26 July 2022

Achieving net zero is a global ambition. While the UK is one of the leading signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement, it’s not at the forefront of renewable energy. China and The USA offer vital lessons for the UK to learn as it transitions from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

This April saw the US renewable energy market hit new heights in its journey to a carbon-free energy system. The amount of electricity generated by renewable resources in the United States hit 28%. It makes a vital step forward in the country’s environmental policies and transition to net zero.

States like California are leading the way breaking records. The state’s grid got 97.6% of its electricity from clean and renewable energy.

The UK’s recent heatwave has been an extreme wake-up call for energy investors and the public. 80% of the public view renewable energy as the best way to tackle the cost of living, while searches for “solar panels” jumped 100% during the hottest day of the year.

At Green Switch Capital, we’re always exploring new ways to create a sustainable and self-reliant energy system in the UK. What can learn from our friends across the pond? We’re exploring how US renewable energy has hit record levels and whether the UK can do the same.

The US Hits Record Renewable Energy Production

Solar, wind, and hydroelectric dams are at the forefront of renewable energy production in the United States. Ground-breaking investment has seen renewable energy production steadily grow from 8.6% in April 2001 to an encouraging 28% in April 2022.

How has the US market been able to sustainably increase its renewable energy capacity? It’s primarily thanks to their focus on solar and wind power. Infrastructure development in the last decade has focused exclusively on natural gas, solar, and wind power.

One of the more surprising elements of this record energy production is that more electricity was generated by wind and solar power in the United States than by nuclear plants. Nuclear power plants have consistently produced 20% of electricity in the United States as a carbon-neutral solution.

This production level dropped to 18% in April, while wind and solar combined achieved 19.6% - almost the typical rating for nuclear plants.

When we accumulate nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, and wind power, roughly 46% of electricity in the United States came from carbon-neutral or net-zero sources. It poses a vital benchmark for other countries, including the United Kingdom, to learn from.

California’s 97% Renewable Power Record

One area of the United States that we should watch with interest is California. The California Independent System Operator caught the headlines globally in April when it set a record of 97.6% of electricity from renewable and clean energy. It broke the previous 96.4% record set only the month before.

The ISO pointed to solar power as the key to sustainable clean energy stability year-round. California is aiming for a carbon-free power system by 2045 with storage as a focal point for reliability.

While the 97% record was only for a brief time, it showcases the potential of cities and states to adopt clean, green energy as their primary electricity source.

What the UK Can Learn From the US

It’s worth prefacing the US’s record renewable energy production with the fact it happened in April. The spring months are universally the best time for renewable energy production as it provides peak performance for solar panels.

The typical windy weather also offers higher performance for wind turbines than the summer months. The grid, therefore, relies less on fossil fuels and nuclear power in the spring due to this consistent trend.

The United States also shows the capacity of renewable energy as a more affordable alternative to natural gas and fossil fuels. In 2021, the cost of a megawatt-hour of electricity from a wind turbine ranged from $26 to $50. The cheapest natural gas price ranged from $45 to $74 for the same megawatt-hour of electricity.

By building its renewable energy sector, the United States is not suffering the same cost of living crisis as the United Kingdom. This self-sufficient energy system means it doesn’t rely on overseas imports or fossil fuels to make up the shortfall of renewables.

Green Energy + Net Zero

One of the biggest lessons that the UK can learn from the US is the federal and state mandates and incentives that have encouraged clean energy production. The UK government has recently come under criticism for failing to provide clarity on funding and infrastructure modelling.

The UK can only achieve its net zero targets by learning lessons from the success of the United States. While renewable energy can power 25% of the UK’s energy needs, the United States are on the verge of achieving double that.

One reason why the US has been able to achieve this record-breaking renewable energy production is that it’s been committed to clean energy. The energy sector has focused exclusively on adding only new renewable infrastructure to the grid for the last decade.

Achievements like the United States’ don’t happen overnight. They require long-term investment, strategy, and planning. Our 40-year lease programmes exist to help future-proof the grid by creating the new infrastructure needed to expand capacity.

Building a Self-Reliant Energy System

Green Switch Capital is striving to create a sustainable and self-reliant energy market to achieve net-zero by 2050. Our land-leasing programme strives to transform unused agricultural land into solar farms to transition the grid to green energy. We’re overseeing the development of solar, wind, and battery storage systems.

There are clear lessons to be learnt from the United States’ success. Long-term planning and investment will create sustainable growth within the green energy sector to allow us to phase out fossil fuels.

Moving to renewable energy and removing our reliance on foreign energy imports will lower energy bills and reduce carbon emissions. You can find out more about our land-leasing programme by contacting our team at info@gscapital.uk or using our contact form.