A challenging landscape for renewable energy companies
Today I was told a bit of news that saddened me deeply.
A renewable energy supplier is threatened with closing its doors because its project pipeline may not be sufficient to sustain the business. Naturally, it will pull out all the stops to generate those projects.
But there may be no other way to stop the bleeding. Industry experts predict that 40% of solar installers will leave the market1 because of the end of the Feed In Tariffs subsidy, the incentive that moved renewable generation from 2% of all electricity generated in 2009 to 23% today.
The solar industry has taken a considerable hit since the first 18,000 jobs were lost in 2016 when the subsidies began to fall2. The pool of knowledgeable, qualified installers is dwindling here in the South East, where the highest level of solar electricity may be produced in the country. A place where the potential for solar panels, electric charging stations and battery storage can make a huge reduction to our greenhouse gas emissions, help us manage our electricity grid and create clean, safe electricity for the long term.
The link between fossil fuels and nuclear power
Coincidentally Standard & Poors (S&P), the American rating agency, recently announced its support of nuclear power as a means to combat climate change.
For many, S&P is the indicator of good business. Later in the press release, it mentions that the Russian state is very supportive of the development of nuclear power for its country, mentioning its low cost. It turns out this is attributable in large part to the fact that nuclear liabilities had only been recorded since 2011 by the Russian state. Nuclear liabilities in the UK have reached a record £124 billion, although the actual cost is probably closer to £232 billion3.
Russia may have a conflict of interest with its huge reserves of fossil fuels. It says that nuclear emits no greenhouse gases, a perfect counterfoil to its fossil fuel driven economy. We know that the carbon footprint of the concrete required for nuclear power offsets the benefit of any carbon saving from the power plant. A more sinister fact is that nuclear power plants emit other far more dangerous gases than carbon dioxide or methane. Nuclear plants emit radioactive isotopes that cause serious harm. This is being felt now in the area in the south of the Belarussian Republic, where radioactive chemicals fell from the seeded clouds created to keep the radioactive plume from Chernobyl from reaching Moscow. Thirty children there have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, a highly unusual disease in children, 1 in 1 million odds.
Time to Transition to a cleaner future
Kate Brown is a professor of Science, Technology and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has investigated death and chronic illness in the areas around nuclear sites, including the first in the world in Hanford, USA; Siberia; and Chernobyl4. These sites are a “Cascade of Extinction”, according to Prof Brown. It is difficult to consider that nuclear power could ever be an acceptable alternative to fossil fuels given the frequency of fires inside the Chernobyl “dead zone” and contamination caused by the distribution of radioactive smoke in the air 5.
Although Russia is the big leader on radioactive contamination, the UK features on the list of the top 10 radioactive hotspots in the world, with Sellafield receiving the dubious honour of being the largest stockpile of civil plutonium waste in the world6.
This comes down to a moral issue. Can we continue our dependence on fossil fuels, despite the link that we can draw between fossil fuels, nuclear power and the destruction of life in our natural world? Or do we recognise that we must support renewable energy to help us transition from this cycle of violence, war and destruction?
Now is the time to make that choice.
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