Calls For A ‘Fair Heat Deal’ To Kickstart the Market for Low Carbon Heating

UK Government

More than 20 organisations representing builders and construction businesses, energy companies and civil society groups and including the UK Green Building Council and Federation of Master Builders have signed an open letter calling for a “fair heat deal” to incentivise households to install heat pumps and to ensure people on low incomes can gain access to heat pumps.

Other signatories include Energy UK, Friends of the Earth, thinktank E3G and the CPRE countryside charity.

Experts from these organisations have told the government that households on low incomes should be supplied with free heat pumps in order to drive the uptake of alternatives to traditional gas boilers and kickstart the market for low carbon heating.

Though heat pumps are a core part of the government’s net zero goals, they can currently cost thousands of pounds to install, with ground source heat pumps costing up to £35,000 each. However, the more heat pumps that are installed, the faster the cost is likely to come down. They are widely thought to be the best way to replace the UK’s gas boilers and to play an important part in helping the UK meet its climate targets.

Around 14% of the UK’s greenhouse emissions come from heating the UK’s poor housing stock, most of which is draughty and energy inefficient. UK homes are ranked among the least energy efficient in Europe. The letter also calls for insulation to be made available to people on low incomes.

In September 2020, the government launched a programme to install insulation and low-carbon heating, called the Green Homes Grant, but abandoned it after just 6 months. Only a fraction of the homes targeted were insulated and sadly there were widespread complaints of poor service.

At the end of last year, the government had said that it wanted to install 600,000 heat pumps each year by 2028 in the 24.5 million homes that needed them, so the scrapping of the Green Homes Grant was disappointing for both renewable energy installers and homeowners.

Ministers are currently working on a new heat and buildings strategy, which has not yet been published. The government’s statutory advisers, the Climate Change Committee, have warned that reducing emissions from the domestic housing sector will be essential to reaching the UK’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.

A spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

“We are already leading the way to ensure affordability and fairness are at the heart of clean heating reforms, and more detail on our approach will be provided in the upcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy. We are supporting lower income households and vulnerable people to make homes greener and cut energy bills and will continue to do so through schemes such as the Home Upgrade Grant and the new Clean Heat Grant from April next year.”

Juliet Phillips, a senior policy adviser at the E3G thinktank, one of the organisations behind the letter, said:

“Moving from a gas boiler to a heat pump is one of the biggest carbon savings a household can make. But it must be affordable, and we urge the government to support our fair heat deal to ensure no one is left behind in the green industrial revolution. If done right, the UK can lead the world in reducing carbon emissions from heat while slashing energy bills, boosting the economy and protecting the fuel poor.”

The letter also called on ministers to do away with environmental levies on energy bills, to ensure it is always cheaper to run a heat pump than a boiler and for grants to be available to all households not on low incomes. Ministers want to make sure the cost of a new heat pump is competitive with the cost of installing a new gas boiler.

Signatories of the letter also asked for the removal of VAT on green home products and installation and for changes to stamp duty to reduce the cost of homes that have been equipped with low carbon technology.

Mike Thornton, the chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said:

“For the UK to reach its net zero targets, we need real pace and scale in rolling out heat pumps. A fair heat deal will provide the confidence, clarity and certainty which will unlock the investment required for this.”

The letter also said that a ‘warm homes agency’ should be set up to train installers, create green jobs across the UK and maintain high standards.

Joe Tetlow, senior political advisor at Green Alliance, one of the letter’s signatories, said that instead of outlining how homes will be made greener it is “leaking like a draughty house, with briefing and speculation filling the void where published policy and positive progress should be”.

He added:

“The government needs to seize back the agenda, be bullish about its commitment to decarbonising homes and crucially, its intention to protect consumers.”

Despite the urgent need to tackle heating in the domestic housing sector the government admits that there are major challenges in convincing homeowners to install heat pumps. Last month they conceded that it was “uncertain” how mass uptake could be achieved.

An industry event held recently, outlined the problems facing the government. Some heat pumps are noisy and could breach permitted development regulations if placed too close to a neighbour’s window. This could be difficult to avoid in many buildings. Installation can also take several weeks in some cases and could cause significant disruption, while many homes would not have enough space for the kit required. The kit includes either an outdoor unit or ground array, added piping, a control unit, a hot water tank and a buffer tank.

Perhaps an even more serious barrier to the government’s plans is the lack of trained installers. A report by consultant EY published recently found that the UK would need to train almost 10,000 installers within the next four years which is 8 times as many as currently exist.

The report also said officials have not given the industry enough time to get ready for a planned ban on gas boilers in all new homes from 2025.

The BEIS says the government should follow the principles set out by the Climate Assembly UK and ensure fairness underpins the transition to net zero. Meanwhile we all wait for the government to publish their new heat and buildings strategy.

Report Says New Solar and Wind Projects Will Be Cheaper Than Coal


Nearly two-thirds of wind and solar projects built around the world in 2020 will be able to generate cheaper electricity than even the most competitive fossil fuel option according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

The report found that 62% of total renewable power generation added last year could undercut the cost of up to 800 gigawatts (GW) worth of coal plants due to the falling costs of new windfarms and solar panels. This would be almost enough to supply the UK’s electricity needs 10 times over.

According to the report, solar power costs fell by 16% last year, while the cost of onshore wind dropped 13% and offshore wind by 9%.

Amazingly, In less than 10 years, the cost of large-scale solar power has dropped by almost 85% while the cost of onshore wind has fallen by almost 56% and offshore wind has declined by almost 48%.

Francesco La Camera, Irena’s director general, said that the research done by the agency had proved the world was “far beyond the tipping point of coal”.

He said:

“Today renewables are the cheapest source of power. Renewables present countries tied to coal with an economically attractive phase-out agenda that ensures they meet growing energy demand, while saving costs, adding jobs, boosting growth and meeting climate ambition.”

To give a few examples of where renewables are cheaper; the cost of a new coal plant in Europe would be well above the cost of new wind and solar farms including mandatory carbon prices; renewable energy in the US could undercut between three-quarters and 91% of existing coal-fired power plants while in India renewable energy would be less expensive than between 87% and 91% of new coal plants.

The report says that if hundreds of existing coal plants were replaced with unsubsidised renewable energy sources, $32.3bn (£22.8bn) could be saved every year in energy system costs and about 3 gigatons of CO2 could be avoided annually.

To give an idea of the magnitude of the changes that will be needed in the future, the carbon saving from phasing out 800GW of coal power capacity would be the equivalent of removing 9% from the world’s energy-related emissions in 2020, or 20% of the carbon savings needed by 2030 to help limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The cost of renewable energy is predicted to continue to fall in the coming years. The report says that over the next two years three-quarters of all new solar power projects that have been competitively procured through auctions and tenders will be cheaper than new coal power plants, and onshore wind costs will be a quarter lower than the cheapest new coal-fired option.

The report said:

“The trend confirms that low-cost renewables are not only the backbone of the electricity system, but that they will also enable electrification in end uses like transport, buildings and industry and unlock competitive indirect electrification with renewable hydrogen.”

As a result of the findings of Irena’s report, countries are being urged to power past coal as renewables would bring cost savings of $156bn to emerging economies.

Francesco La Camera, Irena’s director general said:

“We cannot allow having a dual-track for energy transition where some countries rapidly turn green, and others remain trapped in the fossil-based system of the past. Global solidarity will be crucial, from technology diffusion to financial strategies and investment support. We must make sure everybody benefits from the energy transition.”

Wind and solar energy are set to gain cost competitiveness over fossil fuel and nuclear power in 2021. It is looking increasingly likely that it will be cheaper to add new wind and solar capacity in comparison to new fossil fuel power plants and nuclear power plants.

G7 Leaders Pledge Climate Action But Fall Short On Detail

Between the 11th and 13th of June, the G7 leaders, which includes the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, and Italy met at Carbis bay in Cornwall to discuss the delivery of a strong economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and responses to the climate crisis. Against a backdrop of beautiful sandy beaches and hundreds of climate activists demanding action the G7 leaders deliberated over how they could address the climate crisis on a global scale.

Significantly, the G7 meeting began with a video message from the British broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough. He gave a stark warning to the G7 leaders stating that “the natural world is greatly diminished – our climate is warming fast” and that the decisions facing the world’s richest countries were “the most important in human history”.

Despite, efforts to combat the climate crisis being prominent in the G7 leader’s final official document released on 13th June, green groups and activists are disappointed at the lack of detail in plans to promote a green industrial revolution. 

The G7 nations have renewed their pledge to jointly raise $100bn a year to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

The agreement for developed countries to contribute $100bn a year in climate finance to poorer countries by 2020 was first made in 2009 but the target has not been met, partly due to the Covid pandemic.

Though the pledge has been renewed, Teresa Anderson, from Action Aid said:

“The G7’s reaffirmation of the previous $100 billion a year target doesn’t come close to addressing the urgency and scale of the crisis.”

Importantly, an agreement was reached by all nations to step up action on climate change. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who hosted the three-day meeting said:

“We were clear this weekend that action needs to start with us.”

This action translated into the G7 leaders all committing to a “green revolution” that would limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C. They also promised to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, halve emissions by 2030, and to conserve or protect at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030.

However, some environmental groups said that the promises didn’t amount to much as they lacked detail. They believe that the world’s rich nations responsible for causing the climate crisis, know what is expected of them but have persistently failed to deliver their promises in full.

One of the achievements of the G7 summit was a commitment to set net-zero targets in the 2030s and to formalise this. Supporting these targets is a commitment to end direct government support for new thermal coal generation capacity without co-located carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies by the end of this year. Several of the G7 nations, including the UK, have already pledged to end coal production before 2030. This pledge is particularly significant for Japan as coal accounted for 31% of Japan’s electricity in the 2019-2020 financial year and it is believed to be the world’s second largest coal supporter, after China.

The G7 leaders have promised to help developing countries move away from coal plants unless they have the technology to capture carbon emissions. A commitment was made to stop direct funding for coal-fired stations in OECD nations by the end of 2021. These strict measures, herald the demise of the coal industry which fuelled the industrial revolution, and comes at a time when Sir David Attenborough warns that humans could be “on the verge of destabilising the entire planet”.

Ending the use of the world’s dirtiest fuel, coal, is seen by environmentalists as a major step but they also want guarantees that rich nations will deliver on their previous promises to help poorer nations with climate change.

The UK has been criticised a great deal for failing to publish a detailed roadmap outlining exactly how the nation plans to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. The government is expected to publish a dedicated strategy prior to the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow in November this year. The G7 has also committed to publishing strategies outlining how efforts to deliver a global transition to net-zero will be reached. They have also promised to do their utmost to publish them before COP26.

It’s good to see that the G7 realise the importance of linking discussions set to take place at COP26 with the themes and findings of the impending Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The CBD have already commenced meetings to formalise a ‘global diversity Framework’ that would be adopted by governments across the globe akin to the Paris agreement aimed at fighting the global average temperature rise.

The G7 has formally agreed to a shared G7 Nature Compact which notably commits nations to supporting the target to conserve or protect at least 30% of global land and at least 30% of global ocean by the end of the decade.

A commitment has also been made by the G7 to “strengthen their deployment and implementation” of nature-based solutions (NbS), acknowledging that they can deliver “significant multiple benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity, and people and thereby contributing to the achievement of various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

The G7, however, stated that these solutions should not replace the “necessity for urgent decarbonisation and reduction of emissions”.

Furthermore, the G7 renewed their commitment to the New York Declaration on Forests to end natural forest loss and, building on the Bonn Challenge, restore 350 million hectares of forest by 2030. The previous 2020 deadline of the declaration has not been reached and it looks like the signatories to the original declaration have done little towards achieving their commitments up to now.

The G7 official communique does outline the importance of tackling emissions from the global transport sector, but unlike a net-zero energy agreement, efforts to reduce transportation emissions remain less clear. The G7 confirmed that it would “intensify efforts in enhancing the offer of more sustainable transport modes”, including encouraging phase-out of traditional passenger vehicles in favour of electric vehicles (EVs) before 2040.

Although the G7 did agree on a new framework aimed at funnelling billions into green infrastructure, the details of this new framework are largely non-existent. The UK government has however, claimed that details of the new initiative will be outlined prior to COP26, and that a key focus will be to boost green infrastructure deployment in developing countries.

As with green infrastructure, a focus on green innovation was mentioned but again without any concrete plans. The G7 noted the importance of the circular economy, as well as electrifications and “comprehensive industrial heat utilisation”, fuel switching and carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS). Despite this, no official ringfenced funding was announced for these technologies.

It’s looking likely that financing for low-carbon solutions will develop nation by nation ran than through global agreements. Some markets will be better set up to promote certain solutions as the UK, for example, has a world-leading offshore wind market.

The G7 welcomed the second phase of Mission innovation, (the first phase began in 2015) which consists of the European Union and 22 other governments that covers 90% of global public investment into green energy solutions. The Mission Innovation members have committed to pushing “affordable and attractive clean energy, accessible to all in this decade”.

Many crucial pledges were made during the G7 summit but there does appear to be a distinct lack of detail on how these pledges will come to fruition.

New Measures Revealed by The Mayor Of London To Support ‘Retrofit Revolution’

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn has revealed plans to introduce a new package of measures that will make buildings more energy efficient and at the same time help to tackle the climate emergency. He has declared it to be a ‘retrofit revolution’ for London.

These measures form part of the city’s Green New Deal mission, which was announced in November 2020 along with a £10 million investment to help fund areas such as the fourth phase of the London Community Energy Fund project as well as the Old Oak and Park Royal Solar PV programme and the Solar Together London group-buying scheme.

In partnership with Solar Energy UK, the mayor of London intends to launch new training and apprenticeships that focus on battery storage, electric vehicle (EV) charging and related smart tech. This training is vital as there is a notable skills gap in renewables throughout the UK. In order to sustain and create new green jobs more people need to undertake these and other renewables related apprenticeships.

The programme also known as Solar Skills London includes a placement to get trainees into solar businesses and targeted grant schemes to deliver training to staff at 100 solar installation companies in London. The new investment in London’s solar workforce will help to drive the mass uptake of solar energy this decade, enabling Londoners to learn more about solar technologies as well as creating more green jobs.

There is already support for solar within the capital, with around 200 schools having signed up to have solar panels and other efficiency work completed with support and expertise from City Hall.

A key part of the Mayor’s target of reaching net zero by 2030 is to grasp the opportunity for more solar energy on London’s rooftops. His energy programmes alone are expected to more than double the amount of clean energy London generates from solar, but more investment will be needed to ensure the capital goes much further.

It is not only solar that is being supported in the mayor’s mission, but also green transport, energy efficiency programmes and green foundations groups such as Advance London and Better Future, which are designed to support the growth of new and existing business in the green economy.

Projects that are designed to help support decarbonisation and create jobs will receive funding. This will include ensuring the capital has the electricity infrastructure to support the electric vehicle (EV) rollout. In order to identify the best locations around the city for chargers as well as the best times to charge, innovative planning tools will be used.

The new programme of measures follows the mayor of London’s announcement in July last year that £1.5 billion would be allocated to infrastructure projects to kickstart London’s Covid-19 recovery.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: 

“Creating jobs and tackling the climate emergency are two of my priorities for London and that’s why I am delighted London is leading the way on a retrofit revolution.

A strong economic recovery from COVID-19 and a green recovery are not mutually exclusive. This transformative approach to retrofit will directly help those living in ageing, energy-inefficient homes, and could play a vital role cutting energy bills and tackling fuel poverty.”

As things stand, London’s homes and workplaces are responsible for 78% of the capital’s carbon emissions which means that almost all will need some degree of retrofitting over the next 10 years. London’s social housing urgently needs to be upgraded to be as energy efficient as possible. To be able to deliver the Mayor’s climate targets and tackle fuel poverty, improvements such as better insulation, ultra-low carbon heat and clean power sources like solar energy need to be put in place. Currently London has the third highest level of fuel poverty in the country, with Barking and Dagenham having the highest of any local authority in England.

