The Green Energy and Climate Watch List for 2016 (Part II)


Last week we released the first part of our list of things to look out for in 2016 on the Green Energy / Renewables / Climate Change front and this week we’re following it up with the second and final installment.

Residential renewable energy storage will come online but will remain a niche market:

2015 was the year of storage hype, with Tesla and a slew of competitors announcing battery packs to store renewable-generated electricity. The idea is that energy storage will bridge the gaps in production by renewable technologies like solar and wind, which don’t produce energy 24/7 and have varying output at different times of day and of the year. Despite how nice this sounds, the fact that battery materials are rare and expensive and that the technology itself is rather new will keep adoption low, likely limited only to people with very high purchasing power. It will take some time for energy storage systems to become more widely affordable. So, batteries will start selling but they won’t be revolutionizing the market or becoming mainstream despite all the fanfare they received last year in the press.

The United States presidential elections will impact everything-climate related:

2016 is the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency. As American presidents so often do when their time in the Oval Office is winding down, Obama is now in “legacy-building” mode, and part of his efforts have focused on Climate Change. This makes November’s election especially key, because depending on who wins we will see the US likely continue the trend Obama has started, or regress towards anti-science, reactionary policies. It is widely known that the Republican Party overwhelmingly denies the existence of anthropogenic climate change. This has to do with the party’s conservative-Christian identity (which in the US has a bearing on individuals’ attitudes towards science), but more so with the fact that the American fossil fuel industry donates hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican politicians all over the country to protect its interests. If either of the two Republican front-runners (Donald Drumpf, who has comically been requested to be banned from entering the UK via a popular petition, or Ted Cruz) were to win the election it is easy to envision the US failing to make emissions cuts due to an anti-climate White House, or withdrawing from the Paris Agreement altogether. It is worth remembering that the US never ratified the Kyoto Protocol under Clinton or Bush, and something similar could happen again depending on who occupies the Oval Office next year. This would be disastrous, because as the world’s second largest polluter and its largest economy, US withdrawal could be seen by other states as legitimizing inaction on climate change. There is ample precedent of countries adopting a “If they’re not doing it why should we?” attitude towards climate and emissions reduction.

 We will see more cities/regions/states reaching 100% renewable or passing laws to do so:

As we wrote in a previous article, 100% renewable energy scenarios are not only possible, they are even feasible with current technologies. 2015 saw a number of advances in this direction, such as the famous ski-resort city of Aspen declaring it is now powered 100% by renewable energy. Also in the Americas, Costa Rica generated 99% of its power in 2015 from renewable sources. In Europe, Austria’s largest region of Lower Austria, with a population of 1.6 million, also achieved the 100% renewable goal.

In addition, numerous cities and regions have made pledges in the form of legislation to power themselves entirely with renewable energy within a set time frame. The two most noteworthy examples are the state of Hawaii, which has committed to being 100% renewable in 30 years, and the southern-Californian city of San Diego, which has made the same pledge for 2035. That may seem like a long time, but both are actually pioneers in their efforts. Hopefully we will soon see similar commitments in the UK.

It seems that achieving 100% renewables at a national level is still a ways’ away, but in the meantime plenty of municipalities and regions are taking the initiative and leading by example. With the positive influence of the Paris Climate Agreement, expect to see more and more towns and cities passing legislation and implementing plans to go 100% renewable in 2016.