04 Jun 2016
Since securing sufficient majority in the Commons a year ago to be freed from the shackles of their coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Government has been relentless in its efforts to dismantle Britain’s blossoming renewable energy industry. Despite the lack of success that austerity has had in furthering economic resilience versus the success that the clean energy industry has had in creating jobs, the Conservative government is in hot pursuit of its dogmatic, ideological agenda.
Under the auspices of ‘protecting hard working families from higher energy bills’, HM Treasury slashed the subsidies and tax incentives that once supported our young and maturing green economy. The funding that was provided from those energy bills bolstered a new economy with new jobs, new skills and paved the way for the necessary transition from fossil fuels.
In the short space of twelve months the Tory government has enacted no less than fourteen new articles of legislation which, combined, have severely undermined the ability of renewable energy enterprises to secure new business and finance new installations. The impact has been to delay building the new distributed energy infrastructure that we desperately need to keep our energy bills affordable in the future.
The exclusion of community energy from the Enterprise Investment Scheme, coupled with the removal of pre-accreditation of the Feed-In-Tariff, has made it much more difficult for community energy co-ops to create viable and attractive financial models to attract new investment. The Feed-In-Tariff itself, the primary financial incentive for the renewable energy industry, has been reduced by a staggering 91% in just last 5 years.
This not only massively undermines the ability of community energy organisations to pay for and install new clean energy projects, it creates a huge degree of uncertainty and instability in an industry that is still establishing itself. No wonder that several solar power companies have been forced out of business in recent months.
To put this in context, a recent “Renewables 2016” report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (Ren21) shows that investment in clean energy is at an all time global high, especially in developing countries like Brazil, China, and India.
A 100% renewable energy supply is the inevitable future for the UK and indeed the world, and moreover, is supported by nine out of ten people. Despite opposition from a Government that is supposed to act in the best interests of its people, the UK still managed generate a mighty 83.3 terawatt hours of renewable electricity in 2015, accounting for 24.7% of the total electricity mix.
Each year that the industry has to fight for every small victory is another year that millions of tons of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, locking in more climate change and damaging our air quality.
The fact is that we cannot sit back and simply wait for things to get better. It is up to everyone to pressure your MP into supporting renewables as the long term energy generation source in the UK rather than opposing them. The same goes for local authorities.
Write to your MP and Councillor expressing your concern over recent policy changes and subsidy cuts, or even better, join a community energy initiative in your area and invest directly in building a more secure and clean energy future for our nation.
05 May 2016
Have you heard about smart meters? Three million have already been installed in the UK, with plans to fit a total of 53 million of them into 30 million businesses and homes by 2020. Smart Energy GB (the national campaign promoting the rollout) has just launched a campaign to raise awareness on television. Many concerns have been expressed about the £12 billion programme, such as potential health and privacy implications, as well as doubts about the true benefits and cost. Over the course of this blog, BHESCo examines the pros and cons of this new technology, and asks if this enforced rollout is really in our national interest.
Benefits And Cost Concerns
The original idea for smart meters started in an EU mandate which said the rollout should only be undertaken by member states should it provide economic benefit. The rollout is funded by the consumer, as energy suppliers will pass on the cost through their bills, estimated at £500 per person. Last year, Smart Energy GB spent more than £15 million on its campaign to encourage the uptake of smart meters. It is questionable whether funding for the campaign is providing value for money for the bill payer, compared with other energy investments. For example, the total amount spent on the FIT and RHI, has been capped to £75 million to £100 million per year, for the generation of clean, renewable energy to keep the lights on.
Smart meters send remote readings of your energy usage to your energy supplier, meaning people no longer have to submit meter readings or receive estimated bills. The benefit of accurate bills would be invaluable should the process be infallible, which unfortunately, it is not. The requirement for constant two-way transmission from the meter to the energy supplier is part of the cost of the service and will increase your energy bill, plus it is questionable whether any savings will be made from reductions in your energy consumption. The rollout makes it mandatory for communications service providers, like BT to provide 100% WAN coverage. The cost of this coverage will be paid by the energy suppliers. BHESCo believes there is considerable question as to the cost benefit of the smart meter rollout programme to the consumer. Smart meters are designed to smooth out peaks in demand by introducing “Time Of Use” tariffs. This demand management process only works if the take up of Time Of Use tariffs is high. The Daily Mail projects that the energy suppliers will charge more at peak times, meaning that electricity and gas used in the evenings could cost 99% more than at other times.
As part of the national rollout you will get a smart gas meter, a smart electricity meter, a smart meter display and a communications hub. The communications hub will link the system to a similar wireless network outside your home. According to Smart Energy GB these smart meters will give you more control over your energy use, help you understand your bills and allow you to see what the energy you use is costing. They claim that smart meters will benefit Britain as a whole, and are just the first step in a major infrastructure upgrade that will total £100 billion of investment. Supporters claim that smart meters will help make it easier to switch suppliers creating more transparency in the industry.
The wireless radio wave frequency radiation emitted by the communications hub to the energy supplier, and from the energy meter to the smart meter display, have been identified as a potential health risk. The type of radiation emitted by such devices is classified as a class 2b carcinogen by the World Health Organization. A significant number of complaints have been lodged with physicians in countries where smart meters have already been installed, ranging from problems falling asleep and staying asleep to chronic fatigue, headaches, migraines, vertigo, tinnitus, unhealthy blood pressure levels, concentration and memory problems, learning and behavioural disorders and a more frequent incidence of ADHD among children. And humans aren’t the only species affected; all of nature is damaged by radio wave frequency radiation. The most widely publicised harm has been experienced by bees (colony collapse), birds (dwindling numbers of migratory species) and trees (sudden oak death and ash die back). Unsurprisingly, such information about the health implications of smart meters has been ignored by Smart Energy GB in its promotional campaign. In fact, the televised adverts don’t really say anything about what a smart meter actually is or does:
The ever-present challenge of making a clear cause and effect link between smart meter radiation and the impact on health means that it is wise to proceed with caution. We need to admit that we do not have enough medical information to proceed with such a rollout and should wait until there is satisfactory evidence that the technology is safe. Until this happens, it is better to limit the exposure of households to radiowave radiation. History has shown us the dangers of introducing new inventions without sufficient knowledge of health impacts, notable examples include the use of DDT, Thalidomide, X-ray, smoking, asbestos, heavy metals, and uranium exposure. In all these cases, communities were exposed to new products before the science was completely understood.
Smart DCC Ltd is responsible for the smart energy code. Its officers are representatives from the large energy companies. There are no consumer groups like Citizens Advice on their management committee. According to an investigative report done by the Daily Mail, smart meters could be used to spy on your home. Data collected by the smart meter could be used by marketing companies to reveal how people consume their electricity and gas. Privacy and data protection are important individual freedoms. With Smart DCC Ltd being run by the large energy suppliers, there are issues concerning the confidentiality of our consumption data that have not yet been sufficiently safeguarded by regulation.
We believe that smart meters are the way forward for creating efficient consumption of local, distributed energy generation. While BHESCo supports the use of smart meters in initiatives like Energy Local (http://www.energylocal.co.uk), we believe that the meters should be connected to fibre optic networks, where any potential health risks caused by wireless radio waves may be overcome, where participation is completely voluntary and where privacy is ensured through confidential, protected data networks. The impacts of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation must be tested and understood before a rollout of this scale is undertaken. We are surprised that the programme is ignoring the health impacts of wireless smart meters entirely. We also believe that £12 billion would be better spent on modifications to distribution networks, where there is no capacity to connect new local renewable energy generation. This is prohibiting the growth of renewables, holding back economic resilience.
The solution is simple, however, more costly: Using the UK’s fibre optic network to communicate the signal instead of the envisioned wireless network would This could be rolled out in a smaller, more localised campaign, in conjunction with Energy Local campaigns.
 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35894922 /
 http://freiburger-appell-2012.info/en/observations-findings.php?lang=EN and http://www.naturalscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/wfns_brochure_microwaves-bees_english.pdf
30 Mar 2016
For the third year, BHESCo has been a champion for the Big Energy Saving Network, a national programme that aims to encourage people to save money on their energy bills by switching supplier or tariff.
It is important to review your energy tariff annually, comparing prices against the market to make sure that you’re not paying too much for your energy supply. The idea is that by switching frequently, consumers can minimise the price they pay, forcing suppliers to keep prices low to retain their customers.
Unfortunately, the energy industry is plagued by inertia, and very few consumers exercise their right to switch annually, if indeed ever. Latest figures estimate that roughly 7 in 10 people are on an expensive standard tariff, paying on average £305 more than the cheapest tariffs available.
The goal of the Big Energy Saving Network is for Champions to go into their communities to engage consumers with their energy bills, demonstrating that there are many choices available and that great savings can be made by those who choose to switch.
As a BESN Champion, BHESCo was able to establish nearly 20 energy advice desks around the city, stretching all the way from Hangleton to Whitehawk and from Moulsecomb to the Lanes. Locations varied from universities to children’s centre’s, health surgeries to pubs, and even to the heart of the Council in Bartholomew House.
Since 2014, BHESCo has supported nearly 1,000 local residents to save an estimated £56,000 on their fuel bills. In addition, we’ve helped people to qualify for the Warm Home Discount, tackle debt to suppliers, and make their homes more energy efficient.
Being a part of the Big Energy Saving Network has given us a fantastic opportunity to get out into the community and meet the many wonderful people that make Brighton and Hove what it is. We are immensely thankful to every foodbank and community cafe that welcomed us through their doors, and we look forward to seeing all our new friends again when the next BESN starts in October 2017.
In the meantime, for impartial and expert advice on your energy bills, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our government claims that we need fracking in order to provide long-term energy security. They are using fear to convince us that we need to drill beneath our homes and areas of outstanding natural beauty in order to ‘keep the lights on’. This is special interest politics in its most malicious and dangerous form.
Fracking makes zero economic sense for the taxpayer. Climate activist and author of The Winning of the Carbon War, Jeremy Leggett said that it costs $3 to buy $1 worth of gas produced by fracking companies in America.
Lessons from America
You don’t have to be George Osborne to understand that this is not a winning economic model for Britain. Fracking is creating uninhabitable ghost towns all along the Marcellus shale, ground-zero for fracking in Ohio. The water is not fit to drink, you can’t grow anything healthy in the soil, animals can no longer graze without ingesting toxins from the grass, and the air is not fit to breathe. There are reports of increasing numbers of people in the US and Australia who live around fracking sites who are becoming gravely ill.
Fracking also uses a lot of water. The State of California decided that there is no reasonable way of dumping the waste water from offshore drilling, so they decided to dump the 8 billion gallons of contaminated fracking water into the Pacific Ocean. This water becomes poisoned by harmful chemicals such as benzene and chlorine. Fracking companies are not required to disclose the chemical composition of the fluids they use.
Hope Not Lost
We are living in an amazing time with incredible technological capabilities. Today in the UK, there are new business models being developed through partnerships between community energy groups, progressively thinking energy suppliers, renewable energy project developers, and local councils. These business models strive to create local energy generation to serve the communities where they are based, as was the case in the UK in the early 1900s.
For a small island nation the UK is lucky to have such an abundance of alternative energy sources available to us; we have Wind, Solar, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Tidal, Wave, and Anaerobic Digestion, to name a few. Additionally, we have new technologies that can improve the ways that we consume energy, like demand response systems, smart grids and energy efficiency measures.
Community Energy = Real Energy Security
BHESCo is part of a network of 20 Community Energy groups across Sussex and Kent that are devoted to creating local energy generation to provide REAL ENERGY SECURITY. We need to end the idea of short term thinking in our energy network and consider that energy generation projects can provide reliable energy sources for 25 to 30 years and longer.
We need to invest in our electricity grid to create the new distributed energy system that is needed to offer the taxpayer REAL ENERGY SECURITY. Fracking most certainly is not going to provide this in the long term, nor will it reduce prices for the 15,000 people in Brighton & Hove who cannot afford to heat their homes.
The current Government’s energy strategy makes no economic or environmental sense, and we say loud and clear No to Fracking! We want to leave behind a long-term legacy of clean, locally owned renewable energy that serves the community and preserves the environment.
