An innovative plan to use hydrogen produced at island wind farms to power the ferry network has been announced by Point and Sandwick Trust. Yesterday, the trust published a feasibility study to assess the suitability of using hydrogen produced from local wind farms to power future ferry services operating in the Western Isles. The project looked at the practical and economic feasibility of using new island wind farms to produce zero-carbon “green” hydrogen fuel for future types of clean emission ferries operating on the established Caledonian MacBrayne routes.
In December 2018, Stroud District Council pledged to do everything in its power to make the district carbon neutral by 2030, a leading pledge that was followed by Gloucestershire County Council unanimously committing in May of this year to become carbon neutral within its estate by 2030 and across the county by 2050. One of the key components needed to achieve this neutrality target will be to move from the current energy mix that is 90% reliant on fossil fuels, to one that is reliant instead on renewable energy capacity (alongside energy efficiency and energy demand reduction). In light of this, Stroud council commissioned CSE, partnered with Land Use Consultants, to research local renewable energy capacity. This project builds upon our experience and understanding of the current context for renewable energy and planning policy in Gloucestershire; we recently produced the Gloucestershire Sustainable Energy Strategy (2018) and hosted the first county-wide Climate Change conference that was designed to support authorities moving forward on carbon neutral targets.
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.
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.
Brighton area has 9400 Solar Installations – Govt figures. Recent figures show that the BN postcode area has been kicking out solar PV capacity. More than 9435 buildings across the BN area now have solar. That’s around 36MW of clean solar power Brighton Energy Coop owns 3.3% of our region’s solar capacity (with 1.35MW) – our new projects take us over the 4% mark!
Dr Nicolette Allen, of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), looked at the way solar panels installed in one of the most disadvantaged communities in the South East, have changed the practices of seven families over the course of a year. She made a video about her findings. People living in fuel poverty can feel powerless to do anything about their situation, often having to prioritise cooking a meal for the family over heating their home. Watching the prepayment energy meter constantly and worrying about running out of power on a daily basis is not only disempowering but can be incredibly damaging to people’s mental health. By receiving the solar panels, these families were able to take control of their energy use and their finances by becoming ‘prosumers’: producing and consuming their own energy. The project showed how much energy consumption is embedded in everyday life and how it is not straightforward to become a prosumer at all. Certain practices, like cooking the children’s meals, could not be adjusted to when the sun was shining. They were part of the family routine that needed to be maintained. Others, like putting on laundry, were more flexible.
Why mayors and ministers should launch state-backed energy firms. If there was ever a British consumer market in need of new thinking, it’s the energy market. Pretty much everyone agrees it’s not working for the people in it, and especially for people on low incomes. Those people can end up paying almost £400 more to heat and light their homes than people who have more money. This poverty premium has many components. Poor customers are more likely to have pre-payment meters: suppliers charge more for them. They’re more likely to receive not electronic but paper bills: suppliers charge more for them, too. And they’re less likely to switch deals and suppliers, using competition to drive down their price. That inertia can cost more than £300 a year in higher bills. At the Social Market Foundation, we’ve been talking to the people who suffer that poverty premium to see what would actually work for them. One message that comes out of that research -supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – is that there is real scope for a third way, an approach that offers a new role for the public sector within a competitive market. This approach is for the public sector to become a player in that competitive market, with publicly-owned, non-profit energy suppliers. Britain already has one in the form of Robin Hood energy, set up by Nottingham City Council in 2015. The Scottish government is also considering creating its own supplier. London is a striking example: almost one in five households in the capital has a pre-payment meter, exposing them to higher prices. Sadiq Khan has already shown interest in this area: his City Hall is now an energy supplier to Transport for London. Our research suggests Mr Khan and his fellow mayors should be thinking hard about going into the energy business properly to make the market work better for their low-income voters. And ministers who want to put power in the hands of local communities and get a better deal for consumers should be looking at how to help.
Good news; if they’re clever, local authorities can make most applications of solar work today, without central government support. That’s a message we want to get out wide and far as we publish ‘Leading Lights’, and look to work with local and regional leaders to reboot the UK solar revolution. And our leading light authorities are also using energy storage and even master planning smart neighbourhoods today. Our new Leading Lights Local Authority Network will ensure best practice is shared, and their efforts will be strongly supported by our members. A decentralised energy future is irresistible; it is not just the economics of technology change stipulating a smarter, more localised system with blossoming consumer controls and choice, many local people want a solid stake in clean energy and in climate action too. Their locally elected leaders increasingly reflect this. We’ve been delighted by the UK100 initiative which brings together councils with ambitions to deliver 100% clean energy by 2050. We’ve been heartened by the Mayor of London’s Solar Action Plan and encouraged by the new Metro Mayors’ ambitions for clean air and clean energy. And, with a wave of new local councillors after the local elections next month, we hope to see solar ambitions refreshed across councils of all political persuasions. Action can’t wait; analysis by C40 Cities shows to deliver on the Paris Agreement goals, every city across the UK should be powered by at least 90% renewable energy, making investment a necessity today. The good news is the special circumstances of local authorities – namely access to land and roof space, low or zero cost borrowing, secure off-takers for power and long project horizons – mean they can make projects work economically today, where the commercial industry may struggle. The STA will be holding a series of regional workshops with MPs and local leaders to help spread best practice. All of our members will be able use our Leading Lights presentation to take to their own council to make the case for effective policies. It’s been a very tough few years in solar. But our spring will come sooner if we work closely with the passionate leaders in local and regional government who understand how well solar and storage technologies can help them to meet their objectives.