09 Mar 2016
The Age of the Atom was to herald a new dawn in humanity’s quest for energy. Euphoric reports at the time declared that this revolutionary new energy source was so abundant it would be “too cheap to meter“. Our energy worries, we were assured, were over forever…
History of course, has shown none of this naive optimism to be true, and sadly will it prove the same for our current cabinet’s total reliance on nuclear power as the basis of energy policy.
Hinkley is expected to cost between £18-24 billion to construct, of which UK taxpayers are expected to subsidise a significant portion. To compound matters, a substantial share of the profits generated will leave the country due to the plant being owned by French and Chinese investors. Worse still, a future based on nuclear power will maintain the centralised energy system we have now, and let’s not even get started on the cost of clean up, transport security and waste disposal that future generations will thank us for…
Similarly, nuclear weapons are an expensive and dangerous consumer of taxpayer money, and BHESCo is steadfastly against the renewal of Britain’s Trident defence system. We were very proud to join Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn, and the thousands of protesters in Trafalgar Square to voice our opposition to this £100 billion so-called deterrent, and were profoundly moved to see that so many people shared our view of a nuke-free future.
BHESCo suggests that all money intended to be invested in new nuclear power stations or weapons be transferred to the production of clean, renewable energy. Imagine what we could build with £100 billion? This money could be invested in all manner of new and proven technologies as well as going towards an electricity grid that can handle the distributed energy system we need in order to create real energy security.
The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. It is time to say goodbye to our atomic past, and move toward a brighter, cleaner, and fairer future. We say No to Nuclear Power because this makes the most sense for the future inhabitants of our planet. We say No to Nuclear Power because it does not make sense for our country.
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!
15 Oct 2015
In the past few months, we have seen some challenging developments in the renewable energy sector. Two key announcements from the Government have stripped away the stabilising wheels for clean energy, removing some of the incentives on which the industry has relied, making it harder to progress. The reasons were effectively that prices for renewable energy has come down as to no longer require the same level of subsidy that it did five years ago.
The first announcement came in July 2015, when HMRC proclaimed that renewable electricity would lose its exemption to the Climate Change Levy, a tax on the supply of commodities to businesses. Renewables have been exempt from this charge since is was introduced in 2001, providing a subsidy for low margin investments in renewable generation.
The reason given for this change is to “correct an imbalance in the tax system by preventing taxpayer’s money benefitting renewable electricity generated overseas”. However, this logic is refuted by industry insiders who argue that more than 70% of the Levy Exemption Certificates went to UK providers. The removal of this tax exemption could mean a drop in income for some renewable schemes of between 5-6%. Although this may not sound like much, this could mean the difference between sink or swim for some smaller companies, as Dr Gordon Edge of RenewableUK explains:
“Yet again the Government is moving the goalposts, pushing some marginal projects from profit into loss. It’s another example of this Government’s unfair, illogical and obsessive attacks on renewables”
The great irony is that because the renewable industry is nearing price-parity with fossil fuels, and because the Government wants to ensure low energy prices for hard-working families, the requirement of clean energy generators to pay toward the Climate Change Levy will lower their profit margins, meaning they will need to raise prices in order to compensate.
The second measure affecting the renewables industry came from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), when it announced on 22 July 2015 that it would be removing preliminary accreditation from the Feed-in-Tariff. Pre-Accreditation means giving green energy generators a guaranteed tariff level in advance of a project being commissioned, which is vital for financial modelling and creating investment offers. Removing this guarantee means that energy providers would receive the tariff rate as at the date they apply for full accreditation. In the DECC’s own words, “this will mean that a developer will not be certain of the level of suport they will receive under the scheme until the point at which their application is received by Ofgem”.
According to the DECC, pre-accreditation was introduced to “remove a large degree of risk” and to “offer greater certainty to industry”. The table below illustrates the huge increase of installations deployed under the FiT pre-accreditation scheme since it was introduced in 2012:
So what could be the reason for removing such a successful incentive now? The rationale provided by Amber Rudd, minister of DECC, is that there has been a much greater uptake in renewable energy projects than was forecast. Predictions had been for approximately 750,000 new renewable installations nationwide between 2010-2020, whereas the reality is that there have already been 700,000 installations as of 2015. This has “significantly outstripped expectations”, meaning that budget forecasts for 2020 are no longer workable.
It makes no sense that at the same time we’re told climate change is the fight of our generation, we are being also being told that the UK cannot afford the present pace of renewable growth. Or that energy security is a big national priority, then stop the support for the one area that provides it. It is tragic that just as renewables are challenging fossil fuels for market dominance, their progress has been curtailed. The irony of the green industry being punished for exceeding expectations is absurd, especially at a time when financial incentives for fracking are are on the rise. As David Attenborough said in his recent interview with Barack Obama, to transition to a low-carbon economy all we need to do is make renewables cheaper than fossil fuels, and common sense market mechanisms will do the rest.
However, there is cause for optimism. Given the tremendous advances in the efficiency of renewable technology, as well as the recent growth of solar power in the UK, perhaps Amber Rudd and DECC are right; perhaps the renewable industry is resilient enough to ride without support. And the decision to cut the Feed-in-Tariff has not yet been settled either, with consultations underway (please complete this one by 10:10 here), so if you do feel this is wrong, contact your MP and let them know.
