Renewable Energy is Top Twitter Mention in May 2020

Twitter renewables

Renewable energy is in the forefront of people’s minds as the world begins to ease lockdown restrictions caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Power technology has listed the top 5 terms tweeted in May 2020 based on data from GlobalData’s Influencer Platform with renewable energy taking the lead at 660 Twitter mentions. Twitter has tracked these terms which are the trending industry discussions on Twitter by key individuals (influencers).

Topics that were particularly popular in May were discussions around how crucial it was for the world to rely more on wind, solar, hydro and the harnessing of renewable energy for electricity generation in a post-Covid world and less on fossil fuels. According to an article that was shared by the environmentalist, author and educator, Bill McKibben, a report at the time suggested that renewable energy sources like solar and wind, produced more electricity than coal every single day for 40 days straight in the US. The report shone a light on the shift from coal to renewables due to warm weather, falling gas prices and greater renewable capacity.

According to Mike Hudema, a climate campaigner, EU countries such as Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have been working together on a major project to build an island dedicated to providing renewable energy to approximately 80 million people. The project will involve the implementation of wind turbines at sea along with solar farms on the island with the aim of connecting the UK, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark to generate maximum renewable energy.

Mark Z Jacobsen, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, believes that renewable energy will be the only way forward in a post-pandemic world. Changing the world’s energy map works out to be much cheaper than dealing with the ever-increasing natural disasters caused by climate change not to mention the cost of treating the diseases it causes.

Next up was the term ‘clean energy’ which had 573 Twitter mentions. Generating clean energy through solar innovations such as solar panels on millions of homes and public buildings and solar parks was a favourite topic of discussion during this month. People realised that the benefits were not only in producing clean energy but in creating thousands of jobs. To give an example, according to an article shared by Mike Hudema, Egypt was building the world’s biggest solar parks providing clean energy to 320,000 Egyptians as well as creating jobs for thousands of people.

Data, shared by Dr Thomas Hillig, an energy consultant, on the estimated number of premature deaths avoided due to lower air pollutant exposure during the coronavirus lockdown was also discussed. Dr. Hillig referred to this as a side effect of the pandemic illustrating the point with the statistic of 11,000 fewer deaths in Europe because of the cleaner air. He said that the areas which we should be looking to improve are cycle infrastructure, e-mobility, and clean energy.

Meanwhile, Fatih Birol, an economist and energy expert, tweeted on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the global energy sector citing the World Energy Investment 2020 report. The report analysed how investment trends across the sector had been affecting clean energy transitions and energy security.

The term ‘climate action’ had 550 Twitter mentions. Popularly discussed topics related to climate action covered the funding that had been set aside for climate action, financial institutions exiting thermal coal and the fact that 2020 had been earmarked as a critical year for climate action. Investment to achieve climate targets was also a hot topic. At the same time Denmark was proposing 2 huge energy islands according to an article shared by Assad Razzouk, a clean energy entrepreneur and investor.

Another article shared by Chris Fox, a climate change activist revealed how coal is losing its financing from big banks such as Westpac Banking Corp. Plans were announced by the bank to exit a thermal coal project in Australia as part of its climate action strategy.

Fatih Birol re-tweeted the point that even though renewable energy investments were delivering better results than fossil fuels in countries like, the US, UK, and Europe the amount of investment was not going to be enough to diminish the effects of climate change. In order to limit global warming to within two degrees Celsius by 2100, countries would have to double their annual investments in renewables to approximately $660bn he further noted.

The term ‘energy transition’ had 481 Twitter mentions. There was much discussion around how energy transition is being accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and in particular how the turmoil in oil markets will influence the clean energy transition. According to an article shared by Ed Crooks, vice chair, Americas, the historic pause for oil demand across the globe will affect clean energy transition efforts. The need for a new financing model for battery energy storage systems was highlighted. Battery energy storage systems have to be in place in order to reduce energy demand and improve renewables integration if we are going to be able to reduce our carbon footprint.

Arik Ring an energy engineering expert, further tweeted about the importance of solar energy in the future. He shared an article on how eco-friendly solar window panels, can convert ambient light to electricity. These solar panels were developed by Ubiquitous Energy and are designed to deal with the problems of traditional panels such as lack of space.

President and CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), Julia Hamm, also discussed how energy transition is being expedited by the Coronavirus pandemic. She talked about how the lockdown is radically reducing the use of coal and maintaining the use of renewables. The current situation was giving the world a glimpse of how the ‘grid of the future’ might look she noted. Essentially both solar and wind are producing a larger share of power and are not being detrimentally affected by the crisis.

Finally, the term ‘sustainability’ had 472 Twitter mentions. Another hot topic in the month of May was how social media focus had been shifted towards the sustainable energy sector. Additionally, the response of governments and the integration of energy and sustainability issues into recovery plans and solar upgrades was much discussed. The economist and energy expert, Fatih Birol, explained how integrating energy and sustainability issues was critical in order to accelerate clean energy transitions. He added that the International Energy Agency (IEA) are planning to provide a report on sustainable recovery and policy advice.

Dr Thomas Hillig, agreed that Covid-19 had shifted the social media focus on to the sustainable energy sector. Adaptability will be vital as travel bans loosen up, with mid-term marketing and communication budgets of most energy companies moving to extremely adaptable social media actions.

Mike Hudema shared an article about the Copenhagen International School in Denmark. The school is covered in solar panels and is thought to be the largest solar panel façade in the world. The article highlights how it was built with 12,000 solar panels on all sides which can power half the school in a year. This demonstrates sustainability and mindful living while also generating clean energy the article further noted.

According to a team of researchers, tweets could one day help policy makers and energy companies to communicate in near real-time to help customers make better sustainable energy choices.

Somayeh Asadi, assistant professor of architectural engineering, Penn State said that a study of Twitter data from users in Alaska, has shown how people’s opinions can be tracked to indicate changes in their attitude to renewable energy over time, as well revealing what forms of renewable energy they find more acceptable.

Asadi said:

“What this means is that if we can understand people’s perceptions of renewable energy in specific regions, maybe we can use this information to educate those people about certain types of renewable energy. This could be very useful for policy makers, energy companies and governments.”

IEA Presents New $3tn Sustainable Recovery Plan

Power Sustainable Recovery

The International Energy Agency working in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund has published a new special report from the IEA’s flagship World Energy Outlook series that sets out a ‘sustainable recovery plan’ to revive economies and boost employment while cutting carbon emissions. The plan focuses on a sequence of policy actions that can be taken over the next three years and requires $1tn of annual targeted investment. This sum equals about 0.7% of today’s global GDP and includes both public spending and private finance that would be mobilised by government policies.

The report covers detailed assessments of 30 energy policy measures across 6 key sectors, electricity, transport, industry, buildings, fuels, and emerging low-carbon technologies, Reuters reports. The plan looks at cost-effective approaches, the circumstances of individual countries, existing pipelines of energy projects, and current market conditions. The end goal is to make energy systems cleaner and more resilient.

Reuters continues:

“The IEA said the plan could boost global economic growth by an average of 1.1 percentage points a year over 2021 to 2023. It could also save or create around 9 million jobs a year and reduce global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 4.5bn tonnes by the end of the plan.”

The Press Association says that the plan aims to stop emissions from rebounding as the world recovers from the Coronavirus pandemic and instead lock in a structural decline. The Guardian ran the report under the headline “World has six months to avert climate crisis, says energy expert.” The Guardian article quotes IEA chief Fatih Birol who told the paper:

“This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound…The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond…If we do not take action we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future.” 

The plan offers an energy sector roadmap that would integrate energy policies into government responses to the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis and expedite the implementation of up-to-date, reliable, and clean energy technologies and infrastructure.

Specifically, the Sustainable Recovery Plan can bring about a range of critical outcomes in particular:

  • increase global economic growth by an average of 1.1 percentage points per year
  • protect or create 9 million jobs a year
  • reduce annual global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 4.5 billion tonnes by the end of the plan

The New York Times has published a story reporting on how greenhouse gas emissions are rebounding sharply now that countries are relaxing their coronavirus lockdowns, based on revisions to a study estimating global daily emissions, covered by Carbon Brief in May. The New York Times quotes the lead author of the study, Professor Corinne Le Quéré saying:

“We still have the same cars, the same power plants, the same industries that we had before the pandemic. Without big structural changes, emissions are likely to come back.”

There are other beneficial consequences to implementing the IEA’s plan including improving human health and well-being, reducing air pollution emissions by 5%, bringing access to clean cooking solutions for around 420 million people in low-income countries and enabling almost 270 million people to gain access to electricity.

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director said:

“Governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies and bring a wave of new employment opportunities while accelerating the shift to a more resilient and cleaner energy future. Policy makers are having to make hugely consequential decisions in a very short space of time as they draw up stimulus packages. Our Sustainable Recovery Plan provides them with rigorous analysis and clear advice on how to tackle today’s major economic, energy and climate challenges at the same time. The plan is not intended to tell governments what they must do. It seeks to show them what they can do.”

The IEA’s new energy employment database revealed that 40 million people, globally, were directly employed in the energy industry including electricity, oil, gas, coal, and biofuels, in 2019. Their new special report is showing that an estimated 3 million of those jobs have been lost or are at risk due to the coronavirus crisis with another 3 million jobs in related areas such as vehicles, buildings and industry also lost or at risk.

The biggest percentage of the millions of new jobs created through the Sustainable Recovery Plan would be in retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency and in the electricity sector, particularly in grids and renewables. Other areas of focus that would see higher employment would include energy efficiency in industries such as manufacturing, food, and textiles; low-carbon transport infrastructure; and more efficient and new energy vehicles.

Serious concerns for energy security and clean energy transition have been raised as a result of recent IEA analysis which shows that global energy investment is set to drop by 20% in 2020.

If the recommendations of the Sustainable Recover Plan are followed through the global energy sector stands to become far more resilient and ready for future crises. Electricity security would be improved by investment in enhancing electricity grids, upgrading hydropower facilities, extending the lifetimes of nuclear power plants, and increasing energy efficiency which would lower the risk of outages, boost flexibility, reduce losses and help integrate larger shares of variable renewables such as wind and solar PV.

The backbone of secure and reliable power systems are the electricity grids which would be put on a much stronger footing if there was a 40% increase in capital spent on them after many years of declining investment. They would have a far greater chance of withstanding natural disasters, severe weather, and other potential threats.

