Six Eco-friendly Business Practices To Adopt Today

Eco-Friendly Business

Climate change is currently top of the news agenda, with protests calling for climate action taking place all over the world. According to the United Nations, we now have just over a decade to halt irreversible damage to our planet, so it’s time to make sustainability a priority in business.

Moral responsibility isn’t the only reason to take note of eco-friendly business practices, either. Growing numbers of consumers are highlighting sustainability as one of the key factors in their buying decisions. This trend is most prevalent amongst the youngest consumer groups, who are increasingly calling for better transparency and more ethical supply chains.

Environmental factors have long been part of many a corporate social responsibility policy, but it’s now time to look more closely at what we could be doing to improve sustainability, whilst still providing the same great service that customers expect. Take a look at the following eco-friendly business practices and start thinking about the changes you might be able to make within your own organisation. 

Use sustainable delivery processes

Delivery services have a substantial carbon footprint, but there are changes that we can make to improve this. Whilst the transport of some goods will inevitably require the use of vans, lorries and aeroplanes, there are other journeys that could easily be switched for more sustainable (and cheaper) options. Consider sustainable delivery processes wherever possible, and think about whether you might be able to make use of environmentally friendly courier services such as bicycles for shorter journeys. It’s also worth bearing in mind the use of packaging when transporting goods. Ensure that all packaging is recyclable, and that waste is minimised.

Explore virtual staffing

Flexible working arrangements are becoming more popular in business, and many companies are now starting to explore the opportunities of virtual staffing too. Virtual staff members usually work from home, but provide all the support that you might expect from in-house team members.

The advantages of this are numerous. Of course, the elimination of a daily commute significantly reduces the carbon footprint of remote staff. Businesses working with virtual team members regularly will also require smaller office spaces, and therefore benefit from a reduction in office waste and energy consumption. Virtual staffing can also be massively beneficial for productivity, enabling organisations to connect with the top people for the job, no matter where in the world they happen to be based.

Conserve energy

There are so many ways to save energy in the workplace, so make sure your company hasn’t missed any. Some changes are obvious, such as reducing the use of artificial lighting as much as possible, and switching to energy efficient light bulbs. But others are less so. Did you know, for example, that choosing laptops over desktop computers will enable your business to reduce its energy consumption and save money on bills? It’s also worth checking that hibernation mode is enabled on all computers in the workplace, and that all equipment is updated regularly to maximise efficiency.

Use less paper

With so many business tasks now managed online, it’s incredibly easy to reduce paper consumption at work. Make this change a key part of your company culture, and encourage team members to change their habits and limit their use of paper. It’s a good idea to share the facts regarding overuse of paper, to give employees a thorough understanding of how their decisions impact the planet. It takes over three gallons of water to make a single sheet of paper, and the production of paper is the third most energy-intensive in manufacturing industries. The more we know about what goes into making paper, the less likely we are to waste it.

Cut down on plastic

Single-use plastic is a massive global problem, so it’s well worth making changes in your workplace to reduce the use of plastic items. Limit single-use products as much as you can, and switch to reusable options wherever possible.

Think about office stationery such as pens, for example. By providing employees with refillable pens, you’ll already be reducing your company’s plastic consumption. Opting for milk in glass bottles rather than plastic cartons is another simple change that’s incredibly easy to make. There are many similar changes that you can introduce in minutes, so take a look at your plastic waste at work and think about what you could do to cut down on plastic.

Switch to green web hosting

Web hosting might not immediately spring to mind when you think about the environmental impact of your business, but it should do. The data centres that power web hosting services use an eye watering amount of electricity. In the US, data centres are responsible for the same amount of energy as five nuclear power plants. And the carbon dioxide output of your average server beats that of a car!

The carbon footprint of the web hosting industry is on the rise, as we become more and more dependent on online services. So, it’s about time we all switched to green web hosting options. Companies providing green web hosting services prioritise eco-friendly practises, and offset their environmental impact as much as possible. Make the switch and your business will immediately reduce its carbon footprint, with no knock on effect on the service that your customers experience.

Making the switch to eco-friendly business practises doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. There are plenty of changes that you can make today that won’t cost your business a penny, and will in fact save you money in the long run. And with the impact of climate change becoming increasingly clear, every business has a responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint and prioritise sustainability. Your customers will thank you, and the planet just might too.

Solar Ready Buildings – How Design Impacts Solar Installations

Solar House

Solar technology was once a big thing, but it fell off rather quickly because it couldn’t be applied, as it was expensive to build. However, in the past years, things have changed. Deployment has grown while the costs of solar design solutions have decreased.

When it comes to solar-ready buildings, their designs don’t have to be utilized straight away. If it makes no sense to install solar panels today, it might make sense in 5 years. It’s always a good idea to have options, especially as solar design technologies could become much better in the future.

Buildings with solar-ready designs are built so that solar photovoltaic systems can be installed in the future. The design of the building affects its solar capabilities. Here is how.

The Design of The Roof is Essential

A solar PV system is usually placed on the roof of the building. The first important thing is the material it’s made of. A PV system can be burdensome, and the roof needs to be able to withstand all that equipment. Overall, each square foot should be able to hold around 6 pounds on average.

On the other hand, the roof design should include the least equipment possible. This means that there will be more room for a solar system in the future. The wind pressures on the roof also need to be calculated to ensure that solar equipment can withstand them if installed.

Some roofs have tall walls going around the whole roof. They are made to ensure that nobody falls over and for esthetic reasons. These walls should be short enough to ensure that they won’t create any shade over solar panels, no matter the time of day.

