During the 21st Century we have witnessed the global discourse surrounding renewable energy evolve dramatically. Last year, local, national and international communities joined together in an effort to reduce humans’ carbon footprint and, needless to say, everyone’s efforts made a huge impact.
In 2015, Paris held the UN Climate Change Summit where the world’s leaders discussed wide-ranging goals to assist with decreasing the effects of climate change on the globe. According to Standard & Poor’s latest analysis, the Paris Agreement will initiate the release of more than $16 trillion of funding for renewable energy and green technologies over the next couple of years.
During the COP21, Dubai voiced its commitment to sourcing 25 per cent of power generation from solar by 2030, and 75 per cent by 2050 with Dubai Green Fund planning to invest $27 billion to support it. International Solar Alliance by India and France have been supported by 120 governments and aims to provide $1 trillion of solar investment. Furthermore, regions such as California are increasing renewable energy targets to 50 per cent by 2030. Today, many countries are starting to roll out sustainable energy plans and it is clear that improving renewable technologies and reducing pollution is high on everyone’s agenda.
Many countries have joined forces in an effort to increase investment in sustainable energy technologies and further reduce carbon emissions. The formation of these relationships is crucial to the sector's overall growth. "Following the Paris agreements in December, there's a real global consensus that we need to invest more in renewables, develop new renewable technologies, and source more of our energy from renewables," said Lord Smith of Finsbury, Non-Executive Director of Spencer Ogden. "This offers a huge opportunity for new products, new developments, and new jobs across the world. If we don't seize this, someone else will. And we'll have lost the chance not only to make an economic success out of this growing sector, but to help the sustainability of our planet too."
Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University recently said the world can convert to 100 per cent renewable energy – wind, water and solar resources by 2050. An ambitious target that is both realistic and warranted. For larger countries such as the U.S., renewable energy could provide 80% of its' energy needs by 2050. For the UK, many officials are projecting that the country will be powered on 90% renewables by 2030 and this plan is supported by many key regions. There are numerous countries welcoming the challenge, including Scotland, which has voiced its commitment towards taking advantage of renewable energy in order to reach its objective of generating 100% clean electricity by 2020. Whilst China may be renowned as the world’s largest polluting nation, the nation is showing determination and commitment towards repositioning itself as becoming a green energy powerhouse. Newly released figures reveal China’s production of renewable energy systems has increased global capacity to 913 GW. Anything is possible with renewable energy and it is never too late to start the transition towards utilising the potential of green energy.
Renewable energy is rapidly expanding and acquiring a larger share of the energy market. “The biggest story is in the case of renewables. It is no longer a niche. Renewable energy has become mainstream fuel as of now,” said International Energy Agency executive director, Fatih Birol. Reports generated by the U.S Energy Information Administration have forecasted that renewable energy will be the fastest-growing power source through to 2040. Those that jump on the renewables bandwagon should also know that they will not be left with empty pockets. It is imperative that countries are aware of the importance of transitioning to renewable energy and the significance of assuming early leadership. By becoming a sector leader in the development and installation of sustainable technologies, countries can expect to receive huge financial rewards.
Green Investments continue to rise
Investment will remain key to the advancement of innovative green technologies and new start ups. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, $9 billion was invested into the North American renewable sector in 2004 then quickly rose to $50 billion in first quarter of 2015. In the UK, £15.2 billion was invested into clean energy.
Across the globe, countries are taking action. Companies are racing to obtain climate-smart investments, as it is not only ethically correct but also a financially smart decision. “The record year for investments and installations in the offshore wind industry is a very promising sign and we now have 11GW of offshore capacity in the EU” said Oliver Joy, spokesperson for the EWEA. According to data released by the European Wind Energy Association, offshore wind investments in Europe doubled in 2015. In the U.S, investments in renewable energy increased to $56 billion, rising by 7.5 per cent from 2014. However, the overwhelming majority of the investment, $30.2 billion, went to solar.
The reliance of government funding has also lessened, as investors are willing to offer available financial support. Investment in developing countries has continually improved and funding was particularly high in Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines. Officials advocate that developing countries will require approximately $100 billion in new investment every year over the next four decades to strengthen economic stability against climate change. On the other hand, neglecting the power of financial investment in the renewables sector could be extensive. According to a study released by CitiGroup, excessive global warming could contribute to the loss of up to $72 trillion off the world’s gross domestic product.
In the past decade, the solar sector has presented many growth opportunities in the form of power generation and job creation. Solar farms are proving to be a reliable source of sustainable energy and are growing in popularity in areas such as Morocco and Nevada.
