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5 Reasons for Eco Optimism in 2018

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 15 January 2019 | Views [84]

We’re used to hearing dire warnings about the abject state of our environment, and rightly so. It’s almost universally acknowledged bythose in the know that we’re not yet doing nearly enough – governments and citizens alike – to turn this ship around in the narrowing window of opportunity left open to us.


However, it’s not all doom and gloom by any means: there are various important ecological developments headed our way this year, and collectively they might just give us cause to feel a little more optimistic about our chances of a greener future.


In that spirit, then, here are five encouraging reasons why we should all keep opening the curtains in the morning as we head deeper into 2018.


1. Corporations continue to increase pressure on governments

Trump earned near-worldwide vilification last summer for (among other things) pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This was seen as a major blow to global environmental efforts, delivered right as most of the planet’s other key administrations were finally acknowledging the rapid approach of a permanent tipping point.


However, despite the POTUS’s (now increasingly wobbly) stance on the issue, we’ve since seen a surprisingly progressive attitude – both within and beyond North America – from that longstanding nemesis of all things green: big business. Numerous major players in the US economy have all effectively disavowed Trump’s head-in-the-sand approach to mounting issues of environmental concern.


Apple, Goldman Sachs, Google, Facebook and many others have instigated ambitious corporate green policies of their own, despite the lack of any real legal imperative as things stand. Target even overtook their larger discount store rivals Walmart as theleading proponent of corporate solar power in the States.


And wherever you are in the world, we all know that when commerce speaks, governments tend to listen. Eventually.


2. Major battery boosts are on the way

Huge programs of investment, research and expansion in the global battery market are ongoing, and likely to start having a real impact during 2018.


Tesla and Panasonic’s giant Gigafactory 1, currently in production and development at a vast industrial park off I-80 in Nevada, is scheduled for completion before the year is out. Projects of comparable scope are also underway in China (another of the planet’sleading fossil fuel-guzzlers), with European versions likely to follow in Sweden, Hungary, Poland and Germany too.


Increased competition in the li-ion battery market will inevitably drive down pricing and availability of quality rechargeable cells, as well as fuelling further R&D for rival energy storage technologies including solid state, hydrogen and water-based batteries.


The inevitable result – better and more affordable clean energy storage at consumer level, in a nutshell – should fuel a major leap forward for the evolution of a viable infrastructure for widespread electric vehicle use, among other things.


3. The cost of renewable energies is still dropping

2017 saw us achieve an all-time low net cost per megawatt hour (Mwh) for offshore wind power generation. (In real terms, one Mwh roughly translates as the power required to supply330 average homes for 60 minutes.)


As recently as 2014 in the UK – currently among the leading nations in terms of our global push to harvest energy from the unrestricted gusts battering our coastlines – each Mwh was costing around £157 to harness. By August last year, that cost had dropped toas little as £57-70, undercutting nuclear power by up to 25%.


Similarly, solar production costs have slumped to less than 40% of what they were a decade ago. The result is that entirely subsidy-free wind and solar farms are becoming a viable prospect forgovernments around the world, leading to ever-increasing competition in the sector and driving down country-wide auction prices for renewable energy to a series of record lows.


4. Green tech is building its own strong markets

Rapid advancements in research and development over the past year have brought us to within genuine touching distance of an enviro-tech future. Increasingly widespread quality, availability, affordability and portability of systems like home and business solar panelling, electric vehicles, andclean power storage is no longer a pipedream.


If you live in a developed nation, the chances are that these sorts of innovations will be appearing in your neighbourhood soon, if they haven’t already. Just as importantly though, the markets underpinning such exciting global strides towards a greener tomorrow are building muscle by the day.


In another welcome trend that’s predicted to continue through 2018, the jobs market is starting to bubble up nicely around green tech. Wind and solar are the fastest-growing employment sectors in the US right now by some distance,according to Bloomberg – and, on a wider scale, the International Renewable Energy Agency already places the global figure for people working in renewables at close to 10 million.


Growing corporate pressure is placing hitherto unprecedented pressures on government to come up with better, greener policies for clean energy funding, harnessing and distribution. Further down the line, blockchain-based systems – yes, the same blockchain responsible for the ongoing cryptocurrency rollercoaster, but bear with us – could even lead to massive democratisation across the verystructure of the grid itself. (TL; DR: you could soon be selling excess power from your home solar setup to neighbours, rather than back to the power company.)


5. And, speaking of crypto...

...fintech itself could well be poised for a much-needed green overhaul in 2018. For all the theoretical eco advantages of cryptocurrencies, one of the (admittedly numerous) key issues holding back their true global proliferation is the fact that mining alone currently chews through more power per year thanmany countries consumein total.


However, if the steady rise of Bitcoin et al reaches a point – as many are predicting it will in the next year or two – at which many of us are quite literally banking on it, this will greatly incentivise financial institutions to invest more heavily in quantum computing. Capable of crunching all those hugely complex numbers at brain-bending speeds, quantum computing remains an expensive and somewhat esoteric technology right now.

Assuming a critical mass of crypto transactions is eventually reached, however, the cost-benefit balance starts to tip heavily in the power-users’ favour, enabling far greater efficiency across all manner of key transactions from credit-based payment systems to loan processing. Happily, it’s also vastly more energy efficient than the janky, power-guzzling, graphics card-based rigs most DIY minersare reliant on at present.

Tags: eco friendly

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