Shading and Orientation Can Make Solar Systems Ineffective

For a building to have a solar design, it needs to include proper space for the placement of solar equipment that can function flawlessly. The first thing that needs to be considered is the orientation of the building. The area predetermined for the panels needs to be exposed to sunlight for most of the day.

This is how the system installed will have maximum efficiency. On sloped roofs, it’s best to install the system on the south side to avoid all the shading. Furthermore, when designing the roof, it needs to have at least one side that is exposed to the sun during the day.

This also means taking into account the surrounding buildings and vegetation. Placing the building so that nothing will disrupt the absorption of solar energy is essential.

Creating an Infrastructure for Future PV Systems

Solar designs don’t involve space only. They also need to be mounted and installed along with all of their equipment that allows them to function correctly. Some panels can be mounted only with penetrating hardware. This means that the roof’s concrete should have enough space for these mounts.

At the same time, the material of the roof can’t be weak and stiff. Apart from solar panels and an inverter, the PV system will also have an electrical panel located within the building. This means that the energy will have to travel from the roof and down into the building.

If one wants to do this, it’s necessary to install electrical conduits that will route the energy down. Even though this is possible later on, it can be more difficult and more expensive. By installing these conduits right away and leaving space for them, you will have no problem connecting a solar system on the roof.

PV System Design and Building Design

Even if the building isn’t going to have a PV system right away, future plans need to be taken into consideration. What will the electrical needs of the building be? Is there a need for electrical storage? How much electricity will the building itself need?

These are just some of the questions that need answering. Based on the answers, you can figure out what PV system design would suit the building. The size and style of the system, along with appropriate energy spending and production, will make it easier to design a proper surface for future use.

Still, with mechanical concept design, it is possible to get a custom-tailored system for your building. For this, however, it will be necessary to set aside extra funds. It’s not always possible to avoid using a new mechanical concept design, but you can always adjust the space for the majority of the PV system.

Permits and Zoning Laws can Affect Your Design

Zoning laws are essential, and they should be considered when looking at potential building design. Of course, zoning might allow you to build a building that is tall as you want it to be, but it might mean that another building might pop out next to yours and create shade.

This could destroy any potential for a solar roof system. Furthermore, before planning for solar systems, you need to check permits for these kinds of systems in the area and whether you can install what you need.

Some building designs where you might need to install a PV system could also be illegal, and you need to take those into account as well. Remember that, in some cases, there are exceptions for local laws. You can go to the local authorities and talk to them about your ideas and needs.

Summary

The best way to properly set up your solar building design is to get CAD design services. With these visual representations, you can easily customize your designs and see how everything will be laid out.

Manpower: the new alternative energy source.

Gym

When we think of alternative energy production, we automatically picture fields of wind turbines or homes laden with solar panels. However, can we still call these methods alternative when for the first time in 2019 renewable electricity overtook fossil fuels? Even with this great news, the UK is still a long way from being completely supplied by renewables, so are there other alternative energy sources that we, as a nation, can tap into?

Where we humans exert the most energy is in the gym. The miles and miles pounded into a treadmill and the forces exerted on weight machines may just give us the extra boost we need to meet the UK’s demand. There are already examples where gym users actually power the gym itself. Terra Hale, meaning “Strong Earth”, is a self-sustaining gym in London, taking the power generated by it’s spin class users then pumping any extra energy back to the grid. Though these gyms are not common, they are certainly on the rise as the population becomes more conscious of the environment (and their health!).

A similar gym near Bristol has cross training machines that each feed 100W per hour back into the building’s power supply. People here can kill two birds with one stone by getting fit and saving the planet. With this as an incentive, could we create enough energy through manpower to keep our lights on at night?

Think your workouts are enough to power the world?

An analysis by Uswitch found that gym goers in the UK generate enough energy to make 408 million cups of a month, or cook 4 million pizzas in an electric oven. Over a year this equates to 41.62 GWH generated by the UK’s gym population. This may sound like a lot, but that’s only 3% of the amount generated at the UK’s biggest wind farm, Rampion.

So it seems that powering the entire UK with this method is far from feasible, but perhaps the UK’s small islands could stand to benefit from this boost in energy. The Isles of Scilly, just off the Cornish coast, is the perfect size to be powered indefinitely by all the UK’s gym goers. Whilst the Orkney Islands, off the northern coast of Scotland, could be powered for 2.27 days. Meanwhile, over in Wales, the Isle of Anglesey would last for 1.54 days.

Smart cities the way forward?

So gyms alone aren’t quite ready to power the world, but what about harnessing energy from everyday life? Pavegen is a company that converts city footfall into off-grid power generating up to 5 watts of power for every foot-step. For cities of the future this may well be a viable solution with no reliance on the dedicated few that hit the gym everyday. For all the millions of people that make even the shortest journey by foot, they could be proud that they are contributing to the world’s renewable energy production. A fitter population and a renewable energy source all in one.

Mixed Response to the UK’s First Budget Since Committing to Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

Budget Image

Despite the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak declaring that he was moving the UK towards a low-carbon economy with the introduction of new measures, environmentalists are not entirely happy. Though he has promised green measures that have been long-awaited he has at the same time frozen fuel duty for a 10th year and laid out plans for the expansion of roads.

The tax, levied on sales of petrol and diesel, has remained at a rate of 58 pence per litre, plus VAT, since 2011.

