“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 As Steven Holliday, former CEO of the National Grid, announced in 2015, “base load power is obsolete.[1]” Base load nuclear power is wasteful, where at present 60% of the electricity produced is lost in conversion, transmission and distribution.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 [2] . 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.

 

[1] www.greentechmedia.com

[2]energydesk.greenpeace.org

Since the start of the year, five ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers (EDF, Npower, E.On, SSE, and Scottish Power) have announced steep increases of between 8-10% in their standard tariff, leaving millions of households in the UK paying around £100 more for their gas and electricity bills.

The various reasons cited for these price hikes include the weakening of the pound compared to the US Dollar, an increase in wholesale costs, and the expense of delivering the national smart meter rollout (a government policy that energy suppliers are required to deliver by 2020).

And although other large energy suppliers have yet to announce price rises of their own, it’s a safe bet that it’ll just a matter of time until all standard tariffs go up. In the past few months we have noted an average increase of 10p per day on the standing charges of some energy suppliers, which will impact the poorest in society because it is charged regardless of much much energy is used. To compound matters, the Guardian recently reported that there are 77 fixed-price tariffs due to expire before the end of April, meaning thousands of UK households will automatically be moved onto an expensive standard tariff unless they take action.

This is why it is vitally important for people to switch, to make sure they are not paying over the odds on their energy bills. Last year, we collectively overpaid £2 billion too much to energy suppliers because 88% of us didn’t switch.

If someone is currently on a standard tariff, BHESCo would recommend that they sign up to a fixed tariff as soon as possible and lock in to a good price for 12 or 24 months. For households whose fixed tariff is due to expire soon, you can switch to a new fixed tariff up to 40 days in advance of your current contract ending, without having to pay an exit fee. Details of your tariff expiration date can be found on your bill.

There are various energy tariff comparison websites you can use, but BHESCo finds My Utility Genius the easiest.

If you would like free and reliable advice on finding the best energy tariff for your home, please contact BHESCo today:

phone: 0800 999 6671

email: bills@bhesco.co.uk

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.

uk-government-gdp

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.

end-auserity

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.

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

s300_Hinkley60% 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 

nuclear-wasteA 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

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.

 

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!

PistolettoAll 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.

As part of the summer season around sustainability, BHESCo will be hosting an event at the gallery on 26th July at 6.30pm entitled ‘Tapping Newfound Energy Sources’, which examines how we help to empower individuals, charities and companies to take more control over their own energy supply. Follow the link to book a place.
http://fabrica.org.uk/events/tapping-newfound-energy-sources/

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