Rays of hope in pursuit of net-zero

For the third time in just under a year, the UK has broken its record for consecutive days of coal-free power generation.

In May 2019, the UK went a fortnight without coal-fired power for the first time since the pre-industrial period, but the continued drive towards net-zero future and the rise in green energy output meant this barely lasted a month.

That record of 18 consecutive days, six hours and 12 minutes stood for seven months but was beaten today.

Currently, the UK’s energy system has not used coal for power generation for more than 440 hours, accounting for less than 1% of electricity generation in the UK.

Unseasonably warm weather and the coronavirus pandemic have both contributed to the new milestone.

Last Monday (20 April), solar energy accounted for 30% of all electricity generated, while the global lockdown has forced down demand due to a significant slowdown in production.

Sunnier times ahead?

“Solar is playing a critical role in delivering a fossil-free grid and cleaner, cheaper power to Britain. As we look towards a net-zero future, solar will become an increasingly greater part of the energy mix, tackling high power prices, climate change, and biodiversity loss,” said Solar Trade Association 9STA) CEO Chris Hewett.

“With the Government beginning to consider how best to kick-start the economy following the Covid-19 crisis, it has a golden opportunity to place renewables at the heart of its recovery package. Solar, in particular, can provide a glut of quality green jobs and growth at short notice, with your average solar park able to be built in less than six months, and home installation in less than a day. The industry is ready to help drive the revival.”

The public appetite for change

The dramatic slump in oil prices is another factor that could accelerate the U.K’s net-zero push by promoting green energy sources, according to Dr Jonathan Marshall, Head of Analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

Although previous falls in fossil fuel prices have been seen to have an adverse effect on investment in renewable energy, Marshall argues that the public mood has changed and that the reverse could now be the case.

Marshall believes that an over-dependence on imported fuel, estimated to be heading towards 65% of the market share by 2035, combined with highly volatile energy prices are shaping a new way of thinking amongst an increasingly politicised public.

In so many areas of life what was once seen as normal is now being re-evaluated, and power generation is no different, he says.

“Putting a rocket under the UK’s low carbon transition, as well as pulling the plug on industries that have been on life support for years, could be one of the ways of giving the public what it wants,” claimed Dr Marshall.

Carbon net-zero heroes

The only zeros most business leaders used to concern themselves with were the ones added to a long line of figures on a balance sheet.

However, mention the word zero nowadays and it’ll mostly be included in a conversation about sustainability.

This is not smoke and mirrors stuff, anything but, the mind-shift can be seen in all business sectors as the world economy strives for a greener future.

Emission reduction is no flight of fancy

The budget airline, Ryanair, doesn’t always get the best press but the recent appointment of its first director of sustainability has to be applauded. Blue sky thinking indeed.

Thomas Fowler is the man responsible for the company meeting its own target of reducing emissions per passenger per kilometre from 66g at the end of 2019 to 60g by 2030.

Crucially, they now publish monthly emissions data on their website. “Once you publish [pledges and data], you have to stand over them,” Fowler said. “Transparency and disclosure are going to become a bigger play for us in the next few years.”

Following in its slipstream are Etihad Airways who have started to make long-haul flights free from single-use plastic.

Fossil fuels are history

Another company changing the narrative, this time in the financial world, is Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager. Blackrock has already made strides on its stance to remove fossil fuels from its portfolio and is committed to embedding climate action into its investment decisions.

Elsewhere, the drinks are on BrewDog, in celebration of the trendy craft beer firm’s pledge to give customers an equity stake in the company if they recycle beer cans.

And Heineken-owned cider brand, Old Mout, have unveiled a new partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), aimed at uniting young consumers in a drive to protect natural habitats and save endangered species from extinction.

The green machine

All these efforts are just the tip of the iceberg – admittedly not the best turn of phrase given the threat to Antarctica by global warming – as figures released by BloombergNEF (BNEF) show that there has been a large increase in new corporate sustainability commitments.

For example, BNEF’s 1H 2020 Corporate Energy Market Outlook found that corporates purchased 19.5GW of clean power through power purchase agreements (PPAs) last year, up from 13.6GW in 2018 and more than triple the levels recorded in 2017.

BNEF’s lead sustainability analyst Jonas Rooze said: “Corporations have purchased more than 50GW of clean energy since 2008. That is bigger than the power generation fleets of markets like Vietnam and Poland. These buyers are reshaping power markets and the business models of energy companies around the world.”

