There are few industries changing as quickly and as dramatically as the energy industry. The movement from centralised to decentralised energy networks is well underway.
An ever depleting supply of fossil fuels and a growing global commitment to tackle the climate crisis has set the stage for a revolution in the way we buy, use, generate and store energy.
Recent years have witnessed an explosion of renewable energy supply, the slow death of coal and improvements in the digitisation of energy management in the workplace and the household. So what trends can we expect over the next twelve months and how will these impact UK consumers?
The Big Picture
One trend that’s sure to continue is the tumbling cost of renewables. The price of solar power has plumetted by 80% in ten years and is expected to halve again by 2020. Offshore wind has witnessed an even greater fall in price, with costs decreasing by an amazing 50% in just 24 months as knowledge and technology improve.
Speaking at a recent conference on sustainability, the Director General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Mr Adnan Amin, said:
“the scale and pace of the transformation has accelerated, and this is leading to very significant structural changes to the energy system around the world”.
As costs continue to fall, the economics of renewables become increasingly appealing. Some experts predict global oil demand to peak as soon as 2020 and to decline thereafter, in part due to a rising uptake of electric vehicles.
The Rise and Rise of EVs
Perhaps the greatest shift in energy consumption will come with electric vehicles.
As with other renewable technologies, the costs decline as production ramps up and economies of scale take hold. The number of electric cars on UK roads has risen from 3,500 in 2013 to 125,000 today. This trend is not just because of improved affordability.
A shift in the public’s perception of ‘EV’s,’ plus better consumer choice, an improved network of charge points and reductions in charging time has made them an increasingly appealing alternative to petrol.
In 2018 we can expect to see ever more electric vehicles on our roads, which in turn will stimulate a greater demand for electricity and the further advance of renewables ; a perfect feedback loop!
During 2018, there will be greater exploration of the benefits that EVs can bring to local energy networks in helping balance supply and demand in our communities.
In our next energy trends blog, we’ll take a look at the impacts we can expect from the Government’s smart meter rollout, as well as the game-changing role that battery storage will soon play in the energy industry.
The World Bank has decided to support the climate pledges made in the Paris Agreement and take radical steps to decarbonise the world by halting funding for fossil fuel industries after 2019.
This is a significant gesture that will not only help in the mitigation process to limit global warming to 2°C by the end of the century, it also gives a green light for more investment in renewable energy around the world. It might be the breakthrough we have been waiting for as it presents big opportunities to develop promising clean technologies that have suffered from a lack of investment.
This will hopefully mean an acceleration of renewable energy projects around the globe, and the creation of many new job opportunities for communities that desperately need them. Furthermore, we will all be able to enjoy such benefits as decreased levels of pollution, cleaner air, and a healthier climate!
Another benefit of this decision is that it could help exciting new technologies become available for everyday use, such as solar panel-integrated windows or efficient energy storage systems.
We must remember that fazing out fossil fuels will not happen overnight. Polluting power stations will continue to operate for as long as they are financially viable and as long as they are supported by tax-breaks and subsidies from governments.
However, the fact that action is being taken by the World Bank, a major influential institution, brings hope that change is coming. This announcement not only sends a clear message that the days are numbered for the fossil fuel industry, but it simultaneously encourages governments and other institutions to follow suit.
Gyorgy Dallos, Greenpeace International climate campaigner, told The Guardian:
“The world’s financial institutions now need to take note and decide whether their financing is going to be part of the problem or the solution.” (2017, 12th Dec)
While there is still uncertainty ahead and a need to keep up the pressure, this news is a positive step and brings fresh wind into the energy sector. Please support BHESCo in creating our clean energy future by becoming a member.
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
30 Mar 2015
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 l…ocal 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 capacity, 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 development 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?