Boom time for clean energy, China cuts carbon and why firms opt for sustainability

Renewable power generation at tipping point

The renewable energy market has reaching a tipping point, accounting for more than half of the world’s new electricity generation capacity for the first time. According to new statistics from the International Energy Agency, zero-carbon sources of energy accounted for 153 gigawatts (GW) of new power capacity last year. Most of the new capacity comes from wind (at 66 GW) and solar photovoltaics (49 GW).  

The IEA sees the pro-renewables trend continuing, predicting zero-carbon electricity production will grow by more than 60% between now and 2021. The total amount of electricity generated from renewable sources is expected to exceed 7,600 terawatt hours by 2021. Around two-thirds of this growth in production capacity will occur in just four markets: China (37%), US (13%), EU (12%) and India (9%). Over the same period costs are expected to drop by 25% in solar PV and 15% for onshore wind. However conventional sources such as oil, gas, coal and nuclear are still predicted to make up 72% of total global power generation by 2021 (down from 77% today). The most starting statistic in the whole report: China installed two wind turbines every hour in 2015.

China leads G20 on reducing carbon intensity

China is decarbonising its economy faster than any other G20 country, according to a new studyby professional services firm PWC. The world’s largest economy saw its “carbon intensity” levels drop by 6.5% in 2015, well beyond the 3.5% cut that it committed to under the Paris Agreement. China’s carbon intensity (measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide per million US dollars of gross domestic product) is still relatively high, at 475.

The UK is the second-best performer in the index, with an annual reduction of 6%. At 157, the UK’s carbon intensity is less than a third that of China. Only France (121) and Italy (153) have lower carbon intensities. That said, of the four countries that saw their carbon intensity increase last year, Italy was the worst, increasing by 4.7%. Other poor performers include Indonesia (up 0.6%), Brazil (up 0.8%) and Saudi Arabia (up 1.1%).

The collective reduction in carbon intensity for the G20 was 2.8%, more than double the group’s average cut of 1.3% over the last 15 years. A 2.8% reduction still falls far short of the scale of reductions needed to keep temperature rises at two degrees by the end of the century. Wind and solar energy output grew at 17.4% and 32.6%, respectively, last year, but are still “tiny fractions” of the whole energy system, PwC concludes.

Brand positioning big motivator for sustainability

Improved customer relations and enhanced brand reputation are some of the biggest perceived benefits of integrating sustainability into business operations, a new report finds. More than two-fifths (41%) of the 1,524 respondents in a survey by certification firm DNVGL cited this motivation. This compares to around one third who cited regulatory compliance (32%), just over one quarter for financial effects (27%) and one fifth for improved stakeholder relations (20%).

The main obstacle to integrating sustainability is the prioritisation of other issues, 36% of respondents said. Around one quarter of those surveyed, meanwhile, cited a focus on short-term results (26%), lack of management awareness (24%) and insufficient staff competencies (22%) as being important barriers. When it comes to supporting the process of integration, more than half (53%) say the adoption of management systems is the most important step a company can take. Engagement of stakeholders (34%) and the creation of sustainable innovation (30%) are also considered important.

As for what companies are actually doing to integrate sustainability, the most common responses include introducing policies that reduce their company’s negative impacts (32%), setting and implementing sustainable strategies (30%), developing sustainable products (23%), building a sustainability culture (23%) and managing their supply chains (22%). The research was carried out in association with professional services firm EY and market research expert GFK Eurisko.

clean energy  renewable energy  carbon reduction  sustainability 

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