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.
Council solar farms & most council rooftop schemes no longer need to depend on national support; Councils urged to boost renewables on new homes & offices; Top 10 solar investor authorities combined investment tops £80 million; Councils developing ‘subsidy-free’ solar farms today A new report published by the STA today shows how local councils are leading the way on solar by building modern solar homes, developing ‘subsidy-free’ solar farms, master planning ‘smart’ neighbourhoods and using solar to save money and provide stable sources of revenue to fund services. Highlights from the collection of 26 pioneering and proven case studies, which detail financing.
Solar generation from the rooftop array of a housing block in London has been traded to an adjacent tower in the UK’s first energy trade using blockchain technology. The trade took place at Hackney’s Banister House Estate, where a trial has been underway with Repowering London since November 2017 aiming to enable residents to use local renewable energy sources to lower their energy bills on the road to creating “a fully empowered, almost self-sustaining community”.
Campbell & Kennedy has been awarded a contract to design and install over 400kWp of solar on schools and the offices of the Scottish Borders Council. Eleven schools will see solar arrays installed on their premises ranging from 3.85kWp at Gordon Primary School in Berwickshire up to a 48.6kWp system at Hawick High School. Councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s energy efficiency champion, said: “We are committed to being an environmentally friendly organisation and are currently delivering our services with a considerably smaller carbon footprint. “The council is already leading the way with a number of major energy saving projects around street lighting, electric vehicles and energy use in the community, and this solar panel scheme at 12 council properties will provide further benefits to the local environment.”
North Ayrshire Council has approved a plan to install rooftop solar on up to 500 properties in its housing stock to save residents up to £115 within the first year. The council’s cabinet approved the plan as part of its Environmental Sustainability & Climate Change Strategy and its strategy to tackle fuel poverty. Cabinet member for place, councillor Jim Montgomerie, said: “We know that many our tenants struggle to make ends meet and rising energy prices place so much pressure on families, particularly those on low incomes. “As well as helping some of our lowest-income residents, this programme also makes a big environmental statement. We are continually looking at ways we can reduce our carbon footprint, and the solar panel programme is expected to generate an equivalent saving of 6,400 tonnes of carbon over 20 years.” An initial consultation on the £1.6 million solar panel initiative identified 1,100 council properties in North Ayrshire which could benefit from the installations. The council will now contact these homes again to gauge their interest, with additional properties considered for inclusion on a first-come, first-served basis up to a limit of 500 installations.
Mayor Andy Burnham used the city’s first Green Manchester Summit yesterday to unveil a raft of new environmental goals, which could cement the region’s position as one of the world’s leading green business and clean tech hubs. Under the broad pledge to ensure Greater Manchester achieves ‘carbon neutral’ status by 2040 at the latest, the Mayor’s Office confirmed a host of new targets on green buildings, plastic waste, and transport. The Mayor also confirmed plans to deliver a zero emission bus fleet and invest up to £50m over three years in new cycle lanes and paths. In addition, he confirmed a range of new green building commitments, including plans for a new energy efficiency retrofit programme and proposals to include a new zero carbon homes and buildings target in the Greater Manchester spatial framework, which is currently out for consultation. He also set a new goal for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to only occupy energy efficient buildings. Industry sources said a similar scheme pioneered in Australia had led to significant efficiency improvements across the real estate sector. At the same conference, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) trade body announced the launch of a new Greater Manchester Local Network and revealed plans to open an office in the city by the summer of 2018.
Residents of the Isle of Canna off the west coast of Scotland have secured £1.3m to largely ditch their diesel power generators in favour of a new community-owned renewable electricity system based on solar PV, wind, and battery storage technologies in a bid to cut fuel usage and costs. Construction of the off-grid renewable energy system is due to start next month and is expected to take around seven months to complete, after which profits from the power generated will be used to cover operation and maintenance costs, and reduce bills for local homes and businesses. The existing diesel generators will continue to be leased to islanders, but it is hoped that upwards of 90 per cent of their electricity needs will be met by the PV panels and six small onshore wind turbines being built on the island. The community has established its own enterprise – Canna Renewable Energy and Electrification Ltd (CREEL) – to own and operate the new equipment.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority will today launch a new £15m loan programme designed to make it easier for property and infrastructure developers to incorporate renewables as part of their projects. Backed with funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Fund will offer loans to fund projects that would not attract traditionally commercial finance due to the relatively new technology involved, or projects that would be improved through the fund’s expertise. The loans will then be repaid over a 15 year period with the proceeds then recycled into further green projects across the region. The aim is for the fund, which will be managed by property specialists GVA, to complement the existing Greater Manchester European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) fund, which provides grant funding for support early stage renewables and energy efficiency projects, such as street lighting upgrades. Under the new arrangements, the ELENA Fund is able to provide assistance for upfront project costs with the Low Carbon Fund following on with commercial investment, the authority said. Example projects include wind turbines that are dedicated to a development, projects generating energy from waste, or Biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems that generate electricity and heat powered by renewable woodchips.