The Informer

This week's energy news headlines: A stark UN report warns urgent action is now needed on emissions to avoid a climate catastrophe; Record levels of utility-scale storage sites were added to the planning pipeline in Q2; A study finds that more sustainable firms deliver better returns for investors.

  • Urgent emissions cuts needed to avoid climate catastrophe

    Strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in emissions are now needed to avoid a climate catastrophe, according to a major UN report. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC's) latest report was described as a “code red for humanity” with the climate being impacted in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways. The report that that since 1970, global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the past 2,000 years. The authors believe a 1.5C rise in temperatures will be reached by 2040 in all scenarios. However, scientists say a catastrophe could be avoided if the world acts rapidly and achieves deep cuts in emissions through measures such as an acceleration in the shift to renewables. Professor Simon Lewis of University College London said the report contains a “stark message” and that faster decarbonisation was needed. “Cutting emissions to net zero means keeping fossil fuels in the ground, ending deforestation, and rapidly moving to using renewable energy to power the global economy. “The new report significantly raises the pressure on world leaders to agree detailed and achievable plans to immediately cut emissions when they meet for the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November.” COP26 President Alok Sharma admitted time was running out. “We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years – this is the moment. I don’t think we’re out of time but I think we’re getting dangerously close to when we might be out of time.” Read more

  • Utility-scale battery storage pipeline now over 20GW

    The UK pipeline for utility-scale battery storage projects in the UK now stands at 20GW across more than 800 projects, according to latest figures. The data from the UK Battery Storage Project Database shows the second quarter of the year was a record for submitted applications. The pipeline has jumped from just 17GW, implying that the next few years could show a major increase in energy storage deployment. The database shows that the capacity is becoming increasingly dominated by large-scale projects, due to the lift of the 50MW threshold. Many applications have been submitted this year for sites larger than 30MW in capacity. The total submitted capacity for the second quarter of 2021 is 3.2GW across 59 sites. Meanwhile, Europe’s largest battery energy storage system – the 100MW Minety project in Wiltshire - has just been connected to grid. Read more

  • Greener companies deliver better returns for investors

    The share prices of companies with lower than average emissions delivered better returns for investors, a new study has found. Researchers at the University of Sussex Business School and Birkbeck, University of London, compared the performance of firms in the S&P 500 index between 2005 and 2018 and found that environmentally conscious firms returned seven per cent better returns on average along with 30 per cent lower risk. Environmental companies were found to be the best performers in industry-specific portfolios with the biggest returns being found in sectors such as energy, financial and health care. The authors - Dr Panagiotis Tzouvanas and Professor Emmanouil Mamatzakis - said the research highlighted the need for government policies to cut emissions, not just for environmental reasons, but also to improve market performance. "Our findings reveal that the stocks of companies with strong environmental performance are value for money in the portfolio, while also contributing to the sustainability of the economy," said Mamatzakis, professor of finance at Birkbeck, University of London. "Our findings justify the use of policy and regulation interventions that encourage and incentivise environmentally-responsible 'green' investment." Read more

  • Renewables investment hits record in first half of year

    Investment in renewable projects and businesses reached a record high of around £125 billion in the first half of 2021, according to the latest report from BloombergNEF (BNEF). The overall figure was 1.8% higher than the same period last year, however a decline in investment in new renewables projects was offset by a jump in equity offerings of renewable energy companies. New equity raised on public markets by renewable firms hit a record high, as did venture capital and private equity commitments to renewable energy companies. Investment in solar projects was up 9% year-on-year but wind asset finance fell year-on-year. Logan Goldie-Scot, head of clean power at BNEF, said: “As the energy transition accelerates, investors are increasingly looking for ways to increase their portfolio exposure to renewable energy and related areas, such as energy storage and hydrogen. This record first half for clean energy fundraising underlines the strength of appetite for sustainable investment opportunities aligned to a net zero future.” Read more

  • Last coal plant closure date announced

    The UK’s last remaining coal-fired power station is set to close by September 2024, just ahead of the Government ban coming into force. One of the four 500MW units at Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar power plant in Nottinghamshire will come offline in September 2022 followed by the remaining three two years later. The site is one of three remaining coal plans operating in the UK. EDF’s West Burton A plant and Drax’s facility in Selby, North Yorkshire, are both due to close next year at the latest. Uniper said it will hold discussions with local and regional stakeholders over the future development of the site with ambitions to create a zero-carbon technology and energy hub. The company recently secured planning permission to develop an energy-from-waste plant on part of the site. The coal power station has supplied around 4% of the UK’s electricity over the past 50 years. Uniper Chief Operating Officer David Bryson: "We are proud of the contribution Ratcliffe has made and will continue to make to keep the lights on in the UK. We are also looking at options now to transform the site in advance of the power station closing to allow us the best opportunity to retain and reskill the workforce.” Read more