, in 2015.

The amount of warming we see is directly related to the cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide. If we are to stop the warming it means we need to move to zero emissions. Progress has been slow despite the Paris agreement. 80% of the world energy use is still from fossil fuels. Although the renewables share is rising rapidly, so is energy use causing carbon emissions to flatline rather than decline. Large and rapid change will make it very difficult for societies to cope.

So, what can be done? There are things we can all do to adapt. We can cool our homes by keeping the curtains and windows shut on the sunny side of our houses during the day to slow the rate at which they heat up, and then open windows at night to cool them down. We can all keep a close eye on the very young and the very old as they cannot regulate their temperatures very well and will suffer most in the heat. There need to be changes to social care to attend to the needs of people who are vulnerable to high temperatures to try and prevent death tolls such as in the 2003 European heatwave when 70,000 people were killed, mostly older people.

It is clear that this new coming reality is not yet on the UK political agenda. Mediterranean type summers will require adapting our national infrastructure, particularly around maintaining water supplies, updating housing stock currently built to retain heat and managing our land to avoid more catastrophic fires. It is not yet fully understood how different climate change will make the experience of living in the UK.

The rise of civilisations and development of farming happened in a 10,000-year window, a period of unusually stable environmental conditions. The heat we experienced this year is a warning of what could be far worse to come. Political action is needed to keep up with our changing reality.

Steven Chu, a professor of physics put it succinctly when he said:

“The climate is changing. The proper political debate would be how to deal with these risks.”

Onshore Vs Offshore Wind: Which is Best?

Offshore-vs-onshore-Wind

Recent data produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) suggests that onshore wind is by far the cheapest option when it comes renewable energy generation in the UK.

That led Green MP Caroline Lucas to suggest that the Government needs to reverse its decision on reducing subsidies for onshore wind and excluding them from auctions. According to the BBC this week:

“The estimates by BEIS show that it will cost £63 to generate a megawatt hour of electricity using onshore wind energy, reinforcing Caroline Lucas’s claim. It’s the cheapest renewable power source listed, in comparison with £106 for offshore wind.”

What Happened to Onshore Wind?

There’s no doubt that onshore wind suffered from a fair deal of nimbyism over the last decade or so, despite the fact that it’s cheaper to install than offshore windfarms. That’s why the current Government have been more focused on building out to sea rather than on farm land or countryside.

It does, however, ignore the fact that most people are not against onshore wind at all.

The Benefits of Onshore Wind

A report in June 2018 by BVG Associates demonstrated that onshore wind could deliver over £1.6 billion in benefits to energy consumers and the local economy in the UK if the Government changed their current policy. It could do this in a number of ways, including:

  • In the current environment, greater investment in onshore wind would create a large number of long-term, sustainable jobs.
  • More onshore wind farms would improve the energy security of the UK and lower our carbon emissions at the same time.
  • It’s a proven technology that has already been shown to be cost effective – more so on land where the challenges of off-shore construction and maintenance are not so high.
  • Onshore wind will attract investment because it’s proven and more projects would lead to the creation of a supply chain of associated businesses and even more jobs.

The idea that onshore wind is not liked by much of the UK population may also be largely apocryphal. According to Scottish Power CEO Lindsay McQuade:

“Onshore wind is the cheapest form of new build electricity generation available in the UK today, and statistics show that it is supported by over three-quarters of the British public. The Government can benefit from cheap, green and clean energy to deliver the Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Plan by supporting onshore wind as well.”

To their credit, the Government has recently changed onshore wind rules though this is more to allow off-shore islands to compete in contracts for difference auctions.

Many in the renewables sector now believe that we should be moving towards allowing more projects to be built on mainland UK. That’s supported by industry groups who believe that both wind and solar will need to play a vital role in the UK energy infrastructure if we are to fully address carbon emissions and energy security for the future.

Whether the Government will listen remains to be seen. Despite evidence to the contrary, it doesn’t look like any major onshore wind farms are going to be built any time soon. While that might satisfy the ardent nimbyists in governmental ranks, it may not be the best thing for the energy future of the UK.

Green Mortgages: Is E.ON’s Partnership with BNP Paribas The Future?

Green Mortgages

Recent news that E.ON has entered into a partnership with personal finance company BNP Paribas was welcomed by many green energy experts. Designed to deliver the home improvements we need to realise a low carbon future for millions of home owners, it could be the first step in a new revolution.

After past initiatives like the Green Deal were closed down by the Government and Feed in Tariffs greatly reduced on installations such as solar, support for helping homeowners move to a low carbon future have been sadly lacking.

According to Michael Lewis, CEO at E.ON:

“Green mortgages have the potential to be a game changer in the delivery of affordable finance and we are ready to meet the challenge for home-owners motivated to take the step into energy efficient living.”

What Are Green Mortgages?

Green mortgages have been around for a while now but haven’t really taken off in the UK. The actual definition varies from lender to lender which can often add to the confusion. Some use it to provide home financing products for buyers who select properties which are built through sustainable, eco-friendly practices. Barclays Green Mortgage, for example, is aimed at buyers of new builds that are highly energy efficient.

Key to the success any green mortgage is providing low cost financing for those who want to make their homes more sustainable and greener.

What is E.ON Offering?

The E.ON financing and installation service is designed to help home buyers to make the right choices when it comes to various green technologies for their property. It’s important to note that the vast majority of housing stock in the UK wasn’t built with this new green energy future and sustainability in mind. That means old stock requires a substantial amount of investment to bring it up to the standards required to meet carbon emissions reductions over the next few years.

The truth is that around 70% of homes in the UK still fall below the EPC band rating of C that we all need to achieve. The green mortgage product that E.ON is looking to develop will make financing more readily available to first time buyers, home movers and those re-mortgaging their properties. The pilot scheme is part of the EU Energy Efficient Mortgage Action Plan (EeMAP) and, if successful, could see a major change in the way that many domestic green energy initiatives are implemented in the UK.

As part of the arrangement, BNP Paribas would provide the financing and E.ON the installation service for a variety of green infrastructure projects. That could include everything from improving insulation in your home or putting in new double glazing to updating heating systems, installing heat pumps and even installing solar panels and battery storage. Other green initiatives such as EV charging points for cars could also be included in the service provision once it’s up and running.

The move by E.ON has been greeted positively. According to BNP Paribas CEO, Stephen Hunt:

“As a pioneer in positive banking we are proud to play an active role in both driving forward new sustainable business opportunities and helping the local communities in which we work throughout the UK.”

Whether other energy providers begin to follow suit when it comes to green mortgages and other financing remains to be seen. If we are to move towards a low carbon society, however, it’s initiatives like this that are going to make it possible.

According to Scientists 100% Renewables IS Possible!

Renewable Energy

Any person who is a fan of renewable energy has dreams of a future where there’s no need for fossil fuels at all.

There’ll be a set of solar panels on each roof, wind turbines turning lazily off shore, hydro plants making the most of our powerful tides and no sign of a gas pipe or diesel car in sight.

But is 100% renewables possible worldwide?

In order for that to happen, we would have to get rid of fossil fuels. It’s a noble prospects but bear in mind that in the UK alone 70% of our heating still comes from gas, the vast majority of our cars are petrol or diesel powered and we’re nowhere near being 100% renewable.

What Do Scientists Think?

In truth, there’s a pretty straight divide between those that believe it is possible and cost-effective and those that consider it a pipe dream. According to a report written by an Australian scientist, Benjamin Heard:

“Our assessment of studies proposing 100% renewable-electricity systems reveals that in all individual cases and across the aggregated evidence, the case for feasibility is inadequate for the formation of responsible policy directed at responding to climate change.”

A number of factors get in the way, say the naysayers, not least the fuel poverty experienced in many parts of the world that means coal, oil and gas are still the cheapest forms of energy production.

The Alternative Point of View

A response to this report, however, suggests a different future. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology produced a counter-argument in September this year. What the debate revolves around is that Heard pointed out a number of hurdles, such as severe weather events and whether renewable sources such as variability of production could make for a stable grid, are too difficult to overcome.

The new report suggests that we already have many of the technologies and solutions that we need to get over any such barriers to a 100% renewable energy future. For instance, batteries can be used to store electricity and these are improving by the day. In fact, the report says that none of the issues pointed out in Heard’s report prevent the feasibility or validity of a pure clean energy future.

According to the report authors:

“100% renewable systems that meet the energy needs of all citizens at all times are cost-competitive with fossil-fuel-based systems, even before externalities such as global warming, water usage and environmental pollution are taken into account.”

It does require a certain re-invention of parts of our energy structure and some regions in the world will have more difficulty than others. But it is not unachievable.

The trouble is that most people are entrenched in their views when it comes to a renewable future, and that includes the people at the top. Donald Trump, just a few days after climate change scientists told us we were in the last chance saloon, said that theirs was a political agenda, suggesting it wasn’t to be taken seriously.

There are many people who believe him. In Brazil, elections may sway to the right in the next month and bring in a government that will decide to join the US and opt out of the climate change agreement. Others may follow.

The key, however, is that switching to 100% renewables is not only feasible but cost-effective and we can’t lose sight of that. The industry can create millions of jobs around the world and usher in a new age of energy prosperity for all of us.

And it will happen one day.

But how quickly? The truth is that it may not happen within the lifetime of most of us. As a species we can be tremendously resistant to change, especially when we’re still making plenty of money out of fossil fuels.

The problem is that it may all be too little too late as far as climate change is concerned. And that’s the real concern.

Some Fascinating Things You Didn’t Know About Renewable Energy!

Geothermal Renewable Energy

The need for more renewable energy was brought back into focus in the last few weeks. The climate change report that we’re running out of time managed to stay top of the news agenda, despite some hefty competition from other stories.

While there have been some setbacks in the last couple of years, however, the truth is that renewables are helping to change the world we live in. Many think that our green technology has indeed reached a tipping point and the dwindling number of fossil fuel addicts can do nothing to stop the new energy revolution.

Here are some little known facts that you may not know:

1. China is Wild About Wind

After years of ignoring it, China has finally got the renewable energy bug and have become the leading country in deployment and manufacture in the last 2 years. In fact, they’re so in love with wind, they’re erecting two turbines every hour.

2. Fossil Fuels Are More Subsidised Than Renewables

Some MPs in the current government complain that the problem with renewables is they need too much in the form of subsidies. They always miss out the inconvenient truth that fossil fuels have been subsidised a lot more than solar, wind and hydro power. All G20 nations together give four times more to coal, gas and oil.

3. More Jobs Are Created By Renewables

The other thing politicians tend to say is that we need to protect jobs created in the fossil fuels industry. The truth is that far more jobs (over 10 million worldwide as of 2017) are being created in the renewable industry.

4. Thermo-solar May Be The Future

Storing solar power for the evening has been a big issue but thermo-solar may be the key. The Gemasolar station in Spain uses molten salt to store heat and then uses that to drive turbines which create electricity 24/7.

5. The First Offshore Turbine Was Build 30 Years Ago

It’s now three decades since the first wind turbine was erected. The first was capable of producing just 30 kilowatts of power. Today’s modern turbines produce 6 MW, enough to power 6,000 homes. The total combined capacity of the world’s wind turbines as of the end of 2017 was 539,123 MW. Amazing.

6. 24/7 Solar Plants Do Actually Exist

Apart from the Spain Gemasolar station, there’s another 24/7 electricity producing solar plant in based in Nevada, USA. Crescent Dunes provides power for 75,000 homes for more than three hours at peak times and all through the day and night.

7. Geothermal District Heating is a Real Possibility in the UK

With all the work that seems to be going into fracking in the UK, most people don’t realise we also have some pretty great geothermal resources we could be taking advantage of. A quarter of us live in locations that may be suitable for geothermal technology.

8. The Internet is Greener Than You Think

Google, Facebook and Apple have all made big strides in creating an eco-friendly internet. In a recent report by Greenpeace, the tech giants topped the list of green companies. The good news is that the green badge is a good marketing tool for a whole range of businesses.

9. Iceland Gets All Its Power From Thermal and Hydro

Finally, Iceland may only have a small population but they get all of their power from thermal and hydro and are one of the most eco-friendly energy nations on the planet. In Paraguay, the Itaipu Dam provides over three quarters of the country’s electricity as well as a fifth of Brazil’s.

