The Great British Kettle Surge

the_great_british_kettle_surge

When we think about what could prompt a sudden & large need for energy our thoughts turn to the obvious, such as an arena bursting into life for a big concert, a skyscraper full of offices waking up or all of the bright lights of a theme park switching on at once. A gargantuan call for electricity will conjure these images, but we rarely think of something as small or simple as, say, a light-bulb, or a telephone ringing; or even a kettle

However, it’s this humble home appliance that regularly challenges the UK’s National Grid to keep the nation’s lights on. Known as ‘TV pickup’, the National Grid often braces itself for additional hundreds or even thousands of megawatts surging throughout the nation, all because of an ad break during a prime time television show or a special televised event. 

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This is ‘The Great British Kettle Surge’, the phenomenon of millions of kettles being switched on almost simultaneously, which occurs more often than one might imagine. It’s heavily ingrained in British culture to go for a cup of tea at the drop of a hat, so the common action of turning on a kettle might not seem significant, yet it’s the sheer quantity of kettles boiling across the nation that creates a national demand for electricity.

Due to the sudden nature of TV pickups, despite the National Grid’s best attempts at predictions, the electricity required may not be readily available. This is why the UK frequently has to export energy from other countries, often from some of our closest neighbours. France is widely recognised as the world’s largest exporter of electricity, which is why we turn to them as a reliable provider for electricity whenever there’s a break before the judges’ verdicts in The Great British Bakeoff or the viewing public needs reprieve from the results of a Love Island elimination.

The sheer amount of energy required from even one of the smallest TV pickups is, frankly, shocking, which is why Energy Controls created a visual aid to showcase this. Everything from Will & Kate’s Royal Wedding to the first Moon Landing has been measured in terms of viewership numbers, which boil down to how much electricity was needed for these events as well as how many kettles this staggering amount of watts could power.

How many cups of tea could the 2008 Olympics viewership have made? How many homes could have been powered by one of Beyonce’s biggest shows? And has the nation’s TV pickups become any less taxing over the last few decades? These questions, and many more, are visually represented below.

Is the UK Ready for a Community Energy Revolution?

community solar

According to a new report, The Future of Community Energy’, commissioned by Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) and produced by WPI Economics the UK government should establish a national community energy strategy with a community energy fund.

The report suggests that community energy schemes such as community owned solar panels or wind turbines could power up to 2.2 million homes by 2030, generating up to 5.3GW of renewable electricity. It maps out the scale of the benefits the sector could deliver if given the support needed to flourish.

SPEN is asking the government to support the creation of new, region funding streams and to provide more help and resource to local community groups wanting to set up schemes to allow for faster uptake of community energy.

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They believe that if a national strategy were to be adopted it could ‘kick-start’ a community energy revolution and create the opportunity for millions of households to play a vital role in helping the UK meet its climate goals. The UK government has in fact legislated to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. It is estimated that 2.5m tonnes of carbon emissions could be saved which is more than the annual emissions of all UK domestic flights if a national community energy strategy was put in place. Households within these schemes could also see their energy bills cut by up to £150m a year.

A community energy revolution of this intensity could lead to the generation of over 8,000 jobs and inject up to £1.8 billion into the UK’s regions by 2030. Potentially the UK could see a rise in the number of community energy organisations from several hundred today to around 4,000.

SPEN is also recommending that the government learns how to go about initiating the schemes in the most effective way from existing communities and local energy support organisations that have successfully implemented these types of projects.

The Distribution Network Operator (DNO) has made a commitment to launch an educational toolkit, which is set to provide communities with the information needed to get schemes off the ground.

Frank Mitchell, chief executive of SP Energy Networks, said it’s “time for communities to be given a stronger voice in how their areas reach net zero”.  Communities need new funding streams and reduced regulation in licensing planning in order to meet that vision.

Mitchell added:

“As the provider of the energy networks that make this possible, SP Energy Networks is committed to doing more. But we need government and regulators to allow us to do so.”

On launching the report Frank Mitchell said:

“This report shows just how much potential there is within our communities in our drive to a zero-carbon future, lowering emissions with the additional benefit of driving up skills and jobs across the UK. It also shows what might be possible by highlighting the innovative efforts of communities, notably in Scotland and Wales, where sustained government support and a strong backing from third sector organisations has enabled local energy to lead the way, not only in a UK context but internationally as well.”

Keith Anderson, Chief Executive of Scottish Power said: 

“We recently launched our Zero Carbon Communities roadmap highlighting the changes needed in communities to reach net zero. This report builds on that, by outlining what is needed to empower everyone to get involved in tackling climate change and our toolkit will help ensure that local communities are not left behind in the green energy revolution. We are committed to helping all our communities to play their part in tackling the climate emergency whilst enjoying significant benefits and achieving a better future quicker”.

The Energy Networks Association announced a series of Community Energy Forums in October 2019 devised to further integrate community energy into its Open Networks Project.

Community energy is also beginning to play a bigger role in country-wide supply with Co-op Energy launching a tariff using electricity entirely sourced from community energy projects.

The tariff entitled Community Power will use energy that is 100% renewable and sourced from community energy projects around the UK, through a Joint Venture between the Mid-counties Co-operative and Octopus Energy. For just £5 more than the company’s standard tariff a month, customers can opt for renewable electricity and carbon offset gas from 90 community suppliers. The tariff will cost on average £88 a month for a typical household, and profits will be reinvested back into the community energy projects. Power from projects such as Westmill Wind and Solar are included in the community energy mix.

Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy said:

“Being able to buy locally-sourced clean, green energy is a massive jump in the right direction for this country’s ailing power grid and carbon emissions. Investing in more local energy infrastructure and getting Britain’s homes run by the sun when it’s shining and the wind when it’s blowing can end our reliance on dirty fossil fuels sooner than we hoped. Local people investing in local people means that we can all muck in and put the work in to decarbonise where governments and large companies are slow to.”

Phil Ponsonby, chief executive of Mid-counties Co-operative, said that the company wanted to “go even further” in support of community power.

He said:

“Our Community Power tariff is the UK’s only tariff powered by 100% community-generated electricity and we ensure a fair price is paid to community generators. Thanks to the co-operative values of The Mid-counties Co-operative and the technological capability of Octopus Energy, the Community Power tariff provides customers award-winning service and access to community generation.”

Lastly, local, distributed energy generation isn’t just a great way of creating low cost and low carbon energy; it empowers communities and brings forward a new kind of economy with citizens in control.

A Homeowner’s Guide to Creating a Sustainable Property

Renewable energy is fast becoming a concern for governments all around the world, especially with environmental activists putting pressure on their local governments to enact large-scale changes. According to the BBC, The Welsh Government aims to have all new homes running on sustainable energy starting from 2025. Not only do these plans work towards the goal of near-zero emissions by 2050, but they’re also aimed at providing better standards of living for Welsh citizens. Up north, plans are currently underway to build a huge wind farm off the coast of Yorkshire that will power over 4.5 million homes.

However, the truth is that we still have a long way to go before many of these government interventions really get started. And with new and existing homes accounting for 20% of greenhouse gases in the UK, homeowners need to be doing their part as well. Here is how you can create your own sustainable home:

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Sustainable Heating System

The simplest way to shift to a sustainable heating system is to upgrade what your home already has. A guide to the ‘10 Ways to Save on Your Heating Bill’ by HomeServe outlines how an old boiler that hasn’t been replaced in decades can be very inefficient in its energy use. If this is the case with your home, upgrading your boiler to an energy efficient model, like a combi-boiler, will reduce the amount of energy used and help you reduce your energy bills.

Energy Efficient Design

If your home is due for a renovation, consider partnering with contractors and engineers to create a more energy-efficient design. You can have your windows upgraded to either double glazing or, if you want to go further, you can update your windows to have smart glass that can adjust the tint of the window to reduce the amount of heat entering and leaving the home. Home Building details how you can also choose natural and recycled materials for the construction of new rooms, and even add eco-friendly features like green walls.

Invest in renewable energy generators

Huge energy farms are what come to mind when people think of renewable energy. The Spruce’s guide to ‘Home Renewable Energy Options’ at home, notes that there are generators you can install to power your home via wind turbines or geothermal energy. Solar shingles can be used in the place of solar panels at almost a third of the price. While these generators may require a bit of investment up front, those who have the resources should consider making the switch in order to kick-start their road to making their home energy efficiency.

If you are already buying in bulk, shifting away from single-use plastic, and using reusable hygiene products, the next step is to consider your home’s energy output. The current movement towards sustainable and zero-waste living provides the perfect opportunity for homeowners to move towards larger-scale changes. Homeowners can, in fact, start reducing their energy footprint right now. The goal is to make small, incremental changes until you have a truly energy-efficient home.

Article specially written for renewableenergyhub.co.uk

By Alyson James

Image credit: Unsplash

AUTHOR BIO: Alyson James is a tech junkie who has recently gotten into sustainable living. Her main goals for this year are to lower her family’s energy consumption, cut her sugar intake, clean out her wardrobe, and (fingers crossed) be able to do a hand-stand.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Pledges £10bn to Fight Climate Change

Jeff Bezos Climate

The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon made a surprise announcement on Monday to launch a new Earth Fund that he plans to use in the fight against the effects of climate change.

The giant in the world of e-commerce said in an Instagram post that he was pledging to donate £10bn (£7.68bn) of his own money to start the fund which will be called the Bezos Earth Fund.

The fund will be used to issue grants to scientists, activists and other organizations in their efforts to “preserve and protect the natural world.”

Bezos said in his post:

 “We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals. Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet. I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

He went on to say that he foresees the Earth Fund starting to issue grants to climate-oriented causes as early as this summer. News of the new fund though unanticipated, comes at a time when Amazon has been seeking ways to address criticisms levelled at it. Many believe that Amazon’s e-commerce and shipping business play a big part in fuelling global carbon emissions.

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Earlier this year more than 340 Amazon employees risked losing their jobs by signing a Medium post published by the advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. The post criticised the company’s external communications policy which bars employees from speaking about the company’s business without the consent of management.

There is no doubt that Bezos has been slow to take his own advice when it comes to Amazon.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said on Monday that though they support Bezos’s move they were still concerned about the company’s support for the oil and gas industry.

The group said in a statement:

“We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away. The people of Earth need to know: When is Amazon going to stop helping oil & gas companies ravage Earth with still more oil and gas wells?”

In recent months Amazon has attempted to address similar criticisms by launching initiatives devised to help restrict its impact on the environment.

With vast data centres that power cloud computing, and a global network for shipping and delivering packages, Amazon’s impact on the environment is substantial. 

