Battery Storage In the UK Set To Soar

Solar Storage

Charging their way to the top

As of January 2016 in the UK, the capacity of installed battery storage stood at 24MW. This, however, according to a report by Eunomia, is set to explode to a capacity of 1.6 GW by 2020. So what is causing this enormous growth in capacity?

It is a combination of both large companies and land owners near a settlement that can see the potential benefits of power storage, making income from an instalment that requires very little upkeep and man hours, while also potentially supplying their own needs at a knock down price.

The idea of battery storage is simple – store the energy when it is plentiful and cheap, use it or send it back when it is more scarce and expensive. Why has there become this new increase in installation? There are a couple of reasons. First, the use of an increasing amount of renewable or sustainable energy sources to produce the electricity, which has an obvious production time and non-production time.

Take wind for example: the power is there and plentiful when the wind blows and not when it doesn’t. Similarly with solar: during daylight, the power is there but not at night. This means that a way to constantly supply energy has to be sought. An easy, non-green energy solution would be to use a fossil fuelled power plant to make up for the times when it is needed, but batteries are a solution to keeping the green energy supply as constant as possible at all times. With the major advancement of batteries in recent years, using them to store renewable energy is becoming a real commercial viability.

The second reason for the increase in battery installation is that in the not too distant future, we are expected, as a world, to be using far more electricity than we do now. As heating and transport gradually change to be powered by electricity and not fossil fuels, the consumption per person will increase massively and life will become more reliant on electricity. Ensuring that there are minimal disruptions to the supply will be vital. A combination of renewable energy supply with battery storage could be is an important contribution to protection against the impact of any future shortages.

 Dealing with the fluctuation

Battery storage is not the only method employed to combat the problem of renewable energy fluctuation – hydro pumped storage is also a commercially employed method to store the power generated when conditions are optimal.

This method is what it says on the tin: when there is excess energy, from any source, it is used to pump water from a low point to an elevated point where it is stored in a reservoir. This now has stored gravitational energy as it is higher than the turbine. When the power is needed in periods of high demand, the water is released through a turbine and produces electricity. This is not the most efficient method of storage, as energy is lost in the process, but it does work and enables supply to be kept at more of a constant rate, just as a battery would. The main benefit of this over battery storage, however, is the fact that the capacity can be greater depending on the size of the reservoir.

In August 2016 the National Grid auctioned a contract to supply 200MW of storage in 8 battery systems, so that supply and demand could be balanced on a second by second basis. They were won by companies such as EDF and Eon, two very large suppliers in the UK, showing signs of the beginning of a fully green energy supply.

This feeling is cemented in the general mood, as May 2016 saw many large oil companies (Shell, Exxon Mobil and Total) lay out plans for renewable and battery twin systems to diversify away from petroleum and invest large amounts of capital ($500m and $1.4bn acquisition of solar power company, SunPower by Total) into the renewable market.

Why it has improved so much

The advancements in recent years of battery capacity are largely due to one factor: whoever is first to make the best functioning battery, with the largest capacity, will be the market leader when it comes to future supply. This will buy valuable time and an invaluable asset to push ahead of other companies in the industry, much the same as the electric vehicle race. Notably in March 2016, one of the UKs best known and arguably, best living inventor and entrepreneur, James Dyson and his company, Dyson, announced that they would be investing a billion pounds into storage development.

The cost of supplying remote regions with electricity makes the twin usage of renewable energy sources and battery storage a real financial asset. The implication of this combination would mean a constant power supply from a localized grid, no infrastructure costs for installations and upkeep, and not having to pay for any energy consumed.  Regions like the Pacific Island of Ta’u in American Samoa, which previously relied on shipments of oil, can now supply themselves with energy more reliably than ever before in history, thanks to Tesla’s Solar City and battery storage.

Given all the investment and adoption of the technology, one last major factor affecting the increase in uptake is the market force of economies of scale. The technology is simply getting cheaper as more people adopt and invest in it, making it more competitive and reliable than other sources. It is a combination of these reasons which has led to the current battery boom.

