5 Renewable Energy Trends Forecasted for 2021

2020 was supposed to be a big year for renewable energy. As the COVID-19 pandemic tightened budgets and restricted construction, it tempered those expectations but didn’t quite end them. The renewable energy trends that looked like they’d shape 2020 may come back to play a role in 2021.

The renewable energy market may have slowed in 2020, but it’s still performing comparatively well. Wind and hydropower accounted for 90% of energy capacity increases globally, and renewables were some of the only power sources that grew. New green energy projects haven’t met pre-COVID expectations, but they’re still on the rise.

2020 has disrupted the world’s priorities, which will affect the sustainable power market, both for good and ill. Here are some of the leading renewable energy trends that will emerge or continue in 2021.

Solar Power Will Rebound

In 2020, new solar power installations declined. Although solar panels are getting cheaper all the time, they’re still initially expensive. As business slowed during lockdowns, companies and residential users alike didn’t always have the funds to spend on new solar projects.

As the world recovers, both economically and in health, solar power will rebound to pre-pandemic growth levels. This recovery won’t be fast, but it will happen. Solar panel manufacturers and installers will see steady growth, but it will take most of the year before they’re back to normal.

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Sustainable Data Centres

Digital transformation accelerated in 2020. Companies have realised they can save up to 80% by scaling with containerisation, pushing many towards cloud adoption. As businesses rush to the cloud for these savings, it creates more demand for data centres, which are becoming increasingly green.

Several data centre companies have committed to 100% sustainable energy as climate issues become more prominent. Since these projects are growing so quickly, this will be one of renewable energy’s biggest use cases in 2021.

Renewed Focus on Transportation

One of the most significant renewable energy trends in the U.K. this year will be a new focus on transportation. In late 2020, Boris Johnson announced a ban on petrol car sales from 2030. This shortened timeline will drive a new emphasis on producing sustainable vehicles.

New renewable energy installations for buildings may slow down by comparison. Government-backed projects, in particular, will favour transportation over other use cases for renewable power.

Price Hikes for Some Renewables

China produces many of the crucial components for solar panels, which brings some challenges for solar power in 2021. Factory shutdowns in the country threaten to raise the price of these materials, which could affect overall solar panel prices as well.

International supply chains, in general, have seen remarkable disruptions this past year. As a result, renewables that rely on them could see a temporary price hike. This trend could slow adoption in the short term, especially for residential users.

Vaccine Rollout Will Lead to New Off-Grid Renewable Projects

The U.K. hopes to vaccinate every adult by autumn this year. At least two of the available COVID-19 vaccines require ultra-cold storage, demanding flexible, off-grid energy solutions. Renewables are the ideal answer to this problem, as they’re often more flexible than traditional power.

As the nation ramps up vaccine distribution, it could drive the development of novel renewable energy technologies. If these prove effective, it could help encourage renewable adoption in the future. The technologies that emerge from this area could also be helpful in other cases, too.

Renewable Energy Faces Ups and Downs in 2021

Much like last year, renewable energy trends in 2021 will vary in positivity. In some cases, the year will drive growth in some sustainable power projects. In others, new challenges will hinder renewable adoption.

Overall, 2021 will likely be better for renewables than 2020 was. Growth will start to reach pre-pandemic levels, and new use cases will emerge. The road ahead isn’t easy, but it is promising.

Business Strategies for Reducing Their Carbon Footprint

Small businesses have a lot to keep in mind these days. From economic stress to employee health, startups and small companies face a considerable number of challenges. Amid all of this, businesses can’t forget the importance of reducing their carbon footprint, either.

2020 marked the end of the hottest decade on record, emphasising the need for climate action. Knowing where to start with green projects isn’t always straightforward, though. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways in which businesses can reduce their carbon footprint.

Here’s a look at some business strategies that can make companies greener.

Data-Centric Goal setting and Measuring

Data is a crucial element in driving eco-friendly initiatives. Businesses can’t expect to improve their sustainability if they don’t know where they stand now. By gathering and analysing data about factors like energy consumption, they can see which areas to address.

Once they have this data, companies can set clearly defined sustainability goals. They can then continue using data to measure their success. This process is a standard business strategy for efficiency, but it can apply to going green, too.

