Why A Solar Energy Future is Looking Bright?

Simply Solar California Image

If you keep up to date with the latest news in renewable energy, you’re certainly aware that solar energy is having a well-deserved moment in the sun—no pun intended!Over the past couple of years, we have witnessed an unsettling rise in natural disasters, such as intense heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes, due to the impacts of climate change. It is no surprise that the climate crisis requires immediate action and that the renewable energy industry is a part of the solution. The popularity of renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuels is steadily growing, and with an incoming shift of leadership in the U.S., renewable energy is at the forefront of how we will begin to repair our climate and our economy.

Earlier in the year, the International Energy Association released its almost 500-page World Energy Outlook report, which included mapped scenarios reflecting how decisions made today will affect the future of the world’s energy consumption. The different scenarios put forth in the WEO address scenarios such as governmental follow-through and economic recovery timelines due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The IEA Outlook also praised the recent increase in solar energy, not only for its positive impact on the environment, but also for the decrease in cost and accessibility, stating: 

“For projects with low-cost financing that tap high-quality resources, solar PV is now the cheapest source of electricity in history.”

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Solar is officially the cheapest source of electricity in history.

A solar panel system is an undeniable investment, but with current financing options, tax credits, and government incentives, more homeowners and businesses around the world are making the switch. In the U.S., California is leading the charge towards solar energy thanks to ample amounts of sunshine and aggressive climate action plans. California solar companies are at the forefront of the renewable energy boom. Many of these companies are inciting positive change by educating local communities on the impact going solar has on the global economy and the planet.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Renewable Energy Industry

Even prior to COVID-19, investment in renewable energy sources like solar and wind was booming. However, the solar energy industry has seen a decline in employees since the beginning of the pandemic, dropping nearly 40%. The amount of solar power installed for 2020 is also significantly less than forecasted, declining by around 37%. Understandably, the demand for energy has been impacted by the global pandemic, but the movement away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable energy is still going strong. 

With unemployment rates higher than they have been in years, it is no surprise we have seen a decline in the installation of solar in the U.S. The Solar Energy Industries Association recently presented a suite of executive actions and policies asking President-elect Joe Biden to lead the U.S. toward climate renewal during his first 100 days in office, stating:

“Our 100-day agenda aligns with President-elect Biden’s vision to build back better and represents a critical opportunity to meet the moment of the climate era with equity and justice at the forefront.”

Solar Power Under a Climate-Friendly U.S. Administration

One of the new U.S. presidential action plans is to act on the climate injustice prevalent in years past. The plan begins nationally, with the promise of providing jobs and training specific to the renewable energy industry. The international promise is a recommitment to the Paris Agreement accompanied by an expedited ambition to achieve net-zero emissions. President-elect Joe Biden has stated: 

“Meeting this challenge will be a once in a century opportunity to jolt new life into our economy, strengthen our global leadership, and protect our planet for future generations.”

It seems that under the new climate-friendly administration, the future of solar power and the entire renewable energy industry may be brighter than ever.

The Future of the Oil Industry

Oil pump and sunset


In order to combat climate change, the UK has made moves aiming to fully decarbonise their energy system. Recently, changes in legislation have enabled greater investment in battery storage projects by developers. More relaxed laws and a reduction in red tape will greatly benefit the rise of renewable energy initiatives.

Jake Dunn, renewable development manager at Vattenfall explains how “The UK will never be free from fossil-fuels until electricity storage is part of our energy system, but the volumes of power we need to be able to store are huge.” Across the globe, one of the most traded commodities is crude oil and its value is being impacted by pressing issues such as the increasing adoption of alternative energy sources including wind, hydro-electric and solar energy. Ongoing uncertainty concerning the demand means that the future of the oil industry remains relatively fragile.

According to a recent article by The Guardian, the global demand for oil is expected to drop by a significant amount. From 2020 to 2021, the International Energy Agency predicts that the number of barrels produced per day will be reduced by 240,000 bpd from its previous forecasts to an average of approximately 97.1m bpd in 2021. This is primarily due to the sluggish recovery of the global aviation industry. The rising number of coronavirus cases means that there is less demand for transport fuel. On an economic level, many of the world’s largest oil producers have played a key role in keeping oil prices stable by slowing down oil production over the summer.

In the UK, statistics on oil use are generally aligned with global trends. However, the demand for oil in the domestic sector actually increased in the first quarter of 2020, possibly due to lower prices.

Statistics also show that there has been a near-record decrease in demand for aviation fuel at 14%. In addition, the demand for transport services has decreased by 5.3% more compared to 2019’s numbers, impacting the consumption of fossil fuels. It’s worth noting that even as the UK is moving towards renewable energy sources, the transport sector is now the largest carbon emitter, producing approximately one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions in the country.

To help combat this, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles should be promoted with additional infrastructure. Potentially speaking, vehicle-to-grid storage systems could be a more financially feasible alternative to large stationary battery systems. For this to become a reality, more research needs to be conducted into this relatively new technology.