After almost a year of pressure from rank-and-file employees Amazon finally released a report in September 2019 detailing the company’s impact on the environment. The report revealed that in 2018 Amazon was responsible for emitting 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere which is roughly equal to the annual emissions of Norway or the equivalent of burning almost 600,000 tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline.

Bruno Sarda, president of CDP North America, a non-profit organization that encourages carbon disclosures, said in an interview at the time that this figure would put them in the top 150 or 200 emitters in the world,” alongside oil and gas producers and industrial manufacturers.

Amazon’s environmental report included a list of ambitious and long overdue pledges. The report said that the company plans to use 100
percent renewable energy and have 50 per cent of its shipments emitting net zero carbon by 2030. Amazon plans to have wind and solar power make up 80 per cent of its energy mix by 2024.  All of this adds up to an overall net zero carbon target of 2040, ten years before the 2050 net zero target needed to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement.

Amazon doesn’t provide detail for its carbon footprint of delivering 3.5 billion packages annually, but as part of its pledge to cut down its carbon emissions it has put in an order for 100,000 electric delivery vehicles, which it estimates will save four million tons of carbon annually by 2030. The plan would see electric vans starting to deliver packages to customers in 2021, with 10,000 of the new vehicles operating by 2022 and all 100,000 operating by 2030.

Despite President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark climate accord earlier in his presidency, Bezos went ahead with the unveiling of an ambitious plan to tackle climate change last year to honour the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early.

Bezos said at that time that the seller of everything from textbooks to lawnmowers would report its emissions metrics on a regular basis and introduce decarbonization strategies. Amazon predicts that 80% of its energy use will come from renewable energy sources by 2024 which would be up from a current rate of 40%.

Margaret O’Mara, a professor at the University of Washington who studies the history of tech companies, called the new Bezos fund “a very powerful statement” and said the Amazon chief executive’s actions followed the steps that other tech moguls, such as the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, had taken to address the warming planet.

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Is the UK Ready for a Community Energy Revolution?

community solar panels

According to a new report, The Future of Community Energy’, commissioned by Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) and produced by WPI Economics the UK government should establish a national community energy strategy with a community energy fund.

The report suggests that community energy schemes such as community owned solar panels or wind turbines could power up to 2.2 million homes by 2030, generating up to 5.3GW of renewable electricity. It maps out the scale of the benefits the sector could deliver if given the support needed to flourish.

SPEN is asking the government to support the creation of new, region funding streams and to provide more help and resource to local community groups wanting to set up schemes to allow for faster uptake of community energy.

They believe that if a national strategy were to be adopted it could ‘kick-start’ a community energy revolution and create the opportunity for millions of households to play a vital role in helping the UK meet its climate goals. The UK government has in fact legislated to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. It is estimated that 2.5m tonnes of carbon emissions could be saved which is more than the annual emissions of all UK domestic flights if a national community energy strategy was put in place. Households within these schemes could also see their energy bills cut by up to £150m a year.

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A community energy revolution of this intensity could lead to the generation of over 8,000 jobs and inject up to £1.8 billion into the UK’s regions by 2030. Potentially the UK could see a rise in the number of community energy organisations from several hundred today to around 4,000.

SPEN is also recommending that the government learns how to go about initiating the schemes in the most effective way from existing communities and local energy support organisations that have successfully implemented these types of projects.

The Distribution Network Operator (DNO) has made a commitment to launch an educational toolkit, which is set to provide communities with the information needed to get schemes off the ground.

Frank Mitchell, chief executive of SP Energy Networks, said it’s “time for communities to be given a stronger voice in how their areas reach net zero”.  Communities need new funding streams and reduced regulation in licensing planning in order to meet that vision.

Mitchell added:

“As the provider of the energy networks that make this possible, SP Energy Networks is committed to doing more. But we need government and regulators to allow us to do so.”

On launching the report Frank Mitchell said:

“This report shows just how much potential there is within our communities in our drive to a zero-carbon future, lowering emissions with the additional benefit of driving up skills and jobs across the UK. It also shows what might be possible by highlighting the innovative efforts of communities, notably in Scotland and Wales, where sustained government support and a strong backing from third sector organisations has enabled local energy to lead the way, not only in a UK context but internationally as well.”

Keith Anderson, Chief Executive of Scottish Power said: 

“We recently launched our Zero Carbon Communities roadmap highlighting the changes needed in communities to reach net zero. This report builds on that, by outlining what is needed to empower everyone to get involved in tackling climate change and our toolkit will help ensure that local communities are not left behind in the green energy revolution. We are committed to helping all our communities to play their part in tackling the climate emergency whilst enjoying significant benefits and achieving a better future quicker”.

The Energy Networks Association announced a series of Community Energy Forums in October 2019 devised to further integrate community energy into its Open Networks Project.

Community energy is also beginning to play a bigger role in country-wide supply with Co-op Energy launching a tariff using electricity entirely sourced from community energy projects.

The tariff entitled Community Power will use energy that is 100% renewable and sourced from community energy projects around the UK, through a Joint Venture between the Mid-counties Co-operative and Octopus Energy. For just £5 more than the company’s standard tariff a month, customers can opt for renewable electricity and carbon offset gas from 90 community suppliers. The tariff will cost on average £88 a month for a typical household, and profits will be reinvested back into the community energy projects. Power from projects such as Westmill Wind and Solar are included in the community energy mix.

Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy said:

“Being able to buy locally-sourced clean, green energy is a massive jump in the right direction for this country’s ailing power grid and carbon emissions. Investing in more local energy infrastructure and getting Britain’s homes run by the sun when it’s shining and the wind when it’s blowing can end our reliance on dirty fossil fuels sooner than we hoped. Local people investing in local people means that we can all muck in and put the work in to decarbonise where governments and large companies are slow to.”

Phil Ponsonby, chief executive of Mid-counties Co-operative, said that the company wanted to “go even further” in support of community power.

He said:

“Our Community Power tariff is the UK’s only tariff powered by 100% community-generated electricity and we ensure a fair price is paid to community generators. Thanks to the co-operative values of The Mid-counties Co-operative and the technological capability of Octopus Energy, the Community Power tariff provides customers award-winning service and access to community generation.”

Lastly, local, distributed energy generation isn’t just a great way of creating low cost and low carbon energy; it empowers communities and brings forward a new kind of economy with citizens in control.

6 Ways to Slow Down Climate Change

Climate Change

If there’s anything the Australian bushfires have taught us, it’s the fact that climate change is real and can no longer be denied. Our planet is getting hotter and we must act quickly to prevent further climate catastrophes.

The bushfires are changing the way Australians live, as it should for people all around the globe. Thankfully, many individuals, families and organisations have recognised the impact of a warmer climate and are preparing to make changes now.

With so many great minds now focussing on the crisis, we’re seeing innovative ideas that can slow down climate change and ideally reverse it. Ideas are fantastic however it’s action that can change the world. Some of the ideas in this article may seem small and insignificant and others may seem outside your realm of influence. That’s okay! If we all work towards what we can control and make some adjustments in our lives, collectively we can produce a far better outcome.

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  1. Online connectivity

Why drive to work every day when online technologies allows most of us to work from home. You’ll help save the planet by not driving and producing carbon emissions and studies show you’ll probably be more productive. Some entire companies are moving to a work from home model that also means no large office needs to be powered, heated, cooled and maintained which will also save energy.

  • Automatic sensors

It’s easy for us all to forget to do the simple things like turning lights off when we leave a room. Installing automatic sensors in the home or office space is a great way to minimise the waste of energy. These simple devices can do things like turning off the lights when no one is in the room, adjust the indoor temperature when rooms are no longer in use, and control the water flow from faucets to prevent waste. Automatic sensors typically generate power usage reports, which is a fun way to monitor the improvements your gadgets are making.

  • Solar photovoltaic panels

The invention of solar photovoltaic panels has reduced our dependency on fossil fuels for energy. Solar PVs are a practical and cost-effective tool for converting energy from the sun into energy we can use daily. Technological developments over the years have improved solar PVs’ capacity for absorbing the energy from the sun and also lowered the costs. Though roof-mounted panels are still the more popular form of solar PVs, ground-mounted panels have become popular for solar farms. There are also practical ways to design your home to make use of passive solar.

  • Wind turbines

Just like solar PVs, wind turbines have contributed significantly to reducing our need to burn fossil fuels for energy. Wind turbines harness the wind’s kinetic energy and convert it into power we can use every day. They work best in open places where the wind is known to be strong. While we are seeing wind turbines power industry, in years to come maybe options will be developed to power our homes.

  • Renewable energy storage

One of the modern advantages of using renewable energy is the ability to store that energy for future use. That’s why many solar PVs now come with rechargeable batteries. Where the costs for batteries were once prohibitive, you can now purchase a battery solution at a fraction of the cost.

  • Distributed energy resources

It’s now possible for communities to take more control over their power consumption through distributed energy resources (DERs). DERs, also called microgrids, can produce cleaner energy and can lower power costs for consumers. While its challenging to gain community agreement on this type of project, if the global climate crisis continues to escalate its likely more people will want to get off the national grid, have more direct control over power usage, and save money by setting up a DER in their neighbourhood.

Our planet is getting hotter, and the increasing heat is wreaking havoc on our weather patterns. If we act quickly and rethink the ways we produce and use energy, we can slow down global warming and climate change.

Learn more about solar panels and renewable energy here.

Renewable Energy Strategies in the Oil and Gas Sector

Oil and Gas Industry

Renewable energy is suddenly taking a very important role in the energy industry; especially solar and wind. In light of this, major players in the oil and gas industry have begun to position themselves for this forecasted energy transition. 

Major investments by the oil majors into renewable energy has called for the question of whether this is an indication that they are gradually transitioning into energy companies. Also, upon closer study of this trend, it is easy to classify the major players into leaders in renewable energy investment and slackers. 

The results indicate that of eight majors, five have invested significantly in renewable energy. The results also indicate a very noticeable link between renewable energy strategies of oil majors and their proven oil reserves. 

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Projections from BP’s 2018 Energy Outlook show that renewable energy would be the most rapidly growing energy source and is estimated to increase five-fold by 2040.

 The figure would then effectively make up about 14% of primary energy globally by this time in the future. In addition, the oil and gas industry has taken hits and the majors are looking for other profitable prospects as this industry gradually declines. 

Although there has been no peak demand for oil in a while, it is expected to occur soon as this industry typically experiences oil demand growth slows down first before peaking. Therefore, oil and gas jobs are still very much in circulation. 

Renewable Energy Strategies by the Major Players 

In light of these happenings, the oil industry is at a crossroads as to whether it should somewhat reinvent itself and bear the banner of renewables businesses instead.

