18th December 2020

The Hot Topic – Why do we Need to Decarbonise the Power Sector?

New research has been found that power companies have been seen to be dragging their feet when embracing green energy sources such as solar and wind power.

According to BBC News, only 1 in 10 energy suppliers globally has prioritised renewable energy usage over fossil fuels. Although, in countries like the UK and across Europe, renewable and clean energy has a large market share, with around 40% of Britain’s electricity being produced by solar or wind sources in 2019. Many of the renewable energy sources installed around the world have been implemented by independent producers and studies have found that only 10% of the power companies researched had expanded their renewable based generation faster than their fossil fuelled capacity.

Our question now is, why does the power industry need to decarbonise and utilise greener energy?

Statistics show that 65% of energy related carbon emissions are connected to the oil and gas industry, and with 20% of the industries CO2 emissions being produced by extraction, processing, transportation and refining activities. It’s in every industries best interests to consider the transition to greener ways of working and understanding due to major pressures from society. However, there’s greater pressure on the power sector as they have demands from both society and other industries. By this we mean, with the heating and transportation industry, and many others following, seen to be ‘going green’ this actually means they’re electrified. With a greater demand for electric power comes the increased desire for the power sector to decarbonise its processes in order for other industries to be fully socially responsible. This is large burden for the power sector to carry but it won’t disappear, which means the power sector must start to decarbonise the industry.

With past challenges being cost of the green technologies, this is no longer an issue as many solar and wind power sources are cost effective and don’t require too much investment like they used to. So, what’s stopping the power sector from making the move and expanding their renewable based generation capacity rather than relying on fossil fuels?

Well it’s the steady reassurance of the non-renewable energy that prevents power sectors from adopting renewable and alternative power sources. Wind and solar power are argued to be too intermittent for solid use which is why power companies are reluctant to invest in higher capacity for green energy. However, according to McKinsey & Company, wind and solar powered energy can actually work cohesively eliminating the intermittent behaviour. For example, markets who have invested in both wind and solar have found that winds are stronger at night and during the winter, and vice versa with the summertime and solar energy. Markets with both sources are better equipped to manage the feared intermittency of power. Another way around the irregularity of power for green energy could be the storage of unused green energy. This method has been documented and proven to work, although utility companies are still yet to implement renewable energy as a long-term plan.

So, the hot topic asks what is holding the power industry back from expanding and growing their renewable energy power sources?