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 As Steven Holliday, former CEO of the National Grid, announced in 2015, “base load power is obsolete.[1]” Base load nuclear power is wasteful, where at present 60% of the electricity produced is lost in conversion, transmission and distribution.

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 they have purchased. 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.

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.

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.  Mostly make sure that you are informed, because the decisions that our politicians are making concerning important issues like what to tax, may have long term, damaging impacts on our quality of life.

 

[1] https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/national-grid-ceo-solar-on-the-rooftop-is-going-to-be-the-baseload

[2] http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/05/25/oil-tax-how-the-uk-taxpayer-could-spend-millions-funding-the-hunt-for-fracked-gas/

Virtuous CircleBrighton and Hove Energy Saving Co-operative (BHESCO) launched its bid to raise £1M to fund up to 10 community renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Sussex.

When people put money into the co-operative, they become members and buy shares. For a minimum investment of £250, each investor receives a 5-7% year on year return.  BHESCo has advanced assurance for the Enterprise Investment scheme giving 30% relief on the amount invested.

People who invest £500 will be able to claim £150 of that straight back in their next tax return. If the interest rate continues into subsequent tax years, investors will have doubled their money in 11 years. Moreover they will become part of a movement that helps reduce reliance on fossil fuels and contributes to a more sustainable future.

The offer was formally launched via Ethex, the UK’s award winning positive investment website. The minimum investment is £250 and the maximum is £100,000. To apply visit www.ethex.org.uk.

BHESCO’s share offer feeds into an innovative business model that forms a blueprint for energy groups across the country. By establishing a portfolio of services, including partnerships with energy suppliers, energy assessments and energy consultancy, the co-operative has successfully created a number of robust revenue streams. The model can be adopted in other towns and cities to ensure endurance of local energy groups.

The event has received coverage from local newspaper, The Argus and The Brighton & Hove Independent. The first installations include a biomass boiler for an independent school in Hove and a total retrofit of energy saving technology, including a solar array, for a social enterprise that manages affordable office spaces. BHESCO is also working with Brighton & Hove City Council to install solar on schools.

As well as benefitting from the government’s Feed-In-Tariff and renewable heat incentive – which guarantees a fixed price for community generated renewable energy for 20 years, the projects will also make significant savings on energy bills.

These factors combined give investors a 5% annual return on their investment, while enabling BHESCO to reinvest any profits in more community owned energy projects.

Kayla Ente, Founder and CEO said: “We’re used to thinking that doing good and making money are often opposed, especially when it comes to energy, but that doesn’t apply here.  This is a win-win-win – Sussex gets more renewable energy while properties are made more efficient, cutting our carbon footprint and energy bills. Businesses and organisations we work with get cheaper energy, and the people who’s money makes it happen receive an interest rate that’s 10 times better than what they’re getting on their bank savings.”

Notes for Editors:

BHESCO (www.bhesco.co.uk) is a co-operative society registered with the Financial Conduct Authority registered number 32097R.

The offer is not affected by the FSMA 2002 regulations on public offerings on shares. For more information on community shares, see www.communityshares.org.uk

Community energy is a fast-growing sector of the activity, aided by the payment of the Government’s Feed-in-tariff and renewable heat incentive that guarantees a fixed price for 20 years, enabling BHESCO to reward its members with strong financial returns.

 

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Our hustings event, modelled on the BBC 1 show ‘Question Time’ is a fantastic opportunity to ask your local Brighton Pavilion candidates all those pressing questions concerning climate change and with the aim of teasing out their different approaches.Panel members include Green Party candidate Caroline Lucas, Labour candidate Purna Sen, Conservative Party candidate Clarence Mitchell, Lib Dem candidate Chris Bowers and UKIP candidate Nigel Carter. In the chair: Simon Maxwell.

Everyone will get an opportunity for their question to be asked, questions will be submitted before the event.

Through this event, we aim to:

– Encourage young people/first time voters to engage
– Gain a better understanding of the local candidates stance on environmental issues
– Encourage lively debate and awareness of the issues
– Give you an opportunity to question your potential MP’s
The event is sponsored by Community Energy South – a new umbrella group for local community energy groups across Sussex and surrounding counties.

Ticket Prices : £5 and concession £3

Doors and bar open: 7.00pm
Deadline for submitting questions: 7.30pm

Debate starts: 8.00pm (prompt – please be in your seats!)

 

With the fossil fuel industry up to capacityred box Treasury, the government has ignored the obvious alternative and decided to hand out tax breaks for dirty gas, oil and nuclear power, despite overwhelming scientific and economic evidence of the benefits of renewable alternatives.

So, the air gets more polluted and unnecessarily cold homes continue to contribute to the misery and deaths of thousands of vulnerable people each winter.

We have the resources and the research, and most significantly the will to overcome the energy challenges we face in the UK. Within the space of a year 15 community groups in Sussex alone have joined forces to support energy savings and the devecold home2lopment of locally generated renewable energy. But those in power are sidestepping the obvious solution diverting taxpayers funds to uneconomic investments.

Instead, the government offers tax breaks for the big energy companies to build more fossil fuel plants and new nuclear.  The autumn statement promised £15billion for roads. It overhauls stamp duty ignoring the opportunity to link it to environmentally friendly buildings. Even the flood defense proposals are inadequate, according to experts. The treasury continues to endorse shale gas production, despite overwhelming public concern about safety and the impacts on land, water and air, including the emission of even more greenhouse gases.

As taxpayers we are right to have a say in where our money goes, and insist on value for money on government spending. One may ask how this major investment in roads and tax breaks for fossil fuels will meet the immediate need to address fuel poverty and its consequent pressure on the NHS.  Furthermore, how will it encourage the generation of locally controlled renewable energy which has been proven to reduce energy prices in Germany and is supported by millions of people across the country as a way of taking back control of our own energy supply and improving energy security?

 

Communities should take power into their own hands to build an abundant local clean energy supply to secure our future energy on a national scale, claims Kayla Ente, founder of community energy service co-operative BHESCo……

 

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Consumers have not benefitted from liberalisation of the energy markets. Instead liberalisation has created the current oligopoly of energy suppliers that control 99% of the market and play a dominant role in policymaking.

In an oligopoly, switching is only a temporary fix as all suppliers will basically offer the same price. Switching will not stop the tide of energy prices increases at 8 – 10% every year. Such increases are not sustainable, especially in a recessionary economy where our incomes on the whole have declined. Because we are dependent on energy in every aspect of our lives, energy has become a right, not a privilege.

Tapping into the shale gas reserves using extreme extraction methods has dire consequences on our water supply. Hydraulic fracturing creates millions of litres of waste water, containing hazardous levels of hydrochloric acid. This chemical contaminant must be stored in specially lined ponds. At best, fracking is a five year feed of our fossil fuel addiction before we wake up and realise that we have seriously damaged our environment, like the realisation of bad behaviour after a debauched night out. Increasing worldwide demand will still tenaciously drive prices ever upward over the long term.

Our centralised power stations lose 65% – 75% of the energy generated from unsustainable sources like fossil fuels and uranium in transmission and distribution. Although heat represents about 41% of energy consumed, most of the heat generated by the large stream engines in centralised power stations is wasted in the air.

Unfortunately, unsuspecting taxpayers end up paying for the lack of vision and sound economics in our energy policy. The new Energy Bill including Electricity Market Reform (EMR) means that subsidies will be transferred to the shareholders of large corporate power generators in the form of a guaranteed price for electricity production, regardless of whether that electricity is consumed or not.

Fracking corporations will receive larger tax breaks in the coming years. There is a real danger that the current energy policy will create a continuation of the culture of waste in our society, due to an irrational fear that the lights will go out.

There is little innovation in our nation’s energy strategy because there is painfully little movement in important areas like upgrades to distribution and transmission networks to create smart grids. Investment in energy storage pales in comparison to the money that will be invested in nuclear power and Carbon Capture and Storage technologies. Investment in a smart grid was supposed to be addressed in EMR, however, this has been conspicuously omitted, calling the National Grid “a natural monopoly”. This may have been ok when the grid was nationalised, not now.

Naturally, the current suppliers want to maintain the status quo of centralised systems where the consumer is kept enslaved to the supplier. And naturally, these powerful forces influence policy decision-making and the media. There is a light at the end of this tunnel: community energy suppliers can stimulate investment by creating micro-generation points and then investing in their own micro-grids for local energy distribution, all connected to transmission stations run by the National Grid.

In 2011, there were 19 Community energy co-operatives generating 19.6MW of renewable energy, powering approximately 16,000 homes. Shareholders in these co-operatives are making a steady return on their investment in tangible local energy generation assets. As we transition into our new sustainable way of living, during this ‘Time of the Great Turning’ (as Joanna Macy has named it), a post industrial evolutionary movement, a ‘small is beautiful principle should be applied to local energy generation. Consumption near the source minimises efficiency losses. Combining natural renewable energy sources, like sun, wind and biomass to power our needs, making our buildings more efficient by sealing the leaks coming through the fabric, becoming more conscious of how we use energy in our environment will all contribute to our long term energy security.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, community groups are involved in four main activities: Reduce, Manage, Generate, Purchase. In Brighton, Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative has been launched to stop the tide of rising energy prices. It is a not for profit co-operative dedicated to help people reduce their energy costs now and forever. We do it now, by organising a collective buying initiative where one price is negotiated for our members, like a large corporation would for its energy supply. We can do this by offering thousands of customers, worth about £120 in profit each, to one supplier. Energy suppliers pay millions in marketing costs to encourage the public to switch to their service. We can save these large suppliers money by reducing their marketing spend and pass that savings onto our members.

BHESCo is working with neighbourhood groups and our local council to map out neighbourhood energy plans, offering a way to implement low cost energy savings and local renewable energy programmes. We are a link between the large energy suppliers and the local consumer. Suppliers are required by the government to identify super priority customers, people living in hard to treat properties that leak massive amounts of heat through their walls, ceilings and floors. The path to these people, many of them vulnerable, is arduous as they are difficult to find, do not trust the large suppliers and do not want to enter into any loan commitment with them at a high cost.

BHESCo is launching a programme of low energy, durable lighting retrofits to small and medium sized businesses in Brighton & Hove which presents a way to quickly reduce electricity consumption as many office buildings have old fluorescent lighting that is hard on the eye and on the pocket. We can go some way to helping these businesses reduce their operating costs and lower their carbon footprint, just by upgrading their lighting to longer lasting LED (low emission diode) lights. These are mercury free, unlike other low energy lighting that is for sale in some supermarkets.

We believe in that by working together, we can continually create wins for members of our community. We invite all people who want to make a difference in their community within the Sussex area to contact us. Together we can help bring about the Great Turning.

Kayla Ente is founder of BHESCo, a community energy service co-operative. She is a qualified accountant, MBA and environmental economist. Kayla lives and works in Brighton, UK.


Copyright 2017 BHESCo