22 Dec 2015
As an amazing year for BHESCo draws to a close, we wanted to take a moment to share some of our proudest successes of the past 12 months, and to look ahead at all we can expect from 2016.
This year, we launched our first ever Share Offer in June, raising nearly £170,000 of investment from our new members. This gave us the tools we need to help local businesses and residents develop renewable energy projects around Brighton and Hove, like solar PV and biomass, as well as investing in energy saving measures like insulation, LED lighting and double-glazing.
With our first wave of projects nearly complete, we now have a number of exciting new projects ready to begin in 2016. Before we tell you about what’s to come, let’s take a quick look back at some of our highlights from this year.
Through BHESCo’s innovative ‘Pay As You Save’ model, we helped this local wood pulp to paper production company to install a biomass boiler on their premises which now provides 100% of heat needs to the manufacturing plant, offices, cottage, and studio. Whilst helping the customer to enjoy an immediate drop in fuel bills for no up front cost, the biomass boiler (which is powered by wood-pellets) also helps to offset the equivalent of 503 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. We partnered with ‘A Greener Alternative‘ to help us deliver this project.
We are currently installing a 4kW solar PV panel array for Netfuse, which will help save money on electricity bills as well as lowering the company’s carbon footprint. To increase the energy efficiency of the building, BHESCo has engaged Organic Roofs to install a green roof, will install secondary glazing on the windows, and replace all the lights with highly efficient LEDs. The LED are guaranteed to provide office quality lighting for five years.
Solar For Homes, Whitehawk & Moulsecomb
In a joint project with Brighton and Hove City Council and Joju Solar, BHESCo went to the community to support the installation of free solar panels for 25 Council owned properties around the Whitehawk and Moulsecomb areas. While helping to save tenants up to £130 each year on their energy bills (at least 2 months for free for the next 25 years ), we anticipate carbon savings of just over 40 tonnes every year of CO2 equivalent.
The Werks, 45 Church Road, Brighton
The Werks on Church Road is a collaborative work hub for the digital creatives. BHESCo replaced an obsolete, flourescent tube lighting design with a high efficiency LED system. The project was complex, as customer an occupants had their own requirements and preferences. We completed the project to the customer’s satisfaction. We also installed motion sensors to improve energy savings. Annually, Werks Group save over 4200kg CO2 equivalent .
NEW PROJECTS for 2016
Food Waste To Community Energy
In October BHESCo announced to the residents of Hangleton and Knoll our plan to develop an Anaerobic Digester in the area, which would see local food waste diverted from landfill and incineration to be used to create clean renewable energy. We ran two information days and had a great turn out with people showing lots of support. We also heard from residents who had concerns around noise, smell, traffic and the visual impact, and we discussed ways that we will limit these impacts through technology and due care.
This month, working with Brighton Paper Round we have started contacting organisations that produce food waste (including restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools, care homes, and many others) asking them to commit to separating and recycling their food waste through our scheme. Not only will this divert useful food waste from landfill and create locally produced clean energy but it also makes great financial sense. According to a study conducted by Brighton Paper Round, organisations shifting their food waste from the general waste increase will see a drop in the costs for the collection and disposal of up to 40%.
It’s another win win win created by BHESCo! If you know of, or are part of, an organisation that may be interested in signing up to our food waste collection then get in contact today to find out how we can help to lower your environmental impact, reduce your waste disposal costs and create low cost energy for the community.
BHESCo To Launch New Home Visit Service
We are delighted to announce that we will be launching a new home energy assessment service from January 2016. We aim to provide an affordable and impartial service which enables everyone in the community to receive a complete home energy assessment tailored to their circumstances.
Our friendly and professional Home Energy Advisors will arrange to visit your home to identify how you could save money and stay warm in the winter months. They will also be on hand to provide impartial energy supplier switching advice and can advise on whether you may be eligible for available benefits or grants towards your energy bills.
BHESCo would like show our enormous appreciation to everyone who has invested in the co-operative, or has worked alongside us on our various projects, or has volunteered some of their time to help us along our way. The Co-operative really is more than the sum of its parts and we could not have enjoyed such a fantastic 2015 without the support of you all.
So thank you,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!