Despite the gloom surrounding COVID-19 there are strong signs that a surge could be in the offing for renewables both globally and in the UK.
May 2020 was the UK’s first month of electricity generation without coal since the Industrial Revolution and renewables contributed some 36 % of the UK’s electricity demand in that month. In Scotland, renewables are responsible on average for a staggering 90% contribution to Scottish demand, with a 100% contribution still being a possibility by 2020/21, so there is a very firm base on which to build in the UK. The recent announcement that the UK’s largest solar farm (450MW), to be located in Kent, has been granted planning approval, highlights the maturity of the renewables industry.
With the watershed moment of “peak oil” possibly having been reached, calls are growing for a move away from “business as usual” towards a realisation of the UK’s target to become carbon neutral by 2050. Some 200 of the UK’s business leaders, including the National Grid, have signed a letter calling on the UK Government to set out an economic recovery plan aligning with UK Climate goals to help build a resilient UK economy.
Economies of scale and innovation continue to drive down the cost of renewable technologies. The price of solar modules has dropped dramatically, by 90% in the period from 2010. Wind turbines are becoming more cost-effective with taller towers, longer blades, better control systems (even a software upgrade can have a significant impact on efficiency) and cheaper maintenance and there is growing confidence amongst wind developers that they will be able to develop without subsidies.
We are already seeing growing activity in this sector, as demonstrated in practice by developers actively seeking new wind development and solar sites across Scotland.