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IRENA: Tripling renewables investment ‘to reach climate goal’

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Global renewable energy investment increased between 2013 and 2018, reaching its peak at $351 billion in 2017, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Climate Policy Initiative (CPI).

The 2020 edition of Global Landscape of Renewable Energy Finance highlights however, that while a cumulative $1.8 trillion were invested during the five-year period, the amount falls short to achieve the global climate commitments.

Renewable energy investment slightly declined in 2018, with modest growth through 2019. Although this was largely due to the decreasing costs of renewables, the total installed capacity continued to grow. The current level of investment is still insufficient however to keep the rise in global temperatures within the 1.5°C objective by mid-century. To achieve this climate goal, investment in diverse renewables technologies must almost triple annually to $800 billion by 2050. 

Ambitious commitments from governments are needed, backed by supporting measures such as moving subsidies away from fossil fuels. The report says further investments are also needed in system integration and enabling technologies that increase system flexibility such as batteries and energy storage. To that end, policies that enable the integration of new renewables capacity additions into the energy systems are needed, leading to their decarbonisation and bringing wide socio-economic benefits.

“The investment trend in renewable energy before COVID-19 was a positive one,” said Francesco La Camera, IRENA’s Director-General. “But COVID-19 has shown us that much more effort is urgently needed to put us on a climate compatible pathway and help us recover better with a sustainable, resilient economy. Decision makers must design systemic approaches to policies that encourage and speed up the flow of investment into renewables, and away from fossil fuels, and doing so enable economic growth, social resilience and welfare.” 

IRENA’s post-COVID agenda showed that average annual investments of $2 trillion in renewables and other energy transition-related technologies in the 2021-2023-recovery phase could create 5.5 million additional jobs in the sector. An additional 19 million energy transition-related jobs would be created by 2030, following average annual investments of $4.5 trillion up to 2030. 

The majority of these investments could come from private sources, if government funds are used strategically to nudge investment decisions and financing in the right direction. The capital is available, with a push from the governments to mobilise it.  Public funds are able to leverage private investments by a factor of 3 to 4 if used strategically to steer investments toward clean energy solutions and away from fossil fuels.

Greater participation of institutional investors – which hold about $87 trillion in assets – will help to reach the scale of global investment needed. To this end, it is key to promote the use of capital market solutions, such as green bonds, that address the needs of these investors. The potential role of institutional investors for the global energy transition is further explored in IRENA’s report, Mobilising Institutional Capital for Renewable Energy, published this month.

“There is a very clear need for a rapid increase of investment in renewable energy coupled with a significant reduction and redirection of investment away from fossil fuel energy,” said Dr Barbara Buchner, CPI’s Global Managing Director. “We call for more effort and coordination among policy makers, public and private finance institutions, energy and non-energy producing corporations, and institutional investors to speed up the global energy transition. This action is fundamental to a more sustainable and resilient future.“ 

This year’s joint report analyses for the first time financial commitments to off-grid renewables technologies in developing markets, as they can bring the world closer to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 on universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030. Providing cost-effective energy solutions, off-grid renewables are essential in a time when energy access is crucial to power healthcare facilities, save lives and create jobs. While investments in off-grid renewables solutions kept growing, reaching an all-time-high USD 460 million in 2019, additional capital must be unlocked especially for income-generating activities and productive uses to improve the livelihoods and resilience of billions of women and men globally and to promote socio-economic benefits. 

Looking ahead, IRENA says policy makers need to signal long-term political commitment and enhance partnerships with the private sector to boost investors confidence and attract additional private capital in the sector. To that effect, the report laid out five specific recommendations that policy makers should implement to engage private sector actors, including institutional investors, capital market players and non-energy producing companies, in the collective path to green recovery and climate objectives.

Germany ‘goes aggressive’ on renewables

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The more rigid targets brought around by the latest revision to Germany’s renewable energy act (EEG) in June aims for the country to achieve 65%, instead of the originally targeted 50%, of its electricity consumption comes from renewable sources by 2030.

Such stricter targets would mean that, during 2021-2030, the country’s solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind would need over 2GW and 3GW of annual installations, respectively – a highly optimistic target in such an uncertain scenario.

Making the targets more stringent may be in line with the broader EU green deal agenda and sustainability objectives, but such a call – made a year before elections – may be fuelled by a political motivation rather than be an achievable goal, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. 

Somik Das, Senior Power Analyst at GlobalData, said: “For all of the nation’s renewable sectors to be GHG neutral by 2050, the electricity industry needs to evolve at a much faster pace than has been seen in recent years. Solar PV is now aimed to see a deployment of 18.8GW of capacity from 2021 to 2028, with planned capacity at increments of 1.9-2.8GW. However, with respect to the country’s capacity mix in 2019, Germany would need to add around 4.6GW annually to meet the target. In reality, the average solar PV annual installations are likely be around 1.4-1.5GW, according to GlobalData estimations.”

