Our home star, the sun, radiates gargantuan levels of energy. Every hour, it produces enough radiant energy to satisfy the world’s demand for a year. If you add this to the power of wind and water, the combined available renewable energy resources are plentiful. However, despite the prevalence of renewables, particularly hydropower, which has long been a commercial-scale energy source, the extraction of non-renewable power from carbon-rich sources dominates the global market. Coal, oil and gas remain the default sources of energy, so-called conventional power generation fuels.
But, thankfully, over the past 20 years, the world has adapted and has begun to take significant advantage of the abundant sources of renewable energy. Costa Rica generated 99.15% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2019, according to the latest report by the Centro Nacional de Control de Energía. In the UK, according to the latest figures, 40% of energy comes from renewables, including 20% from wind, 12% from biomass and 6% from solar power. With very ambitious targets for the next 20 years, these figures are set to rise to the point of total reliance on the carbon-free generation of energy.
Globally, however, the situation is uncertain. The relative availability and low cost of solar and wind power are helping to reduce reliance on carbon-rich sources of energy. Indeed, the number of countries that consume only fossil fuels, including coal and oil, has dropped by about half, to 17, since 1980, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. However, according to a recent McKinsey research paper, renewable energy demand will plateau by about 2030 owing to a levelling out of demand from wealthier nations such as the USA, Germany and Japan. More than 80% of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels, and the inexhaustible demand for power is still rising. Low-carbon energy’s share in the mix is increasing very slowly worldwide. Ultimately, we consume more fossil fuels every year, which is what primarily affects climate change.
In an unprecedented year of a raging, rampaging pandemic, the annual Global Carbon Budget report extracted something positive: COVID-19 lockdowns have reversed years of rising emissions worldwide. France and the UK have recorded the steepest drops because of long-lasting restrictions, at 15 and 13% respectively.
The report goes on to describe the global situation: “The burning of fossil fuels released 34.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide [CO2] in 2020, down 2.3 billion tonnes on last year. The biggest fall was the 0.84 billion tonnes of CO2 drop from transport, especially road traffic, with a steep dive in April when many countries had imposed limits on travel. After April, however, global emissions began climbing back towards pre-pandemic heights.”
“The drop in 2020 alone, compared to what has been accumulating in the atmosphere to now and what will continue to accumulate in the future,” commented Global Carbon Project team member Pierre Friedlingstein of the University of Exeter, UK. “To make a difference, this trend needs to be continued.” The incidence of COVID-19 has given us all an insight into what is achievable. Equally startling is the work needed to achieve international targets concerning the reduction of carbon emissions and the increase of renewable energy generation.
RSK is committed to developing clean energy and helping the UK and the wider global community to meet its zero-emissions targets. RSK has been involved in the renewable energy sector for 20 years, since the emergence of offshore and onshore wind energy generation in the late 1990s. We are actively supporting developments and technologies as diverse as on- and offshore wind generation, hydroelectricity generation, energy storage and fuelling, electric vehicle charging facilities, geothermal energy, ground- and water-source heat generation, and district heating networks.
We continue to expand our services. In April 2020, to meet the increasing demand for operational and managerial supply chain contractors, RSK launched CAN Renewables. The business serves clients in the wind, solar and hydroelectricity sectors by combining its experience in renewable energy, specialist operations and maintenance to deliver multibrand engineering solutions. With the addition of Ground Heat and Silcock Leedham to the group, RSK has moved further to offer renewable energy solutions to clients looking to reach carbon net zero. The launches of RSK Wilding and Nature Positive add to RSK’s holistic offering as it seeks to offer bespoke solutions that augment the move to renewable energy generation.
Ever since RSK’s first involvement in offshore wind farm sites 20 years ago, it has grown its presence in and commitment to the renewable energy sector. And we will continue to do so by increasing our service provision and our commitment to achieving carbon net zero.