08 Jan Plugging the renewable energy gap
Renewable energy is changing the nature of sustainability but there is a funding, carbon and political gap which is hindering projects from even getting started. Yet it goes without explaining we should move fast in transition to renewables. There is incentive to do this beyond the most important purpose of reaching zero emission targets. There is the incentive that, in the long-run, renewable energy is more cost effective than non-renewable energy.
Things are slowly edging along. Renewable energy delivered 48.5% of Britain’s electricity in 2019, compared with the 43% generated by fossil fuels according to the National Grid. It was a record year in the UK where renewables beat fossil fuels on 137 days making 2019 the greenest year for UK energy. But it is not fast enough unfortunately. The UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report 2019 says collective ambition must increase more than fivefold over current levels to deliver the cuts needed over the next decade for the 1.5°C goal.
There is one factor emerging that will drive the transition further in 2020.
The penny seems to be dropping that there is a direct connection between human rights and climate change. At the end of 2019 the Dutch Supreme Court ruled the Netherlands is obligated to reduce carbon pollution because it was violating its citizens’ human rights. The Australian fires have seen the climate change debate weaponised in many directions. Overriding all of this is one big elephant in the room that tends to be ignored. There is a pervasive myth that if consumers spend more ethically, stop buying plastic straws and recycling more carefully we will reach targets. But urgent change most obviously needs to come from a transition from fossil fuels.
A map is circulating on social media in the form of a cartogram which represents the size of countries by their cumulative carbon dioxide emissions since industrialisation. It says just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. Combined, they control the majority of the world’s mineral rights – the “right” to exploit the remaining unextracted oil, gas, and coal.
While institutions and governments work transitioning from the top (and the failure of the Cop20 talks indicate some difficulties in alignment) rather than sit around and wait for instructions, we can collectively aid the transition from fossil fuels from the bottom. However unknown variables mean renewable projects are difficult to finance by traditional means. Typically the finance ‘gap’ is 20-30% and these gaps exist on projects with a range as wide as £250K to £20 Million. But once up and running projects can be easily financed and often are sold within the first year of being switched on. Crowdfunding can plug this gap at the same time as democratising energy which has traditionally sat in the hands of the few.
For example, community micro grids offer a way for neighbourhoods, villages, towns and cities to meet their energy needs locally. The The Brooklyn Microgrid, was a way for tenants in a handful of apartment buildings to track the output of their solar panels and eventually to swap energy among participants.
Public or community ownership is a positive way to transition quickly to zero carbon. Although renewable energy is the future of energy in the UK, only 7% is owned by UK entities and only 0.07% is in UK public ownership.
In a drive to build momentum from the bottom rather than wait for delivery from the top, an upcoming global crowdfunding platform Green Saturn Energy is launching to allow projects, communities globally to be invested in by anyone globally. The platform is seeking projects and building a crowd for launch.
By joining the upcoming global Green Saturn Energy platform (http://www.greensaturnenergy.com) and being part of its launch this is your chance to make a difference and own a stake in the future of power.
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