God save the planet: UK renewables rise to 20%, emissions fall 8% in year

Business Spectator | April 1, 2015 | Bloomberg New Energy Finance Report

The past week has been bright for the UK’s renewable energy sector. The UK Department for Energy and Climate Change released energy trends data for 2014, showing that renewables supplied a record 19.2% of all generated electricity, up from 14.9% in 2013. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance Analyst Reaction details how the outcome of the upcoming general election could influence these figures for the future.

Originally published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Reproduce with permission.

Drax Group’s conversion of a second coal power plant to burn wood, has reduced the utility’s exposure to the price of carbon emission permits and boosted the UK’s biomass power generation. Total UK greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to have fallen 8.4% in 2014. This and a surprisingly sharp drop in the country's electricity consumption in 2014 are examined in a separate note from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

There were several other developments in the UK clean energy sector last week. London-based clean energy fund The Renewables Infrastructure Group, known as TRIG, boosted its share offer to $152m* in response to unprecedented demand. The group’s acquisition of a 7.2MW solar power plant in Southwest England takes its portfolio to 30 projects, totalling 446MW of capacity.

Meanwhile, the grid companies of Norway and the UK signed a deal to build a subsea electricity cable of record-breaking length. Construction of a 1400MW, 730km power cable will allow the UK to benefit from Norway’s hydro-electric power production to help balance variable renewable generation from wind and solar. 

The UK’s Green Investment Bank agreed to lend $298m to fund low-carbon initiatives in Africa and India. It is the first time the group will be investing outside of its home country, a mark of growing confidence in the investment potential of new energy infrastructure in developing countries.

UK-based solar energy developers have been rushing to complete projects before 1 April, when the government will end subsidies to plants of 5MW or more. This week, Bluefield Solar Income Fund paid $84m to Trina Solar for a newly completed PV farm in Norfolk with capacity of 49.9MW.

Across the Channel, Germany is considering a plan to force older coal plants to buy additional carbon permits, in an effort to increase carbon prices to a level where emissions trading becomes significant. Germany is unsatisfied with the compromise achieved in Brussels last Wednesday, whereby EU member states agreed a 2021 start date for the Market Stability Reserve for carbon allowances. Our latest Deep Dive examines the implications of trialogue negotiations for EU Carbon Prices.  

Meanwhile, China is moving from implementing a pilot carbon market to establishing a fully fledged national emissions trading scheme, due for lift-off in 2016, according to the Geneva-based International Emissions Trading Association. Bloomberg New Energy Finance does not expect the country to have a fully national programme before 2020 but when it does, the market is likely to shape the future of pricing worldwide, so watch this space. 

However China’s proactivity vis-à-vis its carbon market has not yet translated to submitting a greenhouse gas pledge to the UN, ahead of Paris’ Climate Summit. Mexico is the first developing country to have done so, pledging to cap emissions by 2026. It joins the EU, Switzerland and Norway, which have submitted their pledges.

On stock markets, Israel-based SolarEdge raised $126m in an initial public offering last week. The company makes photovoltaic inverters targeted at the distributed PV sector, set to out-build utility-scale projects from 2017, according to BNEF analysis.

SunEdison is also developing alternatives to centralised utility-scale solar, with its plan to build microgrids in rural India. The US solar manufacturer and power-plant developer is using Imergy Power System batteries to store and distribute solar energy to 20m people currently without electricity access.

California became the first US state to generate more than 5% of its annual utility-scale electricity from solar power in 2014. This may be further boosted by Apple’s record breaking $848m power purchase agreement with First Solar to power some of its California operations. Apple will spend less on energy through this agreement than if it were to buy the energy commercially, it said.

*All dollar figures are in USD



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God save the planet: UK renewables rise to 20%, emissions fall 8% in year
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.