Last month news broke that the UK could turn to ‘crowd sourcing’ funds to help boost the UK’s commercial renewable energy prospects.As it stands, the Government have pledge to the European Union that 3GW of renewable energy would be being produced by community-owned projects by 2020.
However, current outputs suggest that a lack of investment has meant this is unlikely to happen in time.
With that in mind, the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Barker, says that ‘Kickstarter’-style funding could come from the public – but with a whopping 3 GW to produce, is that viable?
It is very easy to sit back and criticise the big energy suppliers, easy to accuse them of ripping the British public off. But surely the answer isn’t ‘big brother’ style regulation or years of tit for tat media haranguing, with the energy companies simply claiming that they are “doing everything they can”.
Can’t a better answer come from placing power in the hands of a fully informed consumer? As a designer, I feel that this kind of solution could come from the principles of design.
Design is finally enjoying its day in the sun: it is rightly recognised as a must have, rather than a nice to have. The recent launch of a website that aims to bring the creative industries together and make it easy for the world to access our world leading sector was launched on the same day that the government announced that the creative industries were worth £71bn to the UK economy.
A flagship government-backed loan scheme to help people give their homes green makeovers has been “disappointing”, the UK energy and climate change secretary has conceded.
But Ed Davey said that while take-up of green deal financing had been poor with just a few hundred homes using it, 1 million homes in England and Wales will have been insulated under the broader green deal scheme and its sister Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) since they began in January 2013.
In a speech to the Ecobuild conference in London on Thursday afternoon, Davey said: “The good news is that we have a lot of assessments to go on. But when it comes to converting green deal assessments into finance plans, the story so far has been, let’s face it, disappointing.” He admitted the scheme started off “too clunky and too complex”.
But Davey told the Guardian that “people have missed a huge success story in ECO”, that has driven most of the 1 million home installations. The scheme is designed to help insulate the homes of people in fuel poverty and subsidise hard-to-treat homes, such as older properties that require expensive solid wall insulation. Changes to the ECO, announced in December after a political row over the cost of green and social levies on energy bills and confirmed in a consultation launched today, will weaken its solid wall targets but maintain its fuel poverty targets.
Davey also said that new incentives, due to be announced later this month, would spark fresh interest in the green deal, whose brand he argued had not been tainted despite the lack of interest in green deal finance, where loans to pay for energy efficiency measures such as a new boiler are attached to a property rather than an individual. Davey said the incentives would likely be welcomed by the solid wall industry and offset some of the changes made to ECO.
Tougher competition in the UK energy market is likely to hurt profits at npower this year, its German owner RWE has warned, adding to its woes as it struggles to compete with Europe’s burgeoning renewable energy sector.
RWE posted its first loss in more than 60 years in 2013 following a €5bn (£4bn) write-down to the value of its European power plants, which are losing out to fierce competition from renewable energy suppliers.
The company also said it expected profits at npower, its UK supply arm, to fall in 2014, due to increased competition among energy suppliers. RWE’s UK business brings in around 17pc of total revenues and 5pc of total profits.
RWE swung to a net loss of €2.76bn in 2013, from a profit of €1.31bn a year earlier, its year in the red since 1949.
Electricity generation in Great Britain continued to fall last year – with coal-fired power still providing the dominant share of total energy production. These are the top-line findings of the 2013 GB Electricity Supply & Generation Summary provided by energy market data specialists EnAppSys. Last year the total electricity supplied in GB was 285TWh, a fall of 1.5% from 2012 and 11.5% lower than the pre-recession peak of 322TWh in 2007. This reduction is equivalent to the electricity consumption of 8.7m homes*.
The report says that falling power generation is a direct result of declining electricity consumption in the last six years, a trend driven mainly by the economic slowdown. During 2013 coal-fired power stations continued to be the dominant source of generation, providing 41% of all GB power requirements, whilst combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) units provided 26%, nuclear 21% and wind farms a further 6%. Although total levels of electricity generation have fallen since 2010, levels of coal-fired generation have climbed 22% in the same period despite a reduction in coal-fired power stations as older facilities are closed down.
