It appears that something of a tipping point has been reached in terms of renewable energy generation. The likes of solar and wind power have received government subsidies in the past, but this financial support is beginning to dry up.
However, according to a new report from Bloomberg, that doesn’t matter because these kinds of power generation technologies are now providing cost-effective energy. The organisation revealed that new wind and solar power plants now produce energy more cheaply than new coal or gas facilities in two-thirds of the world.
This comes after the cost of wind power fell by 50 per cent since 2010, while the cost of generating solar energy has plummeted by 85 per cent in the same period.
But the BloombergNEF (BNEF) research found that even though these renewable sources can now compete with their fossil fuel counterparts, just seven per cent of global electricity was generated with renewable sources last year.
The main issues facing the likes of solar and wind power are the fact that they can’t generate electricity consistently. There will be periods when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Without batteries to store the excess energy, these forms of energy generation will struggle to compete with the likes of coal and gas for the time being.
BNEF highlighted Southern Europe as an example where subsidy-free renewable energy generation is taking off though.
Here, solar power has taken hold in a big way. Italy, Spain, Portugal and other countries in this region are expected to connect 750 megawatts of subsidy-free clean energy projects to the grid this year alone. That’s enough to power 330,000 homes.
In the UK, offshore wind has been the first choice for many renewable energy projects. Earlier this year, we highlighted research showing that the UK installed 931 megawatts of wind capacity in 2018.
This is well ahead of the level of offshore wind capacity installed by any other European nations. In the research, Denmark installed the second-highest offshore wind capacity last year, with 374 megawatts coming online.
In total, wind energy now accounts for 14 per cent of the energy mix across Europe. Although this has been increasing each year, more will need to be done if the continent is to hit its target of generating one-third of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
But it’s not only Europe that’s pushing for renewable development. In China, which is the world’s biggest renewable energy market, there is a drive towards reducing subsidies for wind and solar power to encourage “a more market-driven approach”, BNEF explained.
The BNEF research highlights the fact that reducing subsidies for wind and solar projects could, therefore, be a good sign because it means these schemes are economically viable and can, therefore, compete with other energy generation techniques.
One clear thing is that the drive towards a more sustainable power grid isn’t going to fall, which means people will need to be appropriately trained to maintain this new infrastructure. Make sure your staff hold valid accredited GWO courses certificates.