Steven Sorrell, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Sussex Business School, said:

“It is a mistake to freeze the fuel duty escalator for the tenth year in a row, threatening attainment of UK’s net zero target, and damaging the UK’s credibility in advance of hosting the UN climate conference in December. Car drivers have enjoyed a large price cut in real terms since 2010, since the price of gasoline and diesel has not kept pace with inflation. At the same time, public transport fares have risen faster than inflation and bus travel has declined. Cheap fuel prices have encouraged people to purchase gas-guzzling SUVs which now account for one-quarter of new car sales. Carbon emissions from transport are rising, and cars now emit more carbon dioxide than power stations. These trends are not sustainable. The fall in global oil prices provides an opportunity to reinstate the escalator. Since low-income households are less likely to own a car, or to travel long distances, much of the burden will fall on high-income groups.”

It is possible that the planned road expansion could be challenged in the courts for breaching the UK’s laws on climate change.

While he has removed the tax break on red diesel for industrial vehicles (except for agriculture and rail) at a cost to the Treasury of some £2.4bn per year in lost revenue, he has made no legislative change for the oil and gas industry.

The Chancellor said that the sales of red diesel made up 15% of all diesel sales which he said in his budget amounted to a “tax relief on nearly 14 million tonnes of CO2 every year”.

Rishi Sunak said that removing the tax break would reduce air pollution in cities.


The decision to hold steady for the oil and gas industry has pleased Derek Leith, EY’s Global Oil and Gas Tax Lead.

He said:

“In recent years we’ve seen significant change to the tax landscape for the oil and gas sector, with successive governments acknowledging the maturity of the basin and the need to have stable fiscal conditions for investment. Last weekend’s drop in oil price demonstrates that there is significant volatility in the sector with global demand faltering and supply-side discipline disappearing. A return of the oil price to the $55 (£42.6) – $65 (£50.4) range would be beneficial to the industry as it seeks to maximise economic recovery whilst taking steps to decarbonise production facilities. A stable oil and gas industry in the UK offers the best possible foundation for the oilfield services sector and supply chain to start to transition its technical competence into alternative energy.”

An analysis published this week by Carbon Brief revealed that the UK’s C02 emissions are up 5% higher than they would have been if fuel duty had increased as planned, rather than remaining frozen.

The amount of CO2 released by road transport has risen by 3% over the past decade and the transport sector overall is now the single-largest contributor to UK carbon emissions.

Further research has been conducted by the campaign group Greener Journeys which suggests the fuel-duty freeze has also “led to 5% more traffic, 250m fewer bus journeys and 75m fewer rail journeys”.

Understandably the budget was dominated by the response to the Coronavirus outbreak. However, the new Chancellor managed to commit more time to climate measures than previous chancellors. This is a great improvement as the 2018 budget speech made no reference to climate change at all. The question that one has to ask is whether there have been nearly enough measures put in place to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. This was of course the first budget since the UK committed to this target.

On the positive side the Chancellor has reduced the tax on electricity which comes increasingly from renewable sources of energy while raising tax on polluting gas.

He is also going to invest £1bn to double research and development into energy research.

Interestingly the Treasury’s budget which contains more detail than the Chancellor’s speech uses the phrase “net-zero” 17 times, with a further 31 mentions of “climate”. One example of this in the red book says:

“The transition to a net-zero economy by 2050 will require radical changes in every sector.” It also calls cutting carbon a “major government priority”.

Another significant move by the Chancellor is the reiteration of his pledge to double spending on flood defences, committing a further £5.2bn to protect more than 300,000 homes over the next six years.

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said:

“This is hugely significant. As the climate emergency increases flood risk, this funding will allow us to invest in infrastructure and nature-based solutions so that otherwise vulnerable communities can both have better protection against flooding and be more resilient when it happens.”

The budget has also announced a fundamental review of business rates which has been welcomed by the Solar Trade Association. They say that business rates are the “main barrier to the deployment of large rooftop PV”.

Decarbonising the UK’s heating systems is one of the biggest challenges we face in reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Last year, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said there was “still no serious plan for decarbonising UK heating systems”.

The budget red book stated the following:

“The heating of our homes will need to be virtually zero carbon by 2050, replacing natural gas and other fossil fuels with low-carbon alternatives – likely to be primarily a mix of green gas, heat pumps and heat networks.”

The government has addressed this need by extending the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for an extra year, until 31 March 2022.

The RHI is a subsidy provided to producers of renewable heat, supporting biomass boilers, heat pumps and solar thermal by paying a tariff per unit of heat energy supplied.

Up until now the government hasn’t been forthcoming in announcing strategies to promote low-carbon heating after the date RHI was due to expire which was March 2021.

Further to this extension of RHI the government has said it will consult on a new “low-carbon heat support scheme” to replace the RHI from April 2022. It said this would give grants to “help households and small businesses invest in heat pumps and biomass boilers, backed by £100m of new exchequer funding”.

The budget committed to another £96m in 2020-22 for a scheme that supports district-heat networks.

In a promising statement, the government went on to say:

“After this, the government will invest a further £270m in a new green heat networks scheme, enabling new and existing heat networks to be low carbon and connect to waste heat that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.”

Apart from this and subject to consultation a new “green gas levy” will be applied to consumer gas bills. This will support the production of “biomethane”, for use in the gas grid, from food waste and other, biomass. According to Emily Gosden, the Times’ energy editor, the Treasury expects the levy to initially cost £1 per household per year, rising to £5 by 2025.

Many environmentalists and those working in the renewable industry are worried that the government just isn’t doing enough.

STA Chief Executive Chris Hewett noted:

“Unfortunately, this Budget is thin on measures to tackle climate change and support the transition to a low carbon economy. Renewables are vital to reaching net zero and without good policies in place to support the uptake of solar we will fall well short of the 40GW needed by 2030 to keep on track. Time is running out to act.”