The idea behind the design of the Sustainable Recovery Plan is to avoid a repeat performance of the kind of sharp rebound in carbon emissions experienced during the economic recovery from the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and instead put them into a structural decline. The IEA’s report shows how the situation today is very different compared with the 2008-2009 crisis, as the costs of leading clean energy technologies such as wind and solar PV are far lower, and some emerging technologies like batteries and hydrogen are ready to scale up. Global carbon emissions are set for a record decline this year after flatlining in 2019 and although this is as a result of economic trauma it does provide a platform from which to put emissions into structural decline.

Dr. Fatih Birol said:

“This report lays out the data and analysis showing that a cleaner, fairer and more secure energy future is within our reach. The Sustainable Recovery Plan would make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions, putting them on a path towards achieving long-term climate goals. The IEA is mobilising its analytical resources and global convening power to bring together a grand coalition that encompasses government ministers, top energy industry CEOs, major investors and other key players who are ready to pursue a sustainable recovery that will help steer the world onto a more resilient trajectory. This is why the Sustainable Recovery Plan will be a key element informing discussions at the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit on 9 July.”

The IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit is scheduled to take place on 9th July and aims to gather ministers from countries representing 80% of global energy use, as well as industry CEOs, big investors, and other key leaders from the public and private sectors around the world.  The high-level dialogue will look at near term actions for sustainable recovery and what measures can be taken to accelerate clean energy technology innovation in order to reach long-term decarbonisation targets.

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Solar Cell Paint Could Innovate the Future of Renewables

solar paint

Fossil fuels continue to account for the largest source of energy in the U.S. In 2018, nearly 80% of energy production was from nonrenewable fuels like oil and coal. Eventually, this mass consumption will result in the Earth running out of these resources completely. Thus, the further advancement of renewable and clean energy becomes more important each day. 

Already, companies and individuals are harnessing the power of the sun and converting it into energy. More would likely install panels if they weren’t so expensive. A 6-kilowatt system can cost upward of $30,000, if not more, depending on where you live. Solar paint, however, might offer a perfect solution.  

What Is Solar Paint?

Solar paint is an innovative way to use the sun’s rays to develop energy. A team of researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia developed the product a few years ago. The paint absorbs moisture from the air. Then, the sun’s light and warmth break the liquid down into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter of which they can use to produce energy. 

One of the biggest advantages of this invention is it doesn’t rely on clean water to feed the system. Rather, it relies on rainwater and vapor in the air — regardless of whether or not it contains pollutants — to produce fuel. Thus, wherever there’s moisture in the air, the paint will work. 

A Complement to Panels 

Another more obvious advantage is you can paint practically anything with it — from walls to shutters. You can even paint your roof. In any other situation, doing this would be incredibly challenging. For example, many people choose to paint their roof or equipment on top of it with an alkyd base coat or epoxy paint. These can chalk and crack in the sun. Solar paint, however, was made to coat roofs and the exterior of your home.

Thus, once the product is commercially available, you can coat your home and use it alongside solar panel systems to boost efficiency. Doing so would also increase surface area, coating spots that don’t receive enough sunlight to merit a full panel. In this way, homeowners and corporations could boost their solar energy production at a fraction of the cost of installing more panels. 

The Future Is Bright

Scientists and researches have long applauded hydrogen as one of the cleanest forms of sustainable energy. However, due to current problems associated with production, storage and efficiency, hydrogen power hasn’t gone mainstream yet. Current production relies on electrolysis to split the oxygen and hydrogen molecules, thereby defeating the purpose of using hydrogen energy in the first place. 

Solar paint could solve this issue, however, since the process of separating the molecules simply involves titanium oxide and molybdenum sulfide. 

While it may still be a few years before solar paint reaches the mass production stage, its future is quite bright. This technology is likely to revolutionize the renewable energy industry. Once people can get their hands on the paint, it could replace panels completely and make solar power ubiquitous. After all, every home has walls and a roof that can be coated. 

In the Meantime

The world is still a few years away from solar paint hitting the shelves. While you’re waiting, though, your best option for harnessing the sun’s power is installing solar panels. Although the initial investment may be costly, they’ll pay off in a few years with the money you’ll save on electricity and gas bills. This is especially true as electricity prices continue to rise. Thus, purchasing solar panels now will ensure you don’t get stuck paying increasingly expensive bills. 

Plus, each U.S. state offers a tax credit to incentivize your purchase. For instance, some regions don’t include the value of panels in property value assessments. The federal government is also allowing people to deduct 26% of the total installation cost from your taxes until the end of 2020. By 2022, residential installments won’t qualify for these tax credits. Therefore, it’s best to take advantage of them while you can. 

Once solar paint comes out, you can use it to complement your shiny new solar panels and save money and the planet.

This Solar Chimney Can Save Lives and the Environment

solar chimney

There are plenty of reasons to switch over to green technology. It can help the environment, but it can also save money, and in some cases, lives. This is precisely the case with a new solar chimney developed by scientists in Melbourne, Australia.

Most people think solar chimneys are just a great way to save energy. Researchers working on a collaboration between RMIT University and the City of Kingston, however, found a new use for them. They developed a world first: a solar chimney that considers both energy savings and fire safety.

The team behind this chimney was designing a new sustainable building in Melbourne. In a public space like this, designers also have to take safety into account, given the building’s high occupancy. As they started to optimize the chimney for cooling the building, they realized it could serve a dual purpose.

With a traditional system, occupants would have roughly two minutes to evacuate if there was a fire. The redesigned solar chimney extends that number to more than 14 minutes.

How Solar Chimneys Work

This particular solar chimney may deal with smoke, but most don’t, despite their name. What does a solar chimney do, then? They’re simple, green structures that enhance the effects of natural heating and cooling.

Heating systems alone can account for 42% of your utility bill, not to mention their effect on the environment. Solar chimneys offset these concerns by taking advantage of the sun. They don’t use any electricity, relying on the concept of how hot air rises instead.

Solar chimneys consist of a glass wall next to a wall that’s painted black to absorb the most heat from sunlight. There are also vents at the bottom and top that change the airflow depending on their orientation.

When the sun shines, it warms up the air inside the chimney, causing it to rise. With both vents open, the hot air escapes out the top, sucking cooler air inside, which increases ventilation. To warm a building instead, you just have to close the vents, and the heated air will stay inside.

Potential for Fire Safety

Solar chimneys do a great job of cutting heating and cooling costs. They can reduce energy bills by up to 50%, saving money and lowering your carbon footprint. As this Australian team of scientists found, they’re also an excellent safety resource.

You can probably see how this design would be ideal for fire safety, too. Fires tend to create a lot of hot air, most notably in the form of smoke. With an optimized design, you could use a solar chimney to suck smoke out of a building and release it outside.

This process wouldn’t take care of the fire itself, but it gives occupants more time to evacuate. In an emergency, quick responses are critical to minimizing damage, and in a fire, that means escaping. With less smoke, you can see more and breathe easier, enabling a faster evacuation.

In some cases, smoke may present a more severe threat than the fire itself. You may be able to steer clear of the flames, but smoke is harder to avoid and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Reducing the amount of smoke in a building is critical for survival, both by helping evacuations and avoiding suffocation.

This instance isn’t the first time scientists have noted solar chimneys’ potential for fire safety. A 2018 study demonstrated their value in ventilation, finding that smoke exhaust and natural purification showed similar behavior. Despite these findings, this design is the first time researchers have optimized a solar chimney for both ventilation and fire safety.

The Best of Both Worlds

The answer to many problems lies in nature. By taking advantage of air’s natural qualities, you can find a cheaper, greener way of maintaining a building’s temperature. As it turns out, this same design provides a natural solution to increasing safety, as well.

Turning to sustainable solutions often does more than just help the environment. Benefits like those seen in this solar chimney model may be crucial in driving the push to sustainable design. If a temperature regulating system can prevent suffocation, who knows what else going green can do?

How We Can Transition Rural Communities To A Low-Cost Low Carbon Heating Supply

rural community renewables

The UK Government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

A crucial part of the strategy involves decarbonising the way that we heat rural properties which are not connected to the national gas grid.

The majority of households in rural England are reliant on fossil fuels as a source of heat, usually heating oil, liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or red diesel.

Burning these fuels releases carbon-dioxide, a key contributor to the climate change crisis.

In 2017 the UK Government unveiled its Clean Growth Strategy which set out a long-term vision to reduce pollution and the use of fuels such as heating oil and LPG.

A key policy proposal was to:

Phase out the installation of high carbon fossil fuel heating in new and existing homes currently off the gas grid during the 2020s

Build and extend heat networks across the country, underpinned with public funding (allocated in the Spending Review 2015) out to 2021

Connecting rural communities to the existing gas grid is not an option, as the UK Government is planning to transition away from relying on gas as a heat source.

There is already a policy in place which mandates that no new building developments can be connected to the gas grid from 2025. It is clear that over the long-term rural communities will need to find an entirely new way to heat their homes and businesses.

Thankfully, the technology already exists to achieve this goal and it can be powered by clean renewable electricity.

The ideal solution will differ from location to location depending on the requirements of local residents and the unique geographical characteristics of each area.

In most cases, the best outcome will involve the combination of technologies such as heat pumps, heat networks, solar power, and energy efficiency.

Heat pumps in particular offer a highly attractive solution of providing low carbon heat for communities which do not have a gas supply connection.

An air source heat pump absorbs heat from the outside air and uses compression to raise the temperature before the heat is transferred for use in an underfloor heating system, radiators or hot water taps. Heat can be extracted from the air irrespective of the weather and heat pumps can function in temperatures as low as -20oC.

A ground source heat pump works in a similar way by capturing heat stored in the earth. A liquid is pumped through pipes in the ground which absorb heat and transfer it for use in a home or business. The temperature of the soil remains almost constant throughout the year, meaning the heat pump can generate heat in all seasons.

Heat pumps are an extremely efficient way of providing heat to a property and can deliver 3 to 4 units of heat for every unit of electricity they consume.

Because heat pumps are powered by electricity, they can be combined with renewable energy generation to achieve even greater carbon savings. This could come from a small rooftop solar array that belongs to an individual property or from a large community owned solar field or wind turbine.

There will of course be occasions when the electricity supplied by solar panels will not be sufficient to power a heat pump which is why it is advisable to install a solar battery storage system as well. This allows a property to accumulate energy during the day and release it during the night or whenever necessary.

The ability to store electricity that can be accessed when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing is essential for ensuring a reliable electricity supply.

It also means that battery owners can take advantage of varying energy prices.

The increasing proliferation of renewable energy sources throughout Europe means that in the near future, the price of electricity will vary throughout the day depending on the level of available electricity at any one time.

Having an electricity storage battery means that electricity can be purchased at a low price (by charging the battery) then stored for use at a time when electricity is more expensive (i.e. in the evening).

This stored electricity can be then used in order to minimise energy costs, or it can be sold back to the electricity grid when electricity demand is high.

You may be wondering about the cost implications of installing these various low carbon technologies. Costs will vary depending on the volume of heat and energy required in different circumstances, but it is true to say in all cases that big savings can be achieved when approaching the challenge at a cohesive community level.

For example, instead of installing many individual heat pumps a community may consider developing a shared heat network powered by a shared solar array.

A heat network is created by connecting a collection of properties via highly insulated underground pipes which deliver heat from a central generating source, such as a series of boreholes, a biomass boiler, or an anaerobic digestor.

Being part of a heat network removes the need for properties to have individual boilers as heat is delivered instead through a heat exchanger, which is about the same size as a gas boiler.

Each property retains the ability to control the temperature of individual rooms in just the same way as having a gas or oil-fired boiler.

Heat networks can be extended over time, and new properties or heat generating technologies can be added in correlation to demand.

Wherever communities already have or are expecting to see a significant uptake of local renewable energy generation, it is worth considering establishing a local microgrid. This means connecting the various energy generators (which could be schools, businesses, individual residential properties, or a community owned solar or wind farm) with local energy consumers.

Instead of purchasing energy from national suppliers, who must consider profit margins, pay shareholder dividends and network charges, residents and businesses can buy energy from within their own community.

If they are buying energy from a community owned solar or wind farm, profits can be redistributed in the form of a community benefit fund and invested in improving the social fabric of their community, be it supporting vulnerable people or improving community assets that are important to them.

Transforming the way that rural communities heat and power their buildings is a great challenge, but it is also one that is entirely achievable given current technologies and will also deliver many significant benefits for residents.

By combining heat pumps with renewable energy generation, battery storage technology, and energy efficiency measures, homes and businesses can achieve a tremendous reduction in the environmental impact of their heating, and in many cases a corresponding saving in energy bills.

Heat networks and heat pumps are expected to form a fundamental pillar of the transition strategy towards a net zero emissions economy, and we expect to see a widespread uptake of these technologies over the coming years.

This article was provided by Dan Curtis on behalf of Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo), an award-winning community energy organisation based in Sussex, UK.

The UK Becomes Increasingly More Attractive For Renewable Energy Investors

Energy investment renewables

Since the UK Government’s decision to abandon its resistance to subsidising new onshore windfarms, investors in renewable energy have become more interested in the market. Lifting the block on financial support for onshore wind and solar projects and the return of the Contracts for Difference auctions has made the UK more attractive for renewable energy investment over the past 6 months. It has in fact been named as one of the most attractive places in the world for investment in renewable energy.

According to a report from the world-famous audit giant, EY (Ernst & Young) Britain has risen in the rankings of a biannual global survey of investors for renewable energy to take the sixth spot in the “attractiveness index” moving ahead of India.

Data from the 55th edition of EY’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI) comes ahead of a major clean energy auction next year in 2021. The return of the CfD auctions for Pot One technologies such as onshore wind and solar was enthusiastically welcomed by the renewable energy sector who have been calling for their return for years.

In previous years, Pot One technologies were only included in the first round of auctions. Currently, potential changes to the CfD scheme are being looked at in a formal consultation which has been extended due to Covid-19.

Next year’s auction will allow new renewables projects to be up and running from the mid-2020s if they manage to secure a contract that guarantees a price for the clean electricity they generate.

The EY report’s author Ben Warren expects the impact felt by the Covid-19 pandemic to only last in the short term saying that despite the challenges caused by the Coronavirus pandemic that renewable energy remains resilient.

He recognised that there are many positive trends in the renewable energy markets around the world, which includes growth in utility scale storage and an increase in environmental concern among investors meaning that markets should be in a good position to continue growing once COVID-19 is over.

He said:

“None of this is to diminish the profound challenges caused by a pandemic, the like of which none of us has experienced before. But it is important to recognise the central role that clean, low-carbon energy generation will play in the global economy of the future.”

EY believes that it was the government’s decision to include onshore wind and solar energy projects in the auction that helped the UK to climb one rung on the rankings list, to just below Germany, Australia, France, China, and the US.

For the first time since 2016 the US topped the rankings even though the federal government continues to support fossil fuels. The top ranking was in the most part due to plans to invest $57bn (£47bn) to install up to 30GW of offshore wind by 2030.

China no longer takes the top spot in the rankings as Beijing begins to look at removing subsidies from the market and the Coronavirus pandemic reduces China’s voracious need for energy.

Ben Warren said:

“Certainly, renewable energy is not immune to the economic disruption being wrought. But many of these effects are likely to be short-term. Already, manufacturers in China and Europe are restarting production. Utilities have worked hard to keep generation going in difficult circumstances. And power demand will rebound as economies get back to work.”

He went on to say that investors were still confident in “the long-term picture for clean energy.”

“The need, after the pandemic, to ensure greater economic and social resilience will work in favour of distributed power sources, such as wind and solar, and the applications offered by battery storage.”

The lifting of the block against onshore wind projects in the UK earlier this year will allow schemes to compete for subsidies alongside solar power developments and floating offshore wind projects. 

The decision to do this followed a government pledge to cut emissions to almost zero by 2050, an achievement which official climate advisers think will depend upon a tripling of the UK’s onshore wind-power capacity in the next 15 years.

Regardless of the unpredictability created by Covid-19 many renewable energy developers are working towards the 2021 auction in order to assist in promoting a green economic recovery once lockdown measures are lifted.

Luke Clark of RenewableUK, said EY’s report is right to focus on the potential economic opportunity that renewables can offer after the pandemic.

He said:

“Our sector’s plans to invest tens of billions of pounds in vital new energy infrastructure all over the country have not changed, and the government is supporting our work as it remains committed to reaching its legally-binding target of net zero emissions. The UK’s low-carbon economy will stimulate new growth, boost productivity and support tens of thousands of jobs as we work on projects at home and secure new export opportunities around the world.”

Analysts, economists, and environmentalists present a convincing case for the renewable energy industry to play a greater role, in helping the UK to emerge from the financial maelstrom created by the virus and powering a green economic recovery.

There is great potential for renewable energy companies that generate energy from the sun, wind, and sea to attract billions in investment and create thousands of green jobs across the UK’s regions at the same time as advancing Britain’s climate ambitions.

Committee On Climate Change Plus Over 200 UK Businesses Urge PM to deliver ‘Clean Recovery’

Committee On Climate Change

The UK Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change has written to the Prime Minister urging him to focus on low-carbon work programmes after the Coronavirus lockdown as part of the drive to restart the economy and get people back to work. The committee believes that taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions is “integral” to the UK’s recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. The advisers are also asking for retraining programmes that provide people with skills such as installing low-carbon heating, energy and water efficiency, and flood protection for homes.

The committee advised the Prime Minister that a good place to start would be to make people’s homes ready for winter, creating new jobs through schemes to insulate houses, while tree-planting could begin, and flood barriers be constructed.

They also proposed that there should be more investment in broadband and the creation of additional space for walking and cycling as part of the “green” package rather than building more roads.

All these programmes are considered by the advisers to have multiple benefits from generating new jobs to protecting the climate and ensuring a fairer economy for everyone. It was also thought that government money could be used to encourage advances in science and innovation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

The committee’s chairman Lord Deben said:

“The Covid-19 crisis has shown the importance of planning well for the risks the country faces. Recovery means investing in new jobs, cleaner air, and improved health. The actions needed to tackle climate change are central to rebuilding our economy. The Government must prioritise actions that reduce climate risks and avoid measures that lock-in higher emissions.”

Lord Deben, and the chair of the sub-committee on adaptation, Lady Brown added:

“Actions towards net-zero emissions and to limit the damages from climate change will help rebuild the UK with a stronger economy and increased resilience”.

The committee emphasised the importance of rescue packages for carbon-intensive sectors saying that to avoid locking in high emissions for the future it “should be contingent on them taking real and lasting action on climate change”.

The chairs advised that fairness should be a “core principle” of any recovery saying that:

“The crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities and … the response to the pandemic has disproportionately affected the same lower-income groups and younger people who face the largest long-term impacts of climate change. The benefits of acting on climate change must be shared widely and the costs must not burden those who are least able to pay, or whose livelihoods are most at risk as the economy changes. It is important that the lost or threatened jobs of today should be replaced by those created by the new resilient economy.”

It is not only the Government’s advisory committee that is pushing for this action. More than 200 UK businesses across energy, finance and other industry sectors have signed a letter making a strong case for the current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government to deliver a clean, all-encompassing, and strong coronavirus recovery plan. Interestingly, top executives from Iceland, Ben & Jerry’s, and The Body Shop, have also added their names to the appeal for the government to embrace a green recovery.

Support has been offered by Chief Executives from across the UK economy to help the government to tackle the pandemic. They are calling for the UK leader to provide “clear vision” as they undertake the recovery process, in a way that aligns with the UK’s wider social, environmental and climate goals.

In the letter the signatories stated that the endeavour to “rescue and repair” the economy in response to the current crisis “can and should be aligned” with the UK’s legislated target of net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

Signatories include Eon UK’s Michael Lewis, Engie’s Nicola Lovett, Glennmont Partners’ Joost Bergsma, London Pensions Fund Authority’s Robert Branagh, National Grid’s John Pettigrew, Ramboll’s Mathew Riley, SSE’s Alistair Phillips-Davies, The Climate Group’s Helen Clarkson, ScottishPower’s Keith Anderson, and Shell UK chair Sinead Lynch. These CEOs and managing directors come from firms spanning industry sectors which include banking and investing, construction, retail, manufacturing as well as energy.

The letter stated:

“With the UK facing major economic and social concerns including the risk of high unemployment and rising regional inequality, we believe that an ambitious low carbon growth and environmental improvement agenda can do a lot to address these concerns, as well as make the UK economy better prepared to deal with future shocks such as those related to climate change. The current crisis, in moving us all away from business-as-usual, has already created shifts in how we operate, and we believe we must use the recovery to accelerate the transition to net zero. Efforts to rescue and repair the economy in response to the current crisis can and should be aligned with the UK’s legislated target of net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.”

The signatories want a plan to be devised that “drives investment” in low carbon innovation, infrastructure and industries as well as working towards mitigating future environmental risks with greater attention given to sectors and activities that can “best support” sustainable growth, increased job creation and expedite both the recovery and the decarbonisation of the economy.

Within the financial support packages, they want “measures to ensure receiving businesses are well managed and their strategies are science-based and aligned with national climate goals”.

They believe in the UK’s climate leadership and are asking for “continued ambition” to drive action towards next year’s COP26 summit and the G7, which will both be hosted in the UK.

Chair of the committee on climate change, Lord Deben and Lady Brown, chair of the sub-committee on adaptation, stressed the importance of the UK showing leadership by linking the economic recovery and the climate crisis.

They said:

“Our credibility as an international leader rests on taking action at home”.

Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive of the Lloyds Banking Group said:

“We have all experienced the devastating effect that Covid-19 has had on our families, communities and businesses. We must make this experience count by working together to tackle the impacts of climate change. Financial services has an important role to play, working with others to finance the solutions that will accelerate progress. That’s why we’re supporting this call to put low carbon growth at the centre of the economic recovery. Working together we can build a cleaner, greener and more resilient economy for the whole of the UK.”

ScottishPower chief executive Keith Anderson added:

“Economic and environmental objectives are aligned today as never before, highlighting the urgent need for a green recovery to the current crisis. The UK Government’s recovery plan should recognise this and put us on track to deliver the 2050 climate target. As the first integrated energy company in the UK to generate 100% renewable electricity we are ready to accelerate our investment in powering a clean recovery that helps create jobs, support communities and tackle the climate crisis.”

National Grid chief executive John Pettigrew said:

“We’ve estimated that the energy sector alone will need hundreds of thousands of new recruits as we work towards Net Zero and believe that an economic recovery with climate action at its heart will be key to unlocking these opportunities.”

Other experts have added their voices to the request for a green economic recovery. A group of top economists, including the Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz presented evidence showing that if the government were to spend more on low-carbon and other environmentally friendly activities it would provide a bigger boost to the economy both in the short and long term, than following a traditional recovery that ignored the climate crisis by pouring money into fossil fuels.

Green campaigners are pushing for the government to listen to the advice they are receiving from so many different quarters.

Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, said:

“Improving people’s lives and saving the climate needs to be central to recovery, not rebuilding the profits of damaging industries. The right post-pandemic investment can push a big, positive, reset button on our carbon-guzzling and unsustainable economy and build a clean, healthy and fair world.”

Head of oil for Greenpeace UK, Richard George, said:

“When you have both the economy and the environment on the same side of the scales, the debate is over. The only question now is whether the government will listen to the experts and support a recovery package that protects our jobs, our health and our climate.”

Chris Venables, of the Green Alliance thinktank, believes that the Coronavirus crisis is responsible for altering the public’s view of what is possible in terms of fighting climate change as well as altering their perception of the government’s role in improving society.

He said:

“The recovery can change the way we think about public health and the health of the planet, whether that is preferring online connectivity to carbon-intensive travel or making greater efforts to conserve forests and improve access to green spaces. In response to coronavirus, the government has taken decisive measures. Similar courage can lead us to a healthier world in recovery.”

Trade body RenewableUK are promoting the CCC’s recommendations to the Prime Minister to boost economic recovery after the Coronavirus pandemic by supporting the growth of low-carbon infrastructure.

Nathan Bennett, RenewableUK’s public affairs manager said:

“The CCC highlights that climate investments support economic growth and jobs, and this is precisely what renewable energy companies are doing through investing tens of billions of pounds in new infrastructure. This investment boosts local economies all over the country, particularly in coastal communities which urgently need new job opportunities. We’ll be working with Ministers to ensure we have the right policies in place to accelerate this investment and deliver net zero. Our industry will play a pro-active role in getting the economy back on track as we move out of lockdown. Renewables are a UK-wide opportunity to have a sustainable, forward-looking recovery and to boost productivity across the economy”.

Two British Battery Firms Unite to Work on Developing the UK’s First Gigafactory

electric car

Battery developers AMTE Power and Britishvolt have agreed to work together to evaluate the potential for a multi-billion-pound battery facility that would solve the problem of how to feed the rapidly growing call for electric vehicles (EVs) and power storage projects. The UK may be on course to deliver its first ‘gigafactory’.

Both firms have signed a memorandum of understanding which says that they will work together on plans for a plant to make lithium ion batteries, the crucial component in electric cars as well as energy storage products.

With the future of the UK automotive industry hanging in the balance, electric vehicle (EV) and battery makers are increasingly keen to co-locate production and to scale up production capacity with a new generation of ‘gigafactories’.

The two British start-ups are looking at investing as much as £4bn in building the UK’s first large-scale battery factory which could turn out to be a major boost to the country’s struggling car industry.

Both British firms share an ambition aimed at establishing and growing a domestic manufacturing supply chain for a “diverse portfolio” of lithium ion batteries, as transport moves towards electrification in order to support the UK’s 2050 net zero goal.

The two firms, which came together with the support of the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), are also working on their own plans to scale up battery making facilities.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), is a non-profit organisation that facilitates funding to UK-based research and development projects developing low-carbon emission powertrain technologies.

According to the Financial Times, Britishvolt, which was only founded in December, has five UK locations lined up for its own large scale facility and is looking to raise £1.2bn next year to bankroll the first phase of the project to generate 10GWh of batteries. They have received initial backing from Scandinavian and Middle Eastern investors

AMTE Power already operates a battery production facility in Thurso, Scotland and is planning for another large scale 1-5GWh per year factory that it expects to be in operation by 2023 with two potential sites identified in Dundee and Teesside.

The two firms told the Financial Times that there is even a possibility that their planned sites could be amalgamated in order to deliver a much larger-scale battery making facility.

The chief executive of Britishvolt, Lars Carlstrom, said the companies’ ultimate objective is to build facilities producing batteries with capacity of as much as 30 gigawatt hours (GWh) a year, which would be roughly equivalent to the joint Tesla-Panasonic Gigafactory in Nevada. He added that a factory of that size would create as many as 4,000 jobs. As well as providing jobs the project will also help to reduce the need to import battery components from Asia at significant monetary and environmental cost.

Currently, UK electric car manufacturing is greatly dependent on battery components from abroad which could potentially be a serious problem for the sector should trade tariffs emerge in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The new plans announced by AMTE Power and Britishvolt mark the first substantial effort to deliver large scale battery manufacturing capacity in the UK. Work is going on in other parts of Europe with Tesla planning a gigafactory in Germany and Swedish firm Northvolt raising $1bn for a similar facility in Sweden.

Lars Carlstrom, CEO of Britishvolt, said meeting the UK government’s goal to phase out sales of fossil fuel cars by 2035 or earlier and shift towards a low carbon electricity grid would “necessitate the unprecedented electrification of vehicles, and reliance on renewable energy will require extensive battery storage”.

He added:

“It is costly and carbon-intensive to have lithium ion batteries imported from the Far East, and this GigaPlant would cement a solid onshore supply chain to ensure quality and eliminate future uncertainty of supply.”

CEO at ATME Power, Kevin Brundish, said that the current Coronavirus crisis had only served to further draw attention to the need for the UK to have a robust domestic supply chain for batteries.

He said:

“The creation of a GigaPlant would place the UK in a strong position to service automotive and energy storage markets. The scalable production of lithium ion cells is key to electrifying vehicles and would drive new manufacturing revenues and new employment and can be built on AMTE’s focus on the supply of specialised cells, thereby continuing the country’s tradition of excellence in battery cell innovation.”

The UK’s Faraday Institution recently warned that the UK car industry could suffer serious consequences if more is not done to scale up the development of battery technology. The Faraday Institution is a 78m initiative set up through the government’s £274m Faraday Challenge fund to drive developments in battery technology. The commercial case for making cars could be seriously damaged if the UK continues to incur the high costs of importing batteries as vehicle producers switch to producing greater volumes of electric vehicles, and wind down internal combustion engine production.

Up to now both European and UK carmakers have tended to import battery cells from China and South Korea which are then assembled into packs to go in cars.

The UK’s growing EV market presents a huge opportunity and the group believes that the UK will need to build at least seven 20GWh gigafactories by 2040 to retain a large automotive sector. However, it is questionable whether there is the political and industrial will to make this happen.

The race is on all over the globe to secure supplies of lithium ion batteries as manufacturers try to meet both the increasing demand for electric cars and the government regulations that limit carbon dioxide exhaust emissions.

The deficiency in large-scale battery manufacturing facilities in the UK is causing concern over the future of the country’s automotive industry. Ralf Speth, the Jaguar Land Rover boss has expressed his concern and the Vauxhall owner, Peugeot recognises the increasing need to secure a supply of cells closer to home. Transport costs mean a battery supply close to car assembly plants is an attractive proposition for car manufacturers.

It seems that Brexit uncertainty may have affected the decisions made by battery producers. Despite the expected demand for batteries from UK car factories, some companies appear to have been unwilling to invest in the UK market. Recently the UK lost out on a major investment by Tesla. Elon Musk, the US electric carmaker’s chief executive, chose Berlin over a British location. Other battery producers such as Sweden’s Northvolt, South Korea’s LG Chem and China’s CATL have also built factories in EU countries.

Even with the impending Coronavirus recession hanging over us, Britishvolt is confident that it can raise funds as more investors look for green investment opportunities. Later stages of building could potentially focus on different technologies, such as solid-state batteries, as development continues.

As former general manager of Nissan’s battery plant, the new Battery Industrialisation Centre’s MD, Jeff Pratt, knows more than most about the challenges of manufacturing batteries at scale.

He is however optimistic about the UK’s prospects saying that:

“We definitely have the demand here. We’ve got some large OEMs such as Nissan in the north east and JLR in the midlands, and that’s just in automotive.  Provided we make it attractive for companies to invest in the UK and bring the large-scale manufacturing here there isn’t any reason why we shouldn’t get our share of that future investment.”