Why LEDs are Good for Business and the Environment

LED FOR BUSINESS

In recent years, there has been a big push to show the benefits of LED lighting for our homes and more importantly our businesses.  We know that they can work out to be more cost effective due to their longevity, vast reduction in energy usage and provide a clean, crisp variance of light in addition to being easy to install and replace.  These same benefits can also apply to large scale manufacturing industry and an increasing number of them are coming to realise the vast benefits and savings that can be achieved by simply switching out their old lamps.

Reducing costs

Every business is looking to reduce costs where possible and lighting costs can be a major part of these expenses.  The average electricity consumption in a UK office building includes some 33% spent on lighting, 20% on heating and around the same on cooling and ventilation.  In fact, the cost of lighting is estimated to account for anywhere up to 40% of the UK business electricity bill.

However, the biggest shock in this is that around 60% of this amount is wasted due to the use of fluorescent, incandescent and halogen lighting systems.  This means that the switch to LEDs can reduce this waste dramatically.  Added to this is the ease that daylight and motion sensors can be incorporated into LED systems, which could potentially reduce the saving by another 20-30%.

Return on investment

Another big aspect for the business is looking at the Return on Investment or ROI of any changes made within the business.  Because the savings on electricity bills can be so significant for a business, there is a very fast return on investment on LED lighting.  Within two and a half years, a business will have recouped the expenditure for the system and will begin to make savings, with these savings continuing year on year.

The lifespan of the LED systems is another reason that these savings can be significant.  Most LED systems have a lifespan of around 20 years, so this means once than initial 2.5 years’ period has passed, you could be making savings for in excess of 17 years before a replacement system would be required.

Going green

With the increased awareness within businesses of their impact on the environment, those reductions in electricity usage is about more than just saving money.  The reduction in CO2 emission is significant and the savings made on the cost of electricity, which could actually increase in the next few years as costs increase, could be reinvested in other renewable energy technologies.

A big sector in the UK at the moment are commercial properties installing photovoltaic or PV systems to generate electricity from the sun.  Much in the same way that houses are adding these solar panels to their roofs to generate their own power, so too can business premises.  And large premises such as factories have a much larger roof space – the more space there is, the more electricity can be generated.

Conclusion

The switch to LED lighting for all types of business makes simple sense.  On top of the monetary and environmental gains, there are simple areas such as an improved work environment for staff with a better quality of lighting.  All this can increase productivity and lead to happier staff – always a benefit for any business.

UK Sliding Down Renewables Investment League

investment down

The annual league table for those investing in renewable energy has shown a marked change, particularly for the UK. The table, produced by Ernst & Young, reveals that the UK is slipping down the rankings and now lies 13th when we used to be near the top.

There is no doubt that this change has been brought about by a Government that is a lot more hostile to renewable technology than in recent years. Gone are the attractive subsidies for wind and solar and a location that was once considered a sure bet has become uncertain and volatile when it comes to investment. In short, investment companies are not going to put their cash into renewable technology in the UK until they are sure of some degree of success.

Leading what Ernst Young calls the Attractiveness Index are USA and China with the UK lagging some 16 points behind. The company, like others, suggest a rather damning cause for the slump in ranking:

“The UK Government’s noncommittal, if not antagonistic, approach to energy policy continues to go against the grain of almost universal global support for renewables. Not only stalling project development and investment inflows, this is arguably jeopardizing UK energy security.”

In January of this year, the Government slashed Feed in Tariff payments for renewable energies such as solar and wind. They have also been involved in trying to limit the construction of onshore wind and are generally making it much more difficult for renewable projects to get off the ground. Renewable energy insiders have long been complaining that the Government’s muddled approach to the industry has caused severe problems, setting back projects across the UK.

The other suggestion from the report is that investors are now more likely to be looking towards emerging markets such as Brazil and Mexico where there is better scope for development. Combined with the lower cost of technology compared to the early days, investors are more confident of getting a return in a wide range of markets. The UK weren’t the only European countries to fall in the rankings, both France and Germany lost ground too.

