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
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.