Are Power Companies Dragging their Feet with Green Energy?
Sep 16 2020 Read 344 Times
The vast majority of power companies aren’t pulling their weight when it comes to transitioning towards greener forms of energy generation, according to a new study. Published in the scientific journal Nature, the research found that a mere 10% of utility companies worldwide have invested more in renewable energy than fossil fuels over the last 20 years, giving the lie to the idea that many of them are pursuing a green energy revolution.
Although renewables have enjoyed a purple patch of popularity in recent years, many of the new installations of solar, wind and wave farms have been put in place by independent producers. Established multinationals, many of whom are state-owned and serve as the chief provider of electricity in their home country, have not been so quick on the uptake. Their reluctance is hampering global efforts to combat climate change, says Galina Alova, lead author on the paper.
A small minority
In the course of the study, the researchers analysed the activities of more than 3,000 electricity companies across the globe over the last two decades. By using sophisticated machine learning techniques, they were able to identify how much capital had been devoted towards renewables and how much towards fossil fuels in that time. Their findings revealed that only one in 10 companies had actually spent more on green energy than traditional forms of power.
That underlines the fact that huge amounts of money are still being poured into highly damaging sources of energy generation such as coal, which is known to emit significant levels of greenhouse gases and has even been linked to extreme rainfall events. Nonetheless, it remains a hugely popular fuel source in places as diverse as India, the USA and Australia, spelling terrible news for the global environment.
The UK not exempt from criticism
For its part, Great Britain has made impressive strides with regard to its green energy revolution. In 2019, 40% of all British energy needs were produced by renewable sources, while the figures are even more impressive north of the border. Scottish renewables surpassed 30,000GWh last year, reaching around 90% of total electricity consumption. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
For example, biomethane and shale have taken on the mantle of the future of UK gas, which risks detracting from investments in renewable energy. That point was picked up by Alova, who highlighted how investment into gas often fly under the radar. “Renewables and natural gas often go hand in hand, companies often choose both in parallel,” she explained. “So it might be just in media reports we are getting this image of investing in renewables, but less coverage on continued investment in gas. So it's not greenwashing. It is just that this parallel investment in gas dilutes the shift to renewables. That's the key issue.”
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