But it’s the UK’s fall that will be of most concern particularly considering the targets that need to be reached for a lower carbon future. It could be that valuable Government time is being taken up with the EU Referendum at the moment but there are major concerns in the energy industry that they are not taking the problem of renewables seriously enough.

Ikea Start Selling Solar Panels, Again.

IKEA

Long known for their green credentials and with stores all across the world, low cost Swedish furniture outlet IKEA have started selling solar panels in their stores much to the amazement of customers. The move comes despite recent cuts in incentives by the Government for solar subsidies that could seriously impact on take up across the UK.

The superstore will be introducing solar panels in three locations before they roll it out to all stores in the UK within the next 6 months. If you want to buy them at the moment, you’ll have to visit their outlets in Birmingham, Glasgow or Lakeside. The company has been trialling the idea for a couple of years now and seems to have decided to put more resources into this particular venture in the hope that their customers will decide to invest in a low power future.

This new product inclusion for their stores comes from the belief that, while subsidies have been slashed, home owners still have an appetite for solar and want to install it on their properties. The company cite the fact that there is still a Feed in Tariff which will provide an income (albeit a lot lower than before the start of the year) and this is much better than many saving plans currently in existence. Not only that you can benefit from lower electricity bills over the lifetime of the array.

Of course, installing solar is not cheap. If you are looking at putting up 10 panels, it’s going to cost the best part of £5,000 though prices have come down in recent years. IKEA have long been advocates of solar power and have had it installed on most of their stores including in the UK and the USA. They have been one of the leading lights where commercial ventures have been concerned and their success in producing their own electricity has prompted many other companies to follow suit.

Selling solar panels in store is one of their biggest gambles in recent times. To do this they have teamed up with SolarCentury. How it works is that IKEA will have a sales team available in each store and the panels will be installed by the solar company within a six-week period of signing a contract. IKEA did initially have a trial period with Chinese firm Hanenergy which suffered from a number of problems including being limited to just thin film technology.

According to Solar Century exec Susannah Wood:

“Together with IKEA we have designed an offer which makes solar simple for homeowners. We’ve blended IKEA’s retail expertise with our solar expertise to arrive at an offer which combines quality with great value for money.”

Whether the initiative works or not will depend on whether IKEA have got their facts right and if customers are really still looking for the opportunity to produce their own cheap electricity. The Feed in Tariff was a huge determining factor in take up before it was finally cut by the Tory government at the beginning of this year. IKEA will, of course, benefit from the fact that solar is a tried and tested technology and many people still have great faith in it. Just under £5,000 is still a large outlay considering a lot of competitors in the market are offering comparable, if not better offers. The price of PV is falling yet still, this is due to reducing manufacturing costs and market competition, so investing in solar will again become a more and more viable investment especially considering the low maintenance cost and the 25-year lifespan of each array.

 

North Wales: A Hub for Solar Power?

North Wales Solar

Already well invested in off-shore wind, North Wales has long been at the forefront of renewable energy with support from the Welsh Assembly. But, with the recent development of a solar farm at Kinmel Bay on the coast, could the region now be embracing solar power much more?

It’s hoped that the 24 MW array just off the A55 coastal road will provide power for more than 5,000 homes when it is completed later this year. It will cover an area equivalent to some 60 football pitches and is providing 100s of jobs during construction which is now well under way. The project is being delivered by Haymaker Energy despite some objections from locals in the Kinmel Bay area. The company is interested in the coast of North Wales because there is a higher level of sunshine than further inland. They were also attracted by the fact that solar had yet to get a foothold in the region and have ensured the land will still be used for grazing sheep, its current primary purpose.

