A few thought leaders have shared their insights about renewable energy and climate change, and their predictions for 2017.
Terje Osmundsen, Senior Vice President for Business Development in Scatec Solar
I will remember 2016 as the year when the world’s nations showed that they’re motivated to deliver on the Paris agreement. The outcome of the US presidential election is a setback, but will not affect this direction.
In the US we have seen an incredible growth of corporate engagement in renewable energy. It will be exciting to see if companies around the world will follow suit and increase their renewable energy consumption. In our industry, solar power hit new records. Despite lower USD investment in 2015 and 2016, the capacity is still increasing by about 20% per year. For our industry, I will remembered 2016 as the year when solar power hit record prices and record volumes.
Cilia Indahl, Director of Sustainability at Aker BioMarine
2016 followed the great year of progress on sustainability in 2015 with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. 2016 was thought to be the year of doing. Instead it became the year of commitment. Many reacted to the result of the US election with strengthened commitments, and especially on climate change. 369 US corporations wrote a letter to Trump during the Climate Negotiations in Marrakech this year, asking him not to pull out of the Paris Agreement. The asked for a continuation of low-carbon policies, investment in the low-carbon economy at home and abroad, and continued U.S. participation in the Paris agreement.
I feel, despite all the judgement day predictions in the media, that we are entering into the new year with stronger commitments than ever. And with the US stepping down, China is stepping up, taking on a bigger role in global climate negotiations. A turn in events few had anticipated. I think the responsibility for building a global, low-carbon economy will move towards becoming a group effort and not directed by a few states. I think we will see more coopetition among companies, coming together to solve collective challenges for taking down industry CO2 emissions.
Ed Holt, Consultant Ed Holt & Associates, Inc.
2016 has seen continued dramatic cost reductions in renewable energy; more investment in clean energy than in oil and gas; more added capacity in solar than in natural gas; more corporate PPAs than utility PPAs (US, 2015). There’s no turning back for renewable energy. There may be rough seas ahead, but now we’re strong enough to weather any storms.
Predictions for 2017: Before the election, Donald Trump called global warming a hoax, and said he would renegotiate the Paris Agreements. Since the election, he has said he has an open mind on climate change. With some trepidation, I predict that the US won’t pull out of the Paris Agreement. But if it does, it won’t have the major impact that one might imagine, because renewables have become mainstream, and because climate change mitigation efforts will continue at the state and local level in the US.
Steven Vanholme, Program Manager EKOenergy
2016 is a scary year, in the sense that the temperature records and extreme events are fully in line with the worst case scenario. It is also scary in the sense that people react slow, very slow. But 2016 is also a year of hope. Not only because the Paris Agreement became in force. But also because it is now very clear that the growth of renewable energy technologies is unstoppable. They no longer rely on policy, they just make economic sense. And the more people invest in renewable, the cheaper the cost per installed MW becomes. This evolution is unstoppable. I expect the trends to continue. On the one hand this is good, on the other hand, this is not going fast enough to avoid a dramatic climate change. We need to use all available means and methods to speed up the process to a 100% renewable economy. And everybody can help.
I hope that 2017 will be the year in which considerably more companies and households will move from theory and good intentions to action. There are 2 important drivers for that: After the election in the states it is again very clear that we shouldn’t expect much from political decisions. And secondly, renewables are now just cheaper than fossils. I also wonder how long it will take before people will really get angry with the egoistic fossil fuel industry….
Stephen Killeen Chief Executive Officer in Natural Capital Partners
The historic Paris Agreement of 2015 has energized governments and corporates to actively and fully address their emissions. However, it is clear that government actions alone will not meet the ambitious goals set in the Agreement and that corporates will need to bridge the gap. In 2016, Natural Capital Partners has seen multinational corporations get serious about addressing their emissions throughout the business, from headquarters to the most remote operating regions and have now begun to examine the decarbonization of their supply chains.
In 2016, we have seen more corporates making commitments to global organizations such as RE100, the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, Science Based Targets and more. Carbon neutral has resurged as a clear statement of action and impact, demonstrating commitment to change. We expect to see a continuing trend of corporates sourcing portfolios of instruments to achieve their climate and energy goals: carbon credits to address scope 1 and 3 emissions and electricity tracking instruments for scope 2 emissions. New instruments, such as TIGRs, are emerging and I-REC continues to expand to ensure countries throughout the world have certificate tracking systems in place. At the same time, we expect to see the United Kingdom’s REGO (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin) gain wider acceptance as an unbundled instrument to support corporate Scope 2 claims, with the hope that Ofgem, the UK electricity regulator, will join the EECS in order to further accelerate the unbundled REGO market.
Corporates will continue to press for more standardization and clarity in renewable energy markets, especially around additionality, with project-based renewable energy standards emerging as a solution
In 2017 we expect that US corporates will continue to press the federal government to stay the course on climate change and the most progressive US businesses will seize on the opportunity created by uncertainty in Washington to re-establish their leadership credentials with many “doubling down” on their efforts.