Last month the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced that the subsidies for onshore wind farms will run out a year earlier than expected – from 1 April 2016 they will no longer be eligible to subsidies. A grace period is granted to projects that already have planning permission.
This announcement seems oddly timed and irrational to many, given that onshore wind is currently the cheapest readily-available form of clean energy in the UK. BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin quotes experts who have described the decision to scrap subsidies as “irrational and bizarre”. Scotland is particularly affected by this decision: “The decision by the UK government to end the Renewables Obligation next year is deeply regrettable and will have a disproportionate impact on Scotland, as around 70% of onshore wind projects in the UK planning system are here”, Scottish Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism and Member of the Scottish Parliament Fergus Ewing said.
The rationale on part of the UK government seems to be that there are enough projects either already up and running or in the pipeline to meet the country’s demand for renewable energy from onshore wind, according to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd.
Ewing criticised this stance, pointing out that the government now treats what previously were estimates for the share onshore wind energy would contribute to the entire renewable mix as targets: In the course of transforming our energy supply entirely to renewables, projections had been made of how much each form of renewable energy would contribute to the whole energy supply, and onshore wind energy happened to be estimated to be contributing 10%. Apparently, currently installed projects and those in the pipeline would be enough to reach this 10% mark – however, Ewing made clear that the figure of 10% had merely been an estimate and never been intended as a target.
He warned the UK government that their decision on onshore wind subsidies could be subject of a judicial review, and also cautioned that last month’s announcement may shake investor confidence in the wind energy market as a whole – including offshore wind – and possibly even the whole Renewables market, posing unforeseeable challenges to the entire energy market in the UK.
Ewing has now called an UK wind energy crisis summit for 9th July.
Renewable energy production is on the rise. World leaders and Governments have had to set specific targets to reduce the growing problem of climate change. We need to reduce our carbon footprint so that average global temperatures don’t swell up by two degrees.
Where possible we should all make use of clean and green energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass and others. If so-called ‘natural’ resources are as affordable and scale-able as they say; and if they can fulfil United Nations Climate Change targets, then why not go for it?
Some locations are leading the way when it comes to providing renewable electricity.
Let’s cross to the Caribbean and take a closer look at Costa Rica. Back in March Costa Rica’s Government announced that the country had been able to run on only renewable energy this year. Much of that is thanks to its abundance of volcanoes – who knew that drilling into volcanoes to extract heat from molten rock could power so many homes? It is however hydro dams that provides Costa Rica with the highest percentage of renewable energy – with around 80%.
Iceland is another country thriving on geothermal power. According to the International Energy Agency Iceland now relies wholly on renewable energy, with an increase in the use of geothermal in recent years. In 2011, 64% of renewable energy came from geothermal - heat obtained from the Earth that’s sent to power lines. The Scandinavian country is now recognised as offering a high standard of living - a stark contrast to tough times in 2008-2010 when it experienced a severe financial crisis.
Other countries dream to imitate the success of those already entirely reliant on renewable energy. Some of the world’s largest cities for example, have united through the C40 Climate Leadership Group - which aims to address climate change locally to help address concerns globally.
Vancouver hopes to be Canada’s ‘green city’ by 2030, using renewable power for electricity, heating and cooling, while transport could take until 2050. In Munich the goal for reaching 100% renewable electricity supply is 2025; the demand there is for at least 7.5 billion kilowatt hours per year. Germany is Europe’s leader for installing new wind power capacity, and Chancellor Merkel’s position to “Do more, more urgently” on climate change, stands the country in good stead when it comes to reaching Munich’s 2025 aim.
Germany’s northerly neighbour Denmark, the first country in the world to install an offshore wind farm in the 90’s, clearly understands renewable energy well. Its 513 turbines can already supply enough power to cover the capital’s electricity needs. In Copenhagen, now officially the ‘Best City for Cyclists’, residents cruise along the 390km network of cycle lanes, aware that one less person driving a car can only be a good thing. This environmentally-friendly approach is a strong indication that the city really will be fully carbon neutral by 2025, matching Munich’s objective.
But who’ll be first to reach carbon-neutrality? Watch this space…
What the leaders say
“We are the green tide coming together to save the world from climate change.” – Park Won-Soon, Mayor of Seoul, South Korea, at Local Governments for Sustainability World Conference
“Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even tomorrow.” – UN Climate Change Summit 2014
“Do more, more urgently.” – Angela Merkel & Francois Hollande’s take on climate change
“This is not a problem for another generation. It has serious implications for the way we live right now.” - Barack Obama
“The global environment crisis is, as we say in Tennessee, real as rain, and I cannot stand the thought of leaving my children with a degraded earth and diminished future.” - Al Gore - former US Vice-President & Environmental Activist
March 5, 2015
Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004 it has seen GDP figures double. Thanks to this it’s now considered an even better place to live – and a desirable location for setting up an office.
Trade relationships between Scotland and Poland hail back to the 1400s when Scots started to emigrate there, and by the 17th century around 30,000 Scots had settled. More recently and since becoming a member of the EU, Scotland has attracted plenty of Poles - 21,000 have set up businesses in the UK and 25,000 are self-employed. At a business event in Edinburgh last week, which invited Scots to further business links with Poland, Polish Ambassador to the UK Mr Witold Sobkow said: “Over the past 11 years there has been a magnitude of change in Poland.”