 This is further encouraged by the increasing costs of extracting hydrocarbons, this effectively presents an incentive of gravitating away from hydrocarbons and accelerating the energy transition towards the cheaper renewable energy resources. 

This also calls for the question of whether renewables could be the next big business for oil majors to divert their scarce capital into and away from upstream oil. 

Due to this, most oil firms are constantly researching what other sustainable ventures can replace what is the best cash cow presently available in the world so that their future is assured. 

On top of all of these, the increasing concerns about climate change, especially after the Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21) Paris Agreement may be further motivation for this strategy in order to prevent hardening investor sentiment towards carbon emissions.

 In the wake of COP21, over 170 countries reached a consensus to make efforts towards placing a limit on global warming to significantly below two degrees Celsius, and this would very well require major investments in low-carbon energy sources. 

Sequel to this, the chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell Mr. Ben van Beurden recently made it known to investors that Royal Dutch Shell was now an energy transition company as against its previous oil and gas company tag. 

The present business models of the oil majors and renewable companies, however, do not share similarities. And the oil industry would very much likely for instance, have an entirely different capital cost compared to the renewables sector. 

Majority of renewable ventures such as solar and wind projects typically churn out cash flows similar to annuities for decades after an initial up-front capital expenditure that usually comes with a low price risk and this is very much different from the models of oil businesses that put in place the probability of facing oil risk. 

This brings about the argument that the power business is almost becoming an identical version of the oil industry with the increasing share of intermittent renewables. 

This often requires the skill set of a trader in order to increase volatility and it also provides a risk reduction in a future that is going to be an environmentally low carbon one. 

The Rise in Renewable Energy 

Data from the International Energy Agency indicates that renewable energy accounted for nearly two-thirds of the net new power capacity globally in the year 2016; in addition, almost 164GW came on stream. 

Projections show that over the course of the next 20 years, renewable energy would experience the most rapid growth in terms of global primary energy and would be responsible for two-thirds of global investments in power plants to 2040. 

As a form of a strategic response to the rising cost of hydrocarbon extraction and growth potential in the renewable energy sector, oil companies have started to exhibit a major presence in the renewable energy and electricity sector. 

However, there are various levels to this engagement, the oil majors, of course, are at the forefront and are fast developing strategies to acquire the major portions of this rapidly growing renewable energy market. 

While at this, they also continue to get a grip of value propositions of renewables while weighing it still against oil and gas developments.

 This comes as a result of pressure from climate activists and shareholders to limit global warming by reducing carbon emissions from hydrocarbons. 

It is worthy of note that oil majors including Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total, BP, Eni, Petrobras, and Statoil/Equinor have all begun to gravitate towards big energy.

 In addition, of all oil majors, only ExxonMobil has not made a move towards developing solar and wind assets. None of the oil majors have investments in geothermal energy while only Total and Petrobras have exposure to hydro activities. 

Conclusion 

The oil and gas industry is one that has taken quite a few hits over the past few years with oil prices constantly fluctuating.

However, this doesn’t imply that the industry is indeed still a very formidable one. With the rise in global warming, major oil players have begun to seek other alternatives for clean and sustainable energy and prevention of energy losses

This implies that one thing is certain, the oil and gas industry is indeed evolving and this, therefore, guarantees longevity. 

Should your Business Invest in Solar Panels in 2020

business solar panels

You may be asking yourself whether it would be worth your business investing in solar panels. If you have an empty roof space, want to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on your energy bills it would be well worth spending some of your time investigating the options open to you.

Whether your business is large or small there are compelling reasons to invest in solar energy. As the cost of energy rises putting your roof space to good use can be a sensible decision for your business. Many commercial organisations have already realised the big savings that can be made from installing solar panels to supply your business with electricity. All you have to do is utilise the roof space on your commercial premises, agricultural buildings, factories, warehouses, schools or hospitals, and install solar power generators to start generating solar energy.

Commercial solar panels can make a real difference to your business by generating free, green electricity during daytime hours that can be used on site, lowering your business demand for energy from the grid and potentially saving thousands of pounds on energy bills. Ideally you would use all the solar power onsite, however any surplus power can be sold to the grid which has the added bonus of generating extra income. For larger business solar panel and commercial rooftop installations you can achieve a reasonable return on investment, despite the Feed in Tariff coming to an end, particularly if you consume a significant amount of electricity during daylight hours. What’s more, solar panels have no moving parts, so ongoing maintenance costs are minimal. High users of generated electricity will benefit the most. Solar PV is in fact a reliable and safe investment vehicle that provides returns exceeding those of traditional low risk financial products.

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With energy prices predicted to sharply rise in the next 10 years purchasing commercial solar panels can make financial forecasting much easier by allowing you to effectively forward buy your electricity at a set price. Installing solar panels stabilises your electricity supply and can reduce cooling overheads in the summer.

Another important point to consider is your energy security. The National Grid is currently struggling to generate considerable electricity supply to meet the UK’s growing energy demands. At the same time the government has introduced mandatory energy audits for large businesses via the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and are considering future energy usage regulation, making independent solar installations an excellent backup measure.

By taking your Business’s energy solution into your own hands and generating your own solar energy you will emit less CO2 into the atmosphere, reducing your carbon footprint considerably as well as increasing your company’s sustainable credentials and improving your business reputation. Solar panels are a fantastic way of displaying your green values in a prominent and public-facing way.

