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Wind and solar will provide 50% of global power by 2050, but this may still not be enough to meet the 2 degree climate change target.

28th Jun 2019

BloombergNEF (BNEF) recently published their New Energy Outlook (NEO) for 2019, a detailed study of the global outlook for energy demand and supply to 2050. We discuss the report’s findings, and take look at what is being done here in the UK to meet the challenges posed by the report.

The NEO suggests that, in at least two thirds of the world, wind or solar already represents the least expensive option for adding new power-generating capacity. Significant cost reductions in these areas, as well as the battery industry, are set to continue, with the expectation that 50% of global power will be supplied by wind and solar by 2050. The role of coal is predicted to drop to 12% by 2050, with reliance on oil as a power generating source being virtually eliminated.

This should keep the global energy sector on track to meet their contribution towards keeping world temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees, at least until 2030. This is despite a predicted increase in electricity demand of 62% over the projection period.

However, the NEO also indicates that a lot needs to be done to keep the world on this 2 degree path beyond 2030.

Although a number of countries are projected to achieve 80% of the power generation mix from wind and solar by 2050, going beyond this 80% figure is considered to be more challenging, and will require other technologies to play a part.

According to BNEF’s NEO director, Seb Henbest: “Our analysis suggests that governments need to do two separate things – one is to ensure their markets are friendly to the expansion of low cost wind, solar and batteries; and the other is to back research and early deployment of these other technologies so that they can be harnessed at scale from the 2030s onwards.”

So what is being done here in the UK to meet these challenges?

In March 2019, the UK Government and offshore wind industry agreed a potentially transformative Offshore Wind Sector Deal, which headlines £557 million in annual subsidies to support growth in the offshore wind industry.

The UK also boasts the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the Energy Systems Catapult – innovation centres set up by the UK Government to facilitate collaboration between businesses and the academic community to exploit market opportunities such as those highlighted in the NEO.

Innovate UK, the UK Government’s innovation agency, allows organisations in the UK to compete for government funding. A number of competitions for funding related to clean energy solutions are currently open for application, as well as a competition for funding in relation to UK developed disruptive R&D. Funding is awarded following a rigorous competition process, in which applicants are required to show a sound understanding of both the technology underpinning their innovation, and their potential market. Patent searches showing freedom to operate in the sector can be key to securing judges’ confidence, along with a clear indication of how intellectual property arising through the project is to be protected.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) also plays its part in supporting innovation in the renewable energy sector, and offer a special green channel to accelerate the prosecution of patent applications that can be shown to relate to environmentally friendly technology. This, process, when combined with other international initiatives can speed up significantly the traditionally lengthy timescales for obtaining granted patent protection around the world.

So it appears that the UK Government is doing its bit to react to market opportunities in the renewable energy sector, and to encourage the development of new technologies. Over the next 10 years it will become apparent whether these efforts are going to be enough to keep the global energy sector on track to meet their contribution to the 2 degree climate change target.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.

Georgina Ainscow
Senior Associate
About the author

Would you like to know more? You can talk to Georgina Ainscow who will be able to help. Call +44 (0)20 7242 0901


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