Here are the business stories making the headlines in Scotland and across the UK today.

World’s renewable energy capacity grew at record pace in 2023

Global renewable energy capacity grew by the fastest pace recorded in the last 20 years in 2023, which could put the world within reach of meeting a key climate target by the end of the decade, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The world’s renewable energy grew by 50% last year to 510 gigawatts (GW) in 2023, the 22nd year in a row that renewable capacity additions set a new record, according to figures from the IEA.

The “spectacular” growth offers a “real chance” of global governments meeting a pledge agreed at the Cop28 climate talks in November to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 to significantly reduce consumption of fossil fuels, the IEA added.

The IEA’s latest report found that solar power accounted for three-quarters of the new renewable energy capacity installed worldwide last year. Most of the world’s new solar power was built in China, which installed more solar power last year than the entire world commissioned the year before, despite cutting subsidies in 2020 and 2021.

Shareholders spooked by potential clampdown on insurers

The prospect of the financial watchdog potentially taking action on finance products designed to help consumers with insurance payments prompted fears in the City of a new regulation being imposed on the sector and a reverse in listed insurers’ share prices.

Several insurers were hit as markets anticipated an intervention on insurers’ premium finance products from the Financial Conduct Authority.

Matt Brewis, head of insurance at the regulator, said in an interview with Insurance Post that premium finance was a “poor product” and that the watchdog had “talked about it enough”.

Premium finance allows consumers to borrow money to pay for an insurance policy. The product helps customers to pay for their policy through monthly payments to spread the cost of premiums, rather than paying upfront.

Brewis said: “It is a tax on being poor. Those who are paying monthly are subsidising those who can afford to pay annually.”

The share price of Direct Line, which owns the Churchill brand, fell 7.5 per cent, or 13½p, to 166¼p, while Admiral tumbled by 5.6 per cent, or 153p, to £25.69. A Berenberg note said that earnings per share in Direct Line and Admiral would be cut by 7 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively, if premium finance charges were reduced by a third.

UK and US elections to hit stock market listings until 2025, says EY

Elections in both the UK and US this year will cast a shadow over the stock market and risk delaying a rebound in listings until 2025, EY has warned.

Investor uncertainty around the election results may force businesses to delay initial public offering (IPO) plans until the outcomes are clearer, according to a report by EY.

That would push many listings into 2025, with Rishi Sunak signalling he plans to hold an autumn election in Britain and US voters going to the polls in November.

Scott McCubbin, who leads EY’s UK and Ireland IPO team, said: “The stability of equity markets hinges on consistent conditions, so whilst falling inflation and interest rate reductions may ease in the first half of 2024, the upcoming UK and US elections in the latter half might delay significant IPO activities until 2025.”

Petrofac warned over cancer-causing fume risk on North Sea platform

A North Sea watchdog has put energy services giant Petrofac on notice after it left workers on the Kittiwake platform at risk of exposure to hazardous fumes.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors issued the improvement notice for Petrofac’s failure to suitably risk assess work carried out on the installation.

In particular, HSE took issue with guidance that failed to require ventilation of welding fumes – “a known human carcinogen” capable of causing cancer.

Kittiwake is around 100 miles off Aberdeen. Petrofac is duty holder on the EnQuest-operated platform.

Read more in today's Press & Journal.

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