If you are looking at installing a large-scale commercial solar panel PV array such as a solar field, you will require planning approval from the local authority. The final planning decision will be based on a number of different factors including visual impact (glare, etc.), the potential benefits it could bring to the local community, the array’s impact on the local ecosystem, as well as the local electricity grid connectivity. There will be a planning application fee, usually dependent on the size of the proposed site, each local authority will have its own guidelines on this. The LA will also conduct a site visit when assessing a planning application, as well as gauging the local reaction to the proposals.

Planning permission will also be required if your solar PV system is intended for installation on a listed building or a site designated as a scheduled ancient monument or world heritage site.

Due to advancements in technology the cost of solar panels has plummeted in the last 10 years. The type of solar panel system that you require will depend on the size of the commercial business which will determine the range of wattage and price.

The most popular systems for businesses have a 5-9kW output but a commercial operation with large spaces of land may require a system with an output of 25kW to even as much as 200kW.

A minimum upfront investment of around £10,000 is required for a small commercial system to cover the supply and installation of solar panels, inverter, isolators, cabling, relevant testing, certification and registering with regulatory bodies and your electricity company.

You may choose not to invest capital and there are various different funding options available. If your business qualifies you may even be eligible for free commercial solar panels. Renewable Energy Hub can help you look at what is available.

Some energy suppliers may offer power purchase agreements (PPAs) to businesses who meet qualifying criteria. With this type of agreement, solar panels are installed on your roof at no cost to your business, while the electricity generated is purchased back from the funder at a rate that is substantially cheaper than that offered by your existing supplier, saving you thousands of pounds in electricity bills.

Bearing in mind the high upfront cost involved especially in the case of large-scale solar projects, the feasibility, development and planning processes for large-scale solar projects are usually lengthy and very detailed. Substantial building or landscaping work may also be required.  As with any other solar PV installation, in order for a site to be suitable it must usually meet certain conditions, such as:

  • few obstacles (trees, hills, buildings, etc) which could cause shading issues and reduce the output of the array
  • flat or south sloping ground is optimal
  • there must be access for initial construction and regular maintenance
  • some PV developers may set a minimum area of land for it to be financially viable
  • there must be a local connection to the electricity grid
  • the proposed site must not be susceptible to floods
  • planning permission is unlikely to be granted for proposed sites located in protected areas
  • there must be a local connection to the electricity grid

Deciding to go solar isn’t a decision you make in a day. Indeed, it certainly shouldn’t be done without thorough evaluation and careful assessment of both the pros and cons.

In most cases, the benefits of going solar far outweigh the drawbacks and understanding both will help you make wiser, more confident choices for your business.

Find out more about solar here. 

Is the Fossil Fuel Age Finally drawing to a Close?

coal fired power station smoke stacks

More and more people are realising that the threat of global heating is indisputable. Global concern is building as we all realise the implications if we fail to cut carbon emissions. With this greater understanding, action is being taken to address climate change on many different fronts. The era of the hydrocarbon which saw mankind through the second stage of the industrial revolution is drawing to a close as a new global energy reality emerges. History shows us that the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones and it looks set to be the same for fossil fuels.

A report published by the Carbon Brief website revealed that Energy produced by the UK’s renewable sector outperformed fossil fuel plants on a record 137 days in 2019 to help the country’s energy system record its greenest year yet.

Renewable energy from wind, solar, hydro and biomass projects grew by 9% last year and was the UK’s largest electricity source in March, August, September and December. Figures issued by the National Grid showed that wind farms, hydro plants, solar and nuclear energy alongside clean power imported by sub-sea cables delivered 48.5% of the UK’s electricity in 2019. In comparison fossil fuels only generated 43% of the UK’s electricity.  The rise of renewables in 2019 helped drive generation from coal and gas plants down by 6% from the year before and 50% lower from the start of the decade. The National Grid confirmed that “low-carbon” electricity including energy from renewables and nuclear plants actually made up more than half the UK’s energy mix for the first time last year.

National Grid CEO John Pettigrew told Sky News:

“2019 is a massively historic milestone in that it’s the first time ever in the UK that we’ve had more electricity produced from zero carbon fuels than from fossil fuels. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a gradual shift away from fossil fuels. So, in 2009, about 30% of electricity in the UK was produced by coal but what’s been happening over the last decade is a move towards wind and solar as well as zero carbon electricity from Europe being important into the UK as well.”

In fact, the number of coal-free days has accelerated from the first 24-hour period in 2017 to 21 days in 2018 and 83 days last year.

According to a new report by energy market analyst EnAppSys renewables are on course to outstrip fossil fuels as the primary source of power in the UK during 2020 building on the success of 2019.

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The study forecasts that wind, solar and other forms of renewable generation will generate 121.3 terawatt hours of electricity during 2020 compared with 105.6 terawatt hours from coal- and gas-fired power stations.

EnAppSys director Paul Verrill said:

“With the moratorium on onshore wind and reductions in capital cost of offshore wind farms, it is likely that more of these offshore projects will come on stream in future years, which will drive even higher levels of renewable output.”

Improvements in the electrical transmission infrastructure have also increased the contribution of renewable energy to the UK fuel mix.

If you go back to 2018, gas was responsible for providing 37.6% of the total amount of electricity in the UK while renewables accounted for 31.2% and nuclear generation supplied 19.9%. Imports provided 6.3% of electricity while coal supplied 5%.