The mayor will work with London councils and social housing providers on these ambitious new projects which will include an Innovation Partnership designed to facilitate social landlords and UK building firms working together to upgrade aging homes. This partnership has a potential value of £10 billion in retrofit works which could create around 150,000 jobs over the decade. Backed by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) the creation of a 3.5 billion national retrofit centre of excellence was announced at the same time with the intention of helping assist social housing providers gain access to funding for major retrofit projects. It will also support providers in developing plans to improve their chances of being successful through the next round of the £160 million Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. The national retrofit centre of excellence will make it possible to ensure homes are fit for the future, affordable and protect the most vulnerable from cold and damp homes.

These measures make up part of the necessary work to increase the quality and speed of retrofits which will make it possible for social housing landlords to cut carbon emissions and reduce heating costs for thousands of homes and so help to address the growing problem of fuel poverty. Social housing providers are able to access free support from summer 2021.

London’s low carbon and environmental goods and services sector, its ‘green economy’, was worth £48 billion in 2019/20, employing 317,000 people across 14,000 businesses. The sector has grown from £24 billion in 2010/11, employing 164,000 and 9,000 companies.  The Green New Deal mission aims to double the size of the green economy in London to £100 billion by 2030, an ambition that would kick-start greater job growth over the next decade.

Royal Dutch Shell Ordered to Cut Emissions by 45% by 2030 in Landmark Case

On the 26th May this year, Royal Dutch Shell, a British-Dutch multinational, was ordered by a Dutch civil court to cut it’s CO2 emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels, by 2030. The lawsuit was filed in April 2019 by seven activist groups including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace on behalf of 17,200 Dutch citizens. The unprecedented ruling was reached after the oil giant’s sustainability policy was found to be insufficiently “concrete” and it could have far reaching consequences for the rest of the global fossil fuel industry and other polluting multinationals.

Some major oil companies have already begun to make changes as a result of the greater global focus on cutting emissions. Chevron investors have recently voted in favour of a proposal to cut its customer emissions, while shareholders at Exxon have elected two climate activists to its board after months of arguing over its business direction.

Many believe that the landmark case is a “turning point in history”.  Friends of the Earth said that it’s the first time that a company has been legally obliged to align its policies with the Paris climate accords. Almost 200 countries agreed to keep global temperatures “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels under the terms of the Paris agreement on climate change, a legally binding treaty that came into force on 4th November 2016.

Shell was found in breach of article 6:162 of the Dutch civil code and to be violating articles 2 & 8 of the European convention of human rights, the right to life and the right to family life by causing a danger to others when alternative measures could be taken.

The court’s verdict said that the Shell group was responsible for its own CO2 emissions and those of its suppliers. Though Shell had pledged to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 20% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050 the court in the Hague did not consider that this was fast enough. The lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that Shell had been aware for decades of the dangerous consequences of CO2 emissions, but its targets had remained insufficiently robust. It’s no longer enough for firms to comply with the law on their emissions, they may be forced to comply with global climate policy too.

Roger Cox, lawyer for Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands said:

“This case is unique because it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting corporation to comply with the Paris climate agreement. This ruling may also have major consequences for other big polluters.”

Roger Cox is asking organisations across the world to take legal action to force multinationals to play their full part in tackling the climate emergency.

The Shell verdict alone will be a warning to companies round the world that the battle against climate change may ultimately spell the end of anything resembling “business as usual”.

Donald Pols, a director at Friends of the Earth said in a statement:

“This is really great news and a gigantic victory for the earth, our children and for all of us. The judge leaves no doubt about it: Shell is causing dangerous climate change and must now stop it quickly.”

Bas Eickhout, a Green MEP on the European parliament’s environment committee, said:

“This ruling is really good news for the climate. It increases the pressure on large polluters and helps us in Europe to tighten climate policy for them as well. They can no longer escape the climate crisis: the international climate targets must also apply to them.”

Shell said it was disappointed and plans to appeal the ruling, but this comes at a time when there is already mounting pressure on energy companies from investors, activists, and governments to move away from fossil fuels and to rapidly ramp up investment in renewables.

In their defence a Shell spokesperson said:

“Urgent action is needed on climate change, which is why we have accelerated our efforts to become a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050. We are investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy, including electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, renewables and biofuels”.

The company also argues that if people feel that progress towards cutting emissions is too slow, they should lobby governments and not Shell, to change policies and introduce financial incentives.

However, it may well be necessary to both lobby governments and take legal action against the big polluters, in order to reach global climate targets.

There is a lot of hope riding on this court ruling with many climate change activists and campaign groups hoping that the verdict will trigger a surge of legal action against the big polluters to force them to stop extracting and burning fossil fuels.

Tom Cummins, dispute resolution partner at law firm Ashurst said:

“This is arguably the most significant climate change related judgment yet, which emphasises that companies and not just governments may be the target of strategic litigation which seeks to drive changes in behaviour.”

Flighty Business Models Are Causing a Climate Crisis

Most modern companies are expected to move faster than ever — customers expect more, quicker. Keeping up with growing demand typically means speeding up business processes. This swift pace can generate significant waste as a result, however.

One recent article in CMS Wire summarized the early results from a new study on how companies’ digital habits may encourage waste. About 45% of respondents described their business as having a “launch and leave” culture rather than practices that prioritize quality and reuse of resources.

Waste is often central to modern business models. When normalized, these practices can harm the environment and may even be one of the primary drivers behind climate change. Reducing trash generation could help companies fight this global crisis.

How Some Business Models Increase Waste

In England alone, commercial activities generate around 27.1 million tonnes of waste every year. Industrial practices contribute another 10.1 million tonnes. Together, that’s a little less than one-fifth of all the waste produced in England. Most of it goes to landfills, and a significant portion consists of food, paper and cardboard products, plastic, metal and wood.

Food waste tends to have a significant carbon impact after it is sent to landfills. In the U.K. alone, an estimated 27 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) is generated every year by these emissions.

Travel can also contribute significantly to a business’s overall carbon footprint — including meetings, employee commutes and deliveries. Certain types of travel are worse for the environment than others. Bicycling and walking have little or no environmental impact, while flying is a major contributor to global greenhouse emissions. Worldwide, flights produced 915 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019.

Carbon emissions for flying are also higher depending on how you fly. According to the U.K.’s Defra carbon conversion factors, emissions per passenger per km are 0.60kg CO2e for first class, 0.43kg CO2e for business class and 0.15kg CO2e for economy.

Frequent flights in first class could significantly increase a business’s overall carbon footprint. In contrast, travel by tram or light rail tends to produce just 0.02kg CO2e per passenger per km on average.

Creating Sustainable Business Models

Changes at the societal level will likely have the biggest impact on business sustainability. Low-carbon aviation fuel could significantly reduce the carbon cost of travel by air. Widespread adoption of renewable energy, both at the grid level and by individual businesses, could also help make workplaces more sustainable.

Shifts in business practices could also help. Law firms are often major generators of paper waste. As a result, some are making sustainable business changes, like the use of e-filing, scanning, faxing and digital storage systems, to help to reduce the use of physical documents.

Changing how a business’s team travels can make a major difference. Going by rail produces significantly less CO2 than air. Alternatives to in-person meetings — like videoconferencing — can also help a company reduce its travel-related carbon emissions.

Offering the ability for employees to work remotely can also help. Every time someone can telecommute instead of driving to their workplace, they may save 23 miles’ (37 km) worth of travel emissions on average.

More major shifts to a business model can provide better results. Committing to renewable energy can help significantly cut down on business emissions. An office with solar panels would need to rely on local fossil fuel-fired energy sources.

Retrofitting an office or workplace with smart climate control and lighting technology could also help. For example, IoT thermostats can optimize a building’s temperature, automatically adjusting it throughout the day to keep things comfortable and reduce energy consumption.

Smart lighting can turn off when a building is unoccupied, saving money and energy. This simple change can make a huge difference with little effort.

How New Business Models Could Help Fight Climate Change

Many modern businesses are wasteful — food, paper and travel by air all contribute significantly to national and global carbon emissions.

Changes at both the societal and corporate levels can make a significant difference in how wasteful companies are. Recycling, travel by train and the use of energy-efficient smart technology can all help make workplaces much more sustainable.

Solar and Wind Energy Could Power the World By 2050

Solar and Wind

The huge drop in the cost of solar and wind power in recent years has opened up an energy reserve that could power the world 100 times over. Solar costs have fallen by an average of 18% every year since 2010 with wind prices down 9% annually. Solar technology is growing faster than any technology at this size, with annual increases of 39%, nearly doubling capacity every two years. Global energy consumption in 2019 was 65 petawatt-hours (PWh). However, with current technology, solar and wind power now have the potential to capture at least 6,700 petawatt-hours (PWh) which is more than 100 times the global energy demand. Amazingly, solar and wind energy could produce as much power in a single year as could be generated by burning all known fossil fuel reserves.

According to a report called The Sky’s the Limit by the Carbon Tracker thinktank, 60% of the world’s solar resource and 15% of its wind resource are now economically comparable with local fossil fuel generation.

The report uses BloombergNEF (BNEF) data to calculate the share of economical solar production by taking the mid-price in each country and comparing it with the cheapest fossil fuel.

Harry Bentham, report co-author and chairman of thinktank Ember-Climate said:

“The world does not need to exploit its entire renewable resource – just 1% is enough to replace all fossil fuel usage. Each year we are fuelling the climate crisis by burning three million years of fossilised sunshine in coal, oil, and gas while we use just 0.01% of daily sunshine.”

Solar and wind are limitless sources of energy, unlike coal, oil, and gas, and at the current rate of growth look set to push fossil fuels out of the electricity sector by the mid- 2030s. At this point all solar technology, and more than half of wind will be economically preferable compared to other forms of electricity generation. By the time we reach 2050 solar and wind could power the world, producing cheap clean energy to support new technologies such as electric vehicles and replacing fossil fuels entirely. The report finds that in the next 30 years we will see falling costs and technological advances overcoming the challenges of powering sectors like steel and cement production.

Kingsmill Bond, Carbon Tracker’s energy strategist and report lead author, said:

“We are entering a new epoch, comparable to the industrial revolution. Energy will tumble in price and become available to millions more, particularly in low-income countries. Geopolitics will be transformed as nations are freed from expensive imports of coal, oil, and gas. Clean renewables will fight catastrophic climate change and free the planet from deadly pollution.”

According to analysis from BloombergNEF, utility-scale solar PV are now the cheapest forms of new-build energy generation across two-thirds of the global population.

The fact that solar PV and wind power have far greater potential than fossil fuels and can meet global energy demand many times over, brings huge benefits for society as a whole.

