Home

UN-climate-changeRenewableUK says comments by Prince Charles to be aired at tomorrow’s UN Climate Summit in New York, following massive turnouts at this weekend’s People’s Climate Marches in cities around the world, demonstrate comprehensive global support for renewable energy.

In a video to be shown at the UN summit on Tuesday, Prince Charles will call for a “vast scaling up” of renewable energy because “the battle against climate change is surely the most defining and pivotal challenge of our times”.

Tellingly, the Prince of Wales will warn specifically that “we cannot meet the climate change challenge unless business and government actively work together. More and more businesses are supporting the transformative goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century. Taking action on climate change is neither inherently bad for business nor against economic interests – in fact it is the only rational choice”.

About 40,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March in London, including many holding placards calling for “100% clean energy”. Clean electricity generated by onshore and offshore wind in the UK currently offsets more than eleven and a half million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. In New York, turnout for the march exceeded 300,000.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffery, said “People power is creating an unstoppable momentum for us to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewables.  The massive level of support at the People’s Climate Marches proves this.

“Politicians in Westminster would do well to take notice with just eight months to go before the next General Election. Anti-renewable energy policies are way out of step with public opinion.

“This is a message which has royal endorsement too. Prince Charles’s comments to the UN Climate Summit amount to a trenchant riposte to those who are still trying to spin yarns about the cost of supporting clean energy, as the business case for renewables is proven.  

“Prince Charles gets it. The people get it. When will all of our elected representatives at Westminster start to get it too?”

“Wind is making a substantial contribution to the UK’s energy mix, providing more than half of our renewable generation, leading to a corresponding drop in the use of coal and gas. The UK’s carbon dioxide emissions fell between 2012 and 2013 – and the key factor driving the change was the switch away from fossil fuels”.

Notes-

  1. RenewableUK is the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries. Formed in 1978, and with more than 575 corporate members, RenewableUK is the leading renewable energy trade association in the UK.
  2. Details on the UN Climate Summit 2014 can be found here: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/
  3. Generation statistics from the annual Digest of UK Energy Statistics published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change:  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/342760/Press_Notice_2014_v2.pdf

Advertisements

416138_347722131972086_1739595764_oThe government is wrong to prop up an outdated model of large, centralised power stations and should be supporting smarter technologies that hold the key to a cheaper, cleaner, and more and secure electricity system that works better for consumers, think tank IPPR will say today.

Technologies such as solar power, wind turbines, smart thermostats, and batteries would lead to lower bills and a more efficient energy system, while ensuring more of the government subsidies offered for low carbon generation end up with communities rather than in the hands of big, foreign-owned utilities, IPPR argues in the new report.

The report argues current government policies are tilted in favour of large-scale low carbon generation technologies, such as nuclear reactors and offshore wind projects, which merely bolster the declining large scale utility business model. Instead, ministers should begin work on a large-scale roll out of solar power, accelerate the development of a nationwide smart grid, and restricting the Big Six’s ability to trade electricity between their generation and retail arms, IPPR claims.

The report will make concerning reading for large utilities, which have experienced plunging profits and credit downgrades that have wiped 50 per cent off the value of Europe’s top 20 utilities over the last six years.

Solar power in particular is driving drastic changes in the European energy market as rapidly falling technology costs allow solar electricity to compete on price in a growing number of markets. Analysis from Citibank said solar in the UK should be cost-comparative with grid electricity by the end of the decade. Meanwhile, the cost of onshore wind power is also dropping, approaching the average wholesale electricity price in Italy, Spain, China and the UK, while already proving competitive with fossil fuel generation in Brazil.

These technologies have no marginal cost so will be prioritised by grids when there is demand for power ahead of coal and gas fired power plants where generators have to pay for fuel, the report explains. And the market for utilities is expected to be further eroded by smart technologies that adjust and reduce demand for electricity, which could ultimately smooth out peaks in demand utilities have traditionally relied on to make money. IPPR says that in the US technologies such as smart meters, thermostats, appliances and lights have been shown to be capable of delivering a 90 per cent reduction in the peak time electricity price.

All this spells bad news for utilities and it has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, Barclays downgraded its credit rating for the entire US electric utility sector on the basis of its predictions for falling solar and battery costs, while Citibank has forecast distributed electricity generation will halve the size of the market open to utilities over the next two decades, which could see the utility business model “crumble”. Ex-npower bossVolker Beckers told BusinessGreen last month that the centralised model has “reached its natural end“.

As well as pressure from new technology and independent suppliers, utilities are also facing increasing competition from community energy projects. “Communities and consumers are fed up with the old energy model and can now get directly involved”, Philip Wolfe, a director of Community Energy England told BusinessGreen in an email. “Social enterprises are springing up all over the country with renewable and energy saving projects owned and controlled by local communities.”

However, IPPR contends the UK government has failed to recognise the prevailing direction of travel in the energy market globally and has instead introduced a package of measures to prioritise utility-scale generation through its Electricity Market Reforms. These include contracts guaranteeing electricity prices for new nuclear reactors, offshore wind farms, and other large low carbon power plants, as well as a mechanism to pay generators to provide back-up power so the UK’s lights stay on as it switches off aging power plants.

Nuclear plants and offshore wind farms do not currently have to compete for subsidies under these contracts, unlike onshore wind and solar, and have an allocation of funds that dwarfs that set aside for the feed-in tariff scheme that supports small-scale projects. Meanwhile, IPPR says the complexity of the contracts are better suited to utilities, many of which are headquartered overseas and therefore effectively repatriating UK billpayers’ money.

The report says this policy framework is “unnecessarily costly, limits competition, and risks undermining decarbonisation objectives”, and argues that now the positive impact of distributed energy technologies is increasingly clear the government should adapt its supposedly ‘technology neutral’ approach to ensure they play a more central role in the future.

“Distributed electricity technologies such as solar power, batteries and smart thermostats, give reason for great optimism but they are being held back by a bias in both policy making and regulation which favours the large-scale utility business model,” said Will Straw, associate director of the IPPR. “A fundamental change in direction is required so that the innovative businesses and entrepreneurs developing these new technological solutions have a level playing field with the incumbent utilities. It is time to break with the past and embrace the brighter new future that these technologies offer.”

This would mean a large-scale deployment of solar power, scrapping the capacity market in favour of a new approach focused more on delivering energy security rather than simply adding generation capacity, and a review of network regulations to accelerate the development of the smart grid. The report also recommends reforming the electricity markets to allow greater competition for the Big Six, which could include restricting self-supplying between their generation and retail arms and introducing a new ‘pool’ system for wholesale energy trading.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was still formulating its response at time of going to press, but it seems unlikely that having spent years forcing through its Electricity Market Reform programme it will suddenly tear up the guinding principles that shaped the programme. Moreover, such as drastic shift in policy would have a huge short to medium term impact clean energy investment, particularly given repeated warnings that policy uncertainty is undermining green investment.

However, the manner in which falling renewable energy and battery costs is continuing to strengthen the already compelling case for distributed energy could yet cause major disruption to the UK government’s plans through market forces alone. As IPPR’s report makes plain, there is good reason why so many senior executives within the European energy sector fear that the utility model is on its way out.

Ask Us

September 12, 2014

PROWA+poster+A5

Household Energy Bill

September 6, 2014

home energy costs

Here is a breakdown from DECC on our bills which is quite interesting – large-scale renewables comprise 2% and FiTs are 0.6% of the average annual bill, so not such a big deal after all! Supporting cleaner energy amounts to 4% only!!!

consensus-infographic-finalA new survey reveals important misconceptions on energy and climate change among the UK public. The ComRes poll was commissioned by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a new non-profit initiative with a high-level Advisory Board including MPs, Peers and leading academics, aiming to support informed debate on energy and climate issues in the UK.

It shows that only one in nine (11 percent) of people are aware of the strength of the scientific consensus on man-made climate change, a finding that the ECIU said carries ‘uncomfortable echoes’ of the MMR controversy of 15 years ago.

Nearly half of the UK population (47 percent) think either that most climate scientists reject the idea that human activities such as fossil fuel burning are the main driver of climate change (11 percent), or that scientists are evenly split on the issue (35 percent). Several recent studies show that more than 90% of climate scientists agree that the main cause of climate change is human activity.

Another major misunderstanding relates to the British public’s preferences for different forms of energy. Only one in twenty (5 percent) of Britons know that renewables such as solar and wind are supported by a significant majority (about 80 percent) of the UK population. Two-thirds (63 percent) estimate support at under 50 percent.

Richard Black, director of the ECIU, said: “This survey shows that there’s a huge gap between reality and perception on some key climate and energy issues. These are important findings given that the UK has crucial decisions to make on our response to climate change and our energy system in the next few years. 

“As a nation we can only make sensible choices if we’re properly informed, so it’s vital that people are aware of what the evidence is and that it’s communicated clearly.

“The breakdown between the views of scientists and the public on climate change is a particular concern. This feels reminiscent of the situation around MMR where most Britons thought the medical profession was split on the safety of the vaccine whereas doctors were virtually unanimous that it was safe.”

In 1998 a scientific paper suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, leading to claims that the vaccine was unsafe.

Four years later a study by Cardiff University researchers showed that most Britons thought the medical profession was split on the issue, because ‘both sides of the debate’ had received roughly equal prominence in media coverage. The paper was subsequently retracted.

Katharine Peacock, managing director of ComRes (a polling and research consultancy) said: “The perceived lack of consensus among climate scientists is striking – particularly as scientists are one of the most trusted groups in society. As outliers of opinion are often memorable and debate among some groups remains, it is for the scientific community to communicate a strong evidence-based message to the media and through them the public.”

Other findings from the ECIU/ComRes survey include:

  • half of the population (50 percent) say the winter floods strengthened their belief that the climate is changing, and a quarter (27 percent) say the floods also strengthened their belief in human activity as the main cause;
  • one in seven (14 percent) think ‘green energy’ policies have increased their energy bills a great deal. Thirty-seven percent think they have increased bills somewhat, and 34 percent think they have made no difference. Analysis by DECC concludes that environmental and social levies add about eight percent to the average household bill for gas and electricity, but that the net result of these measures overall is to reduce the average bill by 5 percent [8], largely because they save energy;
  • about half (46 percent) of the population think shale gas exploitation would make no difference to energy bills. Twenty-seven percent think it will reduce bills, and 16 percent foresee an increase.

The survey also showed that by some distance, the public view the BBC as the most important news organisation for information on energy and climate issues, with 62 percent saying it is one of their top three most used news sources on these topics. ITV and Sky are the second and third most used sources (at 27 percent and 15 percent respectively); the Daily Mail is the most used newspaper, at 14 percent.

climatemodel-nasa-751x500ComRes also asked people to name the three news organisations they most trust on energy and climate issues. Studies show that people generally trust the sources that they use, and this was generally reflected here. However, more people trust the Financial Times, Independent and Channel 4 News than use them. But usage ratings were higher than trust ratings for the BBC, the Daily Mail and The Sun.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has been set up to support informed debate and evidence-based communication in the fields of energy and climate change. A central part of its work will be to provide clear, accessible, up-to-date and expert-reviewed briefings on key topics.

Its Advisory Board reflects the breadth of society’s interest in energy and climate issues. It includes climate scientists, energy policy experts and economists, as well as a range of other stakeholders including MPs and Peers. [9]

ECIU Advisory Board member Lord Howard of Lympne said: “I’ve had an interest in climate change since my term as Environment Secretary in the 1990s, and I’ve also followed progress in low-carbon technologies such as nuclear power with great interest. I decided to lend ECIU my advice because I think it can have a beneficial role in improving communication in the very important areas of energy and climate change.”

ECIU Advisory Board member Lord Puttnam of Queensgate said: “I was fortunate enough to be involved in passage of the Climate Change Act in 2008 – it passed virtually without demur and with support from all parties. Since then, the evidence that climate change presents significant risks to the UK has only strengthened, a fact that’s not always reflected in the wider public conversation. People need every scrap of possible help to inform themselves of the growing body of evidence, because only then will we be in a position to make sensible social and political decisions.”

ECIU Advisory Board member Dr Emily Shuckburgh said: “The scientific evidence that man-made climate change is real and presents significant risks is incredibly robust. But that doesn¹t always come across to the public, as the ECIU survey shows. In my view it¹s vital that we bridge that gap, so that people are able to separate fact from fiction, enabling society as a whole to make informed decisions about our future.”

ECIU Advisory Board member Marylyn Haines Evans said: “The Women’s Institutes have always taken an active interest in issues that affect women both in the UK and all over the world, and few issues are more challenging than climate change. But that’s what it is – a challenge – and we need to deal with it in the same way that women have always dealt with challenges. I’m looking forward to working with ECIU and getting people more involved in finding practical solutions to the problems before us.”

ComRes interviewed 2,021 GB adults online between 1st August and 3rd August 2014. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data table can be found at www.comres.co.uk. The survey is available here.

Wind Power: The Truth

August 25, 2014

NatalieOn-shore wind farms are here to stay because they are the cheapest form of renewable energy available, according to the leader of the Green Party.
But Greens would let local communities rather than big business build wind farms – and keep the profits to spend on local services.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was speaking to The Journal as she prepares for the party’s annual conference next month.
Greens have enjoyed a surge in support, beating the Liberal Democrats in the European Elections in May, and party membership has grown by 28% so far this year alone.
And supporters of the Greens point out that their fortunes have risen without the type of free publicity enjoyed by UKIP, which has been in the media spotlight this year.
The number of on-shore windfarms applications in Northamptonshire has sparked fierce debate, but Ms Bennett said more wind farms were needed.
While off-shore windfarms could play a role, they could not entirely replace on-shore wind farms, she said.
“The reality is that on-shore wind is now the cheapest renewable we’ve got,” she said. “Off-shore has enormous potential to develop an industry that can then become an export industry.
“We can use the skills and knowledge we have coming out of the dying North Sea Oil industry, and transfer those skills across.
“But on-shore is still cheap, affordable and pretty easy to do.
“The key factor, and what we want to encourage, is community owned on-shore wind and other forms of renewables.”
If communities were able to able to own and receive the profits from wind farms, to spend on local schools or other services, then there would be far more support for them, she said.
Ms Bennett also highlighted the need to cut energy consumption entirely, including by making homes more energy-efficient.
“The great forgotten Cinderella of energy policy is energy conservation,” she said. “We have some of the worst housing in Western Europe.”
Policies set to be discussed at the Green Party conference include plans for a wealth tax of 1% or 2% for people with assets of £3m or more. It would mean they paid £30,000 to £60,000 each year in new taxes.
Greens also want to tax out-of-town supermarkets, with the cash going to support local businesses.