If we have finally reached the tipping point with renewable energy and are about to embrace it as never before, then you might think that 2015 could well be the year that makes or breaks those of us who believe in developing and using clean technologies that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
There will be a few caveats, however, at least in the UK where a new government is due to be elected this May. How that effects the green agenda will depend largely on the outcome. The odds are on another hung parliament and with organisations such as UKIP currently debating the factual accuracy of climate change, Labour unwilling to lay their cards on the table on subsidies and the Conservatives looking closely at fracking as a valid source of home-made energy, it’s difficult to pin the future of renewables down.
Here are a few possibilities that could come your way over the next 12 months or so:
The price of solar panels could be set to fall even further as more competition comes into the market and householders and businesses see it as a profitable way to get clean energy with the government’s Feed in Tariff. That could see the rise of more companies offering free installation in exchange for a share of the profits. Find out if free solar panels are for you here.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars could finally begin to take off globally sparking a worldwide change in focus as we switch from our reliable gas guzzlers to something new. Most major car brands are now working furiously on these hybrid vehicles and, while they may be out of our price range at the moment, we could see them becoming more the rule than the exception over the next ten to fifteen years.
More technology to help you manage your energy usage could be on its way. The energy companies may have been less than proactive in helping both businesses and domestic premises manage their electricity and gas usage more efficiently – after all, it’s to their advantage if you use more power. But there could be a real sea change on the horizon as better technology starts to be introduced that helps us all micromanage our utilities in 2015.
The countries who will be at the forefront of renewable technology by the end of the year could be different from now. With nations such as Australia stalling in their green endeavours and previously stagnant ones like China suddenly beginning to blossom, we could see the focus change quite considerably. Countries like France have introduced recent legislation that puts a precedent on achieving 32% energy production from renewables by the end of 2030. Where the UK will figure in that mix is probably up for debate until after the next election.
According to Infrastructure Intelligence, the UK needs to be careful that a reduction in subsidies is not frightening off investors who may be turning towards the new kids of the block such as China and India. They quoted the Warren Report that stated: “To continue to compete for international capital, the UK’s market reform and upcoming Contract for Difference (CfDs) regime will have to go a long way to repair the damage or recent policy mishaps.”
Will the Contracts for Difference Work?
There has been speculation whether it’s better to subsidise or whether the new Contracts for Difference initiative will work more efficiently for the creation of new low-carbon electricity generation. According to the Government, the contracts will provide greater investor security and ensure that new capacity is delivered more cheaply. 2015 should tell us whether this has been a success or not with the budget increasing for this year to £300 million.
Renewables on a Grand Scale
Whilst the small projects are doing well across the UK, it’s the big projects that are finding things more difficult. 2015 could see more objections to large scale wind, solar and hydroelectric projects if the naysayers have anything to do with it. One major project that could gather more credence is the development of a huge solar farm in the Sahara desert, according to the Independent recently. Energy created in the desert could be sent to a substation in Rome that could then feed into the European grid, providing power for over 8 million homes in the UK.
There’s no doubt that 2015 will be an important year for the renewables industry whether you are installing solar panels or working on much larger projects like the next off shore wind farm. We could start to see a more and more localised approach with communities setting up self-funded initiatives like hydroelectric plants and more properties starting to invest in green technologies such as heat recovery and rainwater harvesting.