02 Nov 2017
Some people, including political leaders, believe that environmental levies add cost to our annual energy bills, subsidising the construction of expensive wind and solar farms, making energy unaffordable for millions of people. Sadly, these people are being mislead, influenced by the large energy suppliers, like British Gas who recently blamed environmental taxes for their most recent price hikes.
The misinformation spoon fed to politicians by those whose interests lie in the preservation of a fossil fuel based energy industry is consumed blindly by our politicians who are overwhelmed by the amount of data that they must process to keep up to date. The energy industry seems to be an area in which most politicians are especially uninformed, or worse, deceived. Consumers are just concerned about rising energy prices, accepting the information given to them by energy suppliers trying to keep their customers.
The truth is that fossil fuel energy is subsidised at a much higher rate, more than two thirds higher, than renewable energy. These subsidies are funded directly by the taxpayer, through tax credits to the shale gas exploration companies or tax breaks on investment of oil drilling and refining equipment. Since tax breaks are not transported directly to our energy bills, they are less obvious to consumers. Other subsidies funded by the taxpayer are embedded in departmental budgets, like the billions per year spent to maintain our nuclear power infrastructure is embedded in the budget of the department of Business and Industrial Strategy. Direct funding of activities by the taxpayer allows for the activities to take place outside of public scrutiny.
Tax breaks for fossil fuels are funded by the taxpayer, investments in the renewable energy infrastructure that we need to ensure affordable and long lasting sources of energy for the future are funded by the bill payer. There are many arguments that can be supported economically, that investments in renewable energy like wind and solar, pay back over the life of the energy generation because we don’t have to pay for the cost of the fuel, it is free. The cost of the fuel incorporates the exploration cost, drilling cost transport cost of these fossilised relics we use for “cheap energy”. If the taxpayer funded our renewable energy infrastructure, by diverting less tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry and funding clean energy, our energy bills would also decline, there would be no need for ‘eco taxes’.
The truth is that for years onshore wind has been the cheapest form of energy, yet development of onshore wind generation has been discouraged by this government. In June, 24% of the electricity in the UK was produced by solar panels. 800,000 homes have solar panels on their roofs and 200,000 have solar thermal hot water. Just recently, the price of electricity from offshore wind was trading at half the price of electricity from new nuclear power on the capacity market. It is time to stop the distorted, misinformed news on renewable energy and to hold our politicians accountable for supporting the construction of more renewable energy in our communities.
We can work together to ensure that we have affordable heat and electricity into the future and stop listening to the propoganda on Eco Tax, or that the lights will go out without expensive new nuclear. Battery storage is creating the reliability we need into renewable energy, eliminating the need for base load power.
Now is the time to support your local community energy group, to get behind the movement for local energy and stop accepting the highly selective news intended to manipulate public opinion coming from the media as our truth. We can create a cleaner, safer world for our children if that is what we choose to do.
As part of our work providing energy advice we often meet residents who have electric storage heaters installed their homes. Regrettably, it is less often that we meet anyone who is happy with this system.
Storage heaters are notorious for releasing heat when its not needed, and then having no energy left when it gets cold. Thankfully, a new technology called the ‘VCharge Dynamo‘ is hoping to end to this dilemma, offering a reliable way of releasing heat when its needed the most.
Electric storage heating was invented as a way to make use of the surplus energy generated by nuclear power stations at night. The idea is to charge a storage heater using electricity that’s offered at a discounted rate from 12am-7am (called an ‘Economy 7’ tariff). The heater can then be set to release heat when its needed later in the day.
Unfortunately, the reality rarely matches the concept, and many residents complain that the system overheats first thing and then runs out by evening, leaving them freezing at night. However, with VCharge this unreliability will soon be a thing of the past.
Described as a ‘retrofit technology’, VCharge is fitted to existing storage heaters to allow accurate temperature control when needed. The automated system uses cloud-based control to maintain a level of comfort determined by the resident, which can be even be programmed by phone, tablet, or laptop.
And best of all, because the device is cloud-connected, it can intelligently make use of cheap daytime electricity prices that result from the increasing levels of renewable energy generation.
