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A cleaner, solar powered future?
The sunlight that hits the earth in an hour contains enough energy to run the global economy for a year
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) the role of renewable sources of energy (solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, bioenergy and ocean power) in the global power mix continues to increase rapidly as renewables maintain the lead as the fastest-growing power source. As global renewable electricity generation expands in absolute terms, it is expected to surpass that from natural gas and double that from nuclear power by next year (2016), becoming the second most important global electricity source, after coal.
Globally, renewable generation is estimated to rise to 25% of gross power generation in 2018, up from 20% in 2011. The IEA expects solar to become the biggest single source of energy by 2050 and the dramatic falls in cost of solar PV means that the sector in 2014 was around five years ahead of where the IEA had previously thought it would be.
The IEA's 2014 report "Technology Roadmap - Solar Photovoltaic Energy" envisioned that up to 16% of global electricity will be from solar PV by 2050. For bulk power on the grid, PV electricity can already be price competitive at times of peak demand, especially in areas where peak electricity is provided by burning oil products.
A more rapid move towards solar energy has many benefits, especially as improved energy storage technologies are developed. As the IEA points out, solar energy is widely available throughout the world and can contribute to reduced dependence on energy imports. As it entails no fuel price risk or constraints, it also improves security of supply. Solar power enhances energy diversity and hedges against price volatility of fossil fuels (oil and gas), thus stabilising the cost of electricity generation in the longer term.
Once PV panels have been manufactured, solar PV entails no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during operation and does not emit other pollutants (such as oxides of sulphur and nitrogen); additionally, it consumes no or little water. As local air pollution and extensive use of fresh water for cooling of thermal power plants are becoming serious concerns in hot or dry regions, these benefits of solar PV become increasingly important.
Industrial nations agree to phase out fossil fuels
Climate change is not an environmental issue, but much more to do with security and economics
The G7 leading industrial nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States) have agreed to cut greenhouse gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century at their summit in June. Summit host German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they had committed themselves to the need to "decarbonise the global economy in the course of this century". They also agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to a maximum of 2C compared to pre-industrial levels.
Whilst G7 leaders did not support Angela Merkel's proposal to agree to immediate binding emission targets, they agreed to back the recommendations of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions at the upper end of a range of 40% to 70% by 2050, using 2010 as the baseline.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, will be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The objective will be to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. The G7 commitment on phasing out fossil fuels is a hopeful sign that real progress will be made in Paris.
UN calls for rethink of global financial system
Did you know that renewables met one fifth of the world's final energy consumption in 2013?
A radical shift in the global financial system is needed according to a new United Nations report, "The coming financial climate - aligning the financial system with sustainable development".
The report considers the need to invest in adaptation to climate change to protect economies from the risks associated with climate change, and is scathing of the market response to date: "In essence, market and policy failures have resulted in the structural mispricing of climate risks, exacerbated by short-termism, misaligned incentives and information asymmetries."
The UN report can be found from this link (opens in new window): UN report: The coming financial climate (pdf on external website).
New Energy Bill
The Queen's Speech on 27th May included the announcement of a new Energy Bill which the Government claims will do the following:
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, has said that DECC's clear priorities are to keep the lights on and power the economy; keep bills low for families and businesses, and get a climate deal in Paris this year.
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1. Management of oursouthwest. From 1999 - 2010 this website was originally managed by Phil Harding whilst a Senior Policy Adviser (climate change, resource efficiency and sustainable development) at the Government Office for the South West (GOSW) in Bristol (UK). GOSW closed in 2011 but this site continues to be managed by Phil Harding on a freelance not-for-profit basis.
2. Archived material. For ease of reference, some of the key pages and papers that were on this website up until 2011/12 are listed on the About OSW page. The British Library holds archived copies of the some of the original content of the www.oursouthwest.com website in its early (and now dated) format from 2008 to 2013 on its website at www.webarchive.org.uk/ukwa/target/9175112/source/alpha.
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