He suggested that the freeze on the carbon price support rate and the lack of any “meaningful” energy efficiency policy” was “particularly disappointing” and added:

“We do welcome the decision to hold a review of business rates, which are the main barrier to the deployment of large rooftop PV. Additionally, we are pleased to see an extension to the Renewable Heat Incentive and the introduction of a Low Carbon Heat Support Scheme which categorically must apply to solar heat technologies.”

Find out more about solar here. 

Find out more about heat pumps here. 

Applications for Renewable Energy Projects Reaches New High in the UK

wind turbine construction

The number of applications for planning permission by new renewable energy projects reached a four-year high in the UK last year as demand for clean electricity continues to grow.

According to an analysis of government data by energy consultancy PX Group, planning applications submitted across the UK for new wind, solar and bioenergy projects leapt from 204 in 2018 to 269 in 2019.

Analysis revealed that the jump in applications in 2019 was the largest annual increase in recent years and 75% higher than the number of annual planning submissions made three years ago. 2016 saw just 154 submissions which rose to 185 in 2017. The increase is especially significant as it marks four consistent years of growth.

The consultancy said that this big increase was due to a growing appetite among energy companies to invest in new renewable projects to help cut carbon emissions and reach the UK’s climate goals.

Though it will take some years for these applications to be fulfilled it is very important to have a healthy pipeline of projects to ensure continued growth.

Geoff Holmes, the Chief Executive of PX Group, said:

“It goes without saying that as more of these projects get off the ground, the faster the UK can get to a point where clean, green sources provide an even greater share of the UK’s energy. Of course, there is a lag time between submitting plans to councils and projects becoming fully operational, so more projects being in the pipeline is not a quick fix.”

In addition to this, because technology costs are falling and financiers are offering more support, clean energy developers are also able to roll out more projects.

It is also expected that planning applications will rise in the years ahead due to the government’s decision earlier this month to lift a block against subsidising onshore wind projects that was put in place almost five years ago.

The UK suffered a sharp decline in the number of new onshore windfarms since the block was put in place by David Cameron in 2016. The ongoing production of new onshore wind capacity fell to its lowest level since 2015 last year leading to warnings that the UK risked missing its climate targets.

According to Energy Analysis provider EnAppSys the UK is already seeing the effect of the energy transition with renewables “on the brink” of becoming the main electricity source. The amount of UK electricity coming from renewables at 104.8TWh came close to the amount coming from gas-fired power stations at 115.1TWh in 2019.

Unsurprisingly, applications for wind power projects in the UK have seen particular growth in recent years, growing from 47 applications in 2018 to 90 in 2019.

The government has shown strong support for offshore wind after pledges were made by the government during the Queen’s speech for the country to aim for 40GW by 2030.

The government last month said that from 2020 onshore wind developers will be allowed to compete for subsidies at auction alongside solar power developments and floating offshore wind projects.

The UK energy sector widely welcomed the announcement of a new contracts for difference auction for onshore wind and solar in early March especially given the lack of subsidy and support in recent times. The uptake of both technologies has slowed down despite the considerable reduction in their cost.

In order to qualify for the auction process, windfarm developers will have to comply with tough new proposals on community consent under the new plans drawn up. Projects planned for England will also need the consent of the local community through existing planning codes.

Some renewable energy developers including Scottish Power have already begun planning for a big expansion of onshore windfarm projects having expected a government U-turn on support for wind power projects.

The chief executive of Scottish Power, Keith Anderson, said the decision to back onshore wind was “one of the first clear signs that the government really means business” on reaching its climate targets.

Despite the global economic slowdown brought about by the coronavirus outbreak and a crash in oil market prices, the global energy watchdog made governments aware that they will need to use climate policies and economic stimulus packages to support continual progress in the clean energy sector.

Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency, said governments should not allow today’s crisis to compromise the clean energy transition”.

He went on to say:

“These challenging market conditions will be a clear test for government commitments. But the good news is that, compared to economic stimulus packages of the past, we have much cheaper renewable technologies, have made major progress in electric vehicles and there is a supportive financial community for the clean energy transition. If the right policies are put in place there are opportunities to make the best of this situation.”

Find out more about wind turbines here.

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Fastest Decline of Carbon Emissions in 30 Years as Electricity Sector Moves Away from Coal

Coal Fired Power Station

Carbon emissions generated by the global electricity sector fell by 2% in 2019, the biggest drop since at least 1990 when the International Agency began reported figures, as countries turned their backs on coal-fired power plants. According to a worldwide assessment by climate think tank Ember, coal-fuelled electricity declined 3% in 2019 which led to a 2% fall in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Despite this encouraging sign that attitudes to coal are changing we are still at risk of not reaching the goals set by the Paris Agreement. Unless there is an accelerated shift towards cleaner energy sources it is likely that the targets will be missed by a huge margin. The rate at which the energy sector is changing is still too slow making it extremely difficult to meet the global target to limit climate change to 1.5C

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The major new report from think tank Ember Climate, formerly known as Sandbag, the team behind the EU Power Sector Review, carries a stark warning. It advised that a shift away from fossil fuels was not yet “the new normal” and warned governments must “dramatically accelerate” the transition to sustainable energy sources if the world is to have any chance of avoiding the worst impact of climate change.

This drop in carbon emissions happened even as China increases its reliance on coal plants for another year to make up half the world’s coal generation for the first time. At the same time, the US and the EU are continuing to turn to cleaner energy sources.

The big worldwide decline in coal-fired power generation last year was due in part to the switch to renewables in Europe and more competitive gas pricing in the US. Coal generated 24 per cent less electricity in Europe and 16 per cent less in the US in 2019 taking coal generation to around half the level seen in 2007 in both regions.

