15 May 2017
In the face of catastrophic climate change, we need to encourage energy efficiency and cleaner, renewable energy production, more than ever before. Unfortunately, our current government seems to be indifferent, if not intentionally hostile, to promoting this constructive, job-creating transition to a cleaner, income-generating and robust energy bill saving economy. This government is promoting funding of the destructive fossil fuel and nuclear industries. Our MPs own pension scheme invests in the fossil fuel industry for starters. While a significant minority recently backed divestment from fossil fuels, sadly the majority of MPs in government did not1.
Then there’s the promotion of the hugely unpopular hydraulic fracturing industry against the democratic will of the people2 and the attacks on onshore wind3 and solar energy4, both very popular renewable energy technologies5. These renewables, given the chance to flourish, as it did before the government started taxing and wrapping the renewable industry in red tape, can transform the UK’s energy security fears, reduce fuel poverty and meet our vