Much hope was pinned on Copenhagen and Cancun as a way of highlighting the case for renewable energy and prompting large scale investment in green energy. Government’s globally assumed that private investment would pour in, helping to bring the big world economies closer to meeting climate change targets, win votes and of course revitalise struggling economies with a vibrant green energy industry. As it was subsequently found out, the world financial crisis was such that rather than see the universal growth of green energy, some sectors were forced to make drastic, indeed devastating cut backs.
The world recession has had a detrimental effect in certain areas of renewable energy. Certainly Spain, once a world leader in solar pv thanks to its feed-in tariff policy suffered greatly from cuts made to the tariff by Zapatero’s government in the face of a Spanish economy on the brink of collapse. However, according to the Director of the UK Carbon Trust Ben Sykes, the recession has not necessarily meant a downturn in all sectors,
“The big, exciting stuff that was going to come out of a very successful global conference didn’t happen, but you have steady growth in a number of technology areas”
The world of finance certainly recognises that despite cut backs in certain areas of renewable energy, other sectors including solar pv have continued to go from strength to strength in the UK. Ever since the introduction of the feed-in tariff in April 2010, investment in solar energy has rocketed with an impressive uptake in solar panels taking advantage of the healthy profits to be made. With regards to efficiencies, the head of HSBC’s climate change centre of excellence Nick Robins stated,
“The learning curve has accelerated during the crisis, particularly in solar.”
The UK solar feed-in tariff, legislation which guarantees fixed, premium rates for units of energy either consumed or fed back into the national grid is designed to incentivise investment in solar energy, traditionally expensive to set up. Already the uptake in solar on the back of the tariffs has exceeded expectations with over 10,000 panels installed so far. As was predicted, the uptake in solar along with the growing competition in the UK market has caused prices to fall a little bit closer to ‘grid parity’, the holy grail of renewable energy. According to energy expert Anthony Froggatt, Chinese manufacturing volumes have led to grid costs being the equivalent of nuclear in the US.