UK Green Investment Bank plc (GIB) has today announced that it has now committed £2.3bn to 58 green infrastructure projects with a total value of £10.1bn. The announcement was made almost three years to the day that the organisation was officially declared open.
GIB is the most active investor in the UK’s renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. The organisation’s most recent investment – a commitment of £47m to Northern Ireland’s largest Energy from Waste (EfW) plant – is indicative of its mandate: financing innovative UK green infrastructure projects on a commercial basis while ‘crowding in’ private sector capital.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As this milestone shows, the Green Investment Bank is going from strength to strength and is having a major impact supporting renewable energy projects across the whole of the UK. Crucially, it has demonstrated that investing in green technology and our future energy security can be a profitable business and I am sure the coming years will see a significant scaling-up of its operations as it moves into private ownership and mobilises private sector capital.”
Shaun Kingsbury, Chief Executive, Green Investment Bank, said: “GIB was declared open for business three years ago. Since then we have worked with almost 100 co-investors to finance more than £10bn of green infrastructure in the UK. But our contribution goes beyond the projects we have financed: we have shown that green investment is good business.
“We operate as a specialist investor in a niche, but fast-growing area of financial services. Our focused team of market experts has moulded a flexible and creative investment strategy that has played a major role in establishing a commercial market for green infrastructure investment in the UK. Our experience offers important lessons for other countries looking to the private sector to help deliver their investment ambitions set out ahead of the Paris climate change conference.”
Commenting on the news WWF-UK spokesperson Lang Banks said: “In a relatively short time the Green Investment Bank has achieved impressive results toward reducing climate emissions and creating jobs in the growing low carbon economy. Its successful investments in offshore wind and energy efficiency have been effective in getting numerous innovative projects off the ground.
“Whether it is the Green Investment Bank, Government or others, if we’re to meet our climate change objectives it’s vital that we see continued investment in low-carbon infrastructure and technologies. Failure to invest in the right projects today could end up locking us into a high-carbon world tomorrow.
On proposed plans to privatise the GIB, Banks added: “Providing the GIB with additional borrowing powers could strengthen its ability to deliver more for the environment, but without suitable safeguards protecting its green mission, there’s a real risk that the proposed privatisation will undermine its role in unlocking green investment. Whatever the outcome the green purpose of the GIB must be retained.”
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “In the three short years of Green Investment Bank’s existence it has become an important source of capital to the renewable energy sector and initiatives that have contributed to cutting carbon emissions and driving energy efficiencies in the Scottish economy.
“From investing in major offshore wind projects to biomass boilers in whisky distilleries and LED street lighting, the GIB has demonstrated its diversity.
“We hope to see this commitment in renewable heat and electricity in Scotland continue as the bank moves into its next important phase.”
Key achievements over the past three years include:
From the Highlands of Scotland to the Sussex coast, Derry/Londonderry to Llandudno, we have invested in every region of the UK.
Partnered with almost 100 co-investors.
For every £1 we have invested they have mobilised £3 of third-party investment.
Financed over a dozen different green energy technologies: from 6MW offshore wind turbines to small biomass boilers in whisky distilleries.
Investments range from a £306.5m commitment to a £1.2bn offshore wind farm off the coast of Brighton, to a £6.3m Green Loan to finance the installation of 10,000 LED streetlights in Glasgow.
Once built, investments will:
– Produce enough renewable energy to meet the annual electricity needs of every home in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
– Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing nearly every car in Scotland from the road.
– Prevent waste equivalent to that produced by every household in South West England being sent to landfill.
Reached profitability after just two-and-a-half years of operations. Once operational, we project that our current portfolio of investments will generate an overall return of over 10%.
Raised the UK’s largest renewable energy fund. Our FCA-regulated subsidiary, UK Green Investment Bank Financial Services Limited (GIBFS) has secured commitments of £818m for its Offshore Wind Fund.
On the verge of announcing our first overseas investment. UK Climate Investments, our joint venture with the UK Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will invest up to £200m in developing countries.
‘Green Investment Handbook’ is available in the three most widely spoken languages in the world – Chinese, Spanish and English.
In Waste and Bioenergy:
Supported innovation by becoming the only investor to finance four separate gasification technologies in the UK.
In Offshore Wind:
Financed 757 offshore wind turbines in the UK – that’s 40% of all the turbines currently operating or under construction.
In Energy Efficiency and Community Scale Renewables:
Committed £400m to dedicated funds and asset finance platforms
Launched the Green Loan to help UK Local Authorities make the switch to low-energy streetlighting.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.