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COP22: the climate for investment in renewable energy

2016 was a landmark year for the renewables industry due to COP21 and the resulting Paris Agreement. 174 countries and the European Union signed this deal – an unprecedented commitment to tackle the negative effects of climate change.

12 months on from Paris and on paper the outlook appears less optimistic. COP22 in Marrakesh was overshadowed by several recent political events in the UK and USA and the whole industry is holding its breath for moves to be made for a progressive, healthy energy mix worldwide.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom by any means. Many of the talks at COP22 focused on how developed countries can support poorer nations in terms of their renewable energy adoption and have generally put the topic of climate finance in the spotlight, which is crucial.

Global governments now need to help create a positive investment climate for institutional investors looking to invest in climate change solutions such as solar PV and onshore wind, and commercial energy storage as the vital connection between renewables and the grid. Investors can reap the benefits of strong proven returns but also exercise real power in driving positive change in divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting into renewables. Additionally, such investments are proven and credible, and often wrongly placed as part of the private equity industry as they are stable infrastructure projects.

We hope that COP22 inspires and educates investors to be more ‘climate aware’ as they diversify their investment portfolios. These ‘climate-savvy’ investors will want to ensure that markets are no longer solely run by fossil fuels such as oil and coal, but will realise the true potential of renewable energy sources to shape our future for the better. Furthermore, strong leadership and collaboration between investors is needed to keep the promise of Paris’s COP21 alive.

Following the political shifts over the last year, the legacy of COP22 must be to weather the uncertainty that is to come. ‘Climate-savvy’ institutional investors can lead the charge in doing so, by driving investment into renewables, but can also enjoy the returns that come with them: it’s a win-win situation. The road ahead must be one of collaboration, with investors and policy makers working together to create a positive investment climate, which will in turn help to tackle the global issue of climate change.

Renewable energy in 2016 – the many milestones so far

From the Paris Agreement to record-breaking generation of wind power, 2016 has been a year of significant renewable energy milestones. Therefore, as we enter the final quarter of 2016 we thought this was a good chance to take a look back at what has been a momentous year so far for the energy industry, and the fight against the negative effects of climate change:

  • COP21 Conference – The COP21 conference in December last year meant that 2016 kicked off with countries at the Paris Climate Change Summit agreeing on a target to cut 60% of total emissions by 2030.
  • 2016 began with news that it had been a record-breaking year for wind energy in 2015. Statistics from the National Grid showed that wind energy provided 11% of UK electricity in 2015, compared to 9% the previous year.
  • Renewable energy sources including wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass generated 25% of the UK’s electricity supply according to a  report released in 2016.
  • Ratification of Paris Agreement – On 22nd April the momentous High-level Signature Ceremony took place for the agreement drawn up at COP21. This is known as the Paris Agreement, and was signed by 175 countries around the world. You can find a list of those countries here.
  • The ‘Business End of Climate Change’ report announced this year that the private sector could cut greenhouse gas emissions globally by 3.7 metric tons of CO2 a year by 2030. This is the first time that a figure has been put on what emissions reductions could be achieved by businesses worldwide.
  • Record levels of renewable energy spending took place in June 2016.  Investments in renewables during the year were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants, according to the Renewables Global Status Report.
  • Portugal running on renewables – Portugal reached the zero-emission milestone in May as it ran on renewable energy alone for 4 days straight. The country was powered by just solar, wind, and hydro-generated electricity for 107 hours.
  • 756GW – the figure that the global solar market was tipped to hit by 2025 in June, according to new research from analysts GlobalData. This came with the announcement that the world’s lowest cost solar farm developments will begin in Dubai.
  • The Financial Times reported in August that the share of electricity that the world’s 20 major economies are generating from the sun and the wind has jumped by more than 70 percent in the space of five years, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
  • According to statistics published by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK Solar PV Capacity increased by 29% between 2015 and 2016, to 10,799MW.
  • Theresa May’s new cabinet – The spotlight is on Theresa May now to continue to ensure that the measures to combat climate change are carried out. Key objectives included ensuring the UK sources 15% of its energy from renewable sources, that every car and van is a zero emission vehicle by 2050, planting another 11 million trees, creating a ‘Blue belt’ for our oceans and ensuring that every home and business in the country has a Smart Meter by 2020.