The report also stated that it was the rise in the number of offshore wind farms that were commissioned or entered full operation during 2018 that drove the increase in renewables generation. Added to that solar generation has also climbed from 81.0TWh in 2015 to 113.5TWh last year.

Despite the UK’s low-carbon electricity production doubling over the last 10 years and the 2019 record, growth slowed sharply in the last year of the decade due to a string of outages at the UK’s ageing nuclear power plants. Carbon Brief’s report warned this could slow progress in the years ahead.

Simon Evans, the author of Carbon Brief’s report, said:

“Our analysis shows that rapid gains in decarbonising the power sector can’t be taken for granted and won’t just continue to magically happen forever. The government’s seemingly ambitious target to roll out 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 won’t happen without policies to back it up and it may not be enough on its own to meet UK climate goals, without contributions from onshore wind, solar or further new nuclear.”

Audrey Gallacher, Energy UK’s interim chief executive, said the report was a “stark reminder” that the energy industry must go “much further and faster” to help meet the UK’s climate target. The UK has pledged to create a carbon-neutral economy by cutting emissions to net zero by 2050. This means the UK must only emit as much carbon as it is able to capture and store.

In order to meet the UK’s rising need for clean electricity for transport and heating there needs to be a huge increase in low-carbon generation.

Audrey Gallacher went on to say:

“The amount of low-carbon power produced has doubled over the last decade but we need to go above and beyond that to keep pace with our climate change targets, especially with overall demand set to increase, rather than falling as it has done in recent years. This underlines the urgency of increasing all forms of low-carbon generation and why we need to see the government’s energy white paper as soon as possible, with action and policies that can enable the required investment and innovation to make this happen.”

Though levels of coal-fired energy generation have slumped 89% while levels of renewable generation have grown since 2012, gas-fired output has remained relatively static. Wind will continue to be the primary source of renewable generation having produced a record high share of the renewables mix.

In January this year the Guardian newspaper announced that they would no longer be accepting advertising from oil and gas companies in a strong move to support the campaign against climate change. They are the first major global news organisation to institute an outright ban on taking money from companies that extract fossil fuels. The ban will apply to any business primarily involved in extracting fossil fuels, including many of the world’s largest polluters.

The company’s acting chief executive, Anna Bateson, and the chief revenue officer, Hamish Nicklin, said in a joint statement:

 “Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world.”

They went on to say that the response to global heating was the “most important challenge of our times”.

The campaign group Greenpeace were pleased with the move.

Mel Evans, senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK said:

“This is a watershed moment, and the Guardian must be applauded for this bold move to end the legitimacy of fossil fuels.  Oil and gas firms now find themselves alongside tobacco companies as businesses that threaten the health and wellbeing of everyone on this planet. Other media outlets, arts and sports organisations must now follow suit and end fossil fuel company advertising and sponsorship.”

As we are already seeing in Europe, the demand for hydrocarbon will be  driven by declining renewable energy costs, government policies, new technologies, and companies’ shifts in strategies to prepare for the new energy age.  Major structural changes in fossil fuel supply, demand, energy mix and prices will happen as a result.

It’s worth mentioning that since 2010 a contributing factor to the uptake of solar PV, has been that costs have fallen by 80%, while at the same time more mature technologies, like onshore wind, have seen costs fall about 30%.

Research by Wood Mackenzie, a global energy, chemicals, renewables, metals, mining research and consultancy group, predicts that after 2035 the increase in the adoption of renewable generation and electrified transport will make them the default choice across many energy systems around the world. They foresee that half of all new power plants constructed globally will be either solar or wind, or a hybrid combination with storage and on top of this 50% of all additional miles travelled by road will use an electric vehicle.

There is no doubt that we have now entered the era of the renewable energy resource where zero-emission electricity is generated via near unlimited inputs from solar radiation, wind, tides and hydrogen. We are living in a time when cutting-edge, smart electric grids, utility-scale storage, and electric self-driving vehicles powered by everything from lithium-ion batteries to hydrogen fuel cells will be critical elements of this historic energy transition.

Find out more about solar here. 

Find out more about wind turbines here

Why is it a Good Time to Install a Heat Pump

air source heat pump

Decarbonising our heating systems has long been one of the greatest challenges that we face in our fight against climate change.

As we become more aware of our carbon footprint and the potentially catastrophic effect of climate change on the planet more and more of us are looking at alternatives to fossil fuels to heat our homes.

Although trust in renewable energy has grown with more homes installing solar panels than ever before when it comes to heating most homes are still fitted with gas boilers. In fact, many homeowners are still unaware of what alternatives are available.

There are a few different options to consider when looking to upgrade or replace your current heating system.

Heat pumps are an excellent choice to ensure your home is safely heated when you need it on those long winter days.

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Heat pumps move heat from one place to another with the use of a compressor and liquid or gas refrigerant. The heat is usually extracted from the outdoors and pumped indoors through the heat pump. Pumping the heat tends to use a lot less electricity compared to traditional methods of converting electricity into heat. This cycle can be reversed during the summer season to act as an air conditioner making it multi-functional.

When it comes to the process of heating and cooling, heat pumps are the most efficient alternative to fuel, oil, and electrical systems. They supply a larger capacity of heating and cooling than the amount of electrical energy that is used to run it. In fact, the efficiency rate is able to go up as high as 300%.

