By Tom Mander
“After the Paris Agreements were acknowledged by 195 countries in December 2015, there was a new burst of hope for the eco-friendly future of our planet. Technological advancements have matched the political movements and over the last 6 months, great advances have been made.”
With this at the forefront of global news, business has capitalised on the renewables sector. Becoming cheap and accessible, this has had incredible effects on social mobility and quality of life in the least developed countries. Rural African villages’ previous solutions to energy would be kerosene lamps and car batteries – expensive options with minimal reward. However, French financially supported solar energy has given power to off-the-grid communities in Kenya, with power now less than $60 a year. 600 million people live away from main electricity in Africa and around 10% are enjoying the use of clean energy.
“In Britain, for the first time in history, more power was derived from solar energy than from coal. Between April and September over 5% of the UK’s energy demand was met by sunlight. The lasting impact of this remains to be seen. With industry subsidiaries for solar panels cut by the government this year, and the developments of Britain’s nuclear power sector too, this major advance may not repeat itself.
The increased turnover of solar energy has come through new technological advancements. Recently, a new catalyst has been utilised to increase the speed of solar reactions by 100 times. Developed at Stanford University, California, and using strontium lithium oxide, the catalyst can stand up to battery acid in terms of power output.
Some countries now have too much renewable energy: dependent on external environmental factors, such as wind and sunlight, it can’t be turned on and off like fossil fuel power stations. Regions of China, India, Denmark, and Germany have all revealed excesses of renewable energy.
Germany’s recent developments have provided a network of wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric sources which in May accounted for 87% of the day’s energy demand.
This ‘problem’ of excess has been dealt with by German energy prices going negative for a short period – the consumer being paid to consume. The Danes – with their massive offshore wind farms – have been known to make up to 140% of their energy demands, selling the excess off to neighbouring Norway and Sweden.
It’s difficult not to feel pessimistic about global endeavours when reading the news. However, these advances towards a sustainable future are incredibly encouraging.”
A world where 100% of the energy demands are met by renewable energy can often seem like overambitious science fiction, but right across the world scientists and governments have come together in extraordinary ways to make that future seem ever closer.
Photo Credit: Flickr