Even though 2017 has just begun, we are seeing 2016’s sustainable energy activism carry its momentum into the New Year. From the United States to New Zealand, fossil fuel divestment campaigns are sending a clear message to investors and potential investors: protect natural resources and harness renewable energy sources. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is scaling up solar energy initiatives with $3 billion in state investment in addition to the $100 billion pledged by global investors. These trends demonstrate how large-scale investment and governmental policy operate in tandem to propel sustainable development forward. More specifically, The Climate Bonds Initiative saw record issuance in 2016, “The green bond market went from strength to strength, with over $81 billion in issuance, almost double the 2015 tally.”
A new study by University of Sussex Professor Benjamin Sovacool details how the use of renewable energy in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden could serve as a valuable template for other countries interested in transitioning to a long-term, low-carbon energy model. The Nordic nations have geopolitical advantages and significant access to natural resources, but the prospect of replicating this model may serve as an important economic proposition:
The total estimated cost of the Nordic energy transition is roughly $357 billion more than business as usual, which comes to a total of less than 1 percent of cumulative GDP between now and 2050. Almost all of these costs will be offset by fuel savings. Even the external costs associated with the health impacts of air pollution alone in the Nordic countries (about $9 to $14 billion annually) are roughly equal to the additional investment needed to achieve a carbon neutral scenario.
While this particular model may take several decades to implement, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have recently created a long-flow battery that can run for approximately a decade with minimal maintenance. What does this mean for the renewable energy market? It signals the “potential to significantly decrease the costs of production” for both the solar and wind energy communities.
In addition to the previously mentioned market trends in renewable energy, there are diagnostic tools that identify regions where investment is needed most. For example, the New Global Solar Atlas Tool is “targeted for investors and policymakers to be able to understand – from a quick glance – the solar power generation potential of a particular region.” The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA) toolkit shows users where renewable energy investment is beneficial in 13 developing countries. It is tools like these that streamline data sets to maximize the impact of sustainable financing and allow private companies and public organizations to visualize a path toward their goals.
Written by Olivia Dufour