The manufacturer estimates that the VCharge Dynamo can reduce energy consumption and fuel bills by 20%, on top of providing reliable warm homes for residents.
The scheme has already been successfull piloted in Newcastle, and now BHESCo and Community Energy South will be trialing the technology in Sussex.
If you’re in Brighton & Hove and live in a large tower block that has storage heaters, we’d be intersted in hearing from you.
Give us a call on 01273 766 671 or complete our Contact Form.
23 Mar 2017
“I wouldn’t want to be the MP in Parliament who voted to oppose Hinkley C”.
With a very concerned look mixed with fear, this quote comes from an insider in the Halls of Power of the Energy Industry. Yet he works for a company that has chosen to put at the heart of its strategy the preparation and facilitation of the transition to a distributed network. This, in essence, is a bet on the proliferation of local renewable energy generation, and a move away from the inefficiency of centralised power stations. A distributed network is needed when there are lots of energy generators installed on rooftops, in the hills, in the sea and under the streets of our cities, towns and villages.
BHESCo estimates that there is almost 50GW worth of applications for battery storage facilities wanting to connect with the 8 Distribution Network Operators and the National Grid. This is about 10 times the power generation capacity of Hinkley C and Moorside combined, at a fraction of the price to the taxpayer and to future taxpayers. Granted, this is an emerging technology, as yet without a track record, however in the 10 years it will take for these nuclear power plants to be operational, battery storage will have become mainstream. As Steven Holliday, former CEO of the National Grid, announced in 2015, “base load power is obsolete.” Base load nuclear power is wasteful, where at present 60% of the electricity produced is lost in conversion, transmission and distribution.
Despite pleas from over 160 organisations, this year’s national budget includes a ‘Solar Tax’ collected in the form of business rates. If you own a solar array less than 50kW, the value of your property for business rates will be increased by the nominal value of the solar array on your roof. This will have enormous implications on small businesses that have become solar generators because the tax is most likely to approximate or exceed any benefit that they receive for the free electricity from the sun. Because any investment in energy generation requires a certain return in order for investors to commit their hard earned cash, a business rates tax on solar arrays eliminates any incentive to accelerate our transition from fossil fuels by investing in generating your own electricity. The ‘solar tax’ is an intentional assault on free power from the sun as, for example, gas combined heat and power systems have been exempt from business rates since 2001.
Now consider the subsidies for investors in shale gas exploration, or ‘fracking’. This subsidy comes in the form of tax breaks called Enhanced Capital Allowances that permit firms that are investing in shale gas exploration to deduct the cost of the equipment directly against their taxable income, in many cases virtually eliminating any tax due. For companies like Centrica, who are a large investor in Cuadrilla, these tax breaks run into the millions  . Other similar tax breaks will be enjoyed by Ineos, who intend to invest £168 million in shale gas exploration (which at 40% tax relief, amount to £68 million) or IGas who invested £16 million in equipment in 2015. Nuclear power on the other hand costs the taxpayer billions each year for transport, storage and decommissioning of existing power plants alone, before we even being to count the cost of constructing new ones such as Hinkley C and Moorside, as each of these proposed plants are being constructed using unproven technologies. Simply put, the “solar tax” is an assault on the little guy, just another addition to the unfair tax policies that protect the 10% and burden the 90%, in this case, small businesses.
For anyone who believes that we must take responsibility for our energy supply now for the sake of our climate and our energy security, we wonder: what is the difference in tax receipts for the Treasury if the money comes from the clean energy industry or from dirty fossil fuels or nuclear? Or do we really want to spend our money as taxpayers supporting a government that is afraid to make the decisions that we need to ensure that we have clean, affordable energy in the future? Wouldn’t we rather ensure that our schools have sufficient funds to properly educate our children, or that the NHS continues to thrive as an accessible customer service focused health care system?
Join the fight today by writing to your MP, signing an anti-fracking or anti-nuclear petition, or becoming an investor in Community Energy. Make sure that important decisions about our future are made from a position of courage, not fear. Mostly make sure that you are informed, as such short sighted changes to tax legislation will have long term impacts on our quality of life.
 www.greentechmedia.com energydesk.greenpeace.org
22 Nov 2016
A giant £100 billion black hole is predicted to dominate the coming year’s economic outlook for the taxpayer, judging by recent comments made by our new Chancellor, Philip Hammond. This eye-watering annual deficit represents a doubling of the national debt since the economic crisis of 2008.
Naturally, the government will continue its slash and burn tactics to supposedly lower the national debt by making more cuts to the valuable social services that distinguish us as human beings. The impending Autumn Statement is expected to announce the continued pursuit of policies (disguised as an economic strategy) that do not yield improvements to our collective quality of life, lead to economic recovery, strengthen our currency or even deliver the promise of balancing our national budget.
Failure to deliver on this last point in particular makes it abundantly clear from Mr Hammond’s Autumn Statement that the relentless pursuit of austerity is ideological, magically aspirational and zealously misguided. Even Conservative Ian Duncan Smith accused the Government of balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable in society.
The way out of this black hole is not by cutting social services. It is by investing in important infrastructural projects like renewable energy and public transport networks, and increasing lending to creative, responsible entrepreneurs. The old excuse that this government inherited the deficit from the previous one is tired, worn, and devoid of any responsibility or complicity. The massive deficit inherited in 2010 was £76.6 billion, but the Tories have managed to increase this deficit to over £100 billion while destroying the quality of life for many of our most vulnerable citizens.
The latest BBC Panorama programme about Care Homes showed the appalling conditions that residents were subjected to at centres managed by the Morleigh Group. The directors of this private care home operator lived in a large stately home, a stark contrast to the residents and attendants alike. In one example uncovered by the programme, care home attendants had to separate a bedpan from a neglected 90 year old patient’s buttocks because she had been sitting on it for so long, her buttocks had slipped into the pan. The poignant and burning questions are:
– Why do we neglect our elderly when they took care to raise us from small infants?
– Why has taking care of our elderly, become something to be outsourced? With the exception of hospice, surely our own families can look after each other?
Social services do not and should not deliver commercially attractive returns for taking care of our family members, providing medical assistance, public transport or other support services that may have once been provided by the community.
Clearly the government has money for the projects that they want to undertake. For example –
- Hinkley C Nuclear Power station, which will be funded to a great extent through the ‘Capacity Mechanism’, which basically means it will be financed by the taxpayer.
- The extraction of shale gas from our land, a process that is not proven safe, can turn our water into a toxic cocktail of hydrocarbon chemicals and is not expected to be economically attractive due to the poor quality of the extracted gas
- the expansion of Heathrow, where the government should be challenged on the robustness of their traffic projections into the next 20 years, considering the availability of fossil fuels for our transportation and energy services, the certain increase in the cost of flying and with proper value for money analysis undertaken to consider alternatives, like travel by train and other public services.
- the renewal of the Trident Nuclear Missile deterrant, at a cost of over £205 billion of tax payer money. The nature of a deterrent is that we must be attacked first. In this age of information technology, can this government demonstrate the value for money to the taxpayer of this enormous investment that only works after the damage has been done?
This is one more reason why the transition from fossil fuels is so important. As we take more services like the provision of energy away from fossil fuels by building more renewable energy generation, we have more gas and oil to run other industries, like transportation, where energy prices are certain to rise due to scarcity. Oil prices have already doubled since last February. Conventional sources of cheap oil have disappeared and the growing cost of generating energy under the government’s current energy strategy can be solved with current, proven technologies.
We believe that the government needs to apply austerity to its own practices; to eliminate departmental waste, to be accountable for responsible spending of taxpayers’ money, and to invest our money in projects that are well run. Our government seems to have sufficient funds for the military industrial complex and for short-sighted investments like Trident and Heathrow, so the money is there for a fully functioning welfare state should we choose to use it this to this end. Therefore we believe it is vanity projects like HS2 and Trident that must be sacrificed by Mr Hammond first, before cuts are made to our invaluable social welfare system.
14 Oct 2016
29 September 2016 was a landmark day for the British people. Greg Clark, the newly appointed head of the newly formed department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, signed an agreement with EDF, a company owned by the French government and with the Chinese government as a 33% investor, to proceed with the construction of the first new nuclear power plant in the UK in a generation. Despite all the fuss and furore, the dream of Hinkley C in Somerset is poised to become a reality, albeit by 2030. The Government claimed that UK businesses will benefit from 60% of the estimated £18 billion to be spent on the plant, with 26,000 jobs and internships created.
This decision is a disaster for our nation, primarily because it is an extreme waste of taxpayer money, poses a great threat to our country’s energy security, and to the safety and security of future generations.
Extreme waste of taxpayers’ money
60% of 26,000 jobs is no benefit when one considers that over 27,000 jobs have been lost in the past two years by the solar industry, decimated by Government cuts to the Feed in Tariff and by the death of the Green Deal. The EPR technology is not yet proven in the three countries already constructing the new nuclear power plants, causing each of their budgets to skyrocket out of control. The Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) plant in Finland was supposed to be operational in 2010. It is still not running today.
In December 2012, Areva (the nuclear plant supplier), estimated that the full cost of building the Finnish reactor will be about €8.5 billion, or almost three times the original delivery price of €3 billion. Compare this to the estimated price of the UK plant, estimated at between £18 billion to £29 billion. The UK taxpayer is not privy to the reasons why the plant cost more than 3 times the price in Finland. In Flamanville, France, cracks were found in the plant’s construction. Cracks have also been found in the Taishan facility, in China creating delays and mounting fear of radioactive leakage in Hong Kong, just 130 miles away.
If it is ever completed, the Hinkley C plant is expected to account for 7% of our electricity supply, with a capacity of 3.2GW. UK Power Networks has recently revealed that it has applications to install 6GW of energy storage to our electricity network, virtually eliminating the issue with renewable energy intermittency for a fraction of the cost of Hinkley C and a bringing lot more safety.
Dangerous stockpiles of plutonium in Britain
A catalogue of errors that occur unresolved eventually culminates in disaster. On 5 September 2016, the BBC broadcasted a Panorama programme on the serious accident that is likely to happen at Sellafield in Cumbria. It is hard to believe that our government will ensure UK jobs through the nuclear industry when Sellafield does not employ sufficient employees to sustain reliable safe operations.
The Nuclear Management Partnership, a consortium of French, UK and US companies that were running Sellafield was sacked in 2015 because they were spending too much money. The government has taken over control of the management of Sellafield. Since then, alarms are frequently reset without being investigated, creating conditions that pose an intolerable risk according to those who have managed Sellafield.
The Windscale fire on 10 October 1957 ranks 5 out of seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale. While the name has been changed to Sellafield, the severe dangers persist. An accident occurred in November 2013 forcing the plant to close for 11 months because exposure to radioactive dust made it unsafe to work there.
Experts who have worked at Sellafield say that if something happens, the safety team employed there are not equipped to handle it. Many experts believe that an accident is inevitable, because the plant frequently operates at below minimum safety levels. The poor management and run down infrastructure could lead to a fire that would emit a radioactive plume contaminating our air for 150km. Cracks could allow seepage that could expose the radioactive chemicals to the air. To date, no nuclear waste has been removed from a building that won’t last another 25 years.
Sellafield has the largest stockpile of plutonium in the world, more than the United States and Russia combined. Experts estimate that it will cost £162 billion to clean up Sellafield to make it safe. This experience alone makes it very clear that there is no room for new nuclear power generation on our small island home.
National & Energy Security
Concerns about our national security were raised by politicians and energy experts because of a lawsuit in the US against a Chinese investor in their nuclear power station. The concern is that the Chinese are using their position as investor to improve their knowledge of nuclear science that could be threatening to the national security of the host country.
Real energy security comes when our electricity and heat are affordable for everyone. The Hinkley C plant will not create energy security; in fact it is sure to increase our energy prices because of the guaranteed price that has been secured in the energy Capacity Market. The only way to create real affordable energy is for communities to take the power back into their own hands. This is what we at BHESCO believe, and this is what we will ceaselessly work towards until our own dream has become a reality, when the people of the UK will be writing about a new landmark day in our history.