The UK, like many parts of Europe, has seen solar power generation records broken in the second half of April, with reduced levels of air pollution and clearer skies due to the lockdown said to be contributory factors.
And there was further good news for the industry with this week’s announcement from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that a new solar farm in Kent has been approved.
The farm is set to be the largest of its kind in the UK and will be located just outside of Faversham.
The subsidy-free project would begin next year, with electricity generation expected to start by 2023. The 350MW farm would feature almost 900,000 solar panels across 900 acres of farmland.
The developers claim that the farm would generate enough renewable electricity to power 91,000 homes, would reduce UK carbon emissions by 68,000 tonnes annually and generate £1m annually for the Kent and Swale councils.
Beyond the immediate impact on health, the current Covid-19 crisis has major implications for global economies, energy use and CO2 emissions.
Analysis of daily data through to mid-April by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that countries in full lockdown during this period experienced an average 25% decline in energy demand per week and countries in partial lockdown an average 18% decline.
Daily data collected for 30 countries until 14 April, representing over two-thirds of global energy demand, show that demand depression depends on duration and stringency of lockdowns.
Global energy demand declined by 3.8% in the first quarter of 2020, with most of the impact felt in March as confinement measures were enforced in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
At the start of 2020, it was forecast that global energy investment would grow by 2%; instead, it has fallen by 20% – a fall in spending of $400billion.
Covid-19 impact: the IEA’s sector-by-sector energy breakdown (for the first quarter of 2020)
Global coal demand was hit the hardest, falling by almost 8% compared with the first quarter of 2019. Three reasons converged to explain this drop. China – a coal-based economy – was the country the hardest hit by Covid‑19 in the first quarter; cheap gas and continued growth in renewables elsewhere challenged coal, and mild weather also capped coal use.
Oil demand was also hit strongly, down nearly 5% in the first quarter, mostly by curtailment in mobility and aviation, which account for nearly 60% of global oil demand. By the end of March, global road transport activity was almost 50% below the 2019 average and aviation 60% below.
The impact of the pandemic on gas demand was more moderate, at around 2%, as gas-based economies were not strongly affected in the first quarter of 2020.
Renewables were the only source that posted growth in demand, driven by larger installed capacity and priority dispatch.
Electricity demand has been significantly reduced as a result of lockdown measures, with knock-on effects on the power mix. Electricity demand has been depressed by 20% or more during periods of full lockdown in several countries, as upticks for residential demand are far outweighed by reductions in commercial and industrial operations. For weeks, the shape of demand resembled that of a prolonged Sunday. Demand reductions have lifted the share of renewables in the electricity supply, as their output is largely unaffected by demand. Demand fell for all other sources of electricity, including coal, gas and nuclear power.
Business and Commerce is in a very strange place at this time, some businesses have seen a sharp upturn in turnover as they fulfil the country’s requirements over this “lockdown” period, such as bicycle manufacturers, thanks to the sharp upturn in that particular form of exercise, while others simply had no choice but to heed the government’s advice and close their doors.
The downturn in the UK and world economy has lowered the demand for energy, and wholesale prices have followed suit. Short-term markets have taken the biggest hit, but markets further out have also reduced during this period, reflecting an uncertain future.
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Even in the relatively short period of time that the world has been in lockdown – although it sometimes feels like years – the fall in energy use and emissions has had a profound impact on the environment. Clear canals in Venice was one thing but a see-through sea on Blackpool’s coast, who’d have thought we’d ever see the day!
Energy demand has plummeted during the Covid-19 pandemic which is obviously a sign that the economy is suffering a major slowdown, and as a result global carbon dioxide emissions are anticipated to be eight percent lower this year compared to 2019. It is a silver lining to what is otherwise a metaphorical, if not meteorological, dark cloud.
But whilst the environmental changes mentioned are striking, carbon dioxide lingers around the atmosphere for a long time, making snapshot judgements about the long-term impact of this period hard to quantify, although atmospheric expert, Keith Shine, forecasts a mere 0.0025°C reduction in global warming in about two decades’ time.
An article that recently appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus points out that once life gets back to any kind of ‘normal’, emissions will rise, and so too will the levels of pollution that fill the skies.
In fact, the rebound could be even worse.
As the article points out, in the initial aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production decreased by 1.4 percent, only to rise by 5.9 percent in 2010.
And the crisis this time could have a longer-term impact on the environment, derailing worldwide efforts to bring about climate change.
While the need for climate change action has never been more pressing, Covid-19 has prevented world leaders from getting together to tackle the issue.