Due to the unstable future of the oil industry, local job safety has been affected as well. Oil and Gas UK reports how up to 30,000 UK oil industry jobs may be lost in the coming months if the government fails to provide additional support. Many oil companies have to make difficult decisions that have growing time constraints given the planned move to energy transition and diversification. Because of this, governments need to consider how to help oil companies and their workers reskill as they move to more sustainable energy-related sectors. On the other hand, it remains to be seen what the future of the oil industry has in store. It is equally possible that the economic recovery from the post-pandemic recession may favour cheaper and more strongly established fuels like oil. As a result, greater global cooperation and more affordable methods of providing sustainable energy should be promoted to move the green agenda forward.

Tesco Team Ups With Renewable Energy Investor Low Carbon to Build Three New Solar Farms in the UK by 2021

Tesco

Tesco has brought forward it’s commitment to use 100% renewable electricity by 15 years to 2035. Tesco’s ambitious new plan is set to save 30,308 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year (the equivalent of taking 14,457 cars off the road) by tackling the two biggest sources of emissions in the UK, electricity production and transport. 

The supermarket giant has launched a new partnership with renewable energy investor Low Carbon that will see a major green electricity project deliver three new solar farms in the UK. The solar farms to be based in Essex, Anglesey and Oxfordshire will generate up to 130GWh of energy per year providing sufficient clean energy to power approximately 44,828 three-bedroom homes. Low Carbon’s deal with Tesco will take its advanced renewable energy pipeline to more than 4GW.

Roy Bedlow, Chief Executive and Founder of Low Carbon, said: 

“We are delighted to support Tesco in its journey towards sourcing 100% of energy from renewable sources by 2030. Renewable energy generation at scale is central to Low Carbon’s business model and is a critical element in the fight against climate change. Partnering with forward thinking companies like Tesco will help speed the adoption of renewable energy at scale on the path to achieving a truly low-carbon economy.” 

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Low Carbon invests in renewable energy projects across a range of renewable energy technologies including solar PV, wind, energy storage, waste-to-energy, and energy efficiency. It is the leading renewable energy investment and asset management company committed to the development and operation of renewable energy at scale. To date, its investments have avoided more than 755,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is enough clean energy to power more than 255,000 homes. 

The launch of this new partnership coincided with the news that Tesco has put 30 electric delivery vans on the road in Greater London, the plan being to have a fully electric home delivery fleet by 2028.

In order to help with the wider adoption of electric vehicles across the UK, Tesco is also incorporating 2,400 charging points for customers in 600 stores, with 400 stores due to be fitted with the chargers by the end of 2020. By the time, the programme has been completed, Tesco will have boosted the UK’s electric charging network by 14%. The FTSE 100 business joined the EV100 campaign in September, which is a global initiative that wants firms to switch their fleets to green vehicles and install charging technology for their employees over the next ten years.

The current project comes after the retailer’s announcement last year that it would begin sourcing renewable energy from five onshore wind farms as well as fitting thousands of solar panels across its UK store network with 60 stores fitted out already.  

Back in 2018, Tesco committed to a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund with the ambition to halve the environmental impact of the average shopping basket.

Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF UK, said:

It’s great news to see Tesco, as one of Britain’s flagship businesses, not only bringing forward the date of its longer-term commitment to net zero, but also pushing ahead with real action in the here and now to confront the climate emergency. Renewable energy and electric vehicles are essential ingredients for the economic recovery we want to see in the UK.” 

Tesco initially committed to being net zero in line with the UK

government’s 2050 target but spurred on by environmental concerns, decided to bring their deadline forward to be ahead of Sainsbury’s and Asda’s net-zero goal by five years.


Tesco UK and ROI CEO Jason Tarry said:

“In 12 months’, time, the UK will host the most critical climate change summit of the decade, known as COP26. At Tesco we want to play our part. That’s why we’ve brought forward our ambition to reach net zero in our UK operations by 15 years and made a series of new commitments to help us achieve that target, including reaching a new milestone today in our journey to using 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.” 

Tesco is not only working to improve its own operations but with suppliers to support them to report and make their own carbon reduction commitments, in line with the Paris Agreement goals. Another of Tesco’s initiatives is to reduce supply chain carbon emissions by 35% across food and manufacturing by 2030, and 15% for agriculture.

The retailer has already switched to 100% renewable-certified electricity across all of its operations in the UK but is working hard towards increasing the proportion of energy it sources through PPAs and onsite generation. It currently has the largest unsubsidised PPA portfolio in the UK. The new PPAs Tesco has agreed in partnership with Low Carbon will support its efforts to procure renewable energy with additionality for the grid. This means the agreement will help add more renewable electricity to the grid. 

Cheshire Energy Hub to Deliver the UK’s First Smart Energy Blueprint

The Cheshire Energy Hub has been awarded more than £700,000 of government funding to deliver what will be the first smart energy blueprint in the UK. The plan is for the project to deliver the E-Port Net-Zero blueprint, setting out a 10-year roadmap for a cost-effective transition to net zero which could result in £100 million being invested in the region by 2025. The model created could go on to be applied nationally and exported internationally.

The blueprint will define a local low carbon smart energy system for the Energy Innovation District (EID), the area in the North West surrounding the industrial area of Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, which could deliver cheaper and cleaner energy for power, heating, and transport. This blueprint will ensure a supply of secure, low-carbon and low-cost energy which will help unlock supply chain and global investment opportunities.


Established by the Cheshire Energy Hub the new district will boost innovation in the energy industry. The Hub represents the sub-region on Net-Zero North West, the new industry-led industrial cluster which is aiming to develop the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster by 2030.

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Being one of the UK’s largest industrial clusters, the area around Ellesmere Port consumes around 5% of the nation’s energy. The area includes some of the UK’s largest manufacturers including oil refining, glass, nuclear, chemical production, and automotive as well as large-scale energy assets and research and development destinations.

Largely due to the dominance of these energy-intensive companies West Cheshire is the fourth largest CO2 emitter in the UK. Understanding the danger involved in continuing as they were, Cheshire West & Chester Council declared a climate emergency last year with its main priority to drive industrial decarbonisation in the Energy Innovation District (EID).

Spearheaded by the Cheshire Energy Hub, the EID brings together energy users, network owners, innovators and partners, including EA Technology, Energy Systems Catapult, Ikigai, Peel L&P Environmental and ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) and Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Cheshire West and Chester Council and the University of Chester.

Energy intensive industries sit alongside low-carbon energy generation within the EID, including Peel L&P Environmental’s strategic energy hub, Protos. Previous research conducted by Amion Consulting for Peel L&P estimated a potential 33,000 jobs could be created in the region with the creation of a local energy system.

Philip Cox, chief executive of Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said:

“The low-carbon agenda is one of the great challenges of our time, not just for our sub-region, but the whole economy. We see a huge opportunity for Ellesmere Port to become a leading player in the low-carbon sector, so it is incredibly exciting to be working with our partners at the Cheshire Energy Hub on this enabling project which could identify a roadmap for more than £100m of capital investment, the creation of 33,000 jobs, and significantly reducing carbon emissions.”


The total project will cost £930k, with the government’s Local Growth Fund contributing 77% of the funding, and the rest coming from local private sector partners.


Working in partnership with EA Technology, Energy Systems Catapult, Ikigai, Peel L&P Environmental and Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN), current and future energy generation in the area will be investigated, including renewables as well as research being conducted into how electric vehicles (EVs) and new fuels like hydrogen could change the energy market.

Ged Barlow, chair of the Cheshire Energy Hub, said:

“Reaching net-zero emissions is going to require a significant amount of investment in new technologies and infrastructure to decarbonise power, heating, and transport. In the area around Ellesmere Port alone we are looking at £100m by 2025. But for these investments to be made there needs to be a holistic plan which looks at the whole energy system. This isn’t something that can be led centrally. To decarbonise successfully, in a timely and cost-effective way, we need to be looking at local solutions that set out the various projects and enable informed capital investment decisions to be made. Investors don’t want to look at piecemeal initiatives, they want to see a joined-up approach to decarbonisation. The E-Port smart energy system will be the first of its kind in the UK and will develop a model which can be rolled out nationally and exported overseas. This funding is an important step forward and demonstrates how Cheshire, and the North West, is leading the way on the net-zero agenda.”


The Energy Innovation District is looking to work with the government on various issues which include developing heat networks that can support local communities and business as well as providing an electrical micro-grid that connects electricity generating assets directly to large industrial users to provide secure, low carbon and lower cost electricity. They would also like to see hydrogen being promoted, along with carbon capture and storage, as a means of decarbonising the gas network. On top of that they will seek to work with the government to provide a network of charging and hydrogen refuelling stations to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and to stimulate the deployment of innovative energy technology as well as developing a skilled workforce through work with the University of Chester, local colleges and the Cheshire Energy Hub Graduate Programme

Liam O’Sullivan, SP Manweb director at SP Energy Networks, said:

“Investment in low-carbon, clean energy will be vital to achieving wider net-zero emissions targets so we’re proud to be involved in the innovative E-Port blueprint project. Developing and investing in clean, green energy solutions now will provide sustained benefits to the UK economy. We’re leading the way when it comes to developing the green recovery and excited to be helping play a crucial role in the net-zero transition for the Ellesmere Port area. By working together, we can develop a better future, quicker.”

Could Infrared Heating be the Solution you Need to Heat Your Home this Winter?

warm_home_infrared_heating

There is no doubt that if the UK is to meet its carbon reduction targets, the way we live has to change. A vital part of this will be phasing out gas and oil boilers and replacing them with low carbon heating. In fact, from 2025 it will become illegal to install gas boilers in new build homes. As almost all homes still rely on fossil fuels, this presents a formidable task, especially when you consider that the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has vowed to try and keep energy bills as low as possible. Though electricity supplies are rapidly switching to low carbon sources, a big percentage of people are still largely unaware of the alternatives to fossil fuels.

Infrared heating is a great way to keep warm and at the same time reduce your carbon emissions. IR heaters don’t add pollutants to the room you use them in. In essence, IR heaters add nothing to the environment and don’t take anything from it either.

Many people may not realise that the principle of infrared heating has been used for centuries. It fundamentally works in the same way as the natural heating effects of the sun. Surfaces such as stone walls or sand on the beach are warmed up by infrared energy from the sun. The surfaces that have absorbed infrared energy and heated up, then radiate heat back, creating a warmed thermal mass rather like a very large radiator. This is why a sunny hot wall is perfect for growing fruit as the stonework remains warm long after the sun has gone in.

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In the past open fires, log burners or agas have kept us warm working in much the same way by giving off infrared heat which warmed stone walls, clay tiles and cast iron. These surfaces would hold the warmth and radiate it back long after the fire had died down. Today our lifestyles need a heating system which is far more controllable, maintenance free, clean, and easy to use, with just the same principle of infrared.