Not only is solar power generating electricity, it is driving innovation. In Japan, work has begun on the world’s largest floating solar farm and is expected to supply enough electricity for 5,000 households once completed in 2018. Morocco’s Noor I farm is set to become the world’s largest solar plant and produce enough power to meet the needs of 1.1 million people by 2018. The complexity and scale of solar projects is increasing at a significant pace and there is still plenty of room for more improvements.
The price of solar is now becoming competitive with oil and natural gas even at its depressed price point. Since the 1980s, solar panels have become 10% cheaper each year. Officials say that this trend is highly likely to continue as many predict solar will meet 20% of global energy needs by 2027. To further reduce the price of solar, officials are now suggesting the potential of combining solar with other technologies, such as; hydro, wind, tidal and geothermal. For example, Costa Rica combines several renewable sources to produce power and in 2015 was able to generate 100% of its energy capacity through renewable sources for 94 consecutive days. The nation is now well on its way to becoming the first developing country to have 100% renewable electricity.
In Q2 of 2015, the U.S installed 1,316 MW of solar photovoltaics, which was enough capacity to power 5 million American homes. It was the solar market’s best year in history with records broken in the fourth quarter. California ranked first in the total PV installed capacities across all residential, non-residential and utility sectors.
Since 1980, the price of U.S wind power has declined by 90 per cent. Wind power has emerged as a competitive source of power and the International Energy Agency further estimates that wind will generate as much as 18 per cent of the world’s electricity by 2050. Wind power has gained the interest of many countries around the world. Denmark is demonstrating to the world the value of wind power by producing 42 per cent of its electricity from wind turbines, the highest figure recorded worldwide.
A skilled workforce will always determine the success a wind project. This year, Dong Energy plans to build the world’s biggest offshore wind farm off the coast of Grimsby. The project is expected to generate 2,000 jobs during construction and provide power for one million homes within the UK.
Although turbines can effect the visual landscape of the location in which it is installed, its environmental footprint is significantly low. The introduction of floating turbines which will have less impact on the seabed will further lessen the disturbance of such technologies on the earth's physical environment. Floating wind turbines are gaining popularity and Scottish seas will soon be home to the world’s largest floating wind farm. “The development of floating offshore wind could be a game changer for the industry,” says Paul Mitchell, the Director of the Aberdeen Institute of Energy.
Green jobs boom
Employment in the renewable energy sector is continually shaped by technological developments, industrial and trade policies, industry realignments and consistent regional shifts from Europe and North America to China and other Asian countries.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA), 7.7 million were employed across the global renewable energy value chain. The 18 per cent increase from 2014 was largely due to a rise in solar energy projects and wind turbine installations. China’s renewable energy companies employ the most workers in the world while other high ranking countries such as Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, France and Colombia also employ many people in renewable energy positions. By 2030, the IREA predicts that if renewable placements double, global employment levels in the industry will rise to 17 million in work. In many respects, studies indicate that renewable energy creates twice as many jobs when compared to the fossil fuel industry.
It is an industry that is on the forefront of technological change and an industry which has mastered the art of adaptation. In North Carolina, green energy companies added 3,159 jobs in 2015 and generated $7 billion in revenue and now employs over 26,000 full-time workers. In Ontario, Canada, the province is pushing its' new Climate Change Strategy and investing $100 million in an effort to enhance clean technologies and generate more job opportunities. Focusing on solar hot spot Nevada, solar jobs per capita is so high that a total of 8,764 solar jobs were generated in 2015. As a whole, the country employs 209,000 workers and added over 35,000 jobs last year. In comparison to other energy sectors (such as coal mining) the solar sector employs 77% more workers. However, there are still many more workers employed in the oil and gas sector within the U.S than in solar.
The renewable revolution
According to the World Bank, around 1.1 billion people still do not have access to electricity. While the growth of renewables is staggering, there is still an apparent energy gap that needs to be filled.
The world’s supply of conventional oil and gas is depleting whilst energy demands continue to rise. With the world’s population set to increase to nine billion over the next 30 years, it is clear that we need to take advantage of other sustainable energy options. The most available solution is renewables. Climate change is now a reality and in order to make the necessary reductions to global emissions, world leaders will need to continue funding clean energy projects and advancing energy saving technologies.
Renewables will undoubtedly play an integral part of every country’s climate adaptation strategy and will force countries and companies to become more strategic with their energy investments. Moving towards a fully renewable future will not be easy and many challenges must be expected. Positions within the world’s fastest growing energy sector are filling quickly, so what are you waiting for? Now is the ideal time to discover what the renewables sector has to offer.
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