Guest Blog, by Jaden Yang of University of California, Berkeley
Distributed generation such as rooftop solar panels creates an economic democracy where every person can generate electricity from their own solar photovoltaic cells. Another benefit is lower transmission losses since the solar energy comes directly from their rooftop. However, one of the biggest challenges of renewable energy is energy intermittency. Solar panels on a rooftop can only generate electricity during daylight hours, and if a solar panel generates more electricity than you can use in the moment or does not generate enough, electricity must be exported or drawn from the grid to compensate. For this reason, solar panels do not always generate electricity when the domestic demand is greatest.
Renewable energy has always faced challenges of consistency of supply and system integration. Some flexibility options to complement renewable energy are flexible peak power plants, grid integration, demand side management and battery storage. In California, a Net Metering policy that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid has given considerable benefits to solar panel owners. Unlike California, the UK has not implemented this policy widely, making battery storage systems a more attractive proposal to encourage the uptake of solar. Battery storage is not a new technology. Up until now, due to its expense, it hasn’t been widely used in the UK. It would allow solar PV owners to generate, convert and save excess electricity for use at a later time, enabling users to make maximum use of the electricity they have generated themselves, as well as providing a solution to intermittency and production/demand mismatch.
In order to make battery storage affordable and feasible, government subsidies on green technologies can enhance both business and environmental performance. First, clean technology businesses can increase their research budget with government subsidies to improve and reduce the cost of battery storage. Secondly, if battery storage becomes popular, less people use electricity from the grid. Thus, once solar panels and battery storage systems become prevalent in a community, people have less dependence on traditional fossil fuel power generation, which will have the effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we believe there is enormous potential for battery storage to enhance domestic renewable energy production, which itself encourages the development of better batteries in a virtuous circle.
Last week, Kayla Ente, Founder and CEO of Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative Ltd (BHESCo), delivered a speech to the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group at the Houses of Parliament about the role that battery storage can play in the growth of renewable energy in the UK.
Speaking to civil servants and industry experts, Ms Ente outlined the enormous potential that battery storage can have on renewable energy in the local community, as well as demonstrating how BHESCo will soon be pioneering this new technology at a sports facility in Brighton. The ability for solar power to provide electricity 24 hours a day could revolutionise energy markets and bring about a much quicker transition to a low carbon economy than is currently possible.
There is no doubt that the future of the global energy market will be based upon renewable energy sources. This inevitable transition will completely transform the international stock exchange, as well as the ways we use, buy, and source our energy. Anyone who still has stocks and shares in oil and coal should be very concerned, as impending international limits on the use of fossil fuels will soon mean that trillions of pounds of these investments become worthless ‘stranded assets’.
To investigate what these profound changes will mean for communities, BHESCo is hosting an event at the One Church on August 4th at 6pm. The evening is free to attend and will feature a keynote presentation from renowned industry expert Agamemnon Otero, MBE. CEO of Repowering London, and Director of Brixton Energy, Energy Garden and Clean Marine, Agamemnon is a London Leader and sits on the UK Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Office Community Energy Contact Group and has been recognised by the Queen with an MBE.
For more info and to book your free place, visit the Eventbrite Page.
Fabrica Art Gallery, situated in the heart of Brighton’s charismatic Laines shopping district, is one of the most iconic and recognisable buildings in the city. With an adventurous philosophy rooted in pushing boundaries and supporting innovative new ideas, Fabrica is an organisation very much in the same mould as BHESCo. There is a long history of close links between the art world and environmental conservation, and Fabrica has been continuing this tradition by working with BHESCo to lower their carbon emissions, as well as featuring exhibits which provoke discussion and contemplation about our relationship with the natural world.
To reduce the energy usage of the gallery, BHESCo was engaged by Fabrica to design and install a brand new cutting edge energy saving light installation. The lighting rig was custom built to the specific requirements of the gallery space, and consists of 50 LED lights which can be remotely controlled to suit each individual exhibition. BHESCo estimates that the installation will help Fabrica to save around 13,185kWh of energy a year, which is the equivalent of keeping 2.7 tonnes of harmful CO2 out of our atmosphere. And of course, a major benefit of using less energy is that the gallery will enjoy significantly reduced energy bills; we estimate annual savings to be £1,970!
All of this fits perfectly with the themes surrounding the summer events programme, led by Artist in Residence Lorenza Ippolito, which explores Brighton & Hove as a sustainable city and asks how artists and sustainable companies can work together to create places of enduring value. Fabrica’s current featured exhibition, The Third Paradise by Michelangelo Pistoletto, ‘seeks to reconcile the conflict between the first and second paradises of nature and human artifice. This conflict is leading toward global destruction but the third paradise offers a solution, a resolution that will save the planet and humanity’. The exhibition is on now and runs right through to the 29th August 2016.
Evidence from a variety of sources suggest that the world is heading for a serious energy shortage in the years ahead. Rapid economic development in China and India, coupled with consistent energy use in already industrialized nations, will put a huge strain the world’s ability to meet a projected rise in energy demand.
To everyone at BHESCo it seems abundantly clear that a consequence of this global rise in demand will be a huge corresponding rise in cost, unless action is taken now to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy waste.
“One thing is certain,” said Nobuo Tanaka, the IEA’s executive director, “the era of cheap oil is over.”
‘Business Green’ reported that the Government may have to extend financial support to UK industry, as the latest projections from the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) confirmed that business energy costs may rise by around a third by 2030.
According to one forecast published by The National Grid, the price of electricity could double over the next two decades. Indeed, this year already oil prices have nearly doubled from their February lows.
And of course, a tremendous increase in energy consumption by industrialising nations like China, India, and Brazil, will lead to an increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.
The IEA believe that this anticipated emissions increase would result in a 6oC rise in the average global temperature by 2100, which would likely devastate many species and coastal communities worldwide.
It is essential that visionary leadership on a national scale is matched by a proactive grassroots movement at the local level to promote a rollout of energy saving measures and habits. Much like communities came together to ‘Dig For Victory’ during the war, we feel that the same ethos is needed now in the battle against climate change.
There are dozens of small changes that households and businesses can make in order to lower their energy use and carbon emissions, ranging from to replacing lights that are frequently on with LEDs, replacing old inefficient appliances and topping up your insulation.
Through our Energy Saving Service, BHESCo is helping our local community to make these essential changes to the way we use energy. The beauty of it is that by initiating energy saving measures in the home and reducing carbon emissions, people are also able to make huge savings on their annual energy bills. Its almost like getting paid to save the planet!
For help reducing your energy use, please view our Energy Saving Tips page or contact BHESCo to book a visit from our Energy Saving Team.
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.