Sustainable Supply Chains

One of the most common mistakes businesses make in reducing their carbon footprint is only focusing on central operations. Supply chains often go overlooked, but they generate 5.5 times the greenhouse gas emissions as the rest of a company’s processes. Creating a sustainable supply chain can dramatically reduce a business’s emissions.

Switching to a fleet of electric vehicles is one of the most effective ways to make supply chains more sustainable. Other possible solutions include reducing packaging waste, using data to find more efficient routes, and outsourcing as little as possible.

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Green Heating

Some sustainability solutions are obvious, like using renewables to power lights and machines. Others may not be as immediately clear, like eliminating fossil fuels from HVAC systems. While green heating is a less obvious strategy for sustainability, it’s an effective and profitable one.

In the U.K., businesses can benefit from the Non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, which helps cover the cost of green heating technologies. If company projects are eligible, reducing heat-related emissions can be remarkably cost-effective. The money businesses save in this area can go toward funding other sustainability initiatives.

Reducing Water Usage

Most people may not think of water when they think of reducing their carbon footprint. Despite this, water usage contributes a significant amount to energy consumption. The water sector consumes almost 1,000 terawatt-hours of electricity a year, and that figure doesn’t include heating.

If businesses can use less water and heat it less, they can see considerable improvements in their carbon footprint. Possible solutions include using more efficient pipe systems, repairing leaks faster, monitoring water usage, and using aerated faucets. These changes also reduce the burden of water bills, so they save both money and the environment.

Minimising Fossil Fuel Transportation

Transportation accounts for roughly one-fifth of global CO2 emissions, and more than 40% of that comes from freight and shipping. As a result, one of the best strategies to reduce company carbon footprints is to minimise fossil fuels in transport. That could include using electric or hybrid fleets, but it doesn’t stop there.

Employers can encourage their employees to work from home or carpool to work. That way, employee transportation-related emissions drop. Businesses could even establish reward programs for employees who use green modes of transportation.

There’s Always Room for Businesses to Improve

No matter how much a business has done to become sustainable, they can always do more. Sustainability initiatives don’t have to be dramatic and expensive, either. Companies can take little steps to improve their carbon footprint.

Some ways to become more sustainable aren’t immediately obvious. These five strategies are just a sampling of the methods businesses can use to go green.

Official Advisors Say that Ending UK’s Carbon Emissions is Affordable

UK_Carbon_Emissions

According to the UK government’s advisors on climate change the world’s first detailed route map for ending the UK’s use of fossil fuels is both “ambitious and affordable” reports the Guardian.

This route map sets out a cleaner, greener future that would see half of the cars on the road being electric by 2030 and 10,000 giant wind turbines in the North sea. The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) report found that the future reductions in cost from no longer having to buy oil and gas almost offsets the £50bn a year investment needed in low carbon power, transport, and home heating across the next three decades.

Jonathan Marshall, at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said:

“These stretching targets will see climate policies increasingly overlap with everyday life, bringing changes in the cars we drive and how we heat our homes. The overwhelming backing among the British public for climate action means that these measures are likely to be popular and well supported, as long as well-thought policies are used to bring about change.”

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Despite the prime minister, Boris Johnson’s recently announced green industrial revolution plan, the CCC have said that further action will be needed from the government to set the UK on the path to ending emissions by 2050. The world looks on as the UK prepares to host a critical UN summit to tackle the climate crisis next November as the UK’s leadership is considered vital for success.

The CCC route map predicts that people’s energy bills will remain level before dropping after 2030 as cheap renewable energy expands. The CCC say that drivers will save money using electric cars but the phasing out of gas boilers will mean that some households will need government help to install more expensive low-carbon heating systems.

The CCC’s plan anticipates that air travel will stay near current levels and meat eating which has already fallen being reduced by just 20% by 2030. The CCC have said that the changes in how people live “need not entail sacrifices”. They believe mixed woodlands should be planted by 2035, covering an area three times the size of Greater London, capturing CO2 and providing new green spaces.

The cost of offshore wind power has fallen fast in recent years and the CCC sees it as the “backbone of the whole UK energy system” with all electricity being renewable or nuclear by 2035. The UK looks set to become an electric nation with twice the current amount of power being generated by 2050, but with hydrogen expanding to fuel heavy industry and transport and warm some homes.

As required by law the CCC has laid out a new carbon budget for the UK by 2035. The CCC says that the UK for less than 1% of national wealth can reduce 78% of emissions by 2035 compared with 1990 levels, which is equivalent to cutting two-thirds of today’s emissions. Advancing carbon cuts by 15 years in comparison to plans in 2018 reflects falling green costs.

BBC News said:

“CCC members say the targets proposed for the UK’s ‘carbon budget’ period of 2033-2035 are definitely achievable, so long as the government moves urgently.”

The Financial Times reports:

“The advice of the CCC is not legally binding but has exerted a strong influence on the decisions of the UK government, which has always followed its advice when setting the five-year ‘carbon budgets’ required under the Climate Change Act. Emissions will have to fall at a faster pace in the next 30 years than the UK has achieved in the past three decades”.

The newspaper went on to report that CCC chief executive Chris Stark said:

“It’s ambitious. It’s very challenging. It’s also, we think, entirely feasible.”

Lord Deben, chair of the CCC said:

“Getting to net zero emissions is ambitious, realistic and affordable. The price is manifestly reasonable. It will be the private sector that will do much of the investment, but it will be the government that sets the tone. It now has to set out in detail the steps required. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, this is a chance to jump-start the UK’s economic recovery.”

Lord Deben would like to see the costs of the transition distributed fairly across society. Up to now the government has accepted all previous carbon budgets proposed by the CCC and has until June to accept this new one.

Interestingly, analysis by the CCC has found that it is cheaper to switch to electric cars and vans than to continue with petrol and diesel vehicles.  This amazing new insight has massive implications for the overall cost of achieving net zero.

The CCC have said that the annual net cost across the 30 years to 2050 is £10bn, or about 0.5% of GDP. This does not take into account the benefits of new jobs or better health as air pollution and damp cold homes are reduced. It is believed that today, poor housing alone costs the NHS £1.5bn a year.

CCC chief executive Chris Stark said:

“It’s now clear that, at worst, we’ve got a very small cost overall in order to unlock those very big benefits of tackling climate change.”

Alison Doig at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said that the report shows that taking bold action makes sense for jobs and prosperity as well as keeping the UK a prominent leader of an international zero carbon revolution. She says that this is the government’s chance to show how serious it is about delivering the goals of the Paris agreement.

Clara Goldsmith, at the Climate Coalition, said:

“The government must accept this advice and unleash a decade of ambitious action. There is no downside to embracing this plan. It can transform our society and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs.”

There’s no doubt that the major expansion of both renewable energy and electric cars will be challenging. Prof Rob Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said the CCC’s report is extremely important highlighting as it does the very real challenges facing the UK.

He said:

“The speed with which we would need to get charging stations sorted out is a real challenge, if we are to avoid alienating motorists.”

Doug Parr, at Greenpeace UK has said that despite the CCC having set out a route map to net zero that the government will need to do a great deal more over this parliament to reach it. He thinks that although progress has been made recently, there is still a huge gap between the UK’s targets over the next decade and the action required to meet them.

CCC chief executive, Chris Stark has emphasised the importance of implementing the actions needed to reach the net zero emissions target as the climate crisis is still worsening. He has said that with global CO2 emissions and temperature on an upward trend “We are in a bad place” but that 2021 would be a big year for action in the UK with government strategies due for heat and buildings, food, aviation, hydrogen and trees and peat bogs.

How to generate your own electricity using solar panels

How to generate your own electricity using solar panels.

Once upon a time, the idea of generating your own electricity with an exclusively solar setup was a futuristic one. Panel capacity was simply too low to provide a viable alternative to mains power, and dirty, noisy diesel generators often had to bear the excess load.

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Nowadays, however, the game has changed. Improvements in solar technology have made it possible for individual properties to achieve full self-sufficiency, while power storage hardware gives homeowners and small businesses the chance to achieve a reliable flow of power all year round.

