2016 was the year when the poor relation of the clean energy sector came of age as capacity issues threatened to strangle the rapid growth of renewables
Renewables overtook coal as the biggest source of installed electricity capacity in 2016; Portugal ran entirely on renewable energy for four days in May; and almost half of the UK’s electricity came from clean sources in 2015.
At the same time, a growing roster of the world’s biggest companies – names such as Walmart, Apple, BMW, General Motors, Mars and Microsoft – have committed to procure 100% of their electricity from renewable sources, driving demand for clean energy across economies.
This abrupt advance of clean energy has caused huge dislocation in the power sector, with Germany’s two biggest utilities, RWE and Eon, both splitting in two and separating their renewable portfolios from their legacy fossil fuel and nuclear assets. Countries such as the UK, Finland, France and Canada announced this year that they will close all of their coal-fired power plants by 2030 or earlier.
Grid struggles with demand
But the renewable energy sector has expanded so rapidly that it is starting to become a victim of its own success. As we explored in our briefing on Germany’s Energiewende in September, grids are struggling to cope with the amount of solar and wind power at peak times and with...