Monarch explores the growing number of UK-based green energy suppliers and tariffs, the emergence of new and scalable renewable battery technology and how making the transition to green energy can pay dividends after lockdown.
What dreams may come
Renewable energy reliance has been an end goal of the energy industry for decades, since the emergence of the environmental lobby, the uncomfortable truth for many was that inevitably a transition to green energy would be necessary.
However, until recent years’ renewables were always veiled by a sense of impossibility, that these energy sources could never be consistent or cheap enough to compete with their carbon rivals.
Obstacles included the difficulty of storing renewable energy since solar and wind aren’t chemically locked into solid matter that can easily be transported and stored. The concern that these sources couldn’t provide the same on-demand reliability of their fossil fuel and nuclear counterparts was also a factor.
A handful of suppliers who are now offering 100% green tariffs, currently to residents but soon to businesses as well, have devised an ingenious way to launder their energy as it were.
Green tariffs can be a confusing concept, since there isn’t a grid devoted exclusively to energy from renewable sources. Suppliers offset this by matching any energy they supply with equivalent investment in renewable energy generation, inadvertently making one UK supplier the largest renewable energy investor in Europe.
The upshot of this is that consumers can now have on-demand electricity which, from a systems perspective, is wholly sustainable since its very use guarantees further development of renewable sources.
The other major obstacle to renewable dominance has been battery storage and the physical limitations of scaling said storage to the needs of a national grid.
Fortunately, Lithium is no longer king of the battery mountain, Vanadium battery technology promises not only to scale to grid but would be safer, more cost-effective due to its reusability and all while possessing a smaller carbon footprint.
The moment of truth
The UK government has met with intense pressure from industry figures, MPs and the CCC (Committee on Climate Change) to not give up ground in the march toward Net Zero, despite the crisis conditions that COVID-19 has imposed.
And given the resilience of renewable energy sources throughout the pandemic, they are now perfectly positioned as a reliable investment. However, many are concerned that the focus will be on trying to revive a floundering oil and gas industry rather than taking the opportunity to transition to renewable on a large scale once the crisis has abated.
Such concerns are not unfounded given that President Trump has already announced that he will be seeking a $50bn stimulus package to rejuvenate U.S. Airlines, which account for only 1% of the world’s energy consumption but 8% of oil consumption.
Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), has reiterated the need for perspective and that we cannot afford to let the immediate threat of COVID-19 and subsequent economic devastation blind us to the looming danger of climate change.
“This is a historic opportunity for the world to, on one hand, create packages to recover the economy, but on the other hand, to reduce dirty investments and accelerate the energy transition…”
The combination of these new technologies, progressive suppliers and the unexpected disruption and opportunity COVID-19 has presented, seems to indicate a snowball effect in the making.
There are no excuses now: businesses will be compelled to adopt climate-friendly policies provided that there is adequate incentive, and given the resilience that renewables have demonstrated by comparison to their carbon counterparts, it is hard to imagine such incentive will not appear.
As such, companies are advised to position themselves on the right side of history by investing in comprehensive carbon management schemes, green procurement and by making sure their compliance is up to snuff.
Barclays is one such company who, despite their investments in fossil fuel, have pledged to achieve net zero thereby demonstrating an understanding of balance between the needs of the present and those of the future.
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