Moreover, even without the subsidies of the past, there are still enormous opportunities to lower our energy bills as well as carbon emissions through energy efficiency measures, such as insulation, draught-proofing, or double glazing.
If the recent developments in the renewable industry have highlighted one thing, its that communities cannot rely on fluctuating external factors if they desire a stable and fair energy supply. To defend our communities against such unexpected changes in the future, we need to take control of our own energy networks, which will ensure resilience and price stability.
And what’s more, we will not be penalised for our successes.
The Conservative budget announcement in July was not good news for the renewables industry, nor for members of the public who are concerned about climate change, rising energy prices and the impact that extreme methods of extracting oil and gas will have on our air, water and soil (1,2). Support for the renewable industry and tackling climate change appears be drying up at a time when we need them more than ever (3).
We see that there are cuts ahead, so that even large coal–fired power stations like Drax, who were seen as the UK’s worst carbon dioxide polluter, are complaining about how their transition to biomass is being undermined(4,5). Instead there is massive funding of taxpayers money pouring into the nuclear industry to support the construction of new nuclear power plants, decommissioning and the long-term management of its toxic waste legacy (6). We know that nuclear is not a solution for climate change or keeping the lights on as the problems are looming and it takes 15 years to build a nuclear power station. Then there’s tax breaks for the shale gas extraction industry(7), although most of us oppose “fracking” which creates numerous problems for local communities, wastes more taxpayers money because the protests against fracking in areas that are precious to us will not abate. Besides the obvious detriment to our environment, the untold clean-up costs after it’s sucked the last drop of ‘fracked’ gas from the ground beneath us (8,9) and the impact on our water supply.
We need to ask some questions; who benefits from these subsidies? How are the investments made by this government going to benefit us, the taxpayer, in the long-term? Are we receiving value for money on governments investment of our taxes and finally – Why aren’t they listening to us? Already we are paying too much for our energy. Even the Prime Minister, has moved on to the former Labour leader’s territory, and is considering a temporary cap on our fuel bills as a result of the monopolising power of just 6 big energy corporations controlling over 90% of the UK energy market (10). Unfortunately, this is only a plaster for the bigger problem, which is that our energy strategy that is not fit for purpose.
There are solutions to these problems. There is a growing movement of local community energy groups across the UK, particularly, social enterprises and co-operatives like BHESCo here in Brighton and Hove. By building our own renewable energy generation and improving the thermal efficiency of our built environment, we can take some of the power out of the hands of the big corporations inflicting price increases and reduce our energy costs, improve the energy efficiency of our homes, stimulate the local economy, tackle fuel poverty and contribute to mitigating the biggest global threat to our existence, climate change. We can join other successful communities across Europe and all across the globe who are turning to more democratic, decentralised, community-owned, renewable energy solutions, controlled by us and for us (11).
After the success of the last 2 years, the Big Energy Saving Network (BESN) BHESCo is part of a consortium of community energy groups that has applied for support for two energy champions starting again this autumn/winter (12). We will be encouraging vulnerable customers to make themselves known to us because we can help them save money by reviewing their energy bills, offering impartial switching advice to the cheapest tariffs, general advice on energy efficiency in the home and how to keep warm this winter. We will also be taking action to help people be more energy efficient through small measures that we will implement in home visits.
We really can reclaim the power. It’s up to us to do it together. That’s what Community Energy is all about.
1. Budget 2015: Key climate and energy announcements: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/07/summer-budget-2015-key-climate-and-energy-announcements/
2. Chancellor to push up renewable energy taxes in Budget with ‘climate shaped hole’: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2416918/chancellor-to-push-up-renewable-energy-taxes-in-budget-with-climate-shaped-hole
3. Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession
4. End of climate levy exemption dents Drax: http://nicosiamoneynews.com/2015/07/08/end-of-climate-levy-exemption-dents-drax/
5. End support for Drax: stop subsidies for biomass power and phase out coal! http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2840617/end_support_for_drax_stop_subsidies_for_biomass_power_and_phase_out_coal.html
6. County councils sidelined from nuclear waste dump site decisions: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/12/county-councils-nuclear-waste-dump-sites
7. UK’s shale gas revolution falls flat with just 11 new wells planned for 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/19/uk-shale-gas-revolution-falls-flat-just-11-new-wells-planned-2015
8. Fracking plans rejected: Lancashire council throws out Cuadrilla proposal – at it happened: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/11705333/Fracking-decision-Lancashire-live.html
9. No fracking at Balcombe, says energy company Cuadrilla: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/no-fracking-at-balcombe-says-energy-company-cuadrilla-9081875.html
10. PM ‘to consider’ temporary cap on high UK energy bills (July 7th, 2015 5:50 pm): http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/843585e6-2474-11e5-9c4e-a775d2b173ca.html
11. Tory ‘blue crap’ means UK is falling behind in global switch to clean energy:
12. Big Energy Saving Network 2015/16: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/big-energy-saving-network-grant-offer-fund
17 Jul 2015