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Editorial comment

As summer gives way to autumn, the need for renewable energy has never been more apparent. Awkward small talk about the weather is becoming less avoidable, and all the more important, as harsher weather conditions become commonplace. After all, this summer was, in many places, one of sweltering heatwaves and record-setting temperatures. June was declared the hottest on record – 0.5°C warmer than the 1991 – 2020 average1 – while July saw temperatures soar to over 50°C in the Death Valley (the US) and the Sanbao Township in the north-west of the Turpan Depression (China). Numerous records were set across Southern Europe, China, the US, and Mexico for the longest duration of high temperatures. Experts have concluded that the frequency, duration, and pervasiveness of this summer’s heatwaves would have been virtually impossible in a pre-industrial climate.2


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The end of July ushered in wildfires in Corfu, Rhodes (Greece), and later Lahaina, Maui (Hawaii), in August: a tragedy which so far has 115 confirmed fatalities.3 All of these wildfires made headlines as holidays were cancelled and videos of landscapes and buildings going up in flames surfaced. Yet the underlying question remains: what caused them? While these wildfires cannot be solely attributed to global warming, anthropogenic climate change has exacerbated the prerequisite warm and dry conditions of dangerous, fast-spreading, and long-burning wildfires.4 Essentially, more frequent wildfires are a symptom of a rapidly changing climate.5 To avoid worsening these conditions, a rise in renewable energy is needed.

Though it is not all wildfires, heatwaves, doom, and gloom regarding climate change in 2023, as trends in the renewable energy industry are responding to these rising temperatures. Of the US$2.8 trillion globally invested in energy in 2023, clean energy sources are set to rise to US$1.7 trillion, with solar bypassing oil production for the first time.6 According to BNEF, US$239 billion was invested in large and small scale solar projects in 1Q23, half of which was accounted for by China, with US$25.5 billion being invested in the US. Europe, the Middle East, and Africa also saw record-breaking investments.7 Similarly, global wind turbine orders have hit a 69.5 GW high in 1H23 which is a 12.5% increase y/y.8

New and innovative methods to commission renewable energy are more frequent as solar farms are being built in airports and opencast mines,9,10 turning emission hotspots into clean energy producers. New technologies, such as the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) platforms used in Sao Tomé and Príncipe, harness ocean temperature gradients for clean energy, reducing the tropical island’s reliance on diesel.11 Similarly in Cincinnati, Ohio, Synthica uses anaerobic digesters, turning 500 t of food waste into renewable gas, cutting carbon dioxide emmissions;12 waste management is a topic closely covered by ESWET in the last article of this issue of Energy Global.

Also featuring is an article from Lhyfe about the world’s first offshore renewable hydrogen production pilot, Sealhyfe, in St Nazaire, France: a step towards the sustainable production of offshore hydrogen. It is these developments in the renewable energy industry that are paving the way to a net-zero future.

Yet, challenges persist; for example, while wind turbines produce clean energy, the steel used to build them does not, and greener manufacturing is necessary in order to be truly renewable.13 Moreover, increased investment in green energy, particularly in small scale solar, must rise by 76% to meet net-zero by 2050 targets.14 Lastly, the need to sustainably produce hydrogen remains a hot topic in the industry, again this will be covered in the latter half of this issue. Addressing these matters are crucial in order to combat the intensity of heatwaves seen this summer, and so again, the need to invest in renewable energy has never been more apparent.

References are available upon request.

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