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Professionals Comment on Rising Renewable Investment



A report recently published by REN21 found that investment in renewable technology was almost double the amount spent on coal and gas in 2015. The Renewables Global Status Report highlighted that emerging countries spent more on solar, wind and hydropower than on coal and gas-fired power plants last year. Currently over 8 million people work within the renewable energy sector internationally and that figure is set to keep on rising.

Nigel Blackaby, Conference Director at PennWell’s POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe, said: “The news that 2015 saw more additional renewable than fossil fuel power capacity globally comes as no real surprise, given the increasing cost-competitiveness of renewable technologies, policy initiatives and improved access to finance. Renewed impetus arising from COP21 is likely to see this gap increase, especially in Europe where new investment in large-scale fossil fuel plants is currently very difficult, which is increasing the risks and stability in the system.

“The greater level of renewable penetration is taking Europe’s power system into uncharted territory, risking system stability and government need to be aware of the potential problems they could create by mandating the closure of large amounts of coal fired generation too quickly.

“Developing a better understanding of the impact on the grid, the risk of blackouts and the role energy storage can play in this changing energy system is vital if Europe’s energy transition is to avoid widespread disruption.”

Jamie Stewart, Power Editor at ICIS, has said: “This record investment in renewable energy across the globe is forcing a permanent change in the mix of fuels being used to generate power, from a higher-carbon mix to a lower-carbon one, and the UK is no different.

“Latest electricity production data reflects the shift in the power generation mix: In May, coal-fired power plants generated just 900GWh, compared to 1,600GWh from wind power. This was the first month on record that UK wind produced more electricity than UK coal in a calendar month.

“And last month, the UK powered itself for a brief window without burning any coal for the first time since the 19th century. More recent data now shows this happened a further six times in May.

“May’s figure was by far the lowest ever share of the power generation mix occupied by coal in the UK in a month. For comparison, over the five years from 2011-2015, UK coal plants have generated on average 9,000GWh each month – ten times what was produced in May of this year.

“Looking ahead, this shift looks permanent, particularly over the summer months. ICIS data from the wholesale energy forward markets shows that, because of cheap gas on the global market and the UK’s unilateral tax on carbon emissions, burning gas for power generation is more profitable than burning coal in the UK.”