How does Infrared Heating Work?

Infrared heaters are a type of highly efficient electric heater. The panels in an infrared heating system work in the same way as the sun does, using infrared light. This is far more efficient than traditional heating methods for various reasons. Infrared heating produces heat from the light that our eyes cannot see. This type of heating keeps us warm because our clothes and skin soak up this light. It’s a bit like the difference between being inside, in the shade or out in the sun. If you sit indoors or in the shade you won’t absorb the light of the sun and warm up.

Electric infrared heating comes from a simple unit on the wall which becomes very hot. This could be a mirror or picture or just a slim white panel. There are no moving parts, no fans or noise. The heater must reach a very specific hot temperature across a large surface area to emit an optimum wavelength of far infrared which is comfortable for people but also good enough to heat objects and the air too. Most of us have experienced near infrared which glows orange and is excellent for fiercely heating people in a cold outdoor environment, but this would be the wrong wavelength for heating the home.

Infrared rays from the panel shine across the room, warming the surfaces they touch, creating a warmed thermal mass or large radiator. The rise in temperature of the walls, floor and furnishings is only a few degrees but is enough to make the room feel comfortable and cosy. The air will become evenly warmed too as there is no convection or rise of hot air and fall of cold air. This is due to the heat being radiated everywhere and not at one single point. In fact, the heater can be placed on the ceiling allowing it to shine across the room and as it is giving off infrared energy not hot air, high on the ceiling is the best place.

Unlike most heating types, infrared heaters emit heat that warms you up instantly by creating a concentrated beam of warming light. They will warm you up no matter how cold it is outside. Inside your heater there’s a circle-shaped hot coil that is designed to transfer heat evenly. This heat is then reflected by the reflector, a specific type of polished metal, which is why you can feel the warmth even several meters away from your heater. Infrared heating isn’t affected by wind or drafts in your home either.

Heating the surface of the panel requires very little energy. Unlike traditional radiators which are constantly reheating cold fallen air, once the room is warm the infrared heater only needs to maintain that surface temperature. Because the heater is not concentrated on heating air but just maintaining surface temperature these heaters are very energy efficient. The heated objects do the job of warming the air!

Air is not a good insulator which means that if our surroundings are cold, our body will lose heat and our surroundings will chill the air, ultimately cooling us, so the air needs to be hot and constantly reheated to compensate for this, which of course requires more and more energy. This is one very good reason to dispense with traditional gas central heating radiators and storage heaters.

The Benefits of Infrared Heating

Infrared heating feels just like gentle sunshine warming us directly. This form of home heating feels very comfortable and healthy as our bodies are naturally designed to absorb and emit infrared energy. Infrared heating allows the body to equalise itself with the surroundings meaning that most people feel comfortable at 19 degrees C rather than the 21 degrees usually required when heating the air only. This heat source distributes warmth evenly using hot coils and is then reflected to extend outward leading to a comfortable, gentle warmth.

Infrared heating offers an alternative to noisier options as they work without producing noise since no fan is involved and they are only radiating light.

While other types of heating can cause static or lead to dryness in your skin and sinuses, Infrared heating is thought of as a healthier option since it doesn’t reduce the content of oxygen or humidity in your home. This will reduce uncomfortable symptoms like dry throat and itchy eyes. This also reduces skin dryness that other heating sources can cause.  As, it creates heat with light you can enjoy warmth as you would out in the sunshine without harmful UV radiation. It is believed that infrared heating can even lead to better blood circulation and lower blood pressure.

Infrared heating can be a cost-effective way of heating your home. With an infrared heater you have the benefit of zone heating which means that you need only heat up the areas in your home that you wish to be heated. When you don’t heat up your whole house, your heating bill will become considerably lower. You also won’t have to preheat a room, since infrared heat works right away. Some Infrared heaters only use 300 watts of power and almost all of the warmth created is sent out, leading to heating efficiency at a very affordable price. In fact, you could reduce your heating costs by 30-50 percent by switching to infrared heaters. Efficiency depends of course on the specific type of infrared heater you choose and the construction of your home, ceiling height, insulation, and more.

Infrared heaters require very little maintenance. They don’t have any moving parts and there are no air filters to be replaced. There is no engine to wear out and no lubrication needed.  All you need to do to keep the unit functioning well, is to clean out the reflectors periodically.

Safety is often a primary concern when considering new types of heating. An infrared heater’s core temperature won’t even get as hot as that of a more conventional heater. These devices typically come with a metal sheath over their heating elements, too. This means children and animals can come into contact with the heater’s surface without any risk of burns.

As well as being efficient and affordable some infrared heaters can look quite stylish too. Electric panel heaters are also easy to retro fit. You should be able to find one that is portable, compact, and won’t look out of place in your home.


More and more of us are looking at ways in which we can reduce our own energy consumption. Electric heating is a fully controllable and sustainable option which can be added to your list of smart controlled appliances in the home, allowing you the option to turn the heating on or off in any one room of the house at a time. Infrared heating is very much the future of energy efficient electric heating.

7 Ways To Help The Environment From Home

Green Home

As the global climate crisis continues to grow, it’s time to think more seriously about living green. So many of us are becoming conscious of the impact we have on the environment, both individually and collectively, as the effects of climate change become more apparent with each passing year. The future of the planet is in our hands, so it’s important to consider how we can become more eco-friendly in our own lives. This guide will explore 7 ways in which you can help protect the environment at home.

Use Less Energy

The impact we have on the environment at home is dependent on the amount of energy we use. The easiest way to become more energy efficient is to keep an eye on your household’s consumption, taking care to turn off plug sockets, light switches and heaters when they are not in use.

Take advantage of your smart meter, which are provided by most energy suppliers in the UK, to monitor your energy usage more closely. Using an up-to-date EPC certificate from your last inspection will help you identify your household’s shortcomings in energy efficiency.

Also consider using renewable energy such as solar at home, as well as switching to a green tariff which sees the renewable equivalent of your household’s consumption given back to the national grid.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Producing less waste and recycling more will help you to live more sustainably at home. Using less single-use plastic packaging and more recyclable materials such as paper and aluminium will limit the impact your household has on the growing plastic problem.

Also, choosing products that are made from compostable materials will allow you to dispose of more waste at home on your compost heap.

Support Eco-friendly Companies

Shopping for sustainable, eco-friendly products is a great way to do your bit for the environment from home. Buying goods such as clothing, furniture and other household items made from recycled, sustainable materials will not only allow you to save on waste when you’re finished with them, but you will also be supporting companies that take care to limit their own environmental impact, as opposed to those which are more convenience-driven. Helping to raise awareness of sustainable businesses will allow their products to become more readily available for others in the future.

Eat Sustainably

The environmental cost of the food we eat is another important consideration on the road to living sustainably at home. Growing your own fruit and vegetables is a great way to reduce the emissions produced from processing and transporting the food we eat, not to mention providing a healthy, organic alternative to shop-bought, convenience foods.

Think locally sourced and organic when shopping for groceries and consider cutting back on high-emissions foods such as meat and dairy.

Create a Wildlife-friendly Garden

Making good use of your outdoor spaces for the benefit of wildlife will allow you to help the environment from your own doorstep.

Adding pollinator-friendly plants to your garden, allowing some grassy areas to grow longer and using hedgerows instead of fencing for your borders will create both a habitat and safe passage for birds, bugs and small mammals.

Also, having a compost heap in your garden will provide a home for bugs and small mammals, as well as allowing you to dispose of compostable materials yourself.

Be Travel-conscious

Our travel habits have a huge impact on the environment, so it’s important to think about how you can do so most efficiently. Sharing lifts for work or leisure, using energy-efficient forms of public transport and cycling or walking are all ways you can cut down on carbon emissions when travelling.

Additionally, more and more of us are turning to electric and hybrid vehicles when replacing petrol and diesel ones in a bid to become more environmentally friendly.

A range of eco-travel schemes, such as the government’s cycle-to-work scheme, also exist to support you financially in your decision to reduce your travel emissions.

Raise Awareness

Raising awareness of climate and environmental issues, both locally and on a wider scale, will also help inspire others to live more sustainably. Volunteering with local groups on projects such as litter picking, tree planting or the running of a community garden is a fun and inclusive way to encourage green living in your area.

Nationally, there are many charities that support the conservation of wildlife who rely on volunteering to carry out crucial habitat work, such as RSPB and The Wildlife Trust. Such organisations also run regional and national initiatives to encourage the public to get involved.

Donating to local and national climate charities is also a great way to support the crucial work being carried out to protect the environment.

If you do decide to follow just some of the above tips, then you’ll already be making a significant difference to the environment, as well as your own way of life.


Sources

UK on the Brink of Becoming the World Leader of Low-cost Clean Power Generation

Renewable Energy

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has set out an ambitious new vision for offshore wind to power every home in the UK by 2030. He has promised to make a massive investment in offshore wind energy announcing the plan at the Conservative party conference.

Boris Johnson said:

“Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle, the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands.”

According to Aurora Energy Research, an Oxford-based consultancy, however, almost £50 billion in capital investment is required to meet the 40GW target. As it stands the UK has approximately 10GW of offshore wind power which means that a huge number of wind turbines will need to be constructed over the next decade. Back in February Aurora Energy Research calculated that “an average annual installation rate of 260 turbines would need to be sustained over 5 years which is equivalent to one turbine installed every weekday throughout the whole of the 2020s.”

The wind energy industry has become one of the UK’s most cherished industrial success stories. The capacity of the UK’s offshore wind turbines has developed in the past 10 years from 1GW to nearly 10GW at the start of 2020 and building costs have been pushed down by almost two thirds.

Back in March 2019 the government had already committed to a 30GW target through an offshore wind sector deal, but Boris Johnson promised to increase that number to 40GW if he won the election. Since the Conservative’s victory a lot has happened however with the Coronavirus pandemic forcing the government to spend considerable sums of money on industry and job protection schemes. Given the state of the economy few would have been surprised if green plans had been quietly shelved to a later date. 

This has turned out to absolutely not be the case with the government’s new green plan emerging as central to Britain’s aim to “build back better” after the pandemic, towards its 2050 goals.

Johnson has said that the government would invest £160 million in ports and factories that can develop “the next generation of turbines.” He has also promised to deploy floating turbines that can deliver 1GW of offshore wind energy by 2030. His green agenda will still need to clear multiple hurdles to prove that the promise of billions in investment and much-needed green jobs can be delivered.