While annual solar PV installations in Germany have picked up in the last few years, onshore wind installations seemed to be on the back foot and so the faster pace required is even more questionable. 

Das added: “In order to achieve the new target, 16.7GW of onshore wind capacity is planned to be auctioned by 2025. Therefore, to meet the 2025 target, the country would need to conduct more than 4GW of annual onshore wind installations. This is a considerable stretch, as it would mean that the already slumped segment would need to install more than the 3.1GW average seen annually during 2015-19.

“Overall, GlobalData expects, with the current endeavors, generation from renewable energy (RE) is set to shape up to around 50-60% of the overall generation by the conclusion of the decade.”

COVID to accelerate transition to renewable energy

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It’s being predicted that the energy transition will be accelerated by several years by the COVID pandemic, with trillions of dollars expected to flow through economic relief packages into the deployment of low- and zero-carbon infrastructure, as well as research and development into technologies that enable it.

That’s the conclusion of Lux in its new report Owning The Energy Transition: 2020 COVID-19 Update, which outlines these changes and predicts the impact of the disruptive global energy transition going forward.

“The aftermath of COVID-19 will shake the economic fabric of the energy sector,” said Yuan-Sheng Yu, Senior Analyst at Lux Research. “We witnessed many historical firsts, such as oil futures trading in the negatives, U.S. renewable energy in the electricity mix surpassing coal, and the largest year-over-year drop in global CO2 emissions.”

Yu explains that while the sudden effects may be a flash in the pan as the world returns to normalcy, 2020 provided a preview of the more permanent challenges the industry will face in the next decade. This “white swan” event will force companies to learn how to be more resilient, while countries planning their post-COVID recovery will capitalize on the opportunity and accelerate the energy transition through improved resiliency and greater agility and by insulating themselves from the macroeconomic impacts of the volatile conventional energy sector.

“The pandemic highlighted the risks of disruptions to our current energy infrastructure and supply chain,” added Lux Research Analyst Tim Grejtak. “In response, we will see aggressive diversification of business portfolios to avoid the risk of underutilized and, eventually, stranded assets in order to capitalize on opportunities provided by increasing renewable energies.”

Grejtak cites long-duration energy storage investments and project developments in the first half of 2020 by the likes of Highview Power, Form Energy, and AES Distributed Energy as just the beginning of the added urgency of companies preparing for the energy transition.

Analyst Runeel Daliah added: “While COVID-19 momentarily pushed aside climate change from the political discourse, companies and countries that deprioritize climate change mitigation efforts in favor of near-term financial recovery would be making a mistake – decarbonization is an unavoidable megatrend that will continue to loom well after COVID-19.”

Daliah points to countries forging ahead with decarbonization strategies centered around hydrogen, such as Portugal, South Korea, Australia, and Germany, which recently unveiled a $10.2 billion National Hydrogen Strategy.

Meanwhile, Lux Research Senior Analyst Christopher Robison emphasized that the most noticeable effect of COVID-19 on modern life was the drastic reduction in mobility – As the world sheltered in place, there was an immediate reduction in emissions and improvement in air quality, with residents in some cities notorious for pollution seeing blue skies for the first time.

“The magnitude of the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on mobility remains unclear as more people work from home and replace work travel with virtual meetings, but the push to reduce and eliminate emissions from the transportation sector has only increased, with many post-COVID stimulus plans focused on low- and zero-emission vehicles,” said Robinson.

Do you specialise in Renewable Energy Solutions? We want to hear from you!

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Each month on Energy Management Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the market – and in February we’ll be focussing on Renewable Energy solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help energy management buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Renewable Energy solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Lisa Rose on 01992 374077 / l.rose@forumevents.co.uk.

Our features list in full:

Feb – Renewable Energy
Mar – Carbon Managemen
Apr – Metering & Monitoring
May – Water Management/Strategy
Jun – Energy Efficient Solutions
Jul – Data Collection & Management
Aug – Waste Management
Sep – Solar PV
Oct – Lighting
Nov Heating & Ventilation
Dec – Utility Management

Onshore wind ‘the key to net zero emissions’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

If new onshore wind projects were allowed to go ahead in the UK, consumers and business would save money on their electricity bills in the decades ahead, and thousands of jobs would be created. 

That’s according to research by independent analysts Vivid Economics following last month’s landmark report on reaching net zero emissions by 2050 by the Committee on Climate Change, which suggested increasing the UK’s onshore wind capacity from 13 gigawatts (GW) now to 35GW by 2035 as part of a low-cost energy strategy for the future.  

The study, “Quantifying the economic benefits of onshore wind to the UK”, commissioned by RenewableUK, shows that building this capacity of new onshore wind instead of gas plants would save an average household £50 a year in 2035, reducing the cost of electricity by 7%. 

The research also shows that the sector would nearly triple employment, supporting 31,000 jobs by 2035 with 14,000 directly employed in the industry (up from 5,300 direct jobs now), if 35GW is deployed.

These jobs would be created throughout the UK, lifting productivity in areas that need it most, particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In 2017, the UK exported £52m worth of onshore wind goods and services according to Government statistics. The study shows that the UK supply chain could capture £360m of the global onshore wind market by 2035, supporting 3,700 jobs in 2035.

However, the researchers point out that onshore wind faces multiple barriers, including exclusion from Government-backed contracts to generate power, and strict rules governing the construction of onshore turbines which have led to a significant decline in planning applications since 2015. The study notes that these barriers have increased uncertainty in the project pipeline, reducing investment in the UK-based supply chain. 

RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive, Emma Pinchbeck, said: “Now that the Government has announced that it will set a legally binding target to reach net zero emissions by 2050,  it needs to make use of the cheapest technology to get there – and to do so swiftly, as people are demanding immediate action on climate change. They also want lower electricity bills in the decades ahead, and skilled jobs. Onshore wind is treated as the Cinderella of energy policy by Government but in reality, it should be their Fairy Godmother – one of the few technologies that can grant all of these wishes. 

“The Government’s climate advisers are also recommending more onshore wind because it’s part of the cheapest route to net zero emissions by 2050. Now is the perfect time for Ministers to take a fresh look at this key technology and dismantle the barriers which are preventing us all from benefiting from it in full”. 

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Renewable energy now employs 11m people globally

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Eleven million people were employed in renewable energy in 2018, compared with 10.3 million in 2017, according the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The organisation says that until now, renewable energy industries have remained relatively concentrated in a handful of major markets, such as China, the United States and the European Union.

However, East and Southeast Asian countries have emerged alongside China as key exporters of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Countries including Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam were responsible for a greater share of growth in renewables jobs last year, which allowed Asia to maintain a 60 per cent share of renewable energy jobs worldwide.

“Beyond climate goals, governments are prioritising renewables as a driver of low-carbon economic growth in recognition of the numerous employment opportunities created by the transition to renewables,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA. 

“Renewables deliver on all main pillars of sustainable development – environmental, economic and social. As the global energy transformation gains momentum, this employment dimension reinforces the social aspect of sustainable development and provides yet another reason for countries to commit to renewables.”

Solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind remain the most dynamic of all renewable energy industries. Accounting for one-third of the total renewable energy workflow, solar PV retains the top spot in 2018, ahead of liquid biofuels, hydropower, and wind power.

Geographically, Asia hosts over three million PV jobs, nearly nine-tenths of the global total.

Most of the wind industry’s activity still occurs on land and is responsible for the bulk of the sector’s 1.2 million jobs. China alone accounts for 44 per cent of global wind employment, followed by Germany and the United States. Offshore wind could be an especially attractive option for leveraging domestic capacity and exploiting synergies with the oil and gas industry.

The solar PV industry retains the top spot, with a third of the total renewable energy workforce. In 2018, PV employment expanded in India, Southeast Asia and Brazil, while China, the United States, Japan and the European Union lost jobs.

Rising output pushed biofuel jobs up 6% to 2.1 million. Brazil, Colombia, and Southeast Asia have labour-intensive supply chains where informal work is prominent, whereas operations in the United States and the European Union are far more mechanised.

Employment in wind power supports 1.2 million jobs. Onshore projects predominate, but the offshore segment is gaining traction and could build on expertise and infrastructure in the offshore oil and gas sector.

Hydropowerhas the largest installed capacity of all renewables but is now expanding slowly. The sector employs 2.1 million people directly, three quarters of whom are in operations and maintenance.

IRENA’s Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review can be downloaded here:  

https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jun/Renewable-Energy-and-Jobs-Annual-Review-2019

Image by Oimheidi from Pixabay

Do you provide Renewable Energy solutions? We want to hear from you!

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Each month on Energy Management Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the market – and in February we’ll be focussing on Renewable Energy solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help energy management buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Renewable Energy solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Lisa Rose on 01992 374077 / l.rose@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering in 2019, month by month:

February – Renewable Energy
March – Carbon Management
April – Metering & Monitoring
May – Waste Management
June – Energy Efficient Solutions
July – Data Collection & Management
August – Water Management
September – Solar PV
October – Lighting
November – HVAC
December – Water Strategy

For more information on any of the above, contact Lisa Rose on 01992 374077 / l.rose@forumevents.co.uk.