Weekend reads - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency, GHG Emissions, Finance, Solar  -  December 12, 2020

Weekend reads: A look at solar power's success in 2020; The EU's biggest oil producer looks to cease its main product

It's the weekend! Kick back and catch up with these must-read articles from around the web.

After Attracting a Record $32 Billion from Abroad in 2019, Clean Energy in Emerging Markets Endures a Rough 2020 (BloombergNEF) As 2019 came to a close, the outlook for renewable energy growth in developing economies was exceptionally bright. Power-generating capacity from solar plants such as photovoltaic projects reached 325 gigawatts (GW), up from just 1GW a decade earlier, according to new findings from research firm BloombergNEF (BNEF). Wind investment hit an all-time annual high, with $89 billion deployed to build projects in 30 emerging markets, both onshore and offshore.  Powering the growth was the fundamental cost-competitiveness of these clean technologies compared to their fossil-fuel rivals, which foreign investors duly noticed. Total foreign direct investment (FDI) in support of renewables set a new record at $32 billion in 2019, up from a previous high of $24 billion in 2018. The vast majority – 84% – of the 2019 total came from international project developers, utilities, commercial banks and other private sources.

The EU’s biggest oil producer has taken a huge step: It’s ending oil production by 2050 (Vox) Denmark has just taken a significant step to lead the world on addressing climate change. The country announced that it will phase out all oil and gas exploration contracts in the North Sea by 2050. It’s the first major oil-producing country to take such a big step. Following a December 3 vote, the Danish Parliament has issued a near-total ban on companies receiving new licenses to hunt for and extract oil. The agreement will also cancel an eighth round of licensing that was set to occur. Licenses that were issued before the vote will be honored until 2050. “We’re the European Union’s biggest oil producer and this decision will therefore resonate around the world,” Danish Minister of Climate and Energy and Public Utilities Dan Jorgensen said on Thursday. The move to end oil and gas contracts by 2050 is not going to be cheap; it’s estimated to cost Denmark $2.1 billion, but the country appears ready to foot the bill. “It’s a tough decision, it’s an expensive decision, but it’s the right decision,” Jorgensen told the Washington Post.

Sixth Carbon Budget: UK will need to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 to meet net-zero (edie) Under the original Climate Change Act, the UK Pledged to cut net emissions by 80% by 2050. Now, it will need to deliver a 78% reduction by 2035 if it is to meet its long-term net-zero commitment. That is according to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which has today (9 December) published its much-anticipated Sixth Carbon Budget. The Budget covers the period between 2033 and 2037 and has been described by the CCC as the “toughest yet”. Speaking to media representatives in a virtual press briefing earlier this week, CCC chief executive Chris Stark said that the UK will need to decarbonise at a faster pace in the next 30 years than it has in the past 30 if the net-zero target is to be met. Meeting the Budget’s requirements will require all new cars, vans and replacement boilers to be zero-carbon in operation by the early 2030s. UK electricity production must then reach net-zero by 2035, in line with the National Grid ESO’s vision, and the majority of existing UK homes will need to be retrofitted in some way also.

Corporate Climate Action Tech Heats Up (Forbes) The impacts of climate change are already affecting people and businesses today. Even if we meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the world will still face unprecedented changes — from more extreme weather to rising sea levels to biodiversity loss — forcing us to adjust to the physical effects of climate change and embrace environmental sustainability to reverse it. Firms are coming to terms with these impacts. Just in 2020, we learned that: Consumers increasingly believe that the private sector has a responsibility to act; Governments are using pandemic recovery to accelerate green investment; Corporations are committing to ambitious climate action plans. 

Solar 2020 year in review: Thriving markets despite a pandemic, import tariffs and expensive PV (pv magazine) If there’s one solar segment that can weather a pandemic, it’s utility-scale photovoltaics. Supply chains suffered some delays in the early days of the pandemic, but they’ve recovered and are now in full swing. It’s easier to socially distance on a 1,000-acre solar project than on a residential rooftop, and solar EPC firms like Rosendin and Swinerton are growing their renewables businesses as fast as they ever have. IHS Markit finds that by the end of July 2020, the U.S. had installed nearly 6 GW of large-scale solar installations – 4 GW more than was installed by July of last year. Wood Mac forecasts that the number of solar projects larger than 120 MW commissioned in the U.S. will grow from 11 in 2019 to 32 in 2021. The U.S. is estimated to have a utility-scale solar development pipeline of over 85 GW from 2020 through 2024. So — despite a tariff on imports, a pandemic and some of the world’s most expensive utility-scale solar costs — 2020 should be the best year ever for big solar in the U.S.


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