In the midst of the gloom of declining levels of work for lawyers and other advisers during the coronavirus pandemic, one area that seems to be flourishing is renewables. We have found that virtually throughout lockdown – and especially as we begin, albeit falteringly, to emerge from it – we have received, if not quite a deluge, certainly a steady flow of new renewables instructions. Some are extensions and enlargements of existing projects, but many are wholly new projects coming on stream.
Why is this?
One reason is undoubtedly financial. An article by Financial Times Environment and Clean Energy Correspondent Leslie Hook, published on 6 May 2020, focused on growth in the renewables market. Entitled ‘Renewables Sector Shrugs off Devastating Effects of Coronavirus’, it highlighted how investments in real assets, which are uncorrelated with the stock market, are shielded from market volatility. It said, “Renewable energy is one of the few sectors that has managed to weather the devastating effects of coronavirus, with new deals and new records being struck, even while the rest of the world has been grappling with the pandemic” and noted that “the renewables sector is forecast by the International Energy Agency to be the only part of the global energy system that will grow this year.”
A second reason is climate change, and the world’s fight against it. There have been many stories of lockdown giving rise to significantly cleaner air – dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere because of reduced emissions from restricted industrial output and much lower levels of transport activity. There are parts of northern India, for example, that have not been able to see the Himalayas for decades where people can now see them from as much as 100 miles away. This, reinforced by the health benefits that result, fuels the growing feeling in society that our recovery from the impacts of the virus must focus on the green economy and the fight against climate change. The opportunity to change both what we do and how we do it is available to us in a way that has never happened before, and it’s too precious an opportunity to be missed.
Thirdly, there is a smaller and more practical reason. The initial surveying and other preliminary work, and even the construction work itself, on renewables projects almost invariably takes place in remote areas, often involving fewer people where social distancing is easier to manage, so these activities have been able to re-start far sooner than other areas of development.
The renewables sector in the UK has had a tough few years following the withdrawal of subsidies for renewable electricity generation. Perhaps this is its chance to shine once again? Let’s hope so.
How can we help?
MacRoberts has been actively involved in a diverse range of renewable energy projects for over 30 years, and our Renewable Energy team works collaboratively with clients across the sector, pioneering projects and contributing to the future of renewable energy and natural resources in Scotland and across the UK.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of your renewable energy project, please contact us.