A user-led revolution in the way energy markets and infrastructure operates will be essential if the UK is to deliver the zero carbon energy system. That is the central conclusion from a wide-ranging new report from the Association for Decentralised Energy, which sets out how a combination of onsite heat and power generation technologies and advanced energy management systems could deliver significant financial savings for households and businesses, while enabling the rapid development of a net zero carbon energy system. It also argues the widespread adoption of smart energy management and grid balancing services should serve to place customers “at the heart of the way the UK meets its energy needs”, making it easier to engage the public with the wider net zero transition. “Whether through onsite generation, storage, energy efficiency, capturing waste heat or smart vehicle charging, the next stage of the energy revolution centres on the energy user,” said Dr Tim Rotheray, director of the ADE. The report estimates widespread efficiency upgrades could cut household energy bills by around a third, or £400 a year on average, while businesses could save £6bn through to 2030 thanks to cost effective energy efficiency measures. Similarly, the report argues energy storage systems and flexible grid services that automatically curb pressure on the grid at times of peak demand could unlock £800m in value for energy consumers through reduced bills and new financial incentives.
The search for new sources of energy has stirred excitement and alarm in northwest England, where an ambitious tidal power project for Morecambe Bay has fired up activists and may become a test of the government’s commitment to combating climate change. Promoters of a 12-mile-long pair of tidal barrages across one of the UK’s biggest bays claim the £8.5bn scheme would generate energy for 2m homes and prove the seriousness of Theresa May’s newly announced campaign for Britain to have zero net carbon emissions by 2050. Opponents worry that bridging the bay with causeways containing turbines, sluice gates and navigation locks would damage the UK’s largest area of continuous mudflats and sandflats. The muddy sands of Morecambe Bay are a magnet for migrating birds, fish and molluscs. “We love renewable energy and want to see the decarbonation of our energy network,” said Susannah Bleakley, chief executive of the Morecambe Bay Partnership, a local conservationist group. “But this is the wrong development in the wrong site.” The Northern Tidal Power Gateways project is the brainchild of Bury-based Alan Torevell, a former economist who set up a wealth management business in Manchester. Torevell claimed last week that Morecambe Bay could be the starting point “for producing 10% or more of the UK’s power needs through a series of tidal power projects around the UK”. About 1bn cubic metres of water enters and leaves the bay with every tide.
The UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy is masking stark regional divides, according to new research, with regions such as the North of England and East Midlands being left behind. Researchers from Imperial College London and consultancy firm E4tech are warning of a two-tier emerging as Britain undergoes an energy revolution. While many businesses and homes across London, Scotland and the East are set to benefit from clean growth and lower energy bills, research has found that regions such as Wales, Yorkshire and the East Midlands are falling behind. Some of these regions are suffering from low energy efficiency ratings, while cost of heating, combined with lower average incomes in these areas mean that fuel poverty rates are particularly high. Imperial’s Dr Iain Staffnell said: “The country is going through an energy revolution. We are creating an energy system which will power our future economy and help tackle climate change. “But, our research reveals that Britain is at risk of creating a two-tier economy, leaving millions of families and businesses less well equipped to enjoy cheaper bills and better health outcomes. Our concern is they will not be offered the same opportunities as people living in regions which are modernising their energy infrastructure.”
A string of subsidy-free solar farms will move ahead within weeks, marking the first fresh private investments in renewable energy without government handouts. Private equity fund Horus Capital said its new solar development arm, Suncore Energy, will begin construction of three new solar farms totalling 45MW from next month. The first of the trio will move ahead in Worsted, near Gatwick, after clinching the last ever government feed-in tariff for solar power, but the pair that follow will be the first new projects to power the grid with subsidy-free renewable electricity.