 

What will Brexit mean for renewables?

Brexit renewables

If ever there was a word which could be worn out, ‘Brexit’ would be in with a real shot at being it – there hasn’t been a day since the referendum, that I can remember, where I haven’t either heard it being debated amongst colleagues, friends, family or by different media outlets. But what will Brexit mean for renewable energy and the politically whipped industry in the UK? As with all things Brexit, there is no straight answer and there is, as always, plenty of confusion for both investors and the general public. The very short and simple answer is that nobody knows, but we can expect some changes, and thankfully, they aren’t all as gloomy as some may have predicted.

The changes

One worry is that the UK government may give up on, and not replace the 2020 targets for green energy, meaning that we will no longer be aiming to produce 15% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. The reality here though, is that a lot of the planning is already in place to meet this, not to mention our obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement. As long as these obligations are not disrupted, then any efforts already made seem to be secure. This is because the construction, planning permission, grants, subsidies and all the rest that goes with it, require a long lead time and so many, particularly wind farms have already been set in motion in preparation for completion before 3 years’ time.

The second reason why it is unlikely to change a lot in the first instance, is that Britain’s own unilateral climate change act imposes tougher requirements for cutting carbon emissions. Under this the UK has aimed to cut its emissions by 80% from 1990s levels by 2050. This will still remain in the post Brexit era.

The largest problem caused by Brexit is one, not only for the renewable sector, but for every sector. During the complete uncertainty of the whole thing, our Prime Minister’s words of clarity – “Brexit means Brexit,” left things as clear as a snowman in a blizzard. Investors’ trust was gone, and then it was buried by the manifesto promises of the current government to ‘halt the spread’ of onshore wind farms and then came the icing on the cake, Theresa May’s decision to scrap the energy and climate change department!

What has happened?

This led to the UK dropping on the renewable energy country attractiveness index, and left investors looking for more secure assets in which to invest their capital. This change in investor mind-set and the sudden drop in the value of the pound after the vote, did however, have one positive effect on the UK sustainable industry.

Particularly in forestry, investors possibly saw it as an opportunity to tie capital to a more perceptively secure asset – forestry. As a real asset, it will hold its value through any economic troubles to hit the digital world, for many of the same reasons as agricultural land does.  A tree is still worth a tree, no matter how bad the cyber sphere gets.

The drop in the value of the pound and the uncertainty of what’s to come, perhaps also married to the fact that the Scottish government is very friendly towards the forestry industry as it is a large part of the economy in rural Scotland, meant a boost to the investment in forestry. Capital that may have been tied up abroad was liquidised and moved back to hold in real asset value. Another factor may have been the potential that has been seen by some in the industries future, outside of the EU’s CAP (common agricultural policy), which had a devastating effect on the UK forestry industry, leaving planting schemes hugely lacking and the future very gloomy.

Confor (Supporting sustainable forestry) released a leaflet outlining the ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity which has arisen and their vision for a thriving timber and forestry sector in a post Brexit world, their 5 key points needing to be addressed, and how to address them. The positivity has been criticised though, in that it must be supported by the UK government and not just the Scottish.

Support for the sector

Public attitude towards the renewable sector is certainly now in a position of agreement that something should be done to change the way we source our energy. When polled recently in a survey undertaken by Cleanearth energy, an overall majority of small and medium-sized enterprise business owners (SME’s), 88% to be precise, agreed that businesses have a duty to be environmentally responsible. This, however, only converted to 33% saying they believed that current policies adequately supported efforts to combat climate change, and as a result, 51% had not undertaken measures to adopt renewable technology in their businesses.

The Future

Bearing in mind that as of February 2017 (the time of writing this article), we haven’t actually Brexited yet. The effects cannot have been felt from something that hasn’t happened. What we have experienced prior to this time is a movement in the market of investors trying to secure their capital and businesses, preparing for the changes that are about to happen – nothing more than market forces so far.

The reality is that at this time we have to wait to really know what will happen to the sector once we leave. With the public vigorously opposed to fracking, our secure energy future will rely heavily on the government actions undertaken in an EU-free environment.  With a renewables-friendly government, the future could be an investor-friendly, cleaner and more productive one. Combined with a reduction in regulation, it could easily lead to a boost in the industry and greater uptake of technologies, so long as technologies can still become, and remain, cost effective. As they are currently on track to Brexit, this could mean a new lease of life for a sector riddled with past uncertainty, but until anything material actually happens we are stuck in the Brexit limbo.

Has the Electric Vehicle Generation Arrived?

EV Charging

Are we the EV generation?

Electric Vehicles (EV’s) have been promoted in recent years in the media and through the help of think tanks, as the future of transport. Even today, The Economist and The Financial Times both had front page stories on EV’s and clean energy.

The present generation of school leavers have grown up with the internet and social media which are a platform for the promotion of social change. Driven by education from childhood regarding the need for a sustainable future or no future at all, this generation is seeking solutions, in response to the cries from the social sphere, the media sphere and the education / thinking spheres, to the problem of our future. The question is, however, are EV’s one of the answers we have been looking for to achieve a sustainable future, for the expectant future billions?

The past and why they haven’t taken over already

Up until recently the types of people who would buy an EV are those who feel they are pioneers and wish to promote greener ethics, like to make a statement and set examples and have the lifestyle, funds and inclination to stomach the range anxiety and constraints that go with the modern EV.  That said there is an emerging new breed, with the upcoming changes in UK income tax regarding company vehicles, this is all set to change. The technology isn’t there yet to make this viable and cost-effective for the masses, but we are getting there. Unless your desired vehicle has 0 emissions, doing the maths against modern hybrids such as the Mercedes C350e and the BMW 330e doesn’t quite stack up against their petrol and diesel counterparts, especially if one consumes a lot of miles in their day to day life.

The reason why EV’s, and particularly in this case – cars, have not taken off in the fashion that some may have had you believe they would when they were a new technology, is the simple fact that people see too many face-value issues, the lack of infrastructure being the main one. If one were to invest in an EV it would have to be, either confined to the home and work place, or any local areas with a charging point. Modern hybrids have however, to a large extent, overcome this. The cost of installing chargers is also initially expensive even if, in the long run, it will save the owner money. Along with that, the car itself is a large initial investment and will cost £4-6k more than standard models.

Even if, which nowadays is slowly coming to pass, there were many public charging points, the time it takes to charge can be inconvenient and even impossible if there are many cars to be charged at the same time – a lot longer than a trip to a fuel station (2-5 hrs in respect to a 4min tank refill). On top of this, the need to recharge can be more frequent, as the mileage it can achieve hasn’t been the same as conventional engines, so especially for long distances, diesel has been preferred.

However fuel stations are a lot messier and inefficient as deliveries must be made, fuel can spill and is harder to keep safe, while electricity can be transported in wires and controlled for safety, creating no physical pollution either. Where fuel does come out trumps though, is its simplicity. It can be transported to anywhere with infrastructure to do so without the need for permanent or labour extensive wires, reaching the furthest points of civilization, where electricity may not.

On a more technical level the power needed to supply a social change towards electrical cars is almost overwhelming, meaning an increase in grid capacity and generating power, as well as transportation ability, although this may not have put consumers off so far.

For larger EV’s the main concern is the ability to carry loads. It is one thing to be able to travel certain distances but if it can only carry its own weight efficiently, it will be of little use for haulage or transportation on any scale.

Finally the batteries involved cause uptake problems, the weight and size being inefficient for travelling and the life of the battery may be short in terms of ‘years needed to pay back the cost benefit of investing in EV’s’.

Dealing with the problem

The race to find a lasting and powerful battery at ever smaller sizes is being named by many as the breakthrough invention that will hallmark the evolution of EV’s becoming the market leaders. The problem is, the more powerful the battery seems to get, the more volatile it is and becomes more susceptible to catching fire. The Argonne National Laboratory in the US is dedicated to finding the solution to the problem, testing an array of possibilities and many car manufacturers are investing in the technology. Volkswagen for instance, refuses to comment – it believes its technology is so valuable, it’s afraid that it will be stolen and used against them.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology however have said that 9/10 driver’s requirements could be met by hybrid electric vehicles today. Could this then be the first phase of the personal travel revolution?

The grid and electrical supply is also undergoing a transformation in supply as well as demand. Last year wind power became the greatest new source of power in Europe and 90% of the power came from renewable sources. This is leading to a change in dynamics as the power is coming from many areas and not from a single power station, already demanding a change in the grid and the way it currently works. So if this leads to a great grid re-shaping, then the ability to cope with the extra demand from EV’s could be factored in to the infrastructure enhancement work.

In the UK, the department for transport outlined plans to increase the number of charging points dramatically to try and incentivise the public to buy more EVs, aiming to give the image that it can be convenient, the recent tax changes seem to contradict and penalise those who chose to opt for EV’s though, highlighting the current governments lack of a coherent and long term investor-friendly policy in regards to renewable power sources, EV’s and anything remotely environmentally friendly. In the US, under the Obama administration, came the news of 48 charging corridors to be constructed along 25000 miles of highway.

The Change

Worldwide, there is an obvious requirement for Electric Vehicles, they are the future whether we like it or not. Last year there were 2 million electric cars registered on the road. After a slow start and a few false beginnings, it seems that the demographics are now changing, putting EV’s at a continual upward moving market share, as technology and infrastructure improves, this uptake will become exponential.

Worldwide, pollution in cities is becoming a massive, current and desperate health problem and a rapid change to clean, electric vehicles would be a simple part-solution to this problem, as cities are after-all the ideal place to use them, where there is easy access to a large number of charging points.

Pollution from petrol and diesel engines is not only contributing to climate change, but also to the decline in health of every nation. The increase in asthma and deaths from lung cancer caused by traffic pollution has become a major problem worldwide. The use of EV’s, especially in cities, would bring about a radical reversal of this.

 

The Renewable Heat Incentive

RHI

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a UK government scheme set up to encourage the conversion, or application of renewable heat technologies amongst British households, communities and businesses. This is through using financial incentives, paying those who join for the amount of clean heat it is estimated their system produces. It is claimed to be the first scheme of its nature in the world and it was introduced to help the UK reach its European Union 2020 targets.

There are two main branches to the scheme, the Domestic and the Non-Domestic, each having different tariffs, joining conditions, rules and application processes. Applicants may only apply to one or the other in cases where buildings have dual purpose. Applications must also be received within a year of the technology’s commission.

What it covers

From its launch in 2014 it was designed to support its members financially for seven years after the installation. The scheme was only launched in Great Britain and excluded Northern Ireland. It also targets off-gas supplied households.

Technologies which the scheme covers are limited to Biomass wood fuelled boilers, Biomass pellet stoves with integrated boilers providing space heating, ground to water heat pumps, Air to water heat pumps and solar thermal panels providing hot water for your home or building. There are other technologies that are potentially eligible, such as water source heat pumps, as they could be listed as ground source in some cases. The Government however made some changes to the scheme in December 2016.

The table below is a simple depiction of what the tariffs one would receive if an application was sent today (21/2017)

Technology Air Source Heat Pump Biomass Ground Source Heat Pump Solar Thermal
Tariff per kWh of renewable heat 7.51p 4.21p 19.33p 19.74p

Changes (Domestic)

In December 2016 there were a number of changes suggested for the domestic RHI. These are, at the moment, subject to parliamentary approval, thus will only come into effect in Spring 2017. There have been previous changes as well. Below is a simplified table of the changes:

Year/Month What Changed?
November 2014 Amendment to scheme eligibility
October 2015 Sustainability requirements for those with biomass technology, are use of fuel that meets with specific sustainability requirements.
March 2016 Further amendments to scheme eligibility
July 2016 Biomass tariff digression (new tariff taken in place from 2017)
January 2017 Biomass tariff digression – the tariff of 4.68p per kWh of biomass heat, reduced to 4.21p for new applicants. Existing members stay the same.

