The challenges of the green energy transition

June 25, 2021

Following the G7 summit in Cornwall at the beginning of June, leaders of the G7 nations have committed to significant emissions reductions by 2030 and the achievement of net-zero emissions by 2050. Despite the determination behind these pledges, a number of challenges may make such ambitions difficult to realise. In a recent column for CAPX, Mike Kelly, Renewable Energy Business Development Director at RSK, discussed why renewable energy is “facing a perfect storm”.

As Mike explains, one of the main ways we plan to achieve these goals is through a massive increase in the generation of energy from renewable sources. On- and offshore wind and solar power are seeing big investments to increase the level of generation we can achieve. Building this infrastructure with the capacity necessary to reduce our emissions to net zero is going to be an immense challenge. As Mike notes, there is an expectation that “our lives and the energy that fuels them” will not be disrupted in the process of meeting these targets. If this is to be the case, developing the capacity to generate 480 terawatt-hours through green sources, a fourfold increase in just 30 years, will be difficult.

Even if we are able to drastically increase our green generation, Mike emphasises that planning consent for such wind and solar farms may present a further hurdle. The often “long and arduous planning consent process” can prolong the time it takes to develop a given site. Finding sufficient land for the number and scale of renewable energy developments necessary to reach high levels of generation will also present challenges in trying to meet the ambitious targets. Mike adds that this may be further compounded by the difficulty in connecting new infrastructure to the national grid: a system that, while constantly being upgraded to ensure connections are made, may struggle to free up the capacity to accommodate such an increase.

Mike concludes by highlighting that, along with the big changes to the way we generate our energy, small changes that everyone can make will go an equally long way in securing a net-zero future. Day-to-day changes like swapping driving for cycling or walking will make a big difference to whether or not we achieve the goals outlined by the G7 leaders. The G7 targets “reinforce how critical it will be that we all reduce our energy consumption”.

Mike’s column for CAPX is available to read in full online.