Beyond COVID-19, we need a vision to reach net zero emissions
3rd July 2020
By Marc Bradbrook, Commercial and Energy Services Director, Haven Power
Amidst the widespread devastation brought about by COVID-19, we have seen a sharp drop in carbon emissions across some of the world’s largest economies. In April, , global CO2 emissions fell by 17% compared to the daily average of 2019, more or less in line with 2006 levels - a stark reminder, were it needed, of just how precarious a position the planet is in.
While this has come at a great social and economic cost, this timely reminder has also given us a glimpse of what a more sustainable future could look like.
For many, the climate crisis existed only in the abstract sense. However, COVID-19 has made clear the reality of the climate crisis and just how significant a shift in our behaviours can bring about change. City soundtracks have been birdsong instead of traffic, and the air is cleaner for it, too.
But as businesses reopen and cars return to the roads, experts warn that emissions will rebound, undoing any progress made over the past few months.
So, where do we go from here in the journey for a net zero future?
Looking ahead to a net zero future
As we emerge from lockdown, it’s essential that renewable energy plays a key role in the economic recovery process. Bosses of key businesses and critical infrastructure agree, including the National Grid, HSBC and Heathrow Airport. This belief is shared by environmental campaigners such as Greenpeace, which recently published its Green Recovery manifesto. Investment in renewables can present an opportunity, post-COVID-19, of moving towards a more sustainable future, with benefits for industry and the economy, too.
Things are going in the right direction, if recent figures are anything to go by. While the International Energy Agency (IEA) last month predicted that global energy demand will fall by 6% this year, renewable energy will grow by 1%. Underpinning that growth is a 5% rise in demand for renewable electricity.
Currently, around 35-40% of the UK’s overall electricity consumption is renewable. Getting this up to 100% will be a difficult task. But, through a combination of reduced energy demand (as seen throughout the UK’s lockdown) and substantial investment in new infrastructure it is possible that the UK could reach 100%, just like Iceland, which generates all its electricity from renewable sources.
Compounding the supply issue, though, is the exponential growth in electricity demand that we expect to see over the next decade, as millions make the switch to electric vehicles. To meet this surge in demand and continue to work towards net zero carbon emission in the next few decades, we will need to see two things: more investment in renewable generation and smarter ways of managing energy consumption.
Galvanizing support for investment in renewables is difficult, purely on an economic basis. It will need to be driven by a collective willingness to protect our planet. And in the wake of COVID-19 we find ourselves at an exciting tipping point. The potential - and the appetite for change - is there. It is no longer only business leaders who have had a taste of transformation.
The widespread shift to remote working has given everyone a little extra momentum. Governments and business leaders must now choose to invest in renewable infrastructure and greener operations, paving the way for widespread and long-lasting change. Businesses with their own land and/or premises should also consider generating their own electricity on-site, both to alleviate some of the pressure on the National Grid and to create a potentially lucrative revenue stream while cutting energy costs.
Balancing renewable generation by changing demand patterns
Previously, when we needed more energy, we would build more power stations. Naturally, this is not sustainable in the long term, so what we need to do is limit wastage and ensure that we are being smart with what we do have.
Renewable energy generation also needs to be supported by smarter management of our energy consumption. This is where technologies like Demand Side Response (DSR) come to the fore, as they will allow businesses to manage energy consumption across their premises in a sustainable and cost-efficient way.
DSR is currently used to balance supply across the National Grid, but in the future we expect it will become a sophisticated mechanism that will allow businesses to optimise their energy use across their premises by shifting power to where it is needed. For example, a business may have multiple EV charge stations in use at one time DSR could compensate for this by dimming the office lights or turning down the air conditioning, reducing overall demand and potentially leading to lower energy costs.
Energy suppliers will play a central role in supporting the journey to net zero by incentivising more sustainable behaviour amongst businesses and consumers. For example, through creating tariffs which offer lower rates at non-peak times.
As experts in energy management, we take the complex thinking and processes away, allowing you to focus on other priorities. Let us help you to become more sustainable beyond COVID-19.
This article was originally published on Current News.
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