Although the Covid-19 pandemic has recently pushed environmental concerns to the bottom of the priority list, sustainability is set to place firmly at the top of Government and business agendas on 2021.
The coronavirus has served to highlight the importance of the relationship between people and the planet we live on. With material waste piling up due to increased medical need for single-use plastic, lockdown restrictions have fundamentally changed the lives and expectations of consumers, and the predicted global recession decimating Government and company budgets, renewable energy providers will be forced to innovate like never before.
Here are five ways that sustainable energy will continue to change in the next year.
5 Renewable Energy Trends for 2021
1. Projects & Expansion Driven by Governments
Whilst Government support has proven vital to renewables projects over the past decade, 2021 will see increased partnerships between politicians and business leaders.
The completion of renewables projects and adoption of sustainable energy in the future will depend on the commitment of political leaders in the year ahead. In the next five years, almost half of wind and solar projects in the pipeline are tied to planned (but not finalised) government-backed incentives. States with higher available capital will need to work closely with less wealthy regions to ensure all projects go ahead – successfully and safely – following a reduction in spend and throughout the predicted global economic recession.
The situation is not quite as dire as it might be: countries around the world have already introduced programmes to use the energy industry to stimulate economic growth and job creation. Renewables will be a popular option for Governments globally in the coming years, as the cost of electricity from onshore wind and solar power is increasingly cheaper than that from fossil fuel plants. In score of regions around the world, renewables are the cheapest way of meeting the growing demand of thriving populations and economies, as well as creating their own innovation hubs to rival technology leaders, and meeting emissions targets needed to satisfy larger political players on the world stage.
2. The Dawn of Green Hydrogen
Although recent years have seen green hydrogen lacking in popularity due to financial constraints – green hydrogen can be up to four times as expensive as its grey counterpart – 2021 will see greater adoption of this more environmentally friendly matter.
In the next 5-10 years, the Hydrogen Council predict that green hydrogen will be 'cheaper than unabated fossil-fuel H2 by 2030'. The cost reductions will be driven by the overall efficiencies in renewable energy in recent years, and increased global Government focus on transport and heat as key areas to reduce carbon emissions. Politicians and businesses around the world will increasingly concentrate their innovation efforts on industrial manufacturing processes and heavy goods transportation, which will be fuelled by Government-subsidised investment into green hydrogen as a new renewables solution.
3. New Jobs and Career Paths for Millions Around the World
Covid-19 saw multiple millions around the world lose permanent jobs, employment contracts and long-held livelihoods. However, a focus on a sustainable future could serve to boost economies globally in addition to aiding the environment.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that each $1million invested in renewables or energy flexibility could create 25 jobs, while each $1million invested in efficiency could create another 10 jobs. IRENA estimates that transforming energy systems based on renewables could boost global GDP by $98trillion by 2050 and create 63million new jobs globally. In India, which saw over 100million job losses during the 2020 lockdown, 1.3 million full-time jobs could be created by delivering 160 GW from renewables by 2022.
The hiring of workers from other industries and those without ready-made skillsets will see recruiters look to the next generation of trainees. Apprenticeships, though highly regarded by Engineering employers and currently low in demand from potential candidates, will be prioritised by Governments and business leaders to attract and engage younger talent pools.
4. Global Hydropower Growth Driven by China
Hydropower is the UK’s fourth most-generated renewable energy source, accounting for around 1.8% of our total electricity supply and 18% of our total renewable energy. However, around the globe, hydropower is the number one source of renewable energy, encompassing 71% of the world’s total renewable electricity and almost one fifth of total global electricity overall.
These steadily rising figures are set to soar in the year ahead. GlobalData predicts that the hydropower industry will grow by more than a third to reach over 165GW of installed capacity in the next ten years, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 2.4% until 2030. In the coming decade, hydropower is expected to remain the world’s largest source of renewable electricity generation and play a critical role in the transformation from fossil fuels to renewables.
Although China is currently rivalled in hydropower generation by Canada, America, Russa and Brail, the strong capacity expansion and water availability seen by Chinese energy suppliers in 2019 has enabled the country to regain its 25-year-long status as a champion and key generator of hydropower. Although Chinese renewables development has fallen in recent years, two new major projects (Wudongde at 10 GW and Bhaetan at16 GW) are expected to increase both investment and success for China’s sustainable energy market in 2021.
Ankit Mathur, Practice Head of Power at GlobalData, advises: ‘China’s Three Gorges project has remained the unchallenged leader in the list of top hydro projects, with a staggering capacity of 22.5GW. China, which is rich in hydro resources, will continue to preserve its monopoly as the leading country until 2030, with more than 22 projects of gigawatt size under construction, slated to be online by 2030.’
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