COP27 has been dubbed the “implementation COP”. Every year since 1995, the world’s governments have gathered at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) to discuss progress and challenges in climate action on several fronts, including the regulation, mitigation, adaptation, emissions, and physical and transition risk. At every COP, official meetings are accompanied by a resounding outcry from businesses, nonprofits, activists and other stakeholders. This year, the appeal both inside and outside the [formal?] meeting rooms means that the time for talking is over. 27e The COP is the time to leave the meeting rooms, roll up our sleeves and build what is needed to achieve all the ambitious goals and complex plans of the previous 26. A key area of action is renewable energy.
The implementation of renewable energy takes place differently around the world. This is partly due to the obvious variations between countries: different distribution networks, different economies, different landscapes, different governments and different social contexts. Beyond this background variation, the feasibility of each type of renewable energy technology differs by location, making broad generalizations and international agreements even more difficult.
When the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law in the summer of 2022, it was widely heralded as the time for the United States to join the European Union and China at the forefront of global development. renewable energies. Interest immediately swirled around the range of financing mechanisms to boost climate action by the US private sector. The ERI amplifies existing momentum and provides mechanisms to ensure support for innovation, encourage adoption of renewable energy sources and accelerate generation and distribution technology, all of which are likely to have an impact not just about US-based businesses and projects, but about the industry globally.
The IRA has placed the implementation of renewable energy at the center of the American climate discourse. This is new to many, but the barriers to implementing renewable energy projects have long been understood by ERM’s renewable energy experts. To understand how the world can implement renewable energy at scale, we spoke with several colleagues who support the efforts of companies to meet the challenges and meet the expectations of regulators, customers and markets. According to them, the successful implementation of renewable energy projects depends on the consideration of the following four factors:
Actors and Landscapes
An integral part of thinking about the renewable energy life cycle is thinking about where new projects can and should be located in the landscape. Many local communities are now reluctant to allow new energy generation facilities into their landscapes, especially those such as solar or wind which cannot be easily hidden and often require significant space and/or types of specific sites. In places where renewables have been part of the energy mix for some time, the most suitable locations have often already been developed. In these cases, planners are now turning to more difficult places. Nikki Payne, North America Renewable Energy Manager, Capital Projects, noted a new trend of locating renewable energy projects on brownfields, which can solve two problems at once by finding a good lens for difficult terrain to use. She noted, however, that converting these former industrial sites to renewable energy project sites may reduce community impact, but may also entail structural design changes and considerations of existing contamination and capped systems. before development can begin.
Project life cycles
Much of the focus so far has been on the technology solutions that underpin renewable energy. The advances that propel today’s renewable energy sector – from turbine or panel design to energy storage – are impressive, but innovation is only one facet of the overall process of delivering energy. renewable energy to users. With renewables now firmly entrenched in the energy sector, industry needs to better manage the life cycle of its components and infrastructure. Life-cycle issues for solar and wind projects could also pose unexpected challenges in some places in the near future, as technological innovation and manufacturing output exceed regulatory capacity for expansion. Solar panel manufacturing is heavily concentrated in China, although recent supply chain disruptions and regulatory complications seem likely to encourage greater geographic spread. Many challenges remain in material sourcing for wind and solar, as well as battery storage. And as panels reach the end of their useful life, decisions about how to reuse or dispose of these materials will also become more crucial.
Distribution and storage
As renewables become a larger part of the overall energy mix of power grids, it becomes more difficult to distribute energy when and where it is needed. Energy produced by solar or wind power can be out of step with customer demands – plentiful when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, but not necessarily in step with peaks in consumer demand. The challenges of storing energy when it is abundant and delivering it when and where it is needed are part of the larger challenge of implementing renewable energy. ERM partner Adam Han noted that a renewable-focused grid will need to be increasingly smart, resilient and streamlined to balance supply and demand in a changing environment. Our current network must grow from a patchwork to a national infrastructure, a complex opportunity that requires urgent planning, digitization and regulatory coordination to ensure success.
The successful implementation of large-scale renewable energy projects is not a problem that can be solved by money, talent or regulation alone. Large-scale implementation requires a thoughtful and intentional approach to ensure cooperation among multiple stakeholder groups. Working relationships will need to be forged between decision makers and experts who may never have worked together before, within companies, between communities and between organisations. To avoid inefficiencies and delays in the development of renewable energy projects, interdisciplinary teams capable of engaging with all stakeholders and ensuring the coordination of complex plans are needed. Todd Hall, global head of ERM services for capital project delivery, noted that current conditions have produced an unprecedented opportunity to scale up renewables at scale, but to capitalize on this opportunity, companies must exercise a proportionate level of strategic decision-making. and ingenuity in site selection, planning and implementation.
The momentum of the 26 COP meetings before 2022 led participating stakeholders to agree on the scope and timing of climate action. With the path clear for action, leaders across all sectors must now consider how to actually implement lasting change. Going too fast, making unwise choices, or ignoring stakeholders can lead to unforeseen logistical or financial problems. For those who have dedicated their careers to implementing renewable energy projects, now is the time to watch the world understand the challenges they have faced for years. In this regard, the COP’s focus on implementation promises to be a welcome source of new energy for the implementation of durable solutions.