Small steps to sustainability

Of course, not all companies are big enough to warrant having a director of sustainability on their books or write open cheques to charitable causes, but there are plenty of small measures, such as those listed below, that can be easily implemented in an affordable way.

  • Green energy procurement
  • Power Purchase Agreements
  • Self-Generation Schemes
  • Electric Vehicle incentives
  • Waste to Energy Recycling
  • Staff training – behavioural changes

Energy Management has a new Net-Zero business model that helps clients reduce their carbon emissions.

If you’d like us to help you join some of the biggest global companies and be at the forefront of the climate change agenda, you can get in touch with us by email sales@energymanagementltd.com or call 01225-867722.

5 challenges facing the EV revolution

UK government’s commitment to Net Zero Carbon emissions – they’ve pledged to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040 – and improvements in battery technology, allowing even faster charging, have also contributed to an upsurge in sales of Electric Vehicles (EVs).

However, there are still a number of obstacles that need to be overcome before the United Kingdom catches up with other countries where the take-up has been much higher.

Here’s our rundown of 5 challenges faced with the EV Revolution.

1. Change takes time – EV Revolution

Encouraging people to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is at the heart of the government’s efforts to tackle climate change. This is due to transport accounting for 23% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.

With sales of electrical vehicles up 70 per cent on last year, things seem to be moving in the right direction; however, these are still only relatively small gains.

One of the UK’s best-selling cars is the all-electric Tesla Model 3. But its success doesn’t change the fact that only about 1.1% of new cars sold this year are electric

Bigger changes are needed to meet the government’s net-zero carbon emission target, starting with improved infrastructure (more EV charging points).

Changes to the tax system may also be required due to EV users paying lower taxes and having a zero-spend on fuel: both good sources of income for the government.

Consumers also need to be convinced that electric vehicles suit their needs, which is perhaps the hardest challenge.

Nonetheless, the government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2040, a move criticised by MPs who want the U.K to fall into line with nearby countries such as Ireland and Iceland and have the change made by 2030,

One of the consumers’ major concerns is range anxiety i.e. how far you can drive without your battery running down.

A petrol or diesel car is simple to fill up when fuel gets low, and doesn’t take long – unless you get distracted by the goods on offer in the garage shop!

If things were as straightforward with EVs, selling them wouldn’t be that much of a problem, but they’re not.

The vehicles currently on the market don’t last more than 100 miles and take over 8 hours to charge – this is a hurdle that needs overcoming before silencing the doubters.

2. Limited choice

The number of vans on the UK roads are increasing faster than any other type of vehicle due to the increase in online shopping.

Small e-vans are already available, and the choice is likely to increase. However, it is a lot more expensive to lease an EV version of a popular van than diesel, meaning they are still too expensive to be the vehicle of choice of smaller businesses.

ev-revolution-energy-mangement

There is much more choice for car buyers, although the upfront cost for buying an EV is still much higher than buying a petrol/diesel car, at a minimum of £20,000. Prices are likely to fall as electric vehicles are cheaper to run than gas but not for the foreseeable future.

3. Backing the right technology

There has been accelerated developments in battery and charging technology, but where will people charge them, especially those without a driveway or designated parking space.

The expense of battery technology is one of the major challenges the industry faces.

Electric cars could also be less expensive if the makers could ramp up the production volume and use economies of scale. However, for this to happen more consumers need to buy electric cars in the first place which won’t happen without prices coming down.

There is also the potential to have induction pads embedded in the roads that charge the vehicles as you drive over them. With chargers currently in low supply, the benefits of this technology are obvious.

4. Who will pay?

It has been widely assumed that both the private sector and local councils will build, operate and maintain charging infrastructure in the UK.

Businesses have been slow to get involved due to small profit margins and the government having heavily subsided the development of charging points. Yet, this is slowly changing with BP and Shell taking over as market leaders, while Tesla is putting its own charging network in place at motorway service stations.

5. The zero-carbon fantasy

A world in which all vehicles are electric is not the total zero-carbon solution. True, EVs don’t produce the same emissions but there would still be an environmental cost.

Sourcing minerals for batteries and dismantling old ones, as well as delivering and building vehicles all involve substantial CO2 emissions.

That said, the EV Revolution is a crucial part of the UK’s attempts to drastically reduce transport’s emissions.

Source: BBC