As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Climate Change Act during the first Green GB and Northern Ireland week, RES' UK Managing Director Rachel Ruffle spoke earlier this week at EUK Annual Conference and has been reflecting on progress:
The IPCC is very clear - we need to limit temperature rises to 1.5°c to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. But even if all European countries implemented their decarbonisation policies, DNV GL for Wind Europe has shown we would still see more than a 2°c rise.
All is not lost – the good news is that it is still possible to limit the impacts of climate change. Renewable energy costs have dropped dramatically - in most markets onshore wind and solar are the cheapest form of new generation. The trilemma is dead, there is no trade-off between clean and most cost-effective generation. Clean energy is the cheapest. The most cost-effective energy is the cleanest.
Government Policy is to ‘decarbonise at lowest cost to the consumer’. So far, so good - but how well are we really doing?
There continues to be subsidies given fossil fuels, tax breaks for oil and gas exploration as well as an easy ride through planning for shale gas. It is disappointing that there is an active discrimination against the cheapest forms of clean energy, onshore wind and solar, whilst at the same time an approach to heavily subsidising the more expensive forms of low carbon generation - this is not decarbonising at lowest cost.
Limiting global warming to 1.5°c is possible and we all have a responsibility to future generations to achieve this. The decarbonisation of electricity is leading the way with 30% of electricity across Europe coming from renewable sources, but we need to increase this. Electricity is only part of the picture - 24% of all energy consumed.
Other sectors such as transport, heat and heavy industry all have an opportunity to decarbonise. To speed up the electrification of transport, we need to see an acceleration in providing the charging infrastructure. For example there is the potential to use hydrogen generated from clean green energy for heating – investing in electrolyser technology to bring the price down could be the final piece of the jigsaw providing a clean balance to renewables. There is a responsibility on industry to support the electrification of industrial processes such as electric arc furnaces.
To limit temperature rises to 1.5°c and support decarbonisation at lowest cost to the consumer – we need to encourage a route to market for flexible technologies such as battery storage and see investment in the development of electrolysers to produce hydrogen from clean, green electricity. Most importantly we need to stop subsidising fossil fuels and embrace a renewable future.