Hugh McNeal, CEO of trade association RenewableUK said:

“The Government has raised the ambition for offshore wind and renewables, and our industry is ready to meet the challenge.”

The government has committed to investing in a clean energy future to create “hundreds of thousands, if not millions of jobs” in the next decade.

The prime minister compared the UK’s resources in off-shore wind to Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth, saying that the UK would “become the world leader in low-cost clean power generation – cheaper than oil and gas”.

Keith Anderson, the chief executive of Scottish Power, one of the largest investors in Britain’s renewable energy industry, said there is “no shortage of capital or investor appetite in offshore wind” but the pace and scale of the industry’s growth will depend on the government’s ability to grant new seabed licences and project contracts at record speed.

The government plans to attract investment from the private sector through a major contract auction next spring. This will also include support for onshore wind and solar power projects for the first time in four years since the government removed the block against onshore wind projects early in 2020 allowing schemes to compete for subsidies alongside solar power developments and floating offshore wind projects.

This upcoming auction alone has the potential to generate more than £20bn of investment and create 12,000 jobs, mainly in the construction sector, according to RenewableUK, the trade association for wind power.

Keith Anderson went on to say:

“I am absolutely confident that the industry can achieve this. My only nervousness is that people will start to see the 40GW as a cap. We should achieve that, and power past it. We are going to need far more clean electricity.”

Next year the UK will be hosting the vital UN climate talks, Cop26, postponed by a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which is putting extra pressure on the UK government to produce a programme of measures that will show the UK is taking its net-zero target seriously.

The UK still has a long way to go in order to reach its net zero commitment by 2050 despite the push to offshore wind and the recently launched £2 billion Green Homes Grant.

There are some doubts that the much-heralded green recovery will lead to a big increase in jobs to accompany the offshore wind expansion but the government has promised that at least 60% of the content of offshore wind farms will be made in the UK.

£160m is being invested by the government in upgrading the UK’s ports to manage the size of a new generation of mega-turbines, including floating windmills capable of delivering 1GW of energy by 2030, over 15 times the current floating offshore volumes worldwide. This will help to create supply chain hubs in port communities which face economic decline.

It is hoped that this initial investment will rapidly create about 2,000 construction jobs and enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories, and the supply chains.

The new floating offshore technology will allow wind farms to be built further out to sea in deeper waters boosting capacity even more where winds are strongest. This should ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the next generation of clean energy.

Executive director of the Aldersgate Group said that this much needed investment in port infrastructure should be matched by “a clear focus on low-carbon skills” to help grow domestic supply chains as well as create jobs in the sector.

Johnson said:

“As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind, a place of almost limitless resource, but in the case of wind without the carbon emissions and without the damage to the environment.”

Later this year, another step in the planned green economic recovery is expected to be promoted, the shift to electric vehicles with the decision having already been made to end the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

A tentative date in November has been set for the announcement of the government’s Build Back Greener plan which is expected to follow the advice set out by the Committee on Climate Change.

Luke Clark of RenewableUK, spoke recently about the plan to expedite the growth of wind farms:

“It is one of the lowest cost options for new power in the UK, and the industry has worked tirelessly to bring down costs over the last decade by investing in innovative new technologies and our supply chain.  The real risk for consumers is being tied to expensive, high carbon power sources instead of low-cost renewables, which markets across the globe are consistently showing to be the future of the energy system.”

How Bioclimatic Upgrades Can Make Buildings Multifunctional

For the environment and for the general public of countries across the world, there’s a growing need to address the climate crisis. Public health issues, too, are a pressing need that may seem like a separate topic. However, integrating bioclimatic architecture can cause both public health and the environment to benefit in cost-effective ways.

COVID-19 has exposed a connection between environmental issues and public health concerns. A Harvard study linked higher COVID-19 death rates to areas with worse air pollution. In a location like the United Kingdom, where air pollution causes over 40,000 premature deaths per year, solutions are necessary.

Pollutants come from various sources, but buildings and construction projects are high contributors. Finding a way to reduce these negative impacts on the environment will benefit residents as well, since there will be less pollution that causes illnesses and premature deaths. The way forward is through bioclimatic architecture.

With this form of construction, experts focus on the construct’s design and space. Each construction must work with its given community and the environment to benefit everyone. To do so, builders and architects use renewable energy sources and energy-efficient products and methods. For instance, using solar energy alongside locally sourced materials reduces emissions by eliminating international imports. Solar power, as a renewable leader, speaks for itself.

When you look at dense populations or urban areas where diseases like the novel coronavirus can spread easily, reducing pollution and focusing on health becomes the main priority.

Functions of Bioclimatic Buildings

Bioclimatic architecture should serve the people and the planet. You want to live somewhere that provides you with peak comfort year-round, has a low carbon footprint and is visually appealing yet practical and functional — all while saving money.

Bioclimatic buildings cover those fields. They also perform functions by using natural resources on top of being environmentally friendly and cost-effective. A green roof, for example, can cut 75% of summer air conditioning costs. This reduction happens with an increased level of natural lighting and ventilation — keys for bioclimatic methods.