There are a number of proposals for solar farms in the North Wales area including for Anglesey, Deeside and Gwynedd. A 270-acre site was approved in Deeside with renewable company Atem Solar back in 2014 which could produce over 47 MW and would be one of the biggest sites in the country. Plans have also been submitted for Wales’ largest solar farm at Llanbadrig which could provide power for 15,000 homes. Wrexham Council have taken the plunge with solar and a new farm capable of producing 2,300 MWh per year will provide enough power for some 700 homes.

Despite the current cuts in Feed in Tariff subsidies by the Government, it seems that solar power is moving forward in North Wales. It’s not all good news though. A recent proposed site for two farms in Sealand, Flintshire, were refused planning permission because of the effect they could have on agricultural land.

The coast of North Wales already has plenty of experience of wind power, another popular renewable technology in the region. Gwynt y Mor is the second largest off shore wind farm with 160 turbines producing enough power for 400,000 homes and which provided 2,500 jobs during construction. The addition of solar farms to the mix could mean that North Wales becomes a hub for renewable energy for many years to come.

Is Confidence Ebbing Away for EDF’s Hinkley Point Power Station?

Hinkley Point Nuclear

You would have been forgiven for thinking that the Hinkley Point nuclear power station was a done deal and that all we had to do was wait for it to be built and put into service. Unfortunately, recent news has suggested, as many predicted, that things are not as solid as they might have at first seemed.

The plant, if built, would produce up to 7% of the electricity needs for Britain and is one of the mainstays of the Government’s energy plan, particularly since it decided to reduce support for renewable energy following their election win last May. But EDF have yet to make a final decision on the plant and were indeed called to Parliament recently to explain why things were being delayed yet again.

There is a current of mistrust of the company with the belief that EDF has financial problems that could stop them investing entirely. As it was, the final decision on whether to invest or not has been put off until the end of the summer which is naturally making some in the Department of Energy and Climate Change nervous, not to mention Chancellor George Osborne who championed the project last year.

The new scheduled completion in 2025 is already 8 years behind the original estimate and a further delay could push us closer to 2030. Not only that, there are also rumblings over the cost of the plant and EDF’s own financial commitments, particularly bearing in mind that it is largely owned by the French state. With the large subsidy offered for the project (£92.50 per MWh) and the fact that we will be tied into it for the next 35 years, Hinkley Point could end up being a huge millstone around the neck of this and future governments.

Organisations such as Greenpeace have already expressed concerns about the financial condition of EDF. There are also plenty of issues surrounding the technology that the company is expected to use in the plant, especially following a number of problems in a similar reactor being built in Normandy.

Added to the delays and problems with EDF, the other major investor in the Hinkley Point project, China’s CGN, has suggested that it won’t go forward if the French company withdraws. While there was an initial thought that the Chinese company could actually take over the development, this was quickly refuted.

Despite this, the Government still say they are committed to the project, something which others find symptomatic of their muddled thinking on the future of energy in the UK. According to The Economist recently:

“Carbon targets are also complicating life for policymakers. One reason the Tory government remains committed to Hinkley Point is to avoid missing its 2030 emissions-reduction goals.”

The future for both EDF and the Hinkley Point nuclear reactor are far from certain. The only sure thing is that the longer delays go on and the potential cost rises, the more naysayers are going to come out of the woodwork. Even when it was announced there was a good deal of condemnation of the project and how much it was going to cost. For many, recent events have simply reinforced the notion that this was a policy that was destined to fail from the outset.

IPL Team Goes Green for T20 Match

#RCBGoGreen

It’s not something that you usually associate with sport’s teams, though many more are beginning to get the bug. IPL cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore, headed by enigmatic captain Virat Kholi, took to the field for their latest match this week, not in their usual red and gold, but a green kit. It’s all part of their eco-friendly approach that other teams would do well to follow.

In fairness to the team, they’ve been doing this since 2011 when they decided to play at least one match in each tournament in green garb. The purpose is to highlight the challenge of global warming and to get supporters helping to save the planet, not only in India but across the world where the tournament is televised to millions. RCB are already noted as the most carbon friendly team in the Indian Premier League which takes place this time every year.

Team members combine playing attractive cricket with green policies such as planting trees and encouraging fans to travel to the ground using public transport rather than their own cars. Director Sid Mallya is confident that the team can be the first ‘carbon-neutral’ team in the world and that everyone has a duty to do their bit. The match was supported by the hashtag #RCBGoGreen which thousands of people engaged with on social media, including the players themselves.

The match on the day was a run fest for Royal Challengers Bangalore who were playing The Gujarat Lions. Both Virat Kholi and South African batsman A B de Villiers scored centuries as the RCB piled up 248 and then proceeded to bowl out the Lions for a lowly 104 with English pace bowler Chris Jordan taking four wickets. A great win for the team and a great win for green sport.

Brexit could Lead the Way to a U-turn on Climate Change

Brexit Climate Change

With so much going on in the last few months, you might be forgiven for thinking that the renewables agenda has gone completely off the boil in the UK. Much has been said about the possible effects of a Brexit on trade and immigration, but nothing much, to date, has been mentioned about our climate change obligations. There are some that believe exiting from Europe could have profound consequences that will set us back a lot more than the recent slashing of Feed in Tariffs by the current UK government.

According to several sources, David Cameron and company are intentionally dragging their feet on the fifth carbon budget which is due to be settled in the next month or so. There are those believe that it should be kicked into the long grass and the Prime Minister doesn’t want to upset the cart before the vote at the end of June. If we wait until after the EU referendum and Britain votes to leave, it could mean a massive U-turn is on the cards.

What is the Fifth Carbon Budget?

This month, 20 Tory MPs wrote a letter to the Prime Minister imploring him to accept the fifth carbon budget and push it through. Currently, our targets for reducing carbon emissions are tied up closely to our membership of the EU and what was agreed at the last climate summit. The chair of the environmental audit select committee said recently that exiting the EU could leave a ‘policy vacuum’ when it comes to Britain’s role in saving the planet. Mary Creagh added:

“The overwhelming evidence is that EU membership has improved the UK’s approach to the environment and ensured that the UK’s environment has been better protected.”

The fifth carbon budget stipulates that emissions need to fall by 57% below the levels seen in 1990 and this has to be achieved by 2032. This is the amount that is needed if we want to reduce our total emissions by 80% by 2050, something which the 20 Tory backbenchers want to see as soon as possible because it will generate certainty in the market and create investment.

Withdrawal from the EU, without having the budget passed beforehand, could see some old war horses who are against the climate change agenda having more say because Britain would then be in control of its own destiny. Among these is Lord Lawson, a noted climate change sceptic who has long disagreed with the government policy in this area. Exit could embolden Lawson and others to challenge the current thinking when it comes to growth of the renewables industry and other factors such as fracking. The carbon budget could be discarded or at least greatly diminished.

Understandably, Green activists and pro-green politicians are keen that the carbon budget is accepted in full and as quickly as possible. There are those who say the budget doesn’t go nearly as far as it should and that the Prime Minster needs to be putting together brave new strategies concerning low carbon transportation and attracting investment that can help build our green infrastructure.

According to the Economist recently, it’s no surprise that many Brexit campaigners are also climate sceptics, including John Redwood and UKIP MP Donald Carsewell. This could be because many Brexit enthusiasts equate climate change with overbearing regulation that has its origin in Brussels or it could be because they believe that climate change scientists are reliant on the EU for grants that help perpetuate the climate change myth. Either way, Brexit could be a pivotal point for those who believe we need a much cleaner Britain.

While the news has in recent weeks been diverted by issues such as the EU Referendum and spurious arguments over anti-Semitism in the Labour party, some are concerned that the question of the fifth carbon budget is going to get pushed onto the backburner until it is far too late. That could leave David Cameron open to judicial review under the terms of the climate change act but it simply may not be possible until the small issue of the EU referendum has played out.