Two of the UK’s largest cities have this week moved to strengthen their decarbonisation plans, as the city councils of Manchester and Bristol both voted to bring forward their target dates for securing ‘carbon neutral; or ‘zero carbon’ status. On Tuesday, Bristol City Council unanimously backed a motion put forward by Green party councillor Carla Denyer to make the city ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030 – a full 20 years earlier than the previous target. The move came as Manchester City Council’s Executive formally adopted a new target to become a ‘zero carbon city’ by 2038, 12 years earlier than the target it replaces. Denyer hailed the vote as “a fantastic day for Bristol”, adding that it provided further evidence cities and sub-national governments can lead the response to the escalating climate risks highlighted by the recent IPCC report. Manchester City Council’s Executive backed a plan developed by the Council’s Climate Change Board with input from the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre. The plan, dubbed Playing Our Full Part, would introduce a science-based ‘carbon budget’ for the city that caps total emissions at 15 million tonnes from 2018-2100. To meet the target the city will be required to cut emissions 13 per cent year-on-year from 2018 onwards, making it a net zero carbon city by 2038. The Manchester Climate Change Board will now develop a draft action plan by March 2019, ahead of producing a final plan by 2020, detailing how the city can stay within its carbon budget.
NFLA Policy Briefing 182: Keeping up with Energy – a report on the APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) Energy Summit 2018. APSE Energy provide support and promote best practice in the development of renewable and decentralised energy in the UK. NFLA has quoted from their reports a number of times, and their work has been included in the NFLA’s annual reports on the ‘state of play’ in decentralised energy and best practice examples. This report is provided for its member authorities so that they can keep appraised of new and interesting policy developments. There were two main themes to the APSE Energy conference. Firstly, what local authorities are doing in terms of setting up Publicly Owned Energy Companies (POECs) and what this can tell us about the Scottish Government’s plans to set up a POEC. Secondly, it looked at what local authorities in Scotland are doing to implement the Scottish Government’s policies on energy efficiency.
Hackney’s publicly-owned Energy Company Delivery Board should launch by January, and plans are afoot to cover up half of all council-owned residential roof space with solar panels. With an estimated 9,700 households in the borough suffering from fuel poverty, the move should put the council in a stronger position to supply competitively-priced energy to vulnerable residents. Energy chief Cllr Jon Burke said: “In the face of limited and often retrograde central government action, Hackney is joining a movement across local government that is helping to transform the energy system from one underpinned by fossil fuels to one characterised by clean and extremely low-carbon sources of energy. “It is our aim to protect residents and the environment we live in. By ensuring there is another publicly-owned, publicly-accountable energy company in the marketplace, we believe we can achieve these goals while placing reputational pressure on the dominant players of the energy world, driving change more broadly.”
Residents in south Cumbria have another opportunity to invest in a community-owned renewable energy scheme. Burneside Community Energy has already raised £250,000 from local shareholders to install 250kW of solar PV on the roof of paper manufacturer James Cropper’s factory. Now the group aims to raise a further £330,000 for a second installation, again in partnership with the Kendal-based firm. Organisers say the shares, which will be £1 with a minimum investment of £250, will generate annual interest of over 4.5 per cent. Gill Fenna, director of Burneside Community Energy, said: “On the back of the over-performance of the first phase of our installation, which was commissioned nearly three years ago, we were encouraged to go for this second phase.
West Sussex County Council has launched its second solar farm which features battery storage technology. The Westhampnett solar project near Chichester is expected to generate enough electricity to power around 2,400 homes a year. The battery is used to store surplus electricity which can be released to the grid when consumer demand is high. It follows the launch of the Tangmere solar farm in 2015, which already produces power for 1,500 homes a year. The council has also installed solar panels on its buildings, including offices, schools and fire stations. Islington Council will be showing how it used CHP and heat recapture techologies to make a different to the community at Energy Live Expo on 31st October, with Energy Minister Claire Perry headlining the event.
United Utilities is building a floating solar farm on the surface of Langthwaite Reservoir, off Little Fell Lane. The power generated will be used to run the neighbouring Lancaster water treatment works which supplies water to 152,000 people across Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham.