The last few years have been anything but straightforward when it comes to renewable energy. With seismic changes across the globe, including close to home after the Brexit decision to leave the EU, as well as the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, you could be forgiven that things might be coming off the rails.
The Conservative government got a majority in Parliament and decided to slash Feed in Tariffs to give the solar industry a big fright and set back the green agenda. At the same time, they decided to build an overly expensive nuclear power station that made most green experts hang their heads in despair.
Trump, once in office, opted to withdraw from the climate change agreement and promoted sceptics to prominent positions despite not having a clue what he is talking about or what he is doing. That’s not to mention his recent attempts to rile North Korean despot Kim Jung Il and cause a nuclear war.
The good news is, that despite all the uncertainty, renewables across the globe are looking increasingly strong. The future is bright and, even in the UK, people are still having solar panels installed on their roofs. Wind farms are still being developed in many parts of the world and research and development teams are still working to find new and innovative ways to produce green energy.
More Investment in Renewables
There are many who believe that we have gone past the tipping point for renewables and that there is no stopping it now. It is fast becoming a disruptive technology that should see the death knells of fossil fuels sounding sooner rather than later.
With countries like China investing heavily in a renewable future, despite their current dependence on coal, things are looking up. In addition, investors on financial markets are moving away from fossil fuel portfolios. According to the Guardian last year:
“Profitable sustainability is coming of age, at least as far as renewable energy is concerned. With the value of fossil fuel holdings plummeting and the profitability of renewables growing, investors and companies are increasingly looking to sustainable investments for good long term bets.”
This could be the single biggest factor that moves us away from a reliance on fossil fuels to a renewable, clean energy future. That’s why many industry experts were disappointed but not unduly worried when President Trump decided to walk out of the Paris climate change agreement earlier this year. Money talks, as the saying goes, and it may well drive renewables into a much stronger and certainly less contested position over the next decade or so.
Solar Power Getting Cheaper
Solar power and the cost of installation has been getting cheaper and cheaper, year on year for a while now. According to Money Saving Expert:
“The price of a typical solar panel system, including installation, is now around £5,000-£8,000. In the scheme’s early days, a system this size used to cost £10,000-£12,000.”
Yes, feed in tariffs have been cut in recent years but when you add up the cost and savings on fuel bills, installing panels still provides a decent return on investment. The big development for the future, of course, is going to be how we store that electricity. In July this year, Business Secretary Greg Clark announced the UK is going to invest £245 million into battery technology over the next four years. This is going to be key for renewables like solar if they are to become even more prevalent in the decades to come.
The future could indeed see a time when each home has its own solar eco-system producing all the household’s energy needs.
Do Our Oceans Hold the Key?
Hidden away from many UK residents, a lot of work has been going on in recent years to harness the power of the sea. In January of this year, the £1.3 billion tidal lagoon planned for Swansea was backed by a government commissioned review. If it goes ahead and is successful, it could pave the way for further tidal lagoons around the UK coast, providing a substantial proportion of our electricity and reducing our collective carbon footprint in the process.
Throw in some much smaller projects experimenting with offshore sea kites and there’s plenty going on beneath the surface of our oceans. Other countries are following suit and it may just be that tidal energy production becomes an important area to invest in over the next couple of decades.
Wind is Still a Power
Finally, you may think we’ve forgotten about wind. We’re used to seeing those turbines turning slowly off the coast of many of our towns and cities in the UK. But the new generation of wind turbines are now being designed and developed and these could further transform the landscape around us. Companies like Google are experimenting with systems that can fly up to 300 metres and you can even find someone trying out hummingbird style arrays that flap rather than turn.