It’s possible to go full-on renewable and many countries are heading that way. We just need our governments and politicians to get on board.

The next time you think renewable energy in the UK and the rest of the world is stalling, take a look online to see what new innovations are changing the face of global power creation. Fossil fuels have indeed had their day.

Do Heat Pumps and Solar PV complement each other?

PV and heat pumps

Many people today have an understanding of how a heat pump uses energy from the outside air or the ground to produce heating and hot water for your home and/or business.

Electricity is needed to run a heat pump whether it’s an air source heat pump which can produce 3KW or more from 1KW of electricity or a ground source heat pump which can produce 3.5KW or more from 1KW of electricity.

It is also generally understood that solar PV panels are used to generate electricity by absorbing energy from the sun and converting it from DC to AC electrical current.

In the UK the government has put forward the following solutions to meet heat demand and achieve its legally binding climate change targets.

  • A commitment to building and extending heat networks in urban areas.
  • Development of “green gas”, hydrogen or biomethane, that will replace natural gas in the existing grid, if this low-carbon gas can be deployed at scale.
  • Shift away from conventional oil-fired heating to heat pumps in the off-gas areas.

Currently there are around 3.6 million homes in England and Wales that are off the mains gas grid. Of those, around 2 million use electric heating and 1 million use oil heating – of which half are non-condensing. It is interesting to note that most of these dwellings could be targeted for the installation of heat pump-based heating. At the same time there are around 900,000 homes in the UK with solar PV panels installed.

You might naturally conclude from this that solar PV and heat pumps would work very well together with solar PV covering all or most of the heat pump’s electrical requirements. It sounds like a great combination providing free heating forever!

There is however a problem with this combination in that solar PV panels produce a relatively small amount of electricity at the time of year when your heating and hot water demands are at their highest, and furthermore the time of day that the PV produces any excess energy is during the day. This does not follow the typical timings of a heating system.

Solar PV panels will have less impact on lowering costs for running a heat pump during the cold months & during the summer you won’t be using your heat pump much more than to heat hot water though with correct control timings and adequately sized Hot Water cylinders, this can be maximised to give you near free hot water 3-4 months of the year.

There is a solution to this problem however. You can reduce the amount of energy you use in the summer if you have solar PV by installing a solar PV immersion controller to divert any extra electricity generation to your immersion in your thermal store or cylinder to heat your water for free instead of exporting it back to the national grid. You can get solar PV immersion controllers of which there are a few to choose from at £200 and upwards that will give you similar savings and can be installed by any qualified electrician.

There is still a very strong argument and financial benefit for having both heat pumps and solar PV.

Find out more about solar here.

Find out more about heat pumps here.

Will Other Energy Companies Follow Scottish Power’s Example

Scottish Power Renewables

Up until now solar farms have been built by smaller energy firms and community groups. That is about to change with the announcement from Scottish Power, one of the big six energy companies that they are going to add solar power for the first time to their onshore and offshore windfarms and focus exclusively on renewables. Scottish Power have sold off their last gas-fired power stations.

Keith Anderson, CEO of Scottish Power told the Guardian:

“The solar market has had difficulties over the last wee while. But you look at where the technology cost is getting to, and the possibilities of integrating it with wind … how it balances from season to season wind and solar output, and we see a good opportunity there for further investment.”

Anderson has made this move because he believes renewables are cheaper than other sources and that the use of onshore wind, offshore wind and solar will help drive down the cost of energy. He embraces the world’s need to tackle climate change and sees that investing in 100% green energy is the way to go about achieving that. He says that organisations need to be part of the solution not part of the problem.

Scottish Power has turned its back on carbon generation for a renewable future powered by cheaper green energy. They have closed coal mines, sold gas and built enough wind turbines to power 1.2 million homes.

Each working day they are investing in providing cleaner, smarter power for their customers. Their focus is to make energy cheaper, cut carbon quicker, build smart grids and connect customers to a renewable electric future for transportation and heating.

In the last 10 years Scottish Power has closed all of its coal plants, and with the sale of the remaining gas and hydro stations, the company now generates 100% of its electricity from wind power.

It has been argued that energy firms should invest in solar as well as wind since the low wind output across Europe this summer due to the hot, still weather.

