renewable energy directive

By Paul Davies and Andrew Westgate

China has made notable strides to transition towards a lower-carbon economy. Most recently, local authorities were ordered to halt construction of coal-fired power plants in 13 provinces where capacity already outstrips demand. Demonstrable of its efforts to end reliance on coal and invest in green alternatives, China is ramping up efforts to increase renewable energy use.

China is rapidly emerging as a renewable energy leader and has committed significant investment to achieve a low-carbon future:

  • China invested US$110.5 billion in clean energy in 2015 – a 17 percent increase on the previous year, and nearly double the USA’s investment of US$56 billion.
  • China’s capacity for solar power has grown 169-fold and its wind power capacity has quadrupled in five years.
  • The total share of non-fossil fuels in energy consumption increased to 12 percent in 2015, putting China on track to meet its Paris pledge of 20 percent by 2030.

Whilst encouraging, these figures mask a common challenge faced by all countries seeking to diversify energy resources – renewables capacity going unused. For example, nearly 10 percent of China’s solar capacity remained untapped during Q1 and Q2 of 2015, and 15 percent of wind power remained unused across the year. Daiwa Capital Markets analysts forecast this figure could rise to 18 – 20 percent in 2016. This problem is also common in Europe and referred to as “curtailment”, which typically occurs because the market is structured to source energy from fossil fuels. Consequently, the market must evolve to achieve a fuller transition to renewables.

By Antonio Morales and Rosa Espin

The news that the UK is to start construction on the first nuclear power plant to be built in two decades at Hinkley Point C has put nuclear energy firmly back among the headlines, but will this new £25bn investment signal a new Nuclear era in Europe?

It looks unlikely. Nuclear power plants currently generate nearly 30% of the electricity produced in the EU, yet there is a growing trend towards nuclear phase-out among member states. France is widely considered the leading nuclear power provider in the world and the largest net exporter of electricity, but the passage in France of the Energy Bill will result in a 25% decrease in nuclear energy by 2025. Similarly, Spain’s 1994 nuclear moratorium banned the construction of new nuclear power plants and suspended any ongoing construction works.

While the EU is, on the whole, phasing out nuclear power, emerging markets are increasingly turning to nuclear power to meet the ever-escalating energy demand from their growing populations. According to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015, there are currently 62 nuclear reactors under construction worldwide, dominated by emerging economies such as China, Russia and India.