Current affairs

By guest columnist Bill Wright, head of energy solutions, Electrical Contractors’ Association

What a year 2014 has been for the renewable energy sector. Wind power is now providing up to 20 percent of demand, and the industry is still expanding. In total there are now over 8GW of wind turbines installed, equivalent to about four very large conventional power stations.

There is also a stop go attitude to PV installations. Despite the lowering of Feed-in Tariffs, PV is still an attractive proposition and the government’s aspiration is to have up to 20GW installed within the next ten years. There is some discouragement of solar farms, which many see as a blot on the landscape, but in fact they can be installed on set aside land and even sheep can be grazed around the panels in a field. There is active encouragement of solar PV on commercial and industrial roof tops which seems to have great potential as the power generated goes directly to the building on which it is installed and offsets the electricity bill.

Who could have foreseen the crash in the price of a barrel of oil from $110+ to around the $60 mark? This provides an economic bonus, but will it affect the renewables industry? The industry should remain buoyant as the reduction in oil price will not be for ever and there is a genuine commitment to reduce carbon emissions which the renewable energy industry does exceedingly well.

Whatever happens, this year, with its general election, will be as interesting as ever.