Energy management is the real gamechanger here. With the removal of the feed-in tariff, consumers can now enjoy complete control over energy usage levels and storage capacity. Modern solar photovoltaic systems allow users to:

  • Generate their own energy
  • Store this energy
  • Consume stored energy direct from the storage unit
  • Consume energy on demand, according to their own usage requirements

Improved panel efficiency and storage capability have also enabled users to recoup a return on their investment much more quickly, with panel installations resulting in full ROI within five years — or even significantly sooner in many cases.

But how do you actually go about generating your own electricity with a solar system?

1. Acquire your inverter

It is the inverter that serves as the crucial component in your solar power setup. This is the part of your system that converts the DC power generated by the panels themselves to the 230V AC power compatible with your home appliances. The inverter also features an MPPT DC/DC battery charger that is used to power up your lithium batteries for storage.

This means that your inverter serves two critical functions, but how does it decide how much power to devote to each? It’s the integrated energy management system that fulfils this smart role, gauging the energy demand of the property and delivering appropriate levels of converted AC power and stored DC electricity.

In the rare event of a power surge that exceeds the capacity of the inverter, additional energy can be sourced from the power grid.

Among the most common inverters are the Voltacon Hybrid 5.5kW-E solar inverter (H5I5000), G98/G99 and G100 compliant, and the Solis 5kW, both of which comply with the latest standards of safety and efficiency.

These single-phase inverters are compatible with lithium batteries, and they integrate directly with your existing system to provide 48V connection to the storage units. You’ll also be able to handle ancillary functions, manage electricity flow, and monitor your system — all via a WiFi connection.

2. Select your lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are the ideal choice for an application like this one, as they occupy far less space and are far more lightweight than other types of batteries. They are also relatively efficient, and you will be able to consume up to 80% of the full storage capacity daily if required.

The Pylontech US2000 is the ideal choice, providing 2.4kWh in an expandable solution. Users can scale their system according to their needs, starting with one battery and expanding to as many as eight pieces as required, controlled via the integrated inverter communication system.

Users can mount up to four of these batteries using a simple metallic mounting bracket. To mount up to eight units, Voltacon provides a convenient server cabinet, with a footprint of less than 1 sq m and a height of 90 cm.

We also offer the Silent Power Lithium (SPL) battery option, with 10kWh of capacity installed in parallel in a single cabinet.

3. Set up your solar panels

The latest solar panels feature 120 half-cut cells and provide many advantages of full cell versions. ET-Solar provides a 355W monocrystalline photovoltaic panel suitable for both domestic and solar farm applications. These panels are capable of 20% cell efficiency and achieve reduced resistance loss compared with full cell solutions.

Parallel strings of 60 cells connected in series mean that the panels are less affected by partial shadow, producing more energy than standard solar panels and accelerating return on investment.

4. Choose your energy meter and solar accessories

The inverters mentioned above come complete with a digital energy meter that helps users to manage energy production. These meters also achieve smart management by sensing the energy demand within the property.

Essential isolators for safe installation and operation are also included in the package. You will be able to switch the installation on and off and isolate the solution safely when required.

5. Put aluminium mounting structures in place

Mounting rails secure your solar panels, and they are approved for all weather conditions. We use only aluminium for our mounting rails, secured with stainless steel bolts and clamping components, and we can provide kits for ground- or roof-mounting your solar panels.

Easy-triangle structures make it easy to mount panels anywhere, including on both pitched and flat roofs, tiled surfaces, or directly on the ground. We developed our aluminium profiles with 3M, the chemical-product manufacturer and vendor, crafting a design that can be easily mounted with no need for drills and screw fixtures.

Reach out to Voltacon to find out more about generating your own electricity with solar

Our team can help you on your way to achieving self-sufficiency through solar power. Reach out today to discover more.

The UK Plans to Double Subsidies for Solar and Onshore Wind in 2021

solar panels

2020 saw a substantial shift in the UK government’s plans to tackle the climate crisis. The government aims to double the capacity of renewable energy it will subsidise in 2021 by backing onshore, offshore, and floating wind projects, plus solar energy, wind, and tidal schemes.

The UK’s renewable industry has been busy during 2020 developing projects which are now expected to move into the build stage.

There are several elements to consider in relation to the anticipated deployment surge from 2021, including what portion of sites may be successful in the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) round within which solar is now allowed to participate.

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The Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme is the government’s main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation.

CfDs incentivise investment in renewable energy by providing developers of projects with high upfront costs and long lifetimes with direct protection from volatile wholesale prices.

In November last year the Prime Minister announced a 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution which set out the government’s approach to accelerating the path to net zero emissions by 2050.

Subsequent to the announcement of the 10-point plan, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said the fourth round of the contracts for difference (CfD) scheme in late 2021 would aim to double the capacity to 12 gigawatts of renewable energy compared to the 5.8GW at the previous auction in 2019.

The BEIS believes that 12GW could be enough to power 20 million electric cars on the UK’s roads in a year.

The number of technologies supported by the CfD scheme was expanded last year with offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, tidal, and floating offshore wind projects all becoming eligible to participate. The fourth round will provide separate funds, known as ‘pots’ for those energy technologies the government wants to encourage.

The government’s announcement, in March of last year, to allow solar and onshore wind projects to be able to take part in CfD auctions for the first time since 2015 was very important for the solar and wind industry. These established technologies which were excluded from the third round will compete for Pot 1 which has been reserved for solar power and onshore wind.

For the first time, floating offshore wind projects will be included, allowing wind farms to be built further away from the shoreline. These projects will be able to compete for funding with other less established technologies including advanced conversion technologies and tidal stream projects. Pot 2 aims to encourage these less developed technologies.

Offshore wind will compete for a ring-fenced pot of CfD funding with the government recognising the long-term potential of offshore wind to support the country’s 2050 net zero target. Pot 3 is reserved for offshore wind with traditional fixed base foundations. Boris Johnson has signalled a commitment to raising offshore wind deployments to 40 GW, a quadrupling of present capacity, by 2030 as part of making the UK the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’. 

Further to these changes former coal-burning power stations, such as those owned by Drax PLC that have been converted to biomass generation will no longer be able to bid in future CfD rounds.

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said:

“The UK is a world leader in clean energy, with over a third of our electricity now coming from renewables. That huge achievement is thanks to the government’s Contracts for Difference scheme.”

The UK’s CfD scheme has not only already delivered results for developers but also consumers. Developers bid into an auction to win capacity additions at a fixed price which is known as the ‘strike price’. Due to the competitive nature of the auction process prices are driven down to get consumers the best deal while developers are awarded 15- year contracts to sell their electricity at the price agreed.

With a government-guaranteed future revenue stream, developers can then raise finance for their clean energy projects, attracting private capital into the renewable energy sector.

As the UK government unfolds its plans for a Green Industrial Revolution, interest in renewables continues to rise and the fourth round looks set to be every bit as competitive as the third.

Research suggests that the UK will need to build 9-12GW of energy generation capacity annually in order to reach the net zero target, which is higher than any output recorded in the UK in the previous 50 years.

However, renewables are continuously breaking generation and installation records nationally and now account for a large part of the UK’s energy mix. Renewable energy made up almost half of the UK’s electricity generation between January and March 2020. In total, wind power generated 30% of the UK’s electricity in the first quarter of 2020, beating the previous record of 22.3% set in the final months of 2019. 

The role of battery storage in the quest for renewable energy

Solar Panels

As we transition into a world powered by renewables, there’s one thing you’re going to be hearing a lot more about over the coming decade: batteries.

Why? Because, as solar panels and wind turbines become more and more important in creating electricity for our homes in the UK, we need a reliable way to store the energy they capture. 

Right now, our grid delivers power that was generated just moments before. But unfortunately, natural elements like the weather are unpredictable – as we well know, here in the UK! Until wind and solar farms have storage systems that can hold the energy they generate for later use, we’ll sometimes still have to depend on coal and natural gas to meet demand when everyone’s switching their kettles on at the same time. 

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How can batteries support a greener grid?

Earlier this year, we saw the effects of this problem when the National Grid warned of potential power cuts, due to a combination of generator outages and low winds. A few weeks later, they issued two more electricity margin notices, caused by low supply from wind farms. 

The timing of these warnings, right after Boris Johnson backed plans to massively expand the UK’s offshore wind farms, was pounced on by those sceptical of renewable energy. No matter what your views on the future of renewables, it does raise a valid concern: how can we store the energy generated in times of high winds, to use when there’s demand for it? As Jonathan Marshall, of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, put it to The Times, “the rapid transition in Britain’s electricity system is outpacing the changes in governance and regulation needed” in order to get batteries and other storage systems in place. Our dependent relationship with coal, says Marshall, “needn’t be the case”.

