Phasing out fossil fuels: a step in the right direction

Guest post by Leanne Thompson

“Clean growth is not an option but a duty.”

Those were the words spoken by Theresa May following the release of the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy last October; a plan that aims to decarbonise all sectors of the UK economy through the 2020s.

And she’s right.

The warming of the Earth from burning fossil fuels will have major repercussions at some point in the future: rising seas, mass extinctions, super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes, decreased crops and fresh water and the melting of the Arctic are expected. And that’s before listing the direct effects on human health.

Moving away from fossil fuels is imperative and as innovation in renewables and green energy continues, many sectors and areas are coming up with ways to help consumers become actively more conscious.

One of the more obvious sectors is the automotive sector, and the continuous surge of people buying hybrid and electric vehicles. Car manufacturers are investing a lot in developing both hybrid and all-electric vehicles so they are able to keep up with the onslaught of tightening emissions standards from governments.

It’s estimated that by 2030, there could as many as 9 million pure electric vehicles on the roads in the UK. Currently, there are 38 million vehicles on UK roads altogether. While this appears to be a great forward move (and, on the whole, it is), there is the issue that creating electricity often requires the burning of fossil fuels, which seems relatively counter-productive.

However, as Eco-Business reported, renewable energy actually became the cheapest form of electricity in 58 emerging economies last year, meaning creating electricity by clean means is beginning to look like it will soon become the norm. In the UK at least, renewable energy accounts for 26% of energy production (as of earlier this year), and even though wind speeds have been lower than in previous times, because wind farm capacity is increasing, energy generation is higher.

With these dramatic falls in the cost of renewable energies, such as solar PV, onshore and offshore wind, as well as battery energy storage technology, the prospect of complete decarbonisation of the UK’s electricity supply is now in sight.

Dr Jonathan Scurlock, Chief Adviser for Renewable Energy and Climate Change at the National Farmer’s Union, has stated the importance that the farming sector will play in decarbonising the UK’s heat supply, explaining not only the opportunities for farmers and landowners that are available in producing low-carbon gas for energy, but of new technologies that are on the horizon.

Talking about the excitement surrounding electric tractors, which may be rolled out a soon as 2020 – at least ten years sooner than many had speculated – he said, “imagine a farm where electric agricultural vehicles are connected to charging points in large solar equipped ‘carport-style’ machinery sheds, earning additional income from so-called ‘vehicle-to-grid’ network balancing services while they are on-charge. This may be no longer science fiction, but instead the technology of the near future.”

And it’s not just the commercial large-scale industries and organisations that are transferring to electric based machines. With the power of the sun available to almost everybody now, with household solar PV panels available at diminishing prices, even luxury items like ride-on lawnmowers can be emission free.

“There are times in the summer, when I’m running my electric lawn mower, I realise I’m mowing my grass from the sun,” said a Mr. Sherer, a householder who’s had solar panels on his roof for 6 years. Making small changes, such as replacing a petrol mower with a cordless electric one, may seem insignificant, but as Jesper Berggreen writes in Clean Technica, talking about and recommending products like this with friends and neighbours “the likelihood that they will also make that choice increases.”

While there are many obvious products and sectors that can be revamped to become more green, there may be a huge one hidden in plain sight. Currency, and the printing of money, creates large amounts of emissions, however, as the cryptocurrency boom takes place, it seems that the future of money is digital.

This would eliminate the need to run factories to manufacture the currency, and while mining the likes of BitCoin may produce large amounts of emissions, there are countless other digital currencies that are produced by lower emission-producing means that could begin to catch up.

All in all, it is impossible to ignore the green direction that the world is headed, and with more companies and individuals getting on the bandwagon, the ball will keep rolling.

Leanne is a freelance writer with a passion for travelling and reading. When not exploring parts of the world, you’ll find her buried in a good book and relaxing with her dogs.

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