Standing up to climate change with Smarter Heating

Martin Pickard, investment director at Low Carbon, discusses how smarter heating and CHP in particular can lower energy costs for consumers and ultimately reduce carbon emissions.

The outcome of the recent UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Evidence Report 2017 was that ‘More Action’ was needed in the country to prevent damage, particularly to health, wellbeing and  productivity from flooding. Major concerns were highlighted by the Climate Change Committee, should Britain continue to remain relatively passive in its efforts to combat the consequences of climate change.

Therefore, it’s crucial that we start making some changes to how we live and run our businesses across the country. As domestic heating is the largest contributor to CO2 levels emitted in the UK, we think that this sector presents the greatest opportunity.

That’s where smarter heating comes in, and new combined heat and power (CHP) processes in particular. There is a pressing need for a move to smarter heating, as it is the largest part of the energy demand in the UK, comprising an estimated 78% of UK consumer energy bills. The future lies in well-designed and planned CHP plants which will provide lower energy costs for consumers, contribute to local and national energy security, and ultimately reduce carbon emissions.

CHP plants work by capturing heat ,normally wasted, in electricity generation and then distributing this heat through water pipes to local homes and businesses. Not only is the process cost-effective, it can also significantly reduce energy usage and lower carbon emissions by up to 30%.

With this in mind, we have recently invested in ENE Developments Limited (ENE) to promote smarter heating throughout the UK. Together, we will finance the design, build and operation of CHP energy networks to service the country’s communities and businesses.

The district to be the first to reap the benefits of our scheme will be Bedminster, an area just south of Bristol, where we’ll work with Bristol City Council to deliver clean energy up to a total of 1,000 new homes.

With the urgency to act upon our emissions levels and energy usage becoming greater than ever, CHP schemes will need be part of the overall solution.   We look forward to seeing the technology in action and working with councils and developers across the country to aid in the fight against climate change and provide smart heating to the UK population.

The plight of the honeybee

Quentin Scott, Marketing Director at Low Carbon, highlights initiatives promoting the cause of the honeybee

The humble honeybee. We, quite literally, couldn’t live without them. At Low Carbon, we feel that everyone should take note of how crucial these insects are to the planet’s survival. Without bees, we would lose all of the producing plants that they pollinate: around 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world’s population.

The British bee population is in dire need of help. It is in danger of disappearing altogether, due to a variety of factors such as climate change, pollution, a destruction of habitats and a shortage of beekeepers. We need to act now to promote and protect the species, and therefore guard against the disastrous effects on the planet that their extinction would bring.

This issue is gathering steam and we’ve recently seen several initiatives that are raising awareness of  this cause. Friends of the Earth and Waitrose have created an app called the Great British Bee Count, where users can record sightings of bees in local habitats. With more than 300,000 recorded sightings so far across the country, the app also gives users advice on how to create bee-friendly environments at home.

Kew Gardens in London have installed a huge structure called The Hive, made from thousands of pieces of aluminium and LED lights that glow and fade as sounds buzz around you as you stand inside. These sights and sounds are activated by the real-time activity of bees in a beehive behind the scenes at Kew, giving visitors an insight into life inside a bee colony.

Initiatives such as these have been successful in directly connecting individuals with bees, and highlighting how they can each make their own contribution to learning about and protecting bee populations. At Low Carbon, we are doing our bit as well. We have partnered with Plan Bee to house over two million bees on our solar parks. We will also be using a remote monitoring system to keep tabs on each bee colony by monitoring parameters such as temperature, humidity, hive weight and weather conditions.

The BBC’s Springwatch are also doing a bee monitoring project, Live from the Hive, with their own hives placed in both urban and rural environments. The aim of this is to measure the activity and productivity of both sets, and compare the two, in an open experiment on bee behaviour.

Through taking small, measurable steps, individuals and businesses can play their part in protecting our honeybee population. From encouraging wild flowers to grow in gardens or installing bee hives on suitable premises, every little helps when it comes to conservation. For renewable energy companies like us, encouraging biodiversity should not be a bolt on, but rather a core responsibility. Protecting bees, insects and other species is a crucial part in the fight against climate change and we’re excited to be at the forefront in protecting Britain’s bees.

Driving investment into the UK clean energy sector

Low Carbon shares insights gained from recent policy roundtables highlighting the drivers for success for renewable energy investment in the UK. Click on the image below to learn more: