Britain’s exit from the EU, were it to happen, could cost the country more than just its regional political membership. The UK might also be cut off from billions in clean energy investment handed out by the European Investment Bank. Britain is the biggest recipient of the EIB’s Climate Awareness Bond Project, for example, taking 24% of the project’s 7.2 billion euros. Its right to similar investment opportunities could be at stake. “If you’re not a shareholder or you’re not part of the EU, you wouldn’t derive the same privileges as a shareholder or an EU member,” said Peter Munro, head of investor relations for the bank in Luxembourg.
Fourteen academics and former chiefs of UK environmental bodies also weighed in on the campaign to keep Britain in the EU after saying that a so-called Brexit would be “damaging for Britain’s environment”. In a letter to UK Environment Secretary Liz Truss, the group of experts made the case to remain in the EU, stating that a departure would remove the environmental regulations and safeguards brokered between the bloc’s 28 member states. “EU coordination, legislation and policy has been critical to improving the UK’s environmental quality,” the group said. The letter concluded saying “we will better able to protect the quality of Britain’s environment if we stay in Europe”.
While Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold a referendum by the end of 2017, the vote could take place as early as June, if Cameron reaches a deal with EU leaders over the terms of Britain’s future membership of the bloc.
Meanwhile, one company undaunted by the threat of Brexit is Dong Energy, the world’s biggest offshore wind developer. Denmark-based Dong already has investment decisions planned up to 2020 and said “there won’t be any impact from a British decision to leave the EU”. Instead, the company plans to push ahead with three projects totaling 1.5GW by 2020. Dong has spent almost GBP 6bn on projects in the UK, almost GBP 5bn of which went for offshore wind.
While those on both sides of the Brexit campaign continue discussions, chiefly centred on the issue of Britain’s autonomy, elsewhere in the region, the European Commission is seeking greater authority over the approval of car models following Volkswagen’s emissions-test deception. The European regulator’s proposal is unlikely to sit well with national governments, according to Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the European Parliament who suggests the new draft law would face resistance. “It boils down to giving away national sovereignty to Brussels,” Eickhout said. If enacted, the plan would lead to more centralised market oversight and greater independence of vehicle-testing organizations. The Commission would also have the power to fine carmakers for breaches of environmental or safety standards. The proposal to strengthen the EU system of authorising vehicle models will ultimately need the approval of EU governments and the European Parliament.
Meanwhile, in the Southern-Hemisphere, Chile’s thriving solar industry is helping the nation become Latin America’s clean energy leader. In 2015, its solar generation capacity exceeded 1GW, up from just over 500MW a year earlier. Situated in the northern part of Chile is the Atacama Desert, endowed with sunlight and fuelling Chile’s booming solar sector. In utilising its resources, solar is now its cheapest source of electricity, Deutsche Bank said last year following an electricity auction in October.
Chile is not the only emerging economy to see substantial growth in renewables. Last year saw record investment in clean energy in Latin America and the Caribbean, which reached $17.4bn, up 11% on the previous year, according to a BNEF Analyst Reaction. Brazil, Chile and Mexico were the key drivers of capital growth into the region. Wind and solar sectors accounted for the lion’s share of investment secured.
As well strong growth in wind and solar, energy storage, part of energy smart technologies, will see continued growth with 750MW expected to be commissioned in 2016, up from 378MW last year, according to a BNEF Analyst Reaction.