The rise in coal’s share of the country’s power output has been attributed largely to declining activity in gas-fired electricity generation, which is mainly the result of falling coal prices, the collapse of the EU ETS carbon price and rising LNG (liquid natural gas) prices due to amongst other factors, Fukushima. The drivers on coal prices are the reduction in US coal consumption due to gas displacing coal for power generation because of the shale gas boom. The largest increase in electricity generation from a single fuel type has come from wind farms, which produced 48% more electricity in 2013 compared to 2012 – and 405% more than in 2010. This growth enabled wind to provide 6% of total generation last year and 8% of total generation in Q4 2013.
Few subjects are as polarising as nuclear power. Supporters claim a new generation of nuclear plants is the most effective means of helping to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, while filling the ‘energy gap’ that will result from the decommissioning of old fossil fuel and nuclear power facilities in the 2020s.
But opponents believe it is an expensive folly, replete with ethical and environmental effects that have repercussions for generations to come, siphoning money and attention away from renewables.
The debate took on another dimension in 2011, when the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami led to the meltdown of three of the Fukushima nuclear power plant’s reactors. In response, Germany cancelled its nuclear programme, embarking on the ‘energiewende’ (energy shift), which aims to produce 60% of Germany’s power through renewable sources by 2050. By contrast, the UK is proposing to build a new generation of nuclear power plants, starting with Hinkley Point C.
Chancellor George Osborne must use his upcoming Budget to “mount an all-out attack” on rising energy prices, according to manufacturers’ organisation EEF.
In its Budget Submission, issued on 24 February, EEF said that energy prices were a key driver of business costs. The organisation highlighted the government estimates that suggest that climate change policies will increase industrial electricity prices by 50% by 2020. It warned that, without urgent action, by the end of the decade many of the UK’s heavy industries would likely relocate to countries with less stringent environmental protections – and lower energy costs.
Extend compensation package
EEF called on the government to extend, through to 2020-21, all measures in the current compensation package for energy-intensives. But it also said the package should be expanded to exempt heavy industries from costs arising from the Renewables Obligation and Feed-in Tariff schemes.
Ofgem has set out plans to protect small businesses from misselling by energy brokers, through the creation of a new Code of Practice (CoP) for the sector.
As part of its Retail Market Review, Ofgem committed to reviewing the practices of non-domestic third party intermediaries (TPIs) – also known as brokers. Over the last year or so, Ofgem has been developing a draft CoP for these businesses.
The draft CoP includes a range of measures that seek to ensure that accredited non-domestic TPIs act in a “fair, honest, transparent, appropriate and professional manner”. It also encourages best practice on issues such as the provision of information before and after any agreements are made between the customer and the TPI, as well as training and complaint handling.
On 14 February, the energy regulator issued a consultation on the development of a regulatory framework for the draft CoP. Four options were put forward: to leave non-domestic TPIs to be governed by existing legislation; introduction of a voluntary CoP; creating a TPI CoP underpinned by a licence condition on suppliers to work only with TPIs accredited to this code; and licensing of non-domestic TPIs.
The wind energy sector in the UK is continuing to grow at a respectable pace, based on the most recent figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change DECC. Wind power rose to provide about 7.7% of the UK’s electricity in 2013 — up from 5.5% in 2012, a 38% year-on-year increase.Other interesting stats from the new report include the fact that low-carbon electricity provided nearly one-third of all the electricity generated in the UK last year — largely down to a surge in wind power output. To be exact, low-carbon power represented 32.7% of the electricity supplied last year, up from 29.4% the previous year.
As the price of gas jumps 10% on the spot market in reaction to the Russian military manoeuvres in Crimea, it is time to hug your local wind turbine.
Windfarms get a regular bashing for apparently costing too much to operate, but no one puts a proper price on carbon pollution – or national security.
Until Russian president Vladimir Putin gets control of the wind, turbines are safe to turn regardless of the political climate.
British shale gas frackers may also obtain a mini-boost for their endeavours along the same self-sufficiency lines. It comes as no surprise that Ukraine is a centre of shale exploration as local leaders saw it as a potential alternative to Russian gas.
Meanwhile, if you see the chief executive of BP, Robert Dudley, give him a hug too. He probably needs it, having last year consummated a deal with Russian state-owned Rosneft.