Floods and droughts have never been far from the news in the last few months. South-east Europe has seen record high temperatures, while much of northern Europe experienced its wettest July on record. Other extreme weather events have occurred in China and elsewhere. While no single weather event can ever be said to have been caused by a changing climate, the overall picture is in line with the predictions made by climate scientists. (Worryingly, one area where predictions and observations do differ is the rate of ice melt, which appears to be much faster in practice than predicted, with the feedback loops proving stronger than anticipated.)
The resulting concern has helped to provide a more favourable backdrop for legislators as a range of support measures are finding their way on to the statute books in different countries. Germany led the way at the start of the decade. Following modification of its feed-in tariff in 2001, that country’s solar industry has – famously – taken off, and German businesses such as Q-Cells, Ersol, SolarWorld and Phoenix Solar are just some of those that have become significant players in the global photovoltaics market in a short space of time (see news section for some impressive half-year results.) Other countries have taken note. In Europe, Spain, Italy, France and Greece are all pressing ahead with feed-in tariffs of their own. In total, over 40 countries and regions around the world have now initiated some form of feed-in tariff, with South Australia being the latest (see news, page 12).
Elsewhere, key measures to support the renewables industry in the US have made significant progress recently with a renewable energy standard approved by the House of Representatives, together with agreement on several other measures, including extensions of tax credits for wind and solar. Whether Congress will now actually pass the energy bill, and if so whether these measures will survive, is an open question as it is likely to get caught up in the wider political debate between the parties in the next few months. Yet there are also those, such as Paul Gipe in our Last Word column (page 133), who argue that to spur the uptake of a wide range of renewables technologies, a feed-in tariff would be a significantly better option for the US.
Meanwhile, the UK has taken a different approach, with recently leaked briefing papers for ministers suggesting that because the country has ‘achieved little so far on renewables’, some ‘statistical interpretations of the target’ (the EU’s 20% energy from renewables by 2020) should be used as a substitute for any real action to boost the installed renewable energy capacity!
As this page has said so many times, there are many types of policy that can grow renewables – but they all have to be designed to encourage a multitude of technologies and, essentially, must take the long-term view.
As usual, the features in this issue describe elements of the practical action needed to turn all these targets and aspirations into a reality. For instance, Wayne Appleyard and David Konkle explain how a US city is set to use solar thermal to reach its renewables targets; Eize de Vries visits an ambitious new business with its sights set on offshore wind; Edward Milford explores how high-profile projects can educate the public; Paula Mints looks at market growth scenarios for solar PV; Rolf de Vos examines the progress of Europe’s offshore wind developments; Neil Botha analyses what it takes for a renewables business to succeed; and Jonathan Johns and his team assess the appeal of international markets for investors.
Editor, Renewable Energy World
P.S. It was a pleasure to see many familiar faces at our Renewable Energy Europe event in Madrid at the end of June. Next year’s event will be held in June in Milan, Italy, alongside PowerGen Europe – abstracts are now being accepted at www.renewableenergy-europe.com.