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.

“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

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?

 


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