The world has signed up to taking control of CO2
It’s 11 years since the Kyoto Protocol. It was when the world’s leading industrial nations signed up to an agreement that aimed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 5% on 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
At the same time, it also included a number of tactics that could help rich countries offset their own emissions, such as investing in low carbon projects in poorer parts of the world.
The then developing nations of Brazil, India, China and South Africa faced no restrictions on their emissions, but were encouraged to implement policies that promoted greener ways to grow their economies.
China has turned itself around
In global terms, the Kyoto agreement (and ones that followed in Copenhagen and Paris) succeeded in some ways to help the big polluters cut their emissions by way more than 5%. In fact, the UN says that emissions are now 22.6% lower than in 1990.
This success is due to a number of factors, but one of the largest is the way that China has fuelled its economic growth by developing renewable energy sources. In 2014, President Xi announced a plan to ensure that China’s electricity grid prioritises power drawn from renewable and the lowest-polluting fossil fuel sources. This will increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix from 11.2% now, to about 20% by 2030. In September 2015 China also pledged to establish a $3.1 billion fund to help developing countries in the fight against climate change, matching a similar commitment made by the United States of America.
Developing economies are taking the lead
This trend towards renewables is being reflected in developing economies all over the world.
According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, around £196.5bn was spent on renewable power and fuels globally in what was a record year for investment in the sector. Tellingly, developing countries accounted for more than £107bn of that total.
Investment has increased significantly in India, South Africa, Mexico and Chile. Other developing countries investing more than $500m (about £345m) in renewables last year included Morocco, Uruguay, the Philippines, Pakistan and Honduras.
It also notes that Bangladesh is the world’s largest market for solar home systems, and other countries in Africa, Asia and South America are rapidly growing small-scale renewable systems, including mini-grids that provide electricity for people living far from the grid.
Meanwhile, closer to home…
Just between the opposing coastlines of Essex and Kent stands London Array – the biggest wind farm in the world.
Spreading over 100km2 its 175 turbines generate enough power for nearly half a million homes a year. In fact, December 2015 saw London Array generate a record 369,000 MWh of electricity – considerably above target. Average wind speeds of 27mph were undoubtedly the source of that amazing number.
Everything about the windfarm is huge. It has its own offshore and onshore substations. It requires 450km of offshore cabling to get all that power generated by its mighty turbines back to the UK. But the big number that really counts is that London Array reduces harmful carbon dioxide emissions by more than 925,000 tonnes a year.
E.ON has been the single biggest partner in London Array right from the very beginning of the project in 2011. It’s one of 20 UK-based wind farms we are currently involved with, from Robin Rigg in the Solway Firth to Scroby Sands in Norfolk.
How smart can renewables get?
Pellworm is a small island in the North Sea, just off the coast of Germany. As well as being picture-postcard pretty, it’s pretty smart too. We are partnering with the people of Pellworm (all 1,175 of them) to help the island generate its own energy. It’s currently home to one of the largest hybrid renewable energy plants in Europe and uses a mixture of solar and wind sources to be completely renewable and self-sustaining. In fact, Pellworm even has enough energy leftover to send back to mainland Europe.
If Pellworm is great at producing energy, it’s even better at controlling it. Our state-of-the-art energy management system monitors the island’s hybrid power plants, domestic storage batteries and smart meters in residents’ homes to understand and predict the energy that needs to be generated. By using two types of batteries, Pellworm can store energy for both the long and short term.
So, even in times when energy is hard to generate, there is always enough in reserve.
Do your bit - get FiT
The government has pledged to make 15% of all our energy sources renewable by 2020. And we can all play our part by installing our own small-scale low carbon energy devices such as solar panels and wind turbines at home.
As a Feed-in Tariff supplier, we’ll make payments to you on behalf of the government for the electricity you generate and return it to the grid for other people to use.
You can find out more about how to generate your own electricity (including solar panels, wind turbines, anaerobic digesters and combined heat and power units) at the Department of Energy and Climate Change website and apply for one of our Feed-in Tariffs here.