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The year so far and a look ahead: renewable energy in 2016

Quentin Scott, marketing director at Low Carbon, explores the renewable energy landscape in 2016

As we approach the half-way mark of 2016, we thought now would be a good time to reflect on the year so far and look forward to what the rest of it might bring for the renewable energy industry.

The first half of the year has already been a landmark year for renewable energy investment in several ways. We entered the year following a momentous Climate Change Summit (COP21) in Paris, where a global policy on lowering carbon emissions was finally agreed upon. Following that, we saw the official signing of the Paris Agreement by world leaders in April, which tied participating countries into lowering their emissions rates, in line with a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial-levels.

From a UK perspective, renewable energy featured in the Spring Budget, which revealed changes in energy taxation for businesses and increased funding for smart technologies. More recently, the Queen’s Speech reiterated the UK Government’s ambition to play a leading role in tackling climate change and also confirmed plans to implement reforms to the energy market.

In May, Bloomberg New Energy Finance figures revealed that a new record-low price for solar power had been set, decreasing by almost 50% in the past year – a trend which looks only set to continue. In the same month, for four whole days Portugal ran on renewable energy alone, and Germany achieved a completely ‘clean’ day on 7th May as well. In the UK, the amount of coal being used by the national grid to power Britain fell to zero on 10th May, and stayed there for four hours. This hasn’t happened in over 100 years.

And the second half of the year is looking jam-packed too, kicking off with EU Sustainable Energy Week between 13-17th June. This event sees hundreds of organisations in over 30 countries take part and brings together public authorities, energy agencies, research organisations, NGOs, businesses, and private consumers to share best practices and inspire ideas on secure, clean and efficient energy.

Even industries that aren’t traditionally known for their ‘clean’ credentials are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, and motorsport is a good example. In July, London will host the finale of the second ever Formula E championship – an all-electric race series which aims to bring the drama of motor racing into urban areas through its lower levels of air and noise pollution.

Renewables will also be heavily involved in the Rio 2016 Olympics this summer, where the city’s urban environment is undergoing large scale redevelopment to incorporate energy efficient buildings and the use of renewable energy technologies. Rio wants its games to help mitigate the negative effects of climate change as well as bring other environmental, social and economic benefits to the country as a whole.

Later in the year, October sees World Energy Day, which has been running since the World Energy Forum in 2012. This day aims to raise awareness of energy issues and how to support universal energy access that can benefit the whole planet. Similarly, the International Day of Climate Action in the same month is a global campaign from a coalition of organisations and activists demanding world leaders to take action over climate change.

But perhaps the most hotly anticipated event of 2016 will be COP22, this time held in Marrakech, Morocco. The conference will aim to flesh out the top decisions that were made in Paris last year, and will revolve around the issue of ‘loss and damage’, by addressing those most vulnerable of populations who are at risk of displacement or forced migration due to climate change. We can only hope that this conference becomes as pivotal in the fight to reduce carbon emissions globally and move toward a low-carbon economy as its predecessor. We need to ensure that climate issues are top of the agenda for businesses, individuals and governments alike, if we are to stand a chance of reversing the harmful effects that a rise in global temperature is causing. By moving towards a low-carbon economy, we can ensure the environmental stability for generations to come.