This Eastern nation is now being sold as a land of opportunities – thanks to a stable economic situation, market growth and access to regional markets. In 2014 it took 9th place in Bloomberg’s Best Emerging Markets list. The possibility of potentially doing business with 38 million people is a pro. But, with the average monthly salary at just €907 – would you really want to settle there?
According to the Polish Investment and Foreign Investment Agency, the biggest industries in Poland are Aerospace, Finance and Manufacturing. Innovation is also hugely important: with 77 Higher Education institutions in Warsaw there is a lot that can be accomplished when it comes to Research and Development. In 2013, the European Investment Bank backed Polish R&D by lending it €1 billion (€970 million). The European Commission’s biggest research programme Horizon 2020 (which has a huge €80 billion of funding available over seven years), is putting a lot of focus into Research & Innovation and has awarded Poland with over €2 million. The programme supports energy efficiency and low carbon economy projects, environmental protection and adaption to climate change.
In 2009, Poland rejected an EU proposal which supported developing countries to apply measures against global warming. Yet now leaders look to diversify the country’s energy mix with a Government target set to produce 13GW of wind power each year by 2030.
EU membership presents itself as an opportunity, but not as a guarantee for developing business in Poland. Nothing is set in stone, and this applies even more so in 2015 as Parliamentary and Presidential elections will take place in May.
The wind has blown the way for one of the fastest growing industries in the world. ‘Clean’ business certainly seems to be big business. That’s partly down to the fact that up to 8,000 components are required for a wind turbine to function, requiring a lot of work, a lot of company’s involvement - and quite a bit of money.
Despite experiencing “phenomenal growth” in recent years – according to Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, 2013 saw a ‘dip’ in the sector with things becoming tougher.
And although Sawyer is optimistic that growth will return in 2014, “some of my European partners see flaws in my argument,” he told an audience at January’s World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. Some of these European partners - Siemens, Acciona and Alstom representatives, were some of the panel-members joining in a discussion on the future of the wind industry.
Carmen Becerril, Chief International Officer of Spain’s Acciona is not as optimistic as Mr Sawyer as it is her belief that Europe will be “in a very flat position” in 2014. “This is because the company is committed to finishing all its wind farms before the end of the year, so that we have taxation support,” she further explains.
On the other hand, Acciona are working in India - “which we see as a good market - as well as South Africa,” Ms Becerril explains.
Europe may have 78 per cent of the world’s installed capacity but “South Africa are now tapping into generating electricity by wind,” says Dipolelo Elford, Director of WindLab South Africa.
“The problem in South Africa is a competitive bid. And that wind will continue to get good allocation to upscale the harnessing,” Ms Elford continues. She is hopeful however that 2014 will be a better year with “rapid development of technology” in South Africa. A political change may also be on the cards but it’s down to voters to decide in an election due this year.
Ms Elford is confident that the Africa Clean Energy Corridor - an interconnected corridor that will span eastern Africa, Cairo and Cape Town, will seek to harness the region’s renewable energy potential in wind, solar and geothermal energy. This initiative has been backed by 19 countries in order to meet a rising energy demand. In Africa today there are almost 600 million people who do not have the luxury of an electricity-supply which many of us take for granted.
South Africa, unlike the world-leaders in wind power capacity Germany which has an “increasing scarcity of good onshore sites” - does have onshore potential.
Markus Tacke, head of Wind Power Division at Siemens in Germany, foresees a “flattish market” beyond 2014. This is down to an increased number of installations in 2014 in the United States which have to be closely monitored.
“Let’s not forget the other renewables”, Mr Tacke insisted, adding: ““Wind power becomes competitive against other renewable energies in the US.” Despite this “mixed picture” he has good hopes for the Middle East.
Masdar’s Director of Clean Energy Bader Al Lamki’s thinks: “The growth pocket is really in the offshore market. London Array is performing well so far and demonstrating the capability of offshore wind,” he emphasises.
It’s a wise guess that Masdar’s involvement in the London Array means that Mr Al Lamki describes 2013 as having been “exceptional.” This is after all the largest offshore wind farm in the world with 175 turbines spinning to power much of the south-east of England. Last year Masdar worked on the delivery of this wind farm, as well as a 6MW wind farm in the Seychelles, and a 117MW wind farm in Jordan.
Mr Al Lamki says that there is a “founded optimism” for 2014. “The wind is still blowing. We must continue to try to harness this.” Yet, Mr Al Lamki says that for Masdar, 2014 will not be as exciting in terms of the number of megawatts into the grid – for that they look to 2015.
Alexis de Beaumont, Alstom Wind’s General Manager for the Middle East and Africa, told the audience in Abu Dhabi that there are a lot of developments that need to come into fruition. With a lot of new markets in Brazil – 2000GW awarded to Alstom in the last few years, a new supply chain has been established.
Mr Tacke said: “We all know that wind has a variability model. We are working on driving the wind as the most effective clean energy.” He added that we must look at other costs to support electricity generation.
Mr Sawyer says: “Some very ambitious plans were launched at the beginning of the World Future Energy Summit with Masdar leading in this part of the world. The case for energy has been made, and now it is for us to get on with the task.”
Dipolelo Elford comments: “There are many things we need to do upfront as developers. The competitive bidding process has driven the price of technology down. South Africa is an emerging market, but it is also a developing country”, Elford reminds us. “There are still large pockets of energy poverty in our country, and there are a lot of needs we need to satisfy.”
She concluded: “When prices were high it looked like there was no scope for black people – but now it’s better.”