In the past decade, renewable energy has undergone a considerable shift within the UK. Having once been a virtual non-entity, it now provides power for up to 40% of our national electricity supply.
These 10 years have also been a roller coaster for those involved with the delivery of renewable energy technologies. Changes in Feed-in-Tariffs for Solar PV created cliff edges and uncertainty, resulting in many companies and installers moving out of the industry. Changes to the Contracts for Difference (CfD) also caused similar issues for the onshore wind sector, although notably, the offshore wind sector has gone from strength to strength.
However, there has been a seismic shift in the zeitgeist regarding climate change and our Government, following clear advice from the Climate Change Committee has now declared a climate emergency and brought into play the ambitious Net-Carbon Zero 2050 target.
The reasons for this are virtually incontestable, but one thing is for certain – there is a lot of work to do and a lot of money to be spent to achieve this. Luckily, we now have the technology to deliver what’s needed.
Solar PV and solar thermal, heat-pumps and wind turbines are now tried and tested solutions, their prices have plummeted so that they can now be affordably deployed in most situations and consumer confidence has been boosted by schemes such as MCS, RECC etc.
However, for the ‘low-to-no carbon’ future to become reality, there must also be a fabric-first approach to minimise heating energy requirements along with a re-education on how we use energy and its conservation. Minimising consumption, coupled with the decentralisation of energy generation will give the UK the perfect sustainable balance.
With the buildings regulations part L and part P and the Future Homes Standard now post-consultation, we shall have to wait to see how far measures are pushed. New ‘Green Mortgages’ and loans are beginning to emerge, giving home owners accessible finance to aid with installation measures. All these things will help to give industry, investors and the public the certainty to move in this direction.
Many organisations, including ECA, are pushing Government to make bold choices and push for the measures required to secure a clean, green and sustainable future.
It is important to ensure that installations are carried out by suitably qualified and skilled installers, the numbers of which will need to grow to support the exponential work expected in this sector. Collaboration between organisations and training providers will be key to this success.
There are many opportunities and solutions ahead of us and to paraphrase an old Chinese Proverb: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills.”