Following on from our latest blog, and indeed, the recent climate activism we’ve seen spreading internationally, our attentions are turning to the energy industry, and importantly, the growth of renewable solutions.
Energy and emissions is a continually evolving system to measure, which is why we are loving the following imagery. This fantastic animation from Carbon Brief shows the changing rankings of cumulative emissions since the industrial revolution. Cumulative emissions are a crucial factor in global warming and climate change. Whilst some carbon is reabsorbed, a huge 20% lingers on in the atmosphere, for millennia. So those industrial revolution emissions? Still hanging around today.
Animation: The countries with the largest cumulative CO2 emissions since 1750
Ranking as of the start of 2019:
1) US – 397GtCO2
2) CN – 214Gt
3) fmr USSR – 180
4) DE – 90
5) UK – 77
6) JP – 58
7) IN – 51
8) FR – 37
9) CA – 32
10) PL – 27 pic.twitter.com/cKRNKO4O0b
— Carbon Brief (@CarbonBrief) 23 April 2019
We might well celebrate that we drop down the chart, but let’s not allow that to lead us into complacency! Despite our small geographical size, we would be foolish to forget that we contribute a vastly disproportionate amount of CO2 emissions. Are we doing enough to reverse the impact we have already caused? Are we learning from our past practices, and putting into place preventative measures? Are we pushing the alternative possibilities as much as we should be?
Historically, critics of renewable and sustainable energies have decried these alternatives as more expensive, less reliable, and less efficient. (I obviously won’t entertain the other numerous false claims against them, which are based on little more than fake science and scare-mongering). And up until recently, these critics have been somewhat justified, as renewables have struggled to show their worth against their better-known fossil fuel counterparts. But, with increasingly developed technologies, renewable energy systems are becoming more efficient and more viable.
“Global renewable energy consumption increased more than 5% in 2017 – three times faster than total final energy consumption. In the power sector, renewables accounted for half of annual global electricity generation growth, led by wind, solar PV, and hydropower.”
This report from the International Energy Agency shows the steady increase of renewable energy uptake across the globe, and in turn, the moving away from traditional fossil fuels.
Whilst Brazil has the greenest energy mix, “China continues to be the largest growth market for all renewable electricity sources except geothermal and marine as it is responsible for over 40% of global capacity expansion in the 2018-23 period.”
So with (some) emissions-giants seemingly joining the cause, can we hope for a cleaner future with the energy industry? Ecotricity have written a great roundup of their top seven predictions for renewable energy trends in 2019 – it’s a good read!
Targets have been set, with the bar very low, but are we even meeting those?
Although the science is there, and the scientists are imploring governments to take action now, we just aren’t seeing changes, or commitments, fast enough. I think, as do many concerned about our planet, that the approach from governing powers has been softly-softly, which isn’t giving us the progress we need. So, instead of waiting for the powers-that-be to take their action up a gear, communities across the country are jumping into action, and taking matters into their own hands.
Community schemes are springing up, especially in remote areas, thanks to funding from ethical banks, and support from environmental groups and organisations. Proving to the big guys at the top, that really all we need is some get-up-and-go attitude towards pushing renewables forward.
Take Mendip Renewables, a community benefit society, who own and operate Whitelake Solar Farm in Somerset. The farm has already generated over 10,000,000 kWh of carbon-free solar electricity in its first two years. That’s enough to power the equivalent of around 1,290 homes!
Or what about the Mean Moor wind farm in Cumbria? It’s thought to be the first UK wind farm which has transferred from a commercial developer, to community ownership. Thanks to 400 individuals raising an impressive £2.8 million in just two weeks, the three wind turbines are now 100% community-owned. This demonstrates how communities are entirely able to operate in the commercial world, and proves the appetite for renewables is yet to be sated.
Wind, it seems, is one of our more favourable areas for growth. Really, that should be fairly obvious, it’s pretty darn windy on this little island of ours. Interestingly, the UK actually takes the lead in offshore wind, with the highest installed capacity in the world. And, by 2030, wind will be providing one-third of our country’s energy mix. (Bear in mind, that’s still not a full switch-off from fossil fuels, just percentages here and there). This is according to the World Economic Forum 2019 Insight Report into Fostering Effective Energy Transition.
It all sounds very promising, and obviously, we like to be optimistic here. But 2030 is now only 11 years away. With the IPCC warning us we only have 12 years to sort out our climate crisis (back in September 2018), aren’t we cutting it just a bit fine? I know we all like a race to the finish line, but surely, when it comes to the future of our planet, we’d prefer a clear lead?
Author: Rachel Calnan