Reposted from jonathonporritt.com.
As you can imagine, there was still quite a lot of post-Paris pixie-dust being sprinkled around in Abu Dhabi. At the first World Future Energy Summit, nine years ago, conventional oil-drenched thinking about renewables was still dominant: it would remain a slow-growing, uncompetitive niche player for the foreseeable future. This year, the change in mood, perception and performance was dramatic, and the global renewable industry is now bristling with confidence and ambition.
The statistics speak for themselves. Renewable energy as a whole (electricity, heating and liquid fuels) has grown 85% over the last ten years – and now provides 30% of all installed power capacity. Investment in 2014 was $270bn – up from just over $50bn ten years ago. And 2015 is looking even better. And all that was before the Paris Agreement.
But it’s not all upside. I encountered a lot of angst-ridden companies complaining about the barriers involved in getting to scale, about the lack of really good investment options, about the way that politicians the world over continue to screw up policy frameworks and incentives.
These are all legitimate concerns. But there was not one person at this year’s Summit who would contest today’s post-Paris reality: that the renewables revolution is now unstoppable, and that it could all go a great deal faster, everywhere in the world, than many of today’s mainstream pundits would seem to believe. (They clearly haven’t learned enough – if anything – from their erstwhile forecasting errors ten years ago!)
The emphasis at the Summit was mostly on renewable energy generation, but there was a much higher profile than in previous years on all those other technological advances on which renewables themselves depend – namely, storage, energy efficiency, demand management and smart grids. I suspect that this whole ‘support system’ will just grow and grow at future Summits – and may well be reflected in the awarding of future Zayed Future Energy Prizes.
There was also an encouraging determination to link renewable energy to other pressing social and economic issues. Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals focusses not just on renewables, but on energy efficiency and energy access, incorporating all the good stuff pursued since 2012 under the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) banner.
And it seemed to me that a lot more people were also talking about jobs – and the fact that investment in renewables produces far more jobs per $million invested than any other source of energy generation. The numbers are impressive: the latest review from IRENA (the International Renewable Energy Agency) calculates the number of jobs worldwide at 7.7 million, up 18% on the 2014 figure.
Which makes the destruction of the renewable energy industry here in the UK all the more perplexing – a point I shall return to in my final piece.