Scottish Power hope to secure a contract for their planned 1,200MW East Anglia Three project, which would be capable of providing energy for nearly 900,000 homes and make the world’s current biggest, a 659MW scheme off the Cumbrian coast look small.

East Anglia THREE covers an area of approximately 305km2. Scottish Power anticipate the project in summary to include:

  • Offshore wind turbines and associated foundations (anticipated to be up to 172 wind turbines, each having a rated capacity of between 7 megawatts (MW) and 12 MW with an installed capacity of up to 1,200 MW;
  • Up to two meteorological masts and foundations;
  • Up to two LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) monitoring buoys;
  • Up to four offshore collector stations and up to two offshore converter station platforms;
  • Up to one offshore platform housing accommodation facilities;
  • Subsea inter-array cables between the wind turbines and converter station and collector station platforms;
  • Up to four subsea export cables to transmit electricity from the offshore platforms to shore;
  • Up to four interconnector cables between the East Anglia ONE and East Anglia THREE Projects;

Anderson also has reason to believe that government ministers are close to rethinking their block on subsidies for onshore windfarms. The results of a poll indicated that two thirds of people living in rural Scottish communities, which are considered to have some of the best prospective sites, support onshore windfarms.

ScottishPower is investing £5.2 billion to 2022, with a focus on, renewable energy, enhanced grid networks and smart technology for customers.

The decision to add solar power by such a major player marks a major shake-up in the solar industry and could breathe new life into the solar sector after the downturn caused by subsidy cuts.

Why are the G7 still Subsidising Fossil Fuels?

Fossil Fuel Extraction

Most people probably do not realise that although the UK has committed to end fossil fuel & environmentally harmful subsidies by 2020, subsidies are continuing to be provided in the form of tax breaks for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and in the decommissioning of oil.

Matthew Crighton, of Friends of the Earth Scotland recently said:

 “By providing financial support for the enormously wealthy oil and gas industry whilst giving crumbs to renewables, the UK government is backing the wrong technologies and drastically slowing the much-needed just transition to clean energy. They should convert subsidies to fossil fuel extraction into incentives for the fossil fuel industry to move rapidly to develop the energy supplies of the future, not to get locked into systems which we know we will have to abandon.”

Research has been done that shows that the world’s seven major industrial democracies spent at least 70 billion a year to prop up oil, gas and coal consumption at home and abroad in 2015 and 2016 despite their pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

Shelah Whitley, head of the climate and energy programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) found that all G7 countries had increased their support for fossil fuel exploration since countries committed to limit global temperature rise “well below” two degrees under the Paris Agreement in 2015.

She added that the research done to track subsidies indicated that the UK was handing out subsidies and suggested this was a fact the UK government may be trying to “hide”. It would appear that they have created their own definition of subsidies and by refusing to take part in a peer review look suspicious.

Scientists have previously said that in order to prevent dangerous global warming of more than two degrees, 80% of global coal reserves, 50% of all gas reserves and more than a third of the world’s oil had to stay in the ground.

It is important to understand that these fossil fuel subsidies are not necessary. Fossil fuels do not need to be subsidised. Today, these subsidies line the pockets of the fossil fuel companies at the expense of the taxpayer.

Often criticised unfairly as financial burdens, wind and solar power contribute much more to society than they are given credit for. For example, wind power contributes positively to the US economy with an annual economic impact of about $20 billion on their economy.

It is now the case that new wind and solar can cost less than new fossil fuel power plants, even without subsidies. But the more a country’s solar and wind companies can get ahead, the better they fare in quickly transforming global energy economy.

The long-term trend is becoming clearer and some media outlets have spoken of a coming time when coal simply is no longer used. Solar power that was once so costly will become cheap enough to push coal and even natural gas plants out of business faster than was previously forecast.

There are other specific costs renewable energy critics don’t point out because their position would crumble very quickly. It has been reported that 52,000 premature deaths are caused in the US each year by power plant emissions. In the EU, the number of premature deaths every year from coal dust was estimated to be 22,900.

The question should be asked as to why countries continue to subsidise industries that don’t offer long-term economic growth for a country through innovation and improvement?