Due to the pandemic, the UN’S annual climate summit has already been put back from November to an, as yet, unspecified date in 2021.
Looking at the aviation industry specifically, one of the biggest contributors to global emissions (estimated to be 2 per cent), under-pressure airline companies are pressing regulators to delay emissions-cutting policies.
This year was supposed to be a pivotal one for progress in tackling climate change, however Covid-19 is doing its level best to prevent lift-off.
A quarterly poll issued by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) shows that the public appetite for renewable energy remains very high.
The overwhelming majority of the people questioned (82%) in the Public Attitudes Tracker, commissioned by an independent research company, back the transition away from oil and gas to greener sources of energy. Only 2% opposed the shift.
Plenty, however, remain to be convinced by the validity of fracking as a potential energy source moving forward, with a new high of 45% against the extraction of shale gas.
Just over three-quarters of those polled said they were concerned about climate change.
Quoted in an article on the Energy Voice website, Renewable UK’s deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said: “Even while we face the unprecedented challenges posed by Covid-19, the public supports continued action to avoid the worst the impacts of climate change and make our economy more sustainable.
“Investment in new renewables, which is supported by 82% of people, will stimulate growth and employment as the economy recovers from the impacts of the virus.
“Renewable energy capacity will grow rapidly this decade and beyond to meet our net-zero emissions target, and our industry will be investing tens of billions of pounds and creating much-needed jobs across the UK.”
For public sector bodies looking to reflect the mood of the pubic and reduce their carbon footprint, our Green Energy Frameworkcould provide answers in terms of green energy procurement and a host of other areas.
The GEF includes a shortlist of green energy suppliers who have been chosen based on the following criteria: tariff competitiveness, billing accuracy, green certification and the most favourable terms and conditions.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has offered companies the option of a three-month extension before they need to file their financial accounts.
Ordinarily, the information is due on 1st April but for those companies that chose to apply, the deadline has been pushed back to the start of July.
This also applies to the new system for carbon and energy reporting, SECR, which is now included as part of the end-of-year accounts.
Clearly this will be welcomed by some in these challenging economic times, but as SECR is an unfamiliar paradigm with a lot of data to be collected, it would be prudent for companies that do decide to use the extension to still act sooner rather than later.
The new regulations will require an estimated 11,900 companies incorporated in the UK to disclose their energy and carbon emissions – a far greater number than were required to act under the old Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC).
As an external consultancy with expertise in compliance and energy-related legislation, we can collate, analyse and present this sustainability data for you.
Whilst the energy and carbon reporting data is not audited in the same way as a company’s finances at present, this is not to say it won’t happen in the future.
And as climate change is one of the top global issues, it is increasingly likely that companies will be judged by potential customers on their carbon footprint and attitude towards sustainability.
With the information now in the public domain, companies have an interest in reporting their emission figures so that they make sense in the context of their organisation, not least because the data is now in the public domain.
If you would like any advice or help in making sure you are SECR compliant, please get in touch on 01225-867722 or visit our dedicated web page.
Global emissions are set for unprecedented fall this year as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in Bloomberg Green.
As less oil, gas and electricity is consumed due to the slowdown in industrial activity across the globe, and renewables take up a larger share of the energy market, global emissions will fall by 8% (2.6 billion metric tons) in 2020 – the largest fall in history.
“The energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before,” Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) executive director, said in a statement released from the organisation’s headquarters in Paris on Thursday.
Even though overall energy demand has decreased by as much as 6% this year, renewables in many countries get first priority to feed electricity into the grid.
While fossil-fuel generators shut down to prevent a system overload, there is nothing to stop solar, wind and hydro power producers selling all their output.
Unseasonably warm, yet windy, weather throughout April has also been favourable for solar and wind farm owners and the dominance of green energy in the overall market is only set to continue with low-carbon sources set to be responsible for 40% of global electricity generation.
It’s not all a breeze for renewables
Renewables are still facing challenges of their own, however. In the wake of Covid-19, renewable energy has been rocked by global supply chain disruption and heightened part costs.
Around 11% of the world’s wind turbines were shut this week because of the virus, according to Bloomberg, while work on constructing new wind farms has been delayed by restrictions on the movement of workers and regulatory processes.
With the big oil players all having significantly invested in renewable energy, an article in Power Technology says they are expected to respond to the record slump in oil prices by cost-cutting and shifting focus away from their clean energy commitments in the short term.
All things considered, this could lead to a slowdown in new renewable energy projects coming online this year.