Wind turbines image via chaunceydavis/flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Three things you shouldn’t miss this week

  1. Chart: Falling emissions
Source: Greenpeace
  1. Commentary: From CfDs to Energy Union, an energy revolution is under way – The latest reforms to the UK electricity market have their flaws, but a historic transformation is well under way.
  1. Commentary: The year the dam of denial breaks on climate change – Despite confusing signals, writer Paul Gilding concludes we’re at the edge of something very significant.

 

Will 2015 prove to be a tipping point in the journey to a zero carbon energy system? There were certainly some promising signs this week.
 
Official data confirmed Chinese coal consumption fell 2.9% in 2014, leading to a 1% drop in fossil fuel emissions from the world’s biggest polluter (see our chart of the week). This is partly due to China’s slowing economy, but also a government response to public pressure on air pollution – underlined by the popularity of a state-supported video on its effects.
 
There was progress in the UK too. Latest figures compiled by Carbon Brief showed that UK emissions fell by 9% in 2014 – the largest drop since 2009 when the global financial meltdown brought the economy to a halt. This time emissions fell in spite of economic growth, for a number of reasons: fires put two coal plants out of action; falling wholesale gas prices caused fuel switching; warmer than average weather reduced overall energy consumption; and renewable generation rose to 15% of UK electricity in 2014.
 
The UK government also continued its efforts to increase the share of renewables this week, awarding £315 million to 27 projects through its first ‘contracts for difference’ (CfDs) auction. CfDs provide guaranteed prices for clean energy but also encourage companies to reduce costs. Business Green’s James Murray argues that this, together with reform of the UK electricity market and moves to boost the price of carbon under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, could create a clean energy revolution in the UK which could decarbonise electricity in 15 years.
 
But a note of caution was issued by the Committee for Climate Change: the new electricity capacity market – which pays power producers to maintain spare capacity to meet peak demand – risks perpetuating coal rather than rewarding technology aimed at reducing energy demand.
 
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