The Bioclimatic Community Mosque of Pamulang is currently seeing the benefits of a green roof. This mosque uses natural ventilation to cool the inside while the green roof reduces the heat island effect — which is especially useful in the warmer months. Plus, these eco-friendly practices are low maintenance, therefore decreasing costs.

Applying these ideas to the U.K. is now essential. In 2019, almost 56 million residents lived in urban locations in the U.K. Only 11 million people were living in more rural areas. Additionally, rural living is decreasing, while urban living is becoming more popular. Therefore, with more people in cities, bioclimatic buildings must become more of a norm, using Pamulang’s mosque as a leading example.

Elsewhere, France is ramping up plans for these kinds of beneficial buildings. The country has taken a step back after being hit hard with the pandemic. Now, it’s envisioning a post-COVID-19 society where buildings are key. Bioclimatic urban planning means maintaining biodiversity while also helping residents stay healthy. Their plan is to merge public health with environmental urbanization plans.

These two examples are critical examples of what the U.K. must do now. Once the pandemic passes, recovery efforts can create a better world for the people and climate. Though the country is making progress, it’s time to commit to bioclimatic architecture. The 40,000 premature deaths in the U.K. must decrease. With this reduction, the environment will improve — as will public health. The key is using the right materials and planning methods.

A New Normal

The right buildings can make a world of difference. Whether they’re places of residence, museums, religious institutions or schools, eco-friendly buildings can change the way people interact with their surroundings. Utilizing natural resources, renewable energy and environmentally conscious building methods will lead to a healthier climate and healthier populations across the globe.

Zero Carbon Housing Retrofit Solution Launched by Engie UK

Renewables Future

Leading service, business energy and regeneration specialist, Engie UK believe it is their duty to develop solutions that will reduce the carbon footprint of the UK’s housing stock. In a bid to help local authorities, housing associations and other housing providers do just that, Engie UK has announced the launch of an innovative low carbon housing retrofit service to decarbonise their stock in line with the UK’s net zero plans.

They have warned that if not enough action is taken now, the existing housing supply presents a “considerable threat” to the UK’s commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

Currently UK households account for more than a quarter of the entire UK CO2 emissions with half of the market only achieving an EPC rating of D or less. This means that the UK needs to take radical steps to achieve a mass reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Engie customers are being offered a range of retrofit solutions designed to help make homes greener and more energy efficient. The service includes the installation of solar PV and battery storage systems, fabric improvements to roof, walls and flooring, a low carbon heating and hot water solution, mechanical ventilation and long-term maintenance and monitoring. Furthermore, the offer is being extended to include a number of smart technologies such as the implementation of rapid EV charge points and grid balancing technologies as part of the deal.

This whole house retrofit solution guarantees reduced carbon emissions and energy bills while ensuring homes are warmer, healthier, and more comfortable.

To develop this new suite of services which Engie UK describes as a “fabric first, one-stop shop to decentralise, digitalise and decarbonise homes” it is drawing on its extensive housing retrofit experience which includes working with Dutch energy efficient building upgrades approach Energiesprong. This experience enables them to develop a product that can be tailored to individual and local requirements. 

Known as Engie Zero, it foresees the upfront costs of retrofit works being paid for by the savings generated from the improvements together with existing revenue streams and government incentives, including Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Grid Balancing Agreements.

Importantly, the Engie Zero solution can also offer clients a viable way to future proof their homes as well as providing them with a long-term energy performance guarantee.

Divisional Head of Energy and Innovation, at Engie UK, Andy Merrin said the company felt a responsibility to develop green home solutions in view of the UK’s 2050 net zero target as well as the 70 per cent of local authorities which have declared a ‘climate emergency’.

Andy Merrin said:

“We know that new homes only account for one to two per cent of total housing stock and 80 per cent of the homes of 2050 are already in existence; so it’s clear that our existing supply is a considerable threat to plans for a zero carbon future. More worrying is that in order to meet the UK 2050 target, a total of 300 homes every hour would need to be retrofitted.”

There is no doubt that the decarbonisation of the UK’s housing stock poses a major challenge. Although the government has taken steps to improve the efficiency of UK homes with the launching of the Green Homes Grant in September, the initiative is only set to run for 6 months and is already oversubscribed. There are calls for more to be done to wean UK buildings off fossil fuel heating and to bring the UK’s most draughty homes up to scratch. Significantly more policy support, regulation and investment is required to remedy this situation.

Andy Merrin went on to say:

In launching ENGIE Zero, we are able to offer our partners with a viable solution to support their climate emergency action plans, help eradicate fuel poverty and improve the quality of accommodation and wellbeing.  We hope this, in turn, helps drive substantial investment towards mass-scale renovations, so we can deliver the necessary alterations to the built environment and help make zero carbon happen.”

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher MP praised Engie for launching the new service, which he said would help lessen the environmental impact of the UK’s carbon-intensive housing stock.

He said:

The UK Government is dedicated to its net zero agenda. All of us have a role to play in the work to deliver a carbon free world. I commend ENGIE’s clear commitment to contribute to this effort to reduce the carbon footprint of our housing stock.”

Though there are many options for decarbonisation they all come with problems, from disruptive infrastructure or home retrofit needs to potentially high costs or requirements for much more extensive roll-out of zero-carbon power.

The time needed to resolve some of these issues must not be wasted. Investments need to be made in energy efficiency now without which the already steep challenge of heat would become harder still.

Engie’s flexible and integrated approach ensures optimum carbon savings in the most cost-effective way, in lockstep with the governments’ clean growth strategy.

Could Renewables Overtake Fossil fuels to Become the UK’s Top Power Source in 2020?

fossil fuel renewables

Europe has recently reached a major milestone in its journey to transform the way it generates energy. According to London based, Ember, an independent climate think-tank, renewables now account for a greater share of Europe’s energy mix than fossil fuels and are now secure as the EU’s main source of electricity. The first half of 2020 saw just 34% of Europe’s power coming from coal, gas, and oil, in comparison to the 40% that came directly from solar, wind and hydro sources. At the same time use of renewable energy went up by over a tenth and carbon dioxide emissions fell by nearly a quarter.

The UK also experienced the favourable weather conditions that played a big part in Europe’s recent successes. These storms helped make February 2020 the first month on record when more electricity was produced by wind farms than gas-fired power stations in the UK. It was truly a landmark moment when the UK renewable power output overtook fossil fuels for the first time in February 2020.

Consistently high winds were a feature throughout the period with output from wind farms was more than 10GW for 63% of the quarter, and more than 5GW for 85% of it.

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The Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES), also known as Westminster’s “energy bible,” documents forensic detail on British energy use. Their latest report, published towards the end of July, disclosed that the UK has broken yet more records, with 37.1% of all energy generated throughout 2019 coming from renewable sources. The combined domestic output of wind, solar and hydropower is documented as being up by 11% if you compare it to the previous year, and bioenergy output is also up by nearly 2%.

According to authoritative analysis by Carbon Brief, the third quarter of 2019, saw UK’s windfarms, solar panels, biomass and hydro plants generate “more electricity than the combined output from power stations fired by coal, oil or gas.” This was the first-ever quarter where renewable generation outstripped fossil fuels in British history.  These figures highlight the potential and progress of green industries in industrialized, western nations.

A new milestone was reached in the first quarter of 2020 with renewables generating 35.4TWh which was more than fossil fuels combined. Wind, solar, biomass and hydro sources made up 41.8 per cent of the renewables mix. This equates to a significant increase from the first quarter of 2019 when renewables produced 27.2TWh. During the period between January and March 44.6% of total power generation was produced by renewables, with the rest generated by gas-fired plants (29.1%), nuclear plants (15.3%), power imports (7.3%) and coal plants (3.7%).

The credit for the rapid growth of the renewables industry has been chalked up to coal plants coming offline ahead of the government’s deadline, as well as the spurt in expansion of the UK’s offshore wind sector. Wind power has made a big difference to the figures, with 10% of energy produced coming from offshore installations and 10% coming from turbines peppered around the British countryside.

With businesses shutting up shop and more people working from home, electricity demand fell during the Coronavirus lockdown to its lowest level since 1982. Renewables came into their own during this period as they allowed the flexibility within the power system that is needed at these critical moments and were crucial to keeping Britain’s lights on.

Melanie Onn, RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive, said the figures show us “Just how far we’ve come in the revolution in power generation.” This is particularly so if you consider that the UK was only generating 7% of its energy needs from renewables just a decade ago. Looking back to 2010 it is easy to see the dramatic shift in generation and consumption. Just 10 years ago the renewable energy industry was still a relative upstart in comparison to the titan of coal and gas with three quarters of all energy still coming from fossil fuels.

Melanie Onn writes that:

“At a time when so many things seem uncertain, the consistent rise of renewables, keeping the UK powered up, bringing billions in investment in new energy infrastructure and creating highly skilled jobs all over the country, is a terrific success story we can all be proud of.”

There were many people who were still sceptical about the power of renewables at the beginning of the decade. Renewables were after all taking on the might of the entrenched and established fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel purists questioned the reliability and affordability of green technology believing that a country as energy-glugging as the UK wouldn’t be able to generate enough of its energy mix from renewable sources. This case has been decidedly disproved however, in an energy revolution that has seen new developments in renewables accelerate much faster than anybody could have hoped for. As the decade comes to an end, renewables are providing amongst the cheapest forms of electricity that for substantial periods of the year have overtaken its more carbon intensive counterparts. With green energy technology becoming ever more efficient and more acceptable to consumers it looks likely that records will continue to be broken at a pace of knots.

Given the success stories on both sides of the channel you could be forgiven for daring to imagine that the UK could celebrate a year that sees renewable power as the top power source of the country. Many in the renewable energy industry are beginning to wonder what next year’s figures might look like.

Donald Speirs of specialist renewables business Dulas, writes that:

 “We just keep seeing records broken and the whole industry has intense momentum behind it now. Just earlier this year, we saw the longest period without coal energy since the industrial revolution, with the National Grid reporting a two-month hiatus from coal at the last count. And, with the resurgence of interest in energy storage combined with enjoyed favourable conditions for wind and solar in the first two quarters of the year, the industry is looking incredibly promising.”

Like most global economies the UK economy has been affected by Covid-19. However, the government’s determination to make the economic recovery a green one propelled by the legally binding goal of achieving net zero by 2050 could well mean that we’ll see some impressive and era-defining progress come Spring 2021. It is looking increasingly likely that 2020 will mark the start of a new era of renewables dominance.