Transitioning to renewable energy: The current scenario

According to the latest research, we need to curtail the rise in global temperature to 1.5° Celsius to avoid irreversible climate damage – effectively removing fossil fuel use and transitioning to renewable energy. To accomplish this, however, the world has to make a concerted shift from coal, oil and natural gas to renewable energy sources.

And while economies are incorporating more clean power into their operations, the International Energy Agency (IEA) states that the transition needs to happen four to six times faster than the current rate if we are to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

What Energy Day 2021 was all about

COP26 Energy Day was held on 4th November, 2021, to demonstrate to governments, investors, development banks, and private organisations that such a shift is feasible and inevitable. Moreover, it is ordinary people that are at the heart of this shift and whose efforts will make the greatest long-term difference.

The UK hosted Energy Day with the objective of hearing how countries are embracing clean energy initiatives, celebrating affirmative action and exploring options to align collective action on global energy goals better.

One of the chief objectives of the meeting was to ensure that every country can avail of the sources and investments they need to scale up their initiatives for transitioning to renewable energy quickly.

Poor access to finance, high capital costs and inadequate technical support during the transition can all be deterrents for developing countries. For this reason, the COP26 Energy Transition Council was established to harness multilateral power and expertise and develop solutions to aid the rapid transition to clean energy usage.

Moreover, the UK will be increasing its International Climate Finance (ICF) support to at least £11.6 billion by 2025-26 – a doubling of its £5.8 billion five-year commitment announced before the 2015 Paris Agreement.

This funding will be directed toward accelerating clean energy technologies in developing countries. Moreover, in March 2021, the UK also announced a policy to cease its public support for fossil fuels abroad.

Is transitioning to renewable energy a profitable investment?

It is commonly believed that investing in renewable energy is costly and inefficient. The facts, however, say otherwise. Let us take a closer look:

 

  • Thanks to recent innovations and significant public finance investments, the costs of renewable energy are rapidly falling. Since 2010, the cost of solar power has reduced by 85%, and that of wind power by 49%.
  • According to recent data, investments in renewable energy have seen a 367% greater return than fossil fuels since 2010.
  • 2020 witnessed an 82% increase in the global net capacity expansion of renewable energy, despite the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic. Moreover, transitioning to renewable energy fulfilled 27% of global power demand in 2020.
  • Investing in fossil fuel architecture can be costlier than a country might expect. By setting up fossil fuel plants, a country gets locked into a high-carbon growth pathway for the next 30-40 years, during which renewables will become cheaper. At some point, therefore, fossil fuel plants will end up stranded before the end of their useful life, leading to massive sunk costs.
  • Investing in solar and wind power is now cheaper than investing in coal and gas plants in two-thirds of the world.
  • IRENA data indicates that investing in renewable energy will boost jobs by about 42 million by 2050 – four times more than today’s figures.

In short, by boosting support for and moving towards the wholesale adoption of renewables, we will protect the planet and build more resilient economies.

Clean energy potential in Turkmenistan: A prime example

There is considerable potential for clean energy in other countries as well. For instance, Turkmenistan has immense solar and wind power potential, which could cover all of the country’s energy needs by 2050 while eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.

As temperatures continue to rise, the demand for residential air-cooling will also increase. By meeting this demand through solar power, Turkmenistan can reduce its emissions from natural gas and have more gas reserves left over for export.

Another area where Turkmenistan can potentially save a lot is methane leakage. Most solutions to fix leaks, such as rebuilding compressor engines or replacing worn-out valves, are not very expensive and do not require sophisticated knowledge.

International Energy Agency data indicates that about 40% of Turkmenistan’s methane emissions can be captured at negligible cost and used to create high-value export-ready products, which will pump more money into the economy.

Moreover, several countries would be willing to buy the saved natural gas, which means that one can easily offset the costs of capturing methane leakage and processing it for consumption.

With the money that Turkmenistan receives in the process, it can further invest in cost-effective renewable energy and the necessary legislative frameworks to make renewables the norm.

The UK should take inspiration from Turkmenistan.

Going forward, we can expect the UK and Turkmenistan to work together on achieving Green Energy goals and helping Turkmenistan reach its highest potential. Given the UK’s prowess when it comes to green energy, it is well-positioned to become a global leader in renewable power and enable more countries to make the much-needed shift. What do you think?

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