Emerging economies are best placed to benefit from the rise in renewables. Carbon Tracker’s report underlines that they have the greatest opportunity to install the highest solar and wind potential relative to their domestic demand. Although, many are still building out their energy systems renewables allow them to rise above energy dependence, secure cheap energy for all citizens and to create local jobs. For example, Africa has a colossal 39% of global installation potential and could become a renewables superpower.

The main driving force behind change is the need for energy independence because 80% of people live in countries that are importing fossil fuels.

Carbon Tracker’s report finds that the solar panels needed to meet global energy demand would take up just 0.3% of land which is actually less than the area covered by the current fossil fuel infrastructure. This nullifies the concern that there would be a need for vast occupation of land. The report gives the following example:

“The world’s largest oilfield, Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, which occupies 8,400 square kilometres, produces the equivalent of 0.9 PWh each year. Building solar panels over the same area would generate 1.2 PWh a year on average globally and 1.6 PWh in Saudi Arabia, which is sunnier than average.”

The land required obviously differs by country. In the UK’s case it is more likely that the focus would be on offshore wind due to land constraints.

At long last financial markets are waking up to the opportunities presented by renewables. Last year, clean energy companies raised more money than fossil fuel companies through public offerings for the first time. This is influencing the progress of efficiencies and advances leading to better panels and higher turbines which has the effect of reducing costs further.

As both technical and economic barriers have been crossed, the only impediment to change is now political. However, growth is likely to continue as more countries see the potential of renewables.

Change is inevitable as more and more countries act to cut their use of fossil fuels in response to the climate crisis and public concern about pollution.

The fossil fuel age is almost over as the world enters a new era. The fossil fuel industry cannot compete with the technological advances of renewables which will inevitably lead to demand for fossil fuels falling as wind and solar continue to grow.

UK Sets New Target To Cut Carbon Emissions By 78% Within The Next 15 Years

carbon emissions

The UK government has announced radical new climate change commitments that bring forward the current target for reducing carbon emissions by nearly 15 years. The commitments set the UK on course to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 and will become law by the end of June 2021. The government has acted on the advice of its independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) to adopt the emissions cut, which is based on 1990 levels.

CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark said:

“I am delighted at this news; this is an important and historic decision. In committing to cut emissions by almost 80% in 2035, the UK has taken its place at the forefront of global efforts to reach net-zero, crucial in the fight against climate change. By implementing our recommendations in full, the Government’s decision rests on the most comprehensive ever assessment of the path to a fully decarbonised economy.”

Setting this goal in law gives the green light to government, business, and people up and down the country to get behind the actions needed to get there. It means that every decision made from now on must be the right one for the climate.
The new target builds on the greenhouse gas emission goal of net zero by 2050 that was set by the UK in 2019 in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement which called on countries to keep the global temperature rise as close to 1.5 Celsius as possible. The new legislation will mean that the UK is more than three-quarters of the way there by 2035.

The government’s announcement comes just days after China and the United States agreed that stronger pledges were required to tackle climate change.

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said:

“We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world.”

The UK’s ambitious climate change target places the UK in a world leading position and firmly on the road to becoming a net zero producer.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast a major surge in CO2 emissions from energy this year as the world recovers from the pandemic. The new legislation is timely and has been welcomed by green groups although they would like to see more detailed action plans.

The new timetable will need the UK to speed up the fundamental restructuring of the way it powers its homes, cars, and factories, what it does to dispose of carbon dioxide and how it feeds its people. Reaching the climate targets will require more electric cars, low carbon heating, renewable electricity, more tree planting and will include cutting down on meat and dairy. Notably, for the first-time climate law will be extended to cover international aviation and shipping. Historically, emissions reductions only included those within the UK borders.  

Reaching the UK’s climate targets will require life-style changes greater than ever before. Homes will need to be better insulated and people will be encouraged to drive less and walk and cycle more. Aviation is likely to become more expensive for frequent flyers.

Though great strides have been made away from coal and towards renewable energy such as offshore wind and solar these are relatively easy cuts to make, the biggest challenge lies in decarbonising the transport system, household energy and food production. At the same time, a huge increase in electricity from the grid to provide energy for electric cars and electric heating systems will be required.

Leo Murray of the climate charity, Possible, called the announcement “fantastic” but added:

“We’re not on track to meet previous climate commitments and in many ways the government is still failing.”

Markedly, some of the actions taken by the government recently appear to be going in the opposite direction to what it needs to achieve for the climate goals set, with for example, the scrapping of the Green Homes grant which was supposed to insulate and provide low-carbon heating for thousands of homes, the continued support for airport expansion and the pushing forward of a £27bn roads budget.

Environmentalists have welcomed the government’s action but have warned that ministers had typically failed to achieve previous targets set by the CCC. They have also called for the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to clearly show how the transition is to be funded.

Greenpeace said that the building of new roads and runways would have to stop.

They stated that:

“Targets are much easier to set than they are to meet, so the hard work begins now.”

Chair of the environmental think tank E3G, Tom Burke explained what policy changes were needed to achieve the climate goal:

“The most important thing, I think, is for the prime minister to focus his policy, around energy efficiency, around wind and solar, and around storage of electricity and the management of the grid.”

The CCC report advised that investment in low carbon must scale up to £50bn a year in the UK, adding that in time fuel savings from more efficient equipment will cancel out the investment costs. They believe that around 1% of GDP, national wealth, would need to be spent shifting away from fossil fuels over the next 30 years.

Chair of the CCC, Lord Deben said:

“The implication of this path is clear: the utmost focus is required from government over the next 10 years. If policy is not scaled up across every sector, if business is not encouraged to invest, if the people of the UK are not engaged in this challenge – the UK will not deliver net zero by 2050. The 2020s must be the decisive decade of progress and action.”

By legislating for such a strict new target in less than 15 years’ time the UK Prime Minister has indicated that he is taking the threat of climate change seriously. Though campaigners remain concerned about progress towards existing targets being too slow, the Prime Minister has set a path for rapid behavioural changes from households and businesses.

Work Begins On Army’s First Solar Farm To Support Its Commitment To Sustainability

UK Army Renewables

The installation of a 2.3MW photovoltaic solar farm at the British Army’s Defence School of Transport (DST) in Leconfield is part of a major project expected to deliver £1million in efficiency savings and a massive reduction of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

The project will support the Government’s commitment to meet Net Carbon Emissions by 2050.

Delivered by Centrica Business Solutions, the solar farm is the first of four photovoltaic solar farm sites to be built on the Army’s vast estate as part of Project PROMETHEUS, which are designed to increase renewable energy across the Defence estate.

Greg Mckenna, Managing Director of Centrica Business Solutions, said:

“We are proud to support the army launch what is an ambitious sustainability programme. It is incumbent on organisations big and small to show leadership in meeting net zero, and the army is doing just that.

Large scale solar projects like this can create significant cost and carbon savings, helping customers accelerate their transition to a sustainable future.”

Centrica Business Solutions started construction of the 2.3MW solar farm earlier this year. The DST site covers an area the size of six football pitches and consists of 4,248 Trina Vertex panels that are predicted to generate up to one third of the electricity needed on site. It will produce enough power to supply much of the site’s infrastructure including the single soldiers and family’s accommodation the offices, classrooms, and gym.

Together, the four pilot sites are expected to result in £1million in efficiency savings and to reduce emissions by 2,000 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) per year. These cost savings will be reinvested into Army infrastructure and help to reach the Army’s own ambition of Net Zero by 2045.

Major General David Southall, director basing and infrastructure and the Army’s sustainability champion, said:

“The Army remains wholly committed to play its part in meeting the UK’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. To deliver this, we are working hard to reduce energy demand as well as increase ‘green’ supply across our estate.

Project PROMETHEUS is an exciting pilot which will showcase renewable energy generation across the Army estate. When operational, we will learn from our four pilot sites and scale-up fast across the wider Army estate to help decarbonise the power we use.”

The three remaining solar farms planned for construction will be based at Duke of Gloucester Barracks, South Cerney, Gloucestershire; Rock Barracks, Suffolk; and Baker Barracks on Thorney Island, Sussex and are scheduled for delivery by summer 2021. Beyond the pilot project, the Army hopes to deliver a further circa 80 solar farms across its estate over the next seven years.

Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin said:

“Project Prometheus is an example of how Defence is actioning its all-encompassing approach to reducing carbon emissions and increasing sustainability, announced last week.

The Army, through Prometheus, is showing our commitment to positive green initiatives, driving impressive energy efficiency savings.”

Project Prometheus is one of several sustainable initiatives undertaken by the army to support the UK Net Zero legislation. Project TAURUS saw a solar carport with electric car charging ports and battery storage built at the British Army Headquarters. The second phase of this project will go on to install a further six solar carports across the UK.

Project KELPIE is a pilot scheme which is looking at thermal battery storage, and project Romulus is working on the development of a ‘digital twin’ system for managing buildings’ carbon footprints. This system collects and collates data on how the infrastructure works. Further to this there are initiatives such as buildings Efficiency Management Systems (BEMS) which is working on improving sub-metering across the estate and near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) which is looking at making the estate more sustainable by enhancing the energy efficiency of Single living accommodation (SLA).

The army further shows its commitment to sustainability with Project MARKER which is a habitation creation scheme and a natural capital research project with Exeter University.

The Commandant of the Defence School of Transport, Colonel Chris Henson is very pleased that the Defence School of Transport site was chosen as the first solar farm site within Defence. He said that becoming more environmentally friendly and sustainable was something they are definitely focusing on at the school though he acknowledges that they are a long way off becoming carbon neutral.

Why It’s Worth Installing Solar Panels in 2021

solar panels

There have been some significant changes to the economics of solar power in recent years. The popular and successful feed-in tariff closed to new applicants in 2019 meaning that photovoltaics were no longer subsidised. Further to that the government changed the rules so that not every installation is eligible for the preferential 5% VAT. However, solar panels are still a fantastic and affordable investment due to the steady drop in solar prices that has occurred for many years. Thankfully, it appears that Covid-19 has not significantly affected the cost of solar panels, except to perhaps slow down the year on year drop in prices. The solar industry is expected to flourish again when normality returns.

According to government data, installing 4kW of solar panels in the first 3 months of 2020 was already £288 cheaper, on average, than it was in 2019. Thanks to an increase in demand and the development of new technology, solar panels costs have fallen by more than 50% over the past decade.

Overall, the cost of domestic solar electricity is now around 8p per kWh. This is a lot less than the 16p average domestic import cost from the grid, a cost that has increased by an average 4.75% each year over the past decade. Just this fact alone makes installing solar PV extremely worthwhile as you will be protecting yourself against future increases in the cost of importing power from the grid.

Financial considerations aside, installing solar panels is a good way to lower your carbon footprint. Solar energy is a natural, renewable source because it can be replenished unlike fossil fuels which are finite.  As solar energy relies entirely on gathering energy from the sun and converting it into electricity (or hot water) for use in your home, using it means that you are not producing any greenhouse gases or contributing to global warming. The Energy Saving Trust estimates the average UK home with a solar PV system installed could reduce carbon emissions by 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes per year depending on where you live in the UK.