 

Non-Domestic

The non-domestic changes to regulation are more complicated due to the nature of them. They need to be understood by professionals representing businesses or businesses themselves, which are assumed to have more diversity in requirements and a need for greater and more fine-tuned regulation. As such there are two volumes of changes made to the non-domestic RHI, the latest version being published in 2015, although the more recent domestic regulations on biomass also affect non-domestic biomass.

The general rule with heating is, the larger the space which you have to heat, the greater the savings which can be made by switching. This is for two main reasons. The first is that the energy bill being paid before the switch to cheaper sustainable energy, would have been greater as the energy requirement would have been greater. The second is that efficiencies can be maximized by heating the core of the premises and using wall or floor heating to heat two rooms, where in the past it would have been two separate systems.

The scheme, in this case, aims to reduce the payback period and make the sustainable technologies financially more attractive to individuals on a small scale. On a large scale, the scheme aims to make cost reduction the incentive to those corporate bodies which may not think of sustainability as a social need.

Problems?

Because the incentive aims to artificially create the market to move to a sustainable source, it becomes a necessity for the survival of the projects under the umbrella. If changes were to be made, or if the scheme was to be cut, then many of the projects could collapse. This volatility causes concern in the time of government cuts as, especially for domestic RHI users, making economic sense from a simple cost savings perspective may not be an option.

The introduction of many sustainable and renewable heat systems also requires a lot of initial capital investment around the actual technology. For instance, the heat pumps which are covered under the scheme work best with well insulated houses with under floor or wall heating. So while eligibility for the scheme may be a start, for many, RHI cannot be a realistic investment due to the costs associated with installing and preparing for the new system. By the end, the financial securities after installation are outweighed by the prior costs.

Heat Pumps, Making Use of Low Grade Heat

Heat Pumps

What are Heat Pumps?

 

Heat pumps are any device which transfers heat from one place to another. In regard to commercial and residential use, they move warmth in the air or ground from outside a building to inside. Heat pumps can extract their low-grade heat, needed to create useful heat transfer into the desired area, from any source above -30°C, although they work better the higher the temperature of the source.

Traditionally, ground and flowing water can be used, as they keep a mostly constant temperature all year round, no matter what the conditions. These methods of obtaining heat, however, require an increased initial investment. There is a very small risk if anything were to turn faulty, for example, the heat pipe system can be buried up to 100m underground, or if refrigerant were to leak into the waterways it could cause environmental damage.

Sourcing from the air

Air source heat pumps (ASHP) are becoming more widely used in the UK, as they are elsewhere in the world. They are essentially reversed air-conditioners. They are the easiest to install and the most cost-effective forms of heat pumps (circa £7000 as opposed to GSHP, circa £18-£23,000) to install, as they do not require bore holes or underground systems or nearby waterways or lakes/ponds. They do function better in higher temperatures though, and so one downfall of the ASHP is that when the heat is required most in winter, there is less available heat to be transferred and in the summer, vice versa (although they can be reversible and used to cool in the Summer). As a result the seasonal performance factor (SPF) is 10-30% worse than ground source heat pumps (GSHP) especially on windy and cold days, but the UK has a pretty stable and agreeable range throughout the year for them to operate at a high efficiency.

Working in the UK

 

The UK’s temperature range normally sits between 0°C and 15°C, which increases the SPF compared to other countries, as constant temperatures can raise the efficiency of a heat pump especially if it can stay above 0°C. Due to the intermittent nature of the air source, in the past ASHPs have required a fossil fuel powered backup system as an insurance against loss of a heating device for installed buildings, but modern ASHPs do not require this and can operate efficiently to provide hot water and space heating for most reasonably well-insulated homes.

For residential properties, our single phase supply has had very little investment from manufacturers in pushing the envelope in regards to heat pump design, especially in regards to large capacity heating. That was, however, until Kensa Heat pumps, based in the UK started to manufacture heat pumps with a capacity up to 24kW for single phase electricity supplied homes. This is a lot larger than the previous common 12kW capacities, however the larger output models require a larger initial start-up input, which in older properties in particular, can have side effects, such as lights flickering when they come on and if a power supply is shared with others could become an installation obstacle, as the demand of these units is understandably very high.

“We need to stop living in poorly insulated, high heat-loss homes using radiators containing water at 70°Cand start constructing super insulated buildings that are heated using water at 35°C, through under floor and wall heating systems”

– Andy McCrea, Renewable Energy, 2013

Fitting and efficiency

Due to the fact that any heat pump circulates heated output at a temperature of around 35°C, the traditional radiators are inefficient at distributing the heat to the room, as it has a relatively small surface area. At these lower temperatures, larger radiators or a network of under floor heating is required to distribute the heat evenly and effectively. This means installation and retrofitting of heat pumps can be labour intensive and not suited to certain buildings (particularly listed buildings). They also require a better base level of insulation as they cannot allow for as large a heat loss as the conventional 70°C wet central heating systems.

A new construction can most efficiently use the pumped heat by designing heat outlet pipes in the core of any building (between walls of two rooms or floors of two levels). This also means there is less pipe network required as the rooms can use the same heat source. It is best paired with high thermal retaining materials and buildings, allowing for short spells of insulation reductions with minimal heat loss (windows opening etc.). This again increases the surface area the heat has to emit from. In existing buildings this may be prohibitive and more complicated to achieve, due to any existing infrastructure, leading to expenses mounting and financial inviolability becoming a problem. Commonly retrofits overcome this issue by using existing piping but fitting special air radiators which better circulate the lower level warmth produced by the heat pumps.

Benefits to current gas consumers of switching

If we assume for an example that 1 kWh of electricity is 15p, and 1kWh of gas is 5p, heat pumps as an example can be said to convert 1kWh into 3.5 (worked out using the COP, see below) units of useful heat, where the traditional heating system works at a 1:1 ratio of 1kWh to 1 unit of heat. Therefore the one unit of electricity which the heat pump would use, could actually become a more efficient method of heating the desired area, so long as insulation is sufficient.

To work out the coefficient of performance (COP), which is the formula used to assess the efficiency of the system in question, there is a simple formula:

Direct ground heat source pumps, which is when the refrigerant is directly circulated into the ground, can work at up to 500%, or 5.0 efficiency levels at certain times of the year, but on average heat pumps will work at a 3.5 or 350% efficiency. That is to say for every unit of energy put into the pump as electrical energy, 3.5 units of heat energy are put into the home, in comparison to 0.96, or 96% average rating of a gas boiler. This shows the potential benefit a gas consumer can have by integrating a heat pump (~250%~). The difference in actual heat output, however, may mean that a property wanting to swap between the two supplies may have to insulate before installation to gain the full possible improvements.

Investment and Incentives

The government has just increased the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for this kind of technology to encourage increased uptake in the UK. If you are thinking of installing a system like this, now is the time! Read more on the RHI here: https://www.renewableenergyhub.co.uk/heat-pumps-information/heat-pumps-cost-and-savings.html

Infrared Heating Vs Modern Storage Heating

modern storage heaters vs infrared heaters

What are Infrared Heaters and What are Storage Heaters?

Infrared is, in summarized Oxford Dictionary terms, ‘electromagnetic radiation, having a wavelength just greater than that of the red end of the visible light spectrum but less than that of microwaves… emitted particularly by heated objects’ and it is these heated objects which can be used in a domestic setting to more efficiently raise the temperature of a home or business. Storage heating on the other hand is … well the storage of heat, it is sometimes referred to as a heat bank (Australia) and they are electrical heaters which store thermal energy when the electrical costs are lower during the evening or at night, and then release the reserved heat when required. This is essentially a more economically efficient heater, although the heating technology is the same as traditional heating systems.