According to Ember, the nuclear plant restarts in Japan and South Korea have also contributed to the slower demand for coal.

Dave Jones, Ember’s electricity analyst and lead author of the report, said:

“The global decline of coal and power sector emissions is good news for the climate, but governments have to dramatically accelerate the electricity transition so that global coal generation collapses throughout the 2020s.”

The report warned that the dent in the world’s coal-fired electricity generation relied on many one-off factors, including milder winters across many countries.

Ember said:

“Progress is being made on reducing coal generation, but with nothing like the urgency needed to meet global climate goals, especially in Asia.”

The report showed a difference in international approaches to the energy transition. In the EU coal power is predominantly being swapped for wind and solar with some support from gas power, leading to emissions falling by 43 per cent since 2007. In comparison, in the US though renewables have grown gas is more prominent in the transition away from coal, limiting the resulting fall in emissions to between 19 per cent and 32 per cent.  

Basically coal-fired power generation needs to plummet by 11 per cent a year for the next decade if global warming is to be limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the limit scientists warn is needed to avoid the worse impacts of the climate crisis.

The report warned the US coal collapse was “undermined” by a move towards gas, which rose 4 per cent worldwide.

Mr. Jones said:

“To switch from coal into gas is just swapping one fossil fuel for another.  The cheapest and quickest way to end coal generation is through a rapid roll-out of wind and solar. But without concerted policymaker efforts to boost wind and solar, we will fail to meet climate targets. China’s growth in coal, and to some extent gas, is alarming but the answers are all there.”

In 2019 wind and solar generation increased by 15% worldwide generating 8% of the world’s electricity.

Ember’s report stated that renewables needed to grow at the same rate every year in order to meet the Paris climate agreement. It said that though lower prices “provide hope” that the rate can be sustained, continued growth “will require a concerted effort from all regions”.

Mr. Jones went on to say:

“Without concerted policy-maker efforts to boost wind and solar, we will fail to meet climate targets. The EU leaps out with 18 per cent of electricity now coming from wind and solar, but with the US on 11 per cent, China at nine per cent and India at eight per cent – the race is on.”

On a positive note, there are signs that real progress is being made. In the third quarter of last year electricity generated by renewables in the UK overtook fossil fuels for the first time, according to analysis by Carbon Brief.

Find out more about solar here.

UK to See a Rise in Community-Generated Green Energy

The face of energy in the UK is changing. With the institution of a new tariff, the UK is making a push towards community-generated green energy. This shift comes as part of a larger initiative to improve the state of sustainable power in light of the growing threat of climate change.

The UK has made major strides in its attempts to go green. In 2019, the amount of electricity from zero-emission sources surpassed that of fossil fuels for the first time on record. But to achieve the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, it may require even more effort.

The move towards community energy is one such further effort. 

Community Power Tariff

In January of this year, Co-Op Energy announced the Community Power Tariff, the UK’s first tariff powered completely by community energy projects. On average, it will cost £5 more monthly than their standard tariff. In return, customers will receive power from community-generates sources and contribute to carbon offsets.

The price tag of another £5 doesn’t seem like much, but it does add up to an extra £60 a year. The cost may be well worth it to citizens with stronger convictions about community energy or sustainability but may turn some away. People who don’t want to pay for the tariff can still use one of Octopus Energy’s other options.

What Is Community-Generated Green Energy?

Community-generated green energy, as the name implies, is renewable power generated by local projects. Like other green initiatives, it sources energy from things like solar panels or wind farms, but it only uses local instances of these projects. Many communities across the UK already generate clean energy, and this tariff supports those practices.

The UK government already provides support for community energy projects. Their encouragement of small communities to pursue reduced emissions is likely a driving factor behind Co-Op’s new push in that direction. 

Motivations for Community Energy

All of these community energy projects and initiatives are part of the UK’s zero emissions goal. By encouraging rural areas to take sustainability into their own hands, the government and other groups hope to spur a unified environmental movement. But there are more benefits of green energy than just reduced emissions.

Renewable energy offers several tangible advantages for smaller communities. Clean air isn’t just better for plants and animals, but it’s better for people. Going green can significantly improve a community’s health, prolonging life and reducing medical bills.

Locally-generated energy also creates jobs. Plants like solar and wind farms need people to operate them, so building or expanding these can increase jobs within the area.

What to Expect

The first thing residents might notice when switching to community energy is a bigger energy bill. If you get your green energy through a program like Co-Op’s Community Power tariff, your monthly bill will go up. But if your community energy comes from a local push towards sustainability instead of through a power company, it may have the opposite effect.

The specific effects and their extent will vary depending on the community, but there are a few consistent consequences. Some of these might be noticeable immediately, like the monetary changes, but some might take a longer time to take effect. 

Short-Term Effects

The most evident immediate effect of community energy is the change in monthly charges. Whether your tariffs increase or decrease, it will only change by an incremental amount, but this will build up over time.

Another thing that might start changing soon after the shift to community energy is an increase in local project maintenance. With the Community Power tariff, Co-Op will start funding this upkeep. With truly local community energy, area leaders or residents will pay more attention to these projects. 

In either case, communities might see new job openings or an increase in the efficiency of local green power sources.

Long-Term Effects

Some of the most substantial effects of community energy will take place over a longer period. As more money goes into local renewable power projects, more green energy sources will start popping up. Feeding existing sustainability initiatives will lead to the development of new ones.