There are many different types of heat pump, but they all operate on the same principle, heat transfer. The most common type of heat pump is the air source heat pump, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air. It works by absorbing heat from the outside air. Ground source, water source or geothermal heat pumps achieve higher efficiencies by transferring heat between your house and the ground or nearby water source.

When shopping for a heat pump for your home it is important that you know about the advantages and disadvantages of the equipment. A heat pump can be a fantastic investment for your home when you know how to choose the right equipment.

Here are some of the advantages of installing a heat pump system:

  • Safety: Heat pumps are safer to own and operate in comparison to combustion-based heating systems on the market
  • Less Maintenance: Heat pumps require less maintenance than combustion heating systems. They only need professional check-ups every 3-5 years. The homeowner can easily do certain check-ups himself. This is one way that you can save money when you invest in a heat pump system.
  • Lower operational costs: Heat pumps are cheaper to run than oil and gas boilers. These systems will save you more money in the long term due to greater energy efficiency. Although the initial cost of a ground source heat pump can be high, you can save a lot of money each year with an environmentally friendly heat pump.
  • Less Carbon Emissions: The systemreduces your carbon emissions and has an efficient conversion rate of energy to heat compared to other heating systems. For example, a water-based heat pump is at least 600% more efficient compared to other heating systems on the market today. This has the added benefit of reducing your carbon footprint over time.
  • Heating and Cooling: Heat pumps Can provide cooling during the summer, effectively making it an air conditioner.
  • Durability: Heat pumpshave a very long lifespan of up to 50 years with the right type of maintenance. As a result, they are extremely reliable and a steady source of heat.
  • The RHI Scheme: You are eligible for payments under theRenewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. This scheme helps homeowners and business owners to install renewable heat systems in their homes and offices.

The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a government financial incentive to encourage people to switch to renewable heating systems. If you join and comply with the scheme rules, you’ll receive payments every three months for seven years, to assist in reimbursing you for some of the cost of installation. This can amount to as much as 80% of your initial outlay for the installation of the system. It’s a way to help the UK reduce its carbon emissions and is running until at least 2021. The scheme is available for households both off and on the gas grid. Those without mains gas have the most potential to save on fuel bills and decrease carbon emissions.

On the whole, the Domestic RHI scheme is for heating systems for single homes. You firstly need to check that your renewable heating system is in a property for which a domestic Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has been issued. The EPC is the proof needed to establish that your property is assessed as a domestic ‘dwelling’. Unless one has been issued, you can’t apply for RHI and won’t be able to join the scheme.

Your EPC must be less than 24 months old at the date of application. It needs to accurately reflect information about your house. If you have undertaken construction work on your property since your EPC was issued you may need to get a new one to ensure it reflects your circumstances. You must install loft and cavity wall insulation if it’s recommended in the EPC.

Here are the 5 of the most important points to cover in order to be eligible for RHI:

  • You must be the owner of an eligible heating system.
  • You must have an Energy Performance Certificate.
  • You must own or occupy the property the renewable heating system is in.
  • Your renewable heating system and installer must be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
  • It is now compulsory for people who want to join the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive to install meters to receive tariff payments.

RHI cash payments are made quarterly over seven years. The amount you receive will depend on a number of factors – including the technology you install, the latest tariffs available for each technology and in some cases, metering. Normally the heat required to heat the property will be estimated and payments will be based on this amount.

The tariffs are set by the UK Government at a level designed to compensate for the difference between costs of installing and operating renewable heating systems and fossil fuel systems, including non-financial costs such as disruption, on the basis of 20 years of heat produced. Fossil fuel costs used are those for off-gas households.

It is also of course important to consider the disadvantages of heat pumps and here are a few:

  • Difficult to Install: Heat pumps are fairly difficult to install and need to be fitted by a professional installer. Research must be undertaken in order to understand the movement of heat, local geology, as well as the heating and cooling requirements for your household.
  • High Initial Costs: The initial investment for a heat pump is much higher than investing in other heating systems for your home or office. But the operational costs translate to long-term savings in the long run. You will save on your energy bills and reduce the carbon footprint on the planet.
  • Sustainability Issues: Some liquids used in heat pumps are of questionable sustainability. They may raise environmental concerns at times. Hence it is recommended to use biodegradable fluids. 
  • Cold Weather Conditions: Some heat pumps experience various problems in extremely cold weather conditions. Their full efficiency may not be reached under such circumstances. Extreme cold weather can damage the components of some heat pumps. That’s why you need to invest in the right product depending on the weather conditions in your region. There are possibilities of an upgraded heat pump system that could overcome this problem.
  • Not 100% Carbon Neutral: Heat pumps depend on electricity to operate. Hence, these systems are not 100% carbon neutral. Solar electricity is the best for heat pumps because it’s an effective carbon-free model. Heat pumps should be used in combination with solar panels for the best environmental benefits.
  • Planning And Installation Permissions: The homeowner needs to get permission from the local authorities to install heat pumps in some regions of the United Kingdom. For example, Wales and Northern Ireland require permission to install heat pumps. But in England and Scotland, the installation may depend on the location and the size of the property.

Heat pumps are only a small investment when you consider the long-term benefits. You not only save on your energy bills but reduce your carbon footprint at the same time helping the UK reach its net zero target of carbon emissions by 2050.

Lastly, make sure that you do the research required before shopping for the best heat pump on the market for you and your home or office and the best installer to fit it.

Find out more about heat pumps here.