Renewable energy in the EU: better off Brexit?
Despite recent political developments spelling an uncertain future for climate change research, green energy is still increasing at an exponential rate. In 2015 alone, 147 gigawatts of renewable electricity came online. This is the largest annual increase in the history of the sector. More than twice as much money was spent on renewables than on coal and gas-fired generation, with $130bn spent in 2015. In total, renewables contributed to 10.3 percent of the electricity generated globally.
The EU is a leader in the production of renewables, which account for 44 percent of the entire EU’s electricity capacity and 15 percent of its final energy consumption. Between 2004 and 2011, 70 percent of all new power capacity in the continent came from renewables.
Recent political changes have witnessed a shift in renewable energy perception. What does Brexit and the new UK government mean for the EU’s renewable sector? The UK was fourth in the world’s top investing countries in renewable energy (excluding hydroelectricity) – with a 25 percent growth in its investment since 2014. However, it has scrapped its Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) following a decision by Theresa May and has invested in nuclear power at Hinkley Point. The only other EU country to feature in the top 10 is Germany, which has experienced a -46 percent fall in investment since 2014.
Finances aside, the EU is still by far one of the world’s largest producers of renewable energy. The UK’s turbulent energy announcements following the decision to leave the EU leave one question remaining: what will our departure from the EU mean for renewable energy?
The EU is currently a global leader in renewables, increasing its production of renewable energy by 73.1 percent between 2004 and 2014, which is equivalent to a 5.6 percent increase per year. All 29 member states are targeted to achieve a certain percentage of energy production through renewable methods by 2020 (although this varies depending on the country). However, many countries are falling behind.
The UK is currently the furthest behind on its target, 10 percent short of its 15 percent goal for 2020. However, investment has risen and the UK renewable share has quadrupled, which is a feat matched only by Belgium, Luxembourg and Malta.
Based on the growth that occurred between 2010 and 2013, 11 of the 29 EU member countries will miss their 2020 targets. Conversely, the Nordic member states are showing incredible improvements. Sweden had already exceeded its target of 49 percent of energy consumption through renewables by 2013, hitting 52.1 percent. Bulgaria and Estonia have also beat their target, with Bulgaria hitting 19 percent against its 2020 goal and Estonia 25.6 percent against its 25 percent target. Six other countries have followed suit, with the Czech Republic, Croatia, Italy, Lithuania, Romania and Finland all meeting their 2020 targets.
Considering the UK is the furthest behind on its targets, its departure from the European Union could actually improve the EU’s renewable outlook.
The countries that produce the most renewable energy (and how they produce it):
Germany was the largest gross producer of renewable energy within the EU28 in 2014. Driven by Angela Merkel’s “Energiewende” policy, the country aims to phase out nuclear and fossil fuels. The country is the leading producer of solar energy, generating 38,250 megawatts of solar energy yearly.
Scotland may provide a blow to the EU’s renewable target if the country leaves. Scotland is a world leader in wind power, with 97 percent of all household electricity needs supplied by wind turbine energy.
Sweden, as already mentioned, is the first country to exceed its 2020 target – but there are no signs of slowing down as the country targets becoming 100 percent renewably powered. It is currently on target to hit this figure by 2040. In 2015, 57 percent of its overall energy was produced by renewables, largely from wind.
Denmark is another EU leader, producing 140 percent of its electricity through wind power alone in 2015 thanks to high winds. Despite this, the country is still 1% behind its 2020 target. However, the country is seeing an 18 percent year-on-year growth in wind energy production and expects to meet its target.
Iceland is not an EU country, but is a member of the European Free Trade Association. It serves as an example to all European continent countries, as it is operates on 100 percent renewable energy, with hydroelectric and geothermal sources accounting for its main methods of production.
Looking at the facts and figures, the UK’s current position on renewable energy is not promising. Not only is the country trailing EU targets, its global position is slipping. However, Scotland remains a strong example of effective renewable energy. The departure of the UK will no doubt impact the renewable progress of the EU – but perhaps it will be a positive thing for the organisation as a whole.
Contributed by Lycetts, provider of renewable energy insurance.
Read the January 2017 issue of Energy Digital magazine
Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage
Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.
Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:
- The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
- Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
- Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities
Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.
There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.
Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.
Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.
Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.
It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.