It wasn’t long ago that renewable energy was seen as unreliable and expensive, able perhaps to contribute a bit to cutting carbon, but not a serious way of generating the nation’s power.

That view is proving spectacularly wrong.

A major new report from the global Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) published this week (http://www.energy-transitions.org/better-energy-greater-prosperity), concludes “The collapsing cost of renewables and batteries will make it possible, within 15 to 20 years, to build power generation systems 80 to 90% dependent on intermittent renewables, delivering clean electricity at an all-in cost of at most $70 per megawatt hour, which will be fully competitive with fossil fuels.”

One of the ETC Commissioners, Nigel Topping, is a member of Regen’s board and we have been working with him to contribute to the Commission. What was clear from the discussions was how fast the pace of technological change is changing the thinking as to what is possible.

The main reason behind the growth of renewables is the spectacular fall in costs which now make renewables by some distance the cheapest form of new power generation (take a look at our article back in November https://www.regensw.co.uk/news/cheap-and-clean-new-beis-report-confirms-that-renewable-energy-will-be-cheaper-than-fossils-fuels-10-november-2016).

The other key factors are more flexible ways of managing our network to accommodate the variable generation of renewables, in particular storage, demand-side response and the ability to use communication technologies and big data to manage the network much more intelligently.

The challenge now is for governments to catch up with the market. Here in the UK renewables now deliver 25% of UK electricity and growing. To quote Greg Clarke, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy “….. It was said our system could not cope with a significant percentage of power coming from renewables. The doubters have been proven wrong.” The coming general election is an opportunity to drop these attempts to prop up the old fossil fuel powered centralised generation model and reshape energy policy for a modern era. By backing decentralised, flexible and renewable powered energy we can put the UK at the front of both the global clean energy race and cutting carbon emissions.

Author: Merlin Hyman

Contact: mhyman@regensw.co.uk