Here are a few things to consider before installing solar panels:

  1. Payments for solar energy that you don’t use:

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) launched by the government on 1st January 2020 requires all large energy providers with at least 150,000 customers to pay households for the renewable electricity they export back to the grid. This is electricity you generate but don’t use yourself that is then pumped back to the National Grid. In order to qualify for the SEG your solar panel system must be 5MW capacity or less.

Energy suppliers have to pay a set rate for each kilowatt (kWh) of electricity you export. The amount you receive will vary by supplier but you’re free to shop around to get the best rates.

Though the scheme isn’t as generous as the feed-in tariff, the tariffs being offered by most suppliers are very reasonable and similar to the export tariff rates previously being offered by the government. Some energy providers are offering around 5.5p/kWh of exported electricity.

Depending on your circumstances, a 4kWp solar panel system could make around £340 per year which will go a long way to helping you recoup your original investment.

Homeowners with solar panels need no longer feel that their unused electricity is being wasted and the SEG rates should gradually increase as energy companies compete with one another.

  • You will need a smart meter to get the smart export guarantee payments:

In order to get the SEG tariff, you’ll need a smart meter that’s capable of tracking how much solar electricity you’re exporting to the grid.

If you have what’s known as a ‘SMETS 2’ meter, the second   generation of   smart meters or certain ‘SMETS 1’ meters (the first generation) you will be able to receive payments from your supplier for your exported electricity.

If you’re not sure what type of meter you have, you can contact your electricity supplier to help you find out what type of meter you have and whether it supports the SEG. If needed you can arrange to get a new meter installed.

  • Your solar panel system & installation must be MCS certified:

To qualify for the SEG tariff your system and installation must be MCS accredited. MCS, or the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, is a quality assurance scheme for microgeneration technologies. Technology which is MCS accredited has been installed to a high standard and will operate both safely and efficiently. The MCS is certified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

  • Get the most value out of your solar panels:

The savings you make on your electricity bill depend on a few different factors including system size, electricity use and whether you are home during the day to use the energy you are producing. It is best to use more energy during the day when the solar panels are generating. This will save you even more money as you will need less electricity from the grid.

In the winter, when there is less sunlight and you’ll generate less solar power, it’s a good idea to set appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers to run while it is light outside to avoid taking energy from the grid as much as possible.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical four-kWp system   can reduce your bill by between £90/year and £240/year depending on where you live and how much you use the energy you are producing during the day (kWp stands for kilowatt peak which is how the power produced by panels is measured).

  • A south facing roof will work best:

The best type of roof for solar panels is a south facing roof as they tend to generate the most electricity. South facing roof panels generate the most energy because they get the sun when it is at its most intense for the longest period of time. You’ll still get some benefit if your roof faces south-west or west, but it may be less effective, and you might not get the maximum savings. Ideally, your roof should be unshaded between 10am and 4pm.

  • The further south you live the better:

When you are calculating how much installing a solar system will save you it’s important to take into account where you live. The further south you live the better. Though you don’t need to live a hot sunny climate to benefit from solar panels, where you live can make a difference when it comes to the panels’ effectiveness. Northern homes will get slightly less daylight than their southern neighbours.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that panels in Manchester could save you between £95 and £230 each year on your electricity bills, compared with around £100-£240 in London and £90-£220 a year in Stirling.

  • You can still switch energy supplier:

Your energy supplier doesn’t need to be the same as the supplier that pays you for your solar generated energy, so you are still free to switch and take advantage of the lowest priced and/or fixed tariffs being offered by different suppliers.

There is a range of suppliers offering the SEG. Ofgem has a list of all of them on their website.

  • Solar panels can affect the value of your property:

There may be some people who find solar panels on the roofs of houses ugly which could push the value of those houses down, but it is much more likely that buyers will find a more efficient home generating its own energy an attractive proposition.

Something else to bear in mind for those living in energy inefficient homes is that they could soon find it harder to get a mortgage, after a Government report called on lenders to help improve energy performance.

Mortgage lenders may soon be required to track and annually disclose the average Energy Performance Certificate rating of the properties they lend against.

The Government could then use this information to publish ‘lender league tables’ based on the average EPC ratings within their portfolios.

  • Planning permission should not be needed:

Generally, you will not need planning permission for solar PV systems. There are a few exceptions which include, if your property has a flat roof, is listed or in a conservation area.

You might need to get approval from your council’s building control team, so remember to check with your local authority before starting your solar project.

In England and Wales, the Government’s Planning Portal says that panels are likely to be considered as “permitted development”.

  1. Solar panels are mainly low maintenance:

If your solar system has been properly installed and well-designed little maintenance will be required. It will however be likely that you will need to replace the inverter, a gadget which is a key part of the mechanism within about 25 years at a cost of approximately £800.

There are of course things that can go wrong. Make sure to check the installer warranty which can cover you for up to 20 years.

If the panels have been damaged by something unexpected such as a storm, you may also be covered by buildings insurance. It’s worth checking what your insurance covers before you have the solar panels installed.

Solar panels are still a very good investment despite the lack of government subsidies. As long as you use at least 50% of your solar power on site, then, with a sensible choice of import tariff, solar will make financial sense. The more you use on site, the greater the savings. It’s definitely worth bearing in mind that the cost of grid electricity is rising.