Far Infrared (FIR)

FIR is a region in the infrared spectrum and can be defined as ‘any radiation with a wavelength of 15 micrometres to 1 millimetre’, the most obvious difference between near and far infrared is the temperature which they can reach, near infrared (NIR) can reach temperatures of up to 1200°C whereas the FIR only reaches 100°C. The difference, however, with any form of Infrared compared to traditional heating is that they work by heating the objects in the area they are placed in. The rays which they emit, hit these objects where it is retained, before releasing it back to the air when the temperature difference between the two becomes greater. This gives the heat a larger surface area and allows the area to be warmed at a far more effective rate. This is different from heaters which heat the air, which in turn heats the objects at a much slower rate as it has had the potential for energy loss in the middle (non-insulated windows for example taking the energy from the air before it can be used heating the surrounding objects). In effect infrared is making the process chain one link smaller.

Heaters on the market

Because the Sun emits Near Infrared waves (NIR), the human body has evolved to reflect a large amount of any that come into contact with the skin, making it an ineffective method for heating the body and thus is better used for applications where higher, concentrated heat is needed, such as cooking or welding. Other uses may include heating outdoor areas like the smoking areas in restaurants, where exposure periods are short and there is less risk of being touched. The unenclosed environment also requires a higher heat output as the elements will have an influence on the effectiveness of the heating process. The majority of us will have seen this type of system before. An example of one of these heaters is The Burda Term 2000 IP67 which can be installed in a higher position than the desired heating area, which should be satisfactorily effective in an area up to 14m².

The benefit of indoor infrared is that it can also be combined with everyday objects in the home, in turn saving space. The bathroom heaters, for example, can combine mirrors (Aspect Frameless Mirror Infrared Heater With Backlight) and towel racks (Aspect bar Style Infrared Tower Heater) to become efficient at doing not only their intended purpose of reflecting and drying towels respectively, but also in heating the entire room at the same time. Products have been designed for this purpose to fit the modern trend of smaller living areas, given the space constraints we are feeling as the housing crisis becomes more of an issue, here in the UK more than other places.

With regards to storage heaters, they are essentially programmable heat storing electric radiators, where the heat theory stays the same and the way in which they operate and save costs differ. They make heating through convection electric radiators as efficient as possible by using features such as automatic charge regulators, which adjust to changing weather conditions to dictate the amount of heat to be stored and when to store it so to achieve maximum savings on electricity prices at different times of day.

They best achieve this using Economy 7 rates which can be 50% cheaper on some tariffs. It is for this reason that many suppliers seem to be reducing the availability of this cheaper tariff as, with grid capacity being reached they are losing profits as the availability threshold nears its limit, so future ROI equations regarding the benefits of this type of heating preference should be taken into consideration.

One example of a manufacturer developing more advanced forms of storage heater technology is Dimplex, with the Dimplex XL and XLS range.

The difference in modern storage heaters is the available level of control that can be had compared to the old heaters, however the problem with this is that it requires more attention by the end user to ensure the desired extra efficiency, as much of it will have to be done on a conscious basis and cannot be programmed. It must also be noted that elevated charges apply outside the recharge (cheaper) hours of between 12pm and 7am, so cooking, lighting and boosting the heaters will cost significantly more during these on-peak hours.

Which is better for home or business use?

 The uncertainty of the future benefits of electric convector heat storage, and the fact that it is not a modern, energy efficient technology, would place infrared as a better heating option due to its ability to be able to save space and more effectively heat the area/objects required, however the initial purchase cost of a storage heater, if one would prefer only to replace existing heaters would on the face of it, be a more attractive option, however the consumer would need to factor in the dramatically increased long term electricity consumption, in addition to the prospect of energy price inflation, due to be over 50% in the coming few years.

As energy expenditure goes, the Infrared heaters ability to heat more efficiently allows it to be a less energy consuming form of central heating, combined with lack of maintenance and installed in a well-insulated property, this combination should be hard to compete with in the long term.

Useful Links:

Quality infrared heaters:

https://www.rehhd.com

Quality electric storage heaters:

http://www.fischerfutureheat.com/electric-heaters/electric-storage-heaters/

http://www.dimplex.co.uk/products/domestic_heating/installed_heating/energy_saving_features.htm

2020 Vision, Just a pair of empty frames?

EU 2020

The European Union as a group of 28 member states, is one of the biggest energy consumers and greenhouse gas emitters in the world, as such, the EU’s renewable energy directive has set a binding target for final energy consumption by its members, obtained through renewable sources, of 20% by the year 2020.

Each member state has set their own differing national targets (Malta being the lowest at 10% and Sweden the highest at 49%), each country has set out the strategy they intend to implement to meet their individual targets, but how effective has it actually been?

Tracking the Progress

One significant mark of success came with the news in early February 2017 that, in 2016, Wind power capacity over-took coal to become the second largest form of power capacity in the European Union, second only to gas (although it still falls behind in supplying demand due to its irregular patterns). This was, in part, attributed to five member states breaking national records for wind farm installation (France, Ireland, The Netherlands, Finland and Lithuania), more significant however was the percentage of new capacity developed across member states in 2016 that came from renewable sources, a record breaking 86% totalling a possible output of 21.1GW.

In the UK however the target of 15% of energy obtained from renewable sources has come under criticism, for becoming an environment which has not been attractive enough to investors to be able to achieve so far, one factor was the government initiated, independent review of how much value for money tidal lagoons were, which gave projects an air of uncertainty, giving a negative result on, at least the short term, investment. One particular example is the Swansea tidal lagoon, in which initial reports suggest skeletons of buildings while construction was halted.

The UK is 24th of the 28, in the list for renewable energy consumption at an 8.2% national rate, only a few per cent ahead of 28th place Luxembourg, at 5%. There are calls by some critics that the government needs to do more to encourage the industry, if not by commission, then by omission, one in particular was the recent reform of the Renewable Heat Incentive, which has been criticised as a reason for the stagnation of the growth of the biomass sector.

This view not only needs to take into account large investors and suppliers but also the smaller scale more numerous ones, an example of the initiatives which the government had rolled out previously was a particular scheme aimed at small scale producers of either personal, or local supply, the FIT (Feed-in Tariff) offering 4.85p per unit of electricity sold back to the electricity supplier for up to half of the generation capacity of the site, but this is not aimed at big scale investors or large output sites. This has also been compromised now as there are doubts of its security for the future, as the government are said to have initial plans to raise the tax for those with rooftop schemes from the current 5% to 20%.

With Germany installing 44% of the wind power capacity last year, what could the UK, which has the greatest wind resources of the 28 member states change to meet the target? Individual governments have set their own plans in place, Scotland has stated that it intends to meet a 50% target by 2050, but there seems to be little else in the rest of the UK at this point in time. Could it be time to relax regulations on construction sites, similar to the recent housing crisis solution? Is this possibly the future energy crisis? Do we have to see black outs before the issue is properly addressed by those in power?

The Future

The imminent departure of the UK from the rest of the block however has left questions about whether the government intend to keep the 15% target or if they will discard it and replace it with their own target, raising or reducing. In their manifesto the government promised to “halt the spread” of onshore wind farms and so if the recent plans for FIT combined with this promise which they came to power on are anything to make predictions on, there is no wonder the UK industry is stagnating, investors are simply not prepared to gamble their capital on so much uncertainty.

There needs to be a reassurance that, outside of the EU the government will still, at the very least guarantee to stick to current 2020 agreements or better for the industry still, invest and create an environment where we can aim to hit, and improve on 15% final green energy consumption as a nation. Whether you believe in climate change or not, clean power and clean air are something that we all must take very seriously!

The overall target however for the collective member states is still on track, according to the European Commission, and on results published forecasting progress at current rates. The results revealed that if consumption and economic growth can be kept at certain levels then the target of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, in comparison to their 1990 level will be achieved and that a 20% final renewable energy consumption will be a reality. Thus it would appear that the 2020 targets are not just a pair of empty frames, but for now, a realistic aim.