Perhaps the most significant impact of moving towards community energy is a decreased reliance on fossil fuels. Over time, if people maintain and expand these projects, more and more operations will run on green energy. In turn, this shift will lead to a cleaner, safer environment.

It’s critical to note that these predictions rely on the assumption that these community power projects are effective. Some people have called green energy tariffs into question, suggesting some companies may not be as eco-friendly as they proclaim. But a genuine push towards clean and local energy will ultimately be beneficial in the long run.

Written by

Jenna Tsui Technology Blogger, The Byte Beat

GDPR and Data Protection After Brexit

GDPR and Brexit

After years in flux, Great Britain has formally withdrawn from the European Union. The country’s departure is unprecedented and has raised several questions about British compliance with EU regulations — which are still in effect, who is still bound, for how long and more. 

One of the biggest questions is how Brexit will impact data protection in the wake of the EU’s landmark privacy rule, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. 

Here is how the U.K.’s exit from the EU will intersect with GDPR in the event of Brexit.

How Brexit Will Change Data Protection in the U.K.

Even though the U.K. has formally exited the EU, very few of the expected legal impacts of Brexit will happen right away. For the moment, the U.K. is still bound by many EU regulations and granted key freedoms — like freedom of movement — which will stay in place in the near future. Concerning data protection and GDPR compliance, nothing significant will change during the transition period this year, which ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

After that date, the U.K. will become a “third country” under the terms of the GDPR, unless it is deemed adequate by the EU.

If the U.K. becomes a third country, GDPR restrictions will apply to personal data transferred there from the EU. Companies will also need to update their privacy policies to reflect the U.K.’s status.

Classification of “adequate” requires the U.K. to adopt data protection equivalent to those in the EU. Last year, the U.K. accomplished this by folding its own version of the GDPR, the U.K. GDPR, into the Data Protection Act 2018. It’s equivalent to the GDPR in all aspects and is expected to effectively harmonize British data regulations with existing EU standards — which should ensure a decision of adequate status from the EU.

If granted, this adequate status could result in a return to business as usual. In this scenario, it’s likely that companies in the U.K. won’t need to make any changes to their current data collection policies, so long as they’re already GDPR-compliant.

At the moment, there is no clear timetable for when the European Commission will make its adequacy decision on the U.K. Current evidence suggests that the commission is preparing to make an adequacy decision before the end of the year. However, there’s nothing guaranteeing a timely resolution. Even if the EU finds the U.K. standards adequate, it may not be granted adequate status before the end of the transition period. With the U.K.’s adoption of the U.K. GDPR, there may be a period of several months or longer where it’s regarded by the EU as a third country.

In any case, however, U.K. companies continuing to do business in the EU will still be bound by GDPR regulations, just like any company based outside the EU that serves customers in the union.

Steps Businesses Should Take

Businesses currently bound by GDPR will need to continue following EU data regulations. They should expect that any of the GDPR impacts the company has felt so far will continue. User data will need to be protected adequately, and you will need to ask for prior consent before collecting user data, just as before. 

Businesses should, however, consider preparing for the possibility that the U.K. fails to be deemed adequate, or that the European Commission fails to update its status to adequate before the end of the transition period. This would result in the U.K. being regarded as a third country, at least for a brief period.

While the U.K. is regarded as a third country, businesses will effectively need to create their own GDPR safeguards and company policies that ensure the proper use and handling of personal data if they want to stay compliant. U.K. businesses will still be subject to fines from the EU if they fall out of compliance with the GDPR, even while the U.K. is considered a third country.

What to Expect With GDPR After Brexit

If the U.K. is granted adequate status, businesses will likely feel little difference when it comes to data protection regulation. If not, staying compliant with the GDPR may be a little bit more complicated, with companies needing to put new safeguards and stricter controls in place to ensure the proper processing of data. They will also need to notify their customers of the U.K.’s third country status.

However, disruption from the U.K.’s third country status is expected to be short-lived. The U.K. government and the EU appear to be in total agreement when it comes to standards that businesses should follow to ensure the proper handling of customer data. While Brexit is likely to have major impacts on many different aspects of British business and dealings with the EU, data protections seem to be a settled issue.

written by

Jenna Tsui Technology Blogger, The Byte Beat

Is BP’s New Ambition to Become a Net Zero Company by 2050 Just a PR Exercise?

BP Carbon Fuel

Earlier in February this year BP, Britain’s biggest oil company announced that it aims to deliver net zero emissions across its operations and its oil and gas production by 2050 or sooner making it the latest major oil company to do so.

BP’s new CEO Bernard Looney revealed the new targets which were the highlight of a 10-point plan which also included pledges to halve the carbon intensity of the products they sell by 2050 or sooner, install methane measurement at all of the company’s major oil and gas processing sites by 2023, to reduce methane intensity of operations by 50 percent, and increase the proportion of investment into non-oil and gas businesses “over time.”

BP is promising big changes. The company said it planned to play a more proactive role in helping the world to get to net zero. In order to achieve this they pledged to actively support policies that advocate net zero; to further encourage their workforce to deliver on its net zero goals; to set “new expectations” in their relationships with trade associations; to make sure that they are recognised as a leader for transparency of reporting to include supporting the recommendations of the taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD); and to launch a new team to help countries, cities and large companies decarbonize.

Bernard looney has been subjected to intense campaigning and protests from environmental campaigners since taking up the role of CEO in early February. While announcing the new plan he stated that the company will be fundamentally transformed in pursuit of net zero emissions. 

He said:

“The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast; we need a rapid transition to net zero. We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough. It must also be cleaner. To deliver that, trillions of dollars will need to be invested in replumbing and rewiring the world’s energy system. It will require nothing short of reimagining energy as we know it. This will certainly be a challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity. It is clear to me, and to our stakeholders, that for BP to play our part and serve our purpose, we have to change. And we want to change — this is the right thing for the world and for BP.”

Helge Lund, BP’s chairman, is very much in agreement with these comments and the path Bernard Looney wants to take to help the UK reach its net zero target in 2050. He said that the entire board was committed to driving the net zero transition.

He said:

“Energy markets are changing, driven by climate change, technology and societal expectations, and the Board supports Bernard and his new leadership team’s ambition for BP. Aiming for net zero is not only the right thing for BP, it is the right thing for our shareholders and for society more broadly.”

Environmental campaigners do not believe this move by BP is enough. Campaigners argue that BP remain committed to increasing fossil fuel production by around a fifth through to 2030 which means that despite the new pledges made BP is still a long way off from being in line with the goals of the Paris agreement. Critics would like to see the new strategy providing more detail and more definite targets that explain how they intend to deliver net zero emissions.

Charlie Kronick, oil adviser from Greenpeace UK has a lot of questions for BP:

 “How will they reach net zero? Will it be through offsetting? When will they stop wasting billions on drilling for new oil and gas we can’t burn? What is the scale and schedule for the renewables investment they barely mention? And what are they going to do this decade, when the battle to protect our climate will be won or lost.”

Similarly, Ellen Gibson, U.K. campaigner at divestment organization 350.org, felt that BP’s announcement was nothing more than “PR spin.”

She said:

“BP is one of the companies most responsible for the climate emergency. They say they want their business model to align with the Paris Agreement, but simply put: It is not possible to keep to a 2-degree Celsius warming limit — let alone 1.5 C — while continuing to dig up and burn fossil fuels. Unless BP commits clearly to stop searching for more oil and gas, and to keep their existing reserves in the ground, we shouldn’t take a word of their PR spin seriously.”

BP responded saying that its net zero goal for its operations and production would be equal to a reduction in emissions of around 415 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent a year.  

Looney said:

“This is what we mean by making BP net zero. It directly addresses all the carbon we get out of the ground as well as all the greenhouse gases we emit from our operations. These will be absolute reductions, which is what the world needs. If this were to happen to every barrel of oil and gas produced, the emissions problem for our sector would be solved. But of course, the world is not that simple; the whole energy system has to be transformed and everyone has a contribution to make — producers and sellers of energy, policy makers and everyone who uses energy.”

Despite saying this, he still stressed that the company would not drastically sever its ties with the current oil and gas focused operating model, insisting that it would continue to concentrate on generating the revenue that would be required to help fund the transition.

He said:

“BP needs to continue to perform as we transform. As committed as I am to making transformation happen, I am equally committed to some fundamental principles that have served us well. Safe and reliable operations will always underpin all we do, and we remain committed to meeting the promises we have made to our shareholders. We can only reimagine energy if we are financially strong, able to pay the dividend our owners depend on and to generate the cash to invest in new low and no-carbon businesses We expect to invest more in low carbon businesses and less in oil and gas over time. The goal is to invest wisely, into businesses where we can add value, develop at scale and deliver competitive returns.”

BP, in order to better support these new wide-ranging plans has conducted a major managerial reorganization, dividing the company into 4 business groups, Production and Operations, Customers and Products, Gas and Low Carbon Energy, and Innovation and Engineering. These groups will be complemented by three integrator divisions titled, Strategy and Sustainability, Regions, Cities and Solutions, and Trading and Shipping.  

Environmental campaigners and green investors have welcomed this revamp very cautiously remembering that BP has not always delivered on its promises. BP has previously promised to move “Beyond Petroleum” only to sell off many of its clean technology divisions and refocus on fossil fuels.

However, BPs latest announcement does appear to be part of a trend that has seen a distinct difference emerging between European oil majors and many of their peers around the world.

Shell, Total and BP have all invested serious amounts of money in a whole range of clean tech companies over the past 5 years. At the same time, according to a recent report by the influential Carbon Tracker think tank, analysis of the world’s remaining carbon budget shows that there are significant differences in the level of disruption oil majors face.

To clarify this, the think tank found that though none of the leading oil and gas companies are on track to be aligned with the Paris Agreement by 2040, Shell and BP’s production levels would only need to reduce by 10 percent and 25 percent, respectively, while ConocoPhillips would face an 85 percent cut and ExxonMobil would require production cuts of 55 percent.

Carbon Trackers head of oil, gas and mining, Andrew Grant, welcomed BP’s new goal and described it as “a big step forward”.

He said:

“Last year BP supported a shareholder resolution to describe how its strategy is consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, including ‘consistency of each new material capex investment. In our research we have pointed out the need for oil and gas producers to reduce emissions and production in absolute terms in order to fit within climate constraints, and crucially to make sure that they only invest in the lowest cost assets in order the mitigate the financial risk of them being stranded in the energy transition. BP’s recognition of the finite emissions limits imposed on our planet is a big step forward. We look forward to understanding in greater detail how the company will achieve its targets.”

Stephanie Pfeifer, member of the global Climate Action 100+ Steering Committee and CEO at the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), argued that investor pressure on oil majors would continue to intensify.

She said:

“This is a very welcome announcement from BP’s new CEO. We need to see a wholesale shift to a net zero economy by 2050. This must include oil and gas companies if we are to have any chance of successfully tackling the climate crisis. Building on the positive engagement with BP through Climate Action 100+, investors will continue to look for progress from the company in addressing climate change. This includes how it will invest more in non-oil and gas businesses, and ensuring its lobbying activity supports delivery of the Paris Agreement.”

It is clear that BP’s announcement has been largely welcomed by everyone. Reaching the net zero target is certainly not going to happen overnight but is the transition going to happen fast enough. We have to ask ourselves whether we can afford the luxury of time at this point.

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100MW of UK Battery Storage to be Built by Pivot Power in New Landmark Deal

Pivot Power Battery

Pivot Power, EDF’s storage subsidiary has teamed up with Finnish technology company Wärtsilä and struck a landmark deal to deliver 100MW of energy storage in the UK.

An order has been placed by Pivot Power for Wärtsilä to deliver 2 large-scale lithium-ion grid batteries which are 50MW of electricity storage apiece to Oxford and Kent by the end of 2020.

They are expected to be fully operational before the end of 2020. Wärtsilä has agreed to support both projects under 10-year service agreements with flexible performance guarantees.

Pivot Power, the energy storage and EV charging specialist was acquired by EDF Renewables late last year and the announcement came this week for their plan to build the first two projects in Cowley in Oxford and Kemsley in Kent.

The contract is the first to be announced since EDF Renewables acquired Pivot Power in November 2019.

The two battery storage projects will be the first to be completed as part of Pivot Power’s ambitious programme to develop, own and operate up to 2GW of grid-scale energy storage and high-volume power connections. They will be directly connected to the UK high voltage transmission system, with the aim being to support flexible and reliable EV charging arrays and increased clean energy generation.

The deal reinforces EDF’s goal to become Europe’s leading energy storage firm, targeting 10GW of new capacity by 2035.

Adrien Lebrun, Pivot Power’s engineering director said:

“At Pivot Power we are committed to enabling a clean electric future and accelerating the expansion of electric vehicles across the UK, and as part of EDF Renewables we are making this vision a reality. These Wärtsilä energy storage systems allow us to harness cutting-edge technology to future-proof our investments in a changing energy market, supporting our long-term goal to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint and bring us closer to net zero.”

The agreement with Pivot Power is the largest energy storage deal in Europe to date for Wärtsilä. Wärtsilä views the UK as a key new market for its storage technology and accompanying AI energy management software.

Andrew Tang, Wärtsilä’s vice president for energy storage and optimisation, said:

“The exciting projects will support a cost-effective, reliable and low-carbon energy system and promote the rapid adoption of clean transport in the UK. These pioneering energy storage projects highlight the capabilities of GridSolv and GEMS to provide flexible energy services in the energy market.”

Pivot Power aims to accelerate the UK moving to a lower carbon electricity and transport future by developing, funding and operating large battery storage projects connected directly to the transmission system. They plan to provide the electricity capacity for large-scale electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the UK.

One such battery storage system was unveiled at the Arsenal football ground more than a year ago. The battery system, a 2MW/2.5MW lithium ion BSS, stores enough energy, provided by its official renewable energy partner, Octopus Energy, to run the 60,000-seater Emirates stadium from kick-off to full-time. To give you an idea of the energy involved, this would be the equivalent of powering 2,700 homes for 2 hours.

The project has been funded with investment from Downing LLP.

The BSS will allow Arsenal to avoid peak power prices by buying electricity when it is cheap and storing it for use when prices are high. Typically, energy can cost three times more at peak times than overnight.

Arsenal Managing Director, Vinai Venkatesham said:

“This is a big step forwards for us in being efficient with energy usage and it builds on our work in reducing our carbon footprint as an organisation. We have been powered by green energy since 2016 thanks to Octopus Energy, and the battery storage system will support our efforts further.”

It will also enable Arsenal to make money by using the BSS to provide a range of services that will support the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy, providing flexible capacity that will help the electricity network accommodate more renewable generation and support the growth of clean technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps.

Arsenal can also benefit by using the battery storage system to make money by providing flexible capacity that will help the electricity network accommodate more renewable generation and support the growth of clean technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps.

Pivot Power CEO, Matt Allen said:

“Arsenal is showing how football clubs and other big power users can save money and support the UK’s climate change and clean air targets. Batteries are central to creating a cost-effective, low-carbon economy and we are keen to help government, local authorities and businesses seize the opportunities they offer.”

Pivot Power has installed the BSS and will operate it for 15 years. The battery will generate income by providing services to National Grid to help it balance supply and demand, which will be shared between Pivot Power, Downing LLP and Arsenal.

Pivot Power is developing a nationwide network of 50MW grid-scale batteries and rapid electric vehicle charging SuperHubs, with financial backing from Downing LLP.

Pivot Point are not however alone in developing battery storage systems. The water company, United Utilities has announced plans this week to install a 2MW battery at its Clifton March water treatment facility in Lancashire which is set to work in conjunction with solar panels in order to generate and store reliable clean energy for the site.

Battery storage specialist Zenobe Energy, will be financing, installing, and operating the energy storage system, marking the firm’s first project in the UK water sector, according to Solar Power Portal.

Steve Slavin, head of renewable energy at United Utilities, said the project would help to cut bills and greenhouse gas emissions at the site.

“Energy is one of a water company’s largest operational costs. By generating our own power, we can protect United Utilities from a volatile energy market, which will allow us to predict our cost of treatment and stabilise bills for our customers. The batteries will also allow us to help National Grid even out the peaks and troughs in power demand throughout the day. This is exactly the sort of innovation water companies need to be embracing if we are to meet the sector’s goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2030.”

Energy storage is often called the “holy grail” of energy. There is no doubt that energy storage is a critical tool in increasing the spread of renewable energy, and a bridge between the needs of utilities and their customers.