The high-level international policy agenda dominated the global energy transition’s week, as US President Joe Biden not only brought America back into the global climate mainstream but positioned it for leadership.
Biden’s pledge during his pre-COP26 climate summit to slash US emissions by 50% before 2030 and his rousing call for all nations to “step up” served to underline again how much has changed in American energy policy since Donald Trump left the White House.
It also brought a response. China pledged cooperation with the US over climate issues – no mean feat given wider policy tensions between the superpowers – while the UK and Canada announced more robust emissions targets.
Japan, often criticised as a climate laggard, almost doubled its targets and said it would act to eliminate barriers to renewable energy growth, while the EU unveiled a 55% compromise goal that was condemned as too low by Green politicians.
The urgency of a policy response was underlined by a stark report from the International Energy Agency (IEA)that flagged a steep rebound for emissions from 2020 pandemic levels – a revival dismally led by coal and gas, not renewables.
Meanwhile, the World Energy Forum highlighted the patchy nature of the global response to the climate emergency so far but, more encouragingly, expects it to accelerate.
The implications for big players in the renewable energy industry were stressed by a report from analysts at Sydbank, who said the US and EU targets are “worth gold” for wind OEM Vestas over the long term.
While policymakers talked, the week brought significant news in energy storage, which is set to be one of the decisive sectors of the energy transition.
An innovative ‘hot rocks’ energy storage system design being developed by Stiesdal Storage Technologies took another step towards commercialisation thanks to a new investment by Danish power and fibre-optic group Andel.
There was also fresh government backing for Canada’s largest clean-energy storage facility, a giant up-to-500MW system based on compressed-air technology.
Batteries were also the target of ambitious new plans as sector giant Fluence linked with start-up Northvolt to develop next-generation grid scale technology.
Market analysis from Wood Mackenzie brought home the scale of the commercial opportunity. The research group reckons some 720GWh-worth of capacity is expected to be wired-in globally by 2030, with a booming US outstripping China as soon as mid-decade.
Offshore wind is finding new routes to satisfy its extraordinary appetite for growth across the world.
One is by opening up new markets, as highlighted by Recharge in an exclusive interview with southern hemisphere offshore wind pioneer Andy Evans on plans for 10GW-plus of mostly floating wind power off Australia and New Zealand.
Another path to growth for offshore wind is the type of epic-scale innovation shown by Denmark with its world-first energy island plan that could itself host up to 10GW – and for which Orsted was this week confirmed as a bidder.
Innovation was also on show as concrete slipforming from the oil & gas sector was called into play for the ground-breaking Hywind Tampen floating wind project, and in the vessels sector, where China started building a super-installer capable of handling turbines up to 20MW.
The sector continued to show its importance in helping America achieve Biden’s green goals as Recharge reported that a ‘who’s who’ of offshore wind big-hitters are lining up to take part in a record-scale next leasing round in the New York Bight, including US Wind, whose CEO, Jeff Grybowski, we interviewed last week to get his take on the soon-to-boom regional market.
And at a US lease area that’s already been secured in nearby in New Jersey, Shell-EDF US offshore wind joint venture Atlantic Shores will soon get down to business when it launches a pair of data collection buoys to amass key atmospheric and weather data.