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Expert Opinion

Renewable energy investments: What’s the plan in our region?

The importance of climate change has never been more urgent, and councils and businesses in Birmingham have ambitious plans afoot to ensure energy in the city is renewable, and the environment is greener. Local businesses, enterprise groups, and government bodies are working together to make significant renewable energy investments.

Solihull Council is currently planning a large-scale support plan for Shirley’s town centre, working in partnership with the Local Enterprise Centre to develop the high street. The six-figure investment plan will make the town more environmentally friendly, planting more trees, and hosting environmental days to tackle litter and other environmental issues.

The Government also has an ambitious target to provide clean energy by 2025 to over seven million homes, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time reducing the cost of energy. The ‘Contracts for Difference’ scheme, operating at 12 UK locations, including Birmingham, will invest in greener energy provision including off-shore wind farms, Advanced Conversion Technology (generating energy from landfill waste) and Remote Island Wind projects, which harness the energy from strong winds on remote islands to transform it into an affordable, renewable energy source.

The UK is already a world leader in offshore wind power. By signing a deal in March this year worth £250 million, the Government has reinforced its commitment to maximising the potential for offshore wind supplies by 2030. This deal will ensure around a third of the UK’s power will come from zero carbon offshore wind supplies.

The significant investment in energy means that renewable energy sources have now overtaken fossil fuels as the primary source for the UK in quarter three of 2019. The Carbon Brief Report called this a ‘symbolic milestone’. It is a significant leap forward considering in 2010 non-renewable fossil fuels accounted for 75% of the UK’s energy sources.

Despite this landmark breakthrough, the Carbon Brief Report points out that the UK is still off target to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It points out that while fuels like biomass are renewable, they still produce carbon, and may actually produce emissions higher than some forms of fossil fuel.

Further green initiatives include BP’s venture capitalist arm, BP Ventures investment in Grid Edge. It is a start-up that is using AI software to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, predicting the change in energy usage requirements based on a range of data sources about number of occupancies at certain times of the day and also weather and climate data.

The Chief Executive of BP Alternative Energy, Dev Sanyal, explains the move is part of a strategy to create an ecosystem of low carbon, digitally enabled companies that can support its commercial and industrial customers.

Development of rail infrastructure such as the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, the largest investment in rail since the Industrial Revolution, will also bring economic and environmental benefits from Birmingham northwards and throughout the whole of the north of England. This massive railway upgrade will remove the need for 64,000 car trips a day, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, speeding up transport links, and making rail a much more attractive and viable form of travel for commuters living in the north.

With such focus on protecting the environment, the future looks bright for the greener energy industry.