The truth is, we have more than enough power to go around from wind farms. For much of this year, the National Grid has been struggling with having too much power during times of low demand. It’s even paid wind farms to switch off at certain points, to help regulate the grid. 

If we had a way to store this energy during the busy periods, we’d have enough energy to go around during quieter weeks. Batteries are the key to the mass roll-out of renewables. So what’s the latest in terms of their development?

Lithium-ion batteries: from camcorders to wind farms

Lithium-ion is the type of battery you’re most likely to be familiar with. They were first introduced commercially by Sony in the 1990s, who used them to power handheld camcorders. These days, they’re inside everything from your phone to your electric vehicle. And in some places around the world, they’re also being used to store back-up energy for electricity grids: like in California, where the 250mWh Gateway Energy Storage project uses the world’s biggest Lithium-ion battery. (Tesla is working on an even bigger one, due to arrive in 2021.)

The primary reason these batteries aren’t already supporting grids everywhere is simple: they’re too expensive. However, the price of Lithium-ion batteries has fallen, and they’re expected to keep getting cheaper, as the number of Lithium mines is projected to double. 

This makes them a more serious prospect for large-scale energy storage – but there are other problems with Lithium. Some are concerned that it’s not the most environmentally-friendly choice, because it’s a finite resource. As much as 70% of it could be lost to battery production by 2025. There are also worries about the environmental impact of Lithium mining in Tibet and Bolivia.

Plus, they’re a fire risk: Li-ion batteries have been known to explode, due to the volatile flammable chemicals inside them.

What are the alternatives to Lithium-ion?

Scientists are hard at work looking for battery storage options that don’t use Lithium-ion – and the good news is that there’s been plenty of innovation and discovery in this space in recent years. 

One option is flow batteries, which pump electrolytes back and forth between two tanks. These are already being used in some places, to support the electricity grid (China is building the world’s biggest) – but there are a few negatives. They’re less efficient than Lithium-ion, and they depend on the use of vanadium, a rare and expensive metal. 

Pumped hydro storage is a more environmentally-friendly option, as it uses water and gravity to store huge amounts of energy. However, hydro batteries take up a lot of space, and so they’re just not feasible in many places.

Scientists at RMIT in Melbourne announced in 2018 that they had discovered a super-green option: proton batteries. These run on carbon and water instead of any precious metals, and have the potential to revolutionise battery energy storage if they can be scaled up to meet demand. Stanford researchers have also come up with a water-based solution: a saltwater battery prototype that stores electrons in the form of hydrogen gas.

Energy can also be stored as heat, in just the same way a hot water tank in traditional home heating systems. Read more about this technology in OVO’s guide to thermal energy storage.

How batteries could help power your eco-friendly home

The role of batteries in the future of renewables isn’t just supporting the grid – they’re set to become a staple feature of eco-conscious homes, too. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicts that the use of home batteries is set to hugely increase by 2030.

Having battery energy storage in your home can help you reduce your carbon footprint in two ways. Firstly, if you’re on an Economy 7 tariff, it can charge up during off-peak times, helping you to avoid contributing to surges of power during the busier hours.

Secondly, it could provide support to your very own built-in renewable energy system. Thinking of getting solar panels on the roof? Install a home battery, and you can make sure you’re storing all the energy you capture on the sunniest days (so you don’t have to depend on coal when the clouds roll in). As JMP Securities’ Joe Osha recently told CNBC, “residential batteries have gone from being a curiosity to an increasingly common part of a new residential solar installation.”

A century ago, it would have seemed an unthinkable curiosity that batteries could power laptops, cars, and all the technology that we use them for today. As we steer towards a greener future, it’s clear that in 10 years’ time, it will no longer seem so odd to think they could be powering our homes, too. 



OVO Energy are currently trialing home battery storage technology with some of their members in Lincolnshire. Find out more about how OVO are unlocking the amazing potential of home batteries for solar energy storage.

Official Advisors Say that Ending UK’s Carbon Emissions is Affordable

net zero

According to the UK government’s advisors on climate change the world’s first detailed route map for ending the UK’s use of fossil fuels is both “ambitious and affordable” reports the Guardian.

This route map sets out a cleaner, greener future that would see half of the cars on the road being electric by 2030 and 10,000 giant wind turbines in the North sea. The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) report found that the future reductions in cost from no longer having to buy oil and gas almost offsets the £50bn a year investment needed in low carbon power, transport, and home heating across the next three decades.

Jonathan Marshall, at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said:

“These stretching targets will see climate policies increasingly overlap with everyday life, bringing changes in the cars we drive and how we heat our homes. The overwhelming backing among the British public for climate action means that these measures are likely to be popular and well supported, as long as well-thought policies are used to bring about change.”

Despite the prime minister, Boris Johnson’s recently announced green industrial revolution plan, the CCC have said that further action will be needed from the government to set the UK on the path to ending emissions by 2050. The world looks on as the UK prepares to host a critical UN summit to tackle the climate crisis next November as the UK’s leadership is considered vital for success.

The CCC route map predicts that people’s energy bills will remain level before dropping after 2030 as cheap renewable energy expands. The CCC say that drivers will save money using electric cars but the phasing out of gas boilers will mean that some households will need government help to install more expensive low-carbon heating systems.

The CCC’s plan anticipates that air travel will stay near current levels and meat eating which has already fallen being reduced by just 20% by 2030. The CCC have said that the changes in how people live “need not entail sacrifices”. They believe mixed woodlands should be planted by 2035, covering an area three times the size of Greater London, capturing CO2 and providing new green spaces.

The cost of offshore wind power has fallen fast in recent years and the CCC sees it as the “backbone of the whole UK energy system” with all electricity being renewable or nuclear by 2035. The UK looks set to become an electric nation with twice the current amount of power being generated by 2050, but with hydrogen expanding to fuel heavy industry and transport and warm some homes.

As required by law the CCC has laid out a new carbon budget for the UK by 2035. The CCC says that the UK for less than 1% of national wealth can reduce 78% of emissions by 2035 compared with 1990 levels, which is equivalent to cutting two-thirds of today’s emissions. Advancing carbon cuts by 15 years in comparison to plans in 2018 reflects falling green costs.

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BBC News said:

“CCC members say the targets proposed for the UK’s ‘carbon budget’ period of 2033-2035 are definitely achievable, so long as the government moves urgently.”

The Financial Times reports:

“The advice of the CCC is not legally binding but has exerted a strong influence on the decisions of the UK government, which has always followed its advice when setting the five-year ‘carbon budgets’ required under the Climate Change Act. Emissions will have to fall at a faster pace in the next 30 years than the UK has achieved in the past three decades”.

The newspaper went on to report that CCC chief executive Chris Stark said:

“It’s ambitious. It’s very challenging. It’s also, we think, entirely feasible.”

Lord Deben, chair of the CCC said:

“Getting to net zero emissions is ambitious, realistic and affordable. The price is manifestly reasonable. It will be the private sector that will do much of the investment, but it will be the government that sets the tone. It now has to set out in detail the steps required. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, this is a chance to jump-start the UK’s economic recovery.”

Lord Deben would like to see the costs of the transition distributed fairly across society. Up to now the government has accepted all previous carbon budgets proposed by the CCC and has until June to accept this new one.

Interestingly, analysis by the CCC has found that it is cheaper to switch to electric cars and vans than to continue with petrol and diesel vehicles.  This amazing new insight has massive implications for the overall cost of achieving net zero.

The CCC have said that the annual net cost across the 30 years to 2050 is £10bn, or about 0.5% of GDP. This does not take into account the benefits of new jobs or better health as air pollution and damp cold homes are reduced. It is believed that today, poor housing alone costs the NHS £1.5bn a year.

CCC chief executive Chris Stark said:

“It’s now clear that, at worst, we’ve got a very small cost overall in order to unlock those very big benefits of tackling climate change.”

Alison Doig at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said that the report shows that taking bold action makes sense for jobs and prosperity as well as keeping the UK a prominent leader of an international zero carbon revolution. She says that this is the government’s chance to show how serious it is about delivering the goals of the Paris agreement.

Clara Goldsmith, at the Climate Coalition, said:

“The government must accept this advice and unleash a decade of ambitious action. There is no downside to embracing this plan. It can transform our society and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs.”

There’s no doubt that the major expansion of both renewable energy and electric cars will be challenging. Prof Rob Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said the CCC’s report is extremely important highlighting as it does the very real challenges facing the UK.

He said:

“The speed with which we would need to get charging stations sorted out is a real challenge, if we are to avoid alienating motorists.”

Doug Parr, at Greenpeace UK has said that despite the CCC having set out a route map to net zero that the government will need to do a great deal more over this parliament to reach it. He thinks that although progress has been made recently, there is still a huge gap between the UK’s targets over the next decade and the action required to meet them.

CCC chief executive, Chris Stark has emphasised the importance of implementing the actions needed to reach the net zero emissions target as the climate crisis is still worsening. He has said that with global CO2 emissions and temperature on an upward trend “We are in a bad place” but that 2021 would be a big year for action in the UK with government strategies due for heat and buildings, food, aviation, hydrogen and trees and peat bogs.

How to collect rainwater for your garden

rainwater

We tend to take the water that comes out of our tap for granted. We are lucky enough to be able to access clean water whenever we want without much thought. However, like many of the resources on our planet, water is precious, and we should do all we can to use it responsibly. The future is likely to be one of the hotter and drier summers, meaning drought and shortages of water. Using water from the tap also uses energy. Conserving energy is a means of reducing the need for fuels that are causing the climate crisis in the first place.

Consequently, we should be doing all we can, as individuals, to make the most of our resources. There is little need to water your garden from your tap when there are copious amounts of rainwater to gather and use instead.  Here we explore how to harvest rainwater, and maybe it could be one more contribution your make to preserving our environment.

What other reasons are there for collecting rainwater?

Apart from the significant benefits to the environment, collecting rainwater has many other benefits. For gardeners, the main pay-out is the nitrates received by the plants from rain, which are essential for their health. By watering with rainwater, these nitrates become available as nitrogen, one of the three key micro-nutrients your plants need to thrive. This nutrient will help your plants look lush green and with plenty of leaves. Many forms of nitrogen are not absorbable by plants. Gardeners often resort to expensive methods of fertilising their soil when all they need to do is spray a little more rainwater in their direction.

Collecting rainwater also helps to reduce your water bill, especially if you are on a water meter. You can use the rainwater not only to water your garden but also wash the car and your family pets.

Where can I collect rainwater?

There are different options as to where you can collect rainwater. The popular choice is to set up a barrel that collects rainwater that falls from your roof. This is an excellent place to start, and you can add to your collections with barrels near to sheds and other outbuildings too. If you have a polytunnel, it is even possible to harvest water from this also by attaching a timber rail and some home guttering brackets to the top of the tunnel and adding a water butt at the downpipe.

Another way to collect rainwater is by creating a pond at the lowest point of your garden. If your garden slopes, you want the water to run down and into the pond.

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How to harvest water

If you want to harvest water that is good enough to drink, then you will need to create a filtering system. There are many ways of doing this, and a lot use natural resources. This potable water harvesting is more common in countries where you get water from ground sources.

For your garden, you need only harvest non-potable water. The simplest way to do this is to invest in a water butt. This butt will fill up each time it rains. The most effective butts are placed directly under the downpipe from your gutters. You can then use a watering can to water your flowers and plants.

There are water butts available that create a pressure system that allows you to attach a hose pipe or irrigation system. This is the ultimate way of creating a self-watering garden. With no fuss at all water will be drawn from the water butt to your borders, allotments and polytunnels.

Once collected, conserve

Collecting rainwater is the first step to using conservation methods when gardening. However, as well as preserving rainwater, you then need to take steps to conserve the amount of this water you use.

Consequently, you should only direct the water to where it is really needed. There is no point in allowing water to go everywhere in your garden, even to that muddy patch you have not sorted yet. So, makes sure you use perforated pipes in an irrigation system that only goes to areas that need this supply.

You can also improve the humus content in the soil, meaning your garden will not need watering as often. The earth will store the water, trapping it as leaching and runoff are reduced. Finally, you can also add mulch to your garden to further reduce moisture loss and maintain your rainwater supplies.