Renewable Energy: news and regulatory developments

We take a look at recent headlines in the renewable energy sector in the domestic and international markets.

US – Inflation Reduction Act signed into law

After a build-up of 18 months, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act 2022 into law on 16th August, 2022. The framework of the legislation encompasses a large number of issues including the levelling up of clean energy, tax incentives, local project funding and expansion of affordable healthcare.

The crux of the legislation is its clean energy provisions which focus on energy security. Investing in energy production coincided with $10 billion in investment tax credits to promote the production of electric vehicles, solar and wind energy. Such expenditures, which have never been considered by a previous US government, are to accelerate the decarbonisation of industry by reducing emissions by 40% by 2030.

Although it is unclear how this legislation will impact global emissions, it is still the most historic piece of climate change legislation to be passed in the US and if successful will help the country meet its Paris Agreement commitments.

UK – Biomass projects given funding boost

In times of uncertainty and rising fuel and gas prices, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has allocated £37 million in funding to scale-up domestic renewable energy.

The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme, which includes initiatives such as employing aeroponic technology to develop Short Rotation Coppice, including willow and poplar cuttings that may be planted for bioenergy, is receiving the majority of the financing. Such funds will also be used to revamp UK offshore marine algal biomass production for a guarantee of the highest possible yields of biomass.

Energy Minister, Greg Hands claims:

‘Accelerating home-grown renewables like biomass is a key part of ending our dependency on expensive and volatile fossil fuels.‘

This is a positive step considering that production of bioenergy fell by 4.5% between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022. Climate Action Tracker suggests that current climate polices put in place by the UK government are “almost sufficient” – are not yet consistent but could be, with moderate improvements – with the Paris Agreement goals.

What is less encouraging is the two Tory leadership contenders’ preference for non-renewable energy sources in order to address the cost-of-living problem. Ending the fracking ban and pursuing greater oil and gas prospects in the North Sea are two policies that the two candidates have backed; both would work against the UK’s push for renewable energy to fulfil the country’s net zero targets.

India’s approval of its climate plan – net zero by 2070

Nine months after its commitment to net zero emissions by 2070, India’s cabinet have approved its climate plan and has pledged a 45% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030. With India being the third largest emitter of CO2, this is a much needed pledge from the nation.

Only 23% of India’s primary energy consumption comes from renewables; biomass accounts for most of this. Despite this high dependence on oil, coal and natural gas, India is making record investments in renewable energy projects to align with its emission reduction targets.

But India’s downfall is its funding; and financing these projects is proving to be difficult. The Indian government’s goal was to install 175GW of renewable energy capacity by the end of 2022 however at present the nation has only achieved 114GW and likely to not meet its targets. The real significance of this is that if India fails to meet its 2030 targets, its net zero target could likely follow; a target that is desperately needed for one of the world’s most polluting countries.

Candidate confusion over UK new solar farm development

In 2021, solar energy contributed towards 28% of the UK’s total renewable energy generation. Solar is a clean source of energy which reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and contributes towards the UK’s commitment to net zero by 2050. However the development of new solar farms has recently been attacked by the two Tory leadership candidates: Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. Both candidates’ main justification is that land should be used for farmers to grow crops and products rather than for the construction of additional solar farms.

This claim appears to be inaccurate. According to…, high-quality agricultural land is reserved for crop production and is not available for the construction of solar farms. The impact of solar farm expansion on food production is minimal as they aren’t in direct competition for the same land. The NFU continues to encourage the growth of solar farms and acknowledges the income they generate therefore dismissing both candidates claims.

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