How Can the UK Go Green?
With a new prime minister comes new challenges. The UK's 2050 net zero target looms ever closer, but what are the problems that the country faces in going green?
The government needs to manage its renewables contracts more efficiently. 30% of them won’t be running in the next decade, and on top of that a tenth of all Renewables Obligation (RO) capacity expires in the next five years. Once these older contracts come to an end, it becomes riskier and more expensive to finance, which will lead to renewable companies going under.
Longer contracts that expire in the next decade will not be exempt from this problem either as those left will face energy cannibalisation. Renewable energy, particularly from wind power, is usually generated at the same time and the mass generation will depress the wholesale electricity price close to or lower than zero. This will lead to market prices in the 2030s that are unable to cover operating costs for these wind farms, leading to more closures.
The RO is the main support for large-scale renewable electricity projects within the UK. It has been in place since 2002 and obligates energy suppliers to source an increasing amount of energy from renewable sources. While registration for new suppliers ended in 2017, it’s expected that RO payments will continue for existing contracts.
Nowadays, Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are issued to operators for the eligible renewable electricity they generate. Suppliers are given them to show that they have met their yearly obligation of power in megawatt hours of electricity supplied to customers. If they haven’t, they’ll have to pay an equivalent buy-out.
To prevent the problem presented above, the electricity market has a strong incentive to agree to new fixed-price contracts, which would then be at a price consumers would agree with. However, the government needs to come up with a solution fast to ensure there are renewable energy operators for decades to come.
Unfortunately, Jacob Rees-Mogg has been selected as the Energy Secretary for the new cabinet, despite being an infamous climate change sceptic. He has a track record of making sure that oil companies keep their profits, most likely because of his invested interest. Sustainable energy is now nine times cheaper than gas, which makes going green much more appealing.
People like this to look beyond their belief that the goal to reach net zero will drive up energy costs. While he previously stated that “every last drop” of oil and gas should be extracted from the North Sea, the short-term is very much on his mind. Rees-Mogg also once said that 2050 is a long way off, but it’s people in his position now that will impact whether or not the country will be be able to hit its net zero target.
The recent floods in Pakistan have been linked to climate change, and they have killed 1,100 people and 800,000 livestock, destroyed over 100 bridges and thousands of kilometres of road. And yet, the current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy once said that humanity should adapt to climate change rather than mitigate it.
The UK still has the power to implement changes of its own to tackle indecision and government inaction, most notably by relying on home renewables. By using your own home system, you can reduce your dependence on the national grid and any future problems with energy generation that may come about.
See our article on the greenest cities in the world and learn how they rank in terms of sustainability (and how much further ahead they are than the UK).
Tired of political inaction? Why not install solar panels of your own?