Investing in a greener future

SPONSORED CONTENT – With a global focus on decarbonisation, the ever-growing renewable energy sector has great investment potential

From climate change activist Greta Thunberg taking the world by storm to the global push for carbon neutrality, going green has gone mainstream. It is now almost universally recognised that we need to act to protect the planet, and we need to act fast. In order to make an impactful change to global warming, almost every industry will have to adapt – and renewable energy is at the heart of this transformation.

Why is renewable energy so important right now?

In 2016, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement was signed with the aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming. Two years later, in 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report warning that the world must reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 in order to prevent dangerous levels of global warming (more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels). Consequences of this include rising sea levels, extreme weather and the extinction of species to name but a few.

The world quickly took notice of this grave warning. As of February 2020, all UNFCCC members have signed the Paris Agreement (although Donald Trump has informed the UN of the USA’s intention to withdraw). While not imposing specific targets, the agreement requires countries to outline and report efforts to mitigate global warming, and to commit to lowering carbon emissions year on year. Many countries have gone further, pledging to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

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The direct result of this is a huge boom in the renewable energy industry. No longer just the realm of snappy startups, the energy and utility giants of the world are realising the importance and potential of going green – increasing the demand for renewable energy technology and infrastructure. The oil and gas giant Shell, for example, has spent $2bn on renewable energy investment each year since 2016.

In the UK, one of the first major economies to commit to net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, renewable energy already makes up a significant portion of our power – in the third quarter of 2019, 38.9% of UK energy use came from renewables.

The key sources of renewable energy

The makeup of renewable energy sources varies hugely by country, dependent on investment as well as the availability of natural resources. For instance, wind power leads the way in the UK, largely due to offshore wind farms. In the USA, hydroelectric power is the dominant renewable source, although companies are also realising the huge potential of solar power. California-based company Enphase Energy, for example, is on a mission to develop its solar capacity to meet the energy demands of the entire world. With so many alternatives to fossil fuels, the potential renewable energy uptake across the world is huge. The main sources of renewable energy are:

  • Solar power: The solar cells in solar panels transform light into direct current (DC) electricity, which is then converted into usable electricity to power homes and businesses. Unlike other energy sources, which require industrial-level infrastructure, solar panels are much more consumer-friendly.
  • Wind power: Another weather-dependent energy source, wind power harnesses the natural energy of the wind through wind turbines. Most turbines only need a gentle breeze to start turning, so they have great potential worldwide.
  • Hydro energy: Hydro energy uses underwater turbines to generate power from the movement of water. This can be done through purpose-built hydroelectric dams or through the natural movement of tides.
  • Biofuel and bioenergy: Biofuel is any fuel made by burning animal and plant matter (biomass) rather than fossil fuels. As it can be produced quickly and sustainably, it can make a great renewable energy source. While it does produce carbon emissions, these are arguably offset by the amount absorbed by the organisms when alive.
  • Geothermal energy: This involves tapping into the heat energy below the Earth's surface, to heat water in homes through underground pipes, for example. Geothermal power plants generate energy through magma below the Earth’s crust.

The future is green

In order to reach the ambitious UN goal of global net-zero emissions, a complete overhaul in our energy use is required, which naturally means a tremendous amount of investment. A staggering $11.5tn is projected to be invested in renewable energy by 2050, and by that year 50% of global energy production is expected to come from wind and solar.

Reaching the UN target doesn’t just mean an investment in energy production itself, but also the infrastructure that supports it and the industries that will use it – from the adaptation of the fossil-fuel-heavy car industry to the development of the infrastructure to store and manage energy once created.

Some countries have already transformed their energy consumption – around 85% of Iceland’s energy comes from renewables, largely fuelled by its uniquely high capacity for hydropower and geothermal energy. However, with the right investment, commitment and distribution of energy sources, most countries are confident they can greatly increase their renewable energy output. Many nations with great potential for energies such as solar power are just at the beginning of that journey.

If you’re looking to invest in renewable energy, CMC Markets now offers you a straightforward way to take a position on the entire sector. Whatever your view, long or short, bullish or bearish, you can express it using CMC's share baskets. Share baskets offer investors a cost-effective way to trade a wide range of industries and topics, while diversifying their exposure within a theme. The UK renewable energy share basket offers exposure to 18 companies carefully selected by CMC market analysts, based on growing trends, including: Enphase Energy Inc, First Solar, TerraForm Power Inc, Plug Power Inc and Vivint Solar Inc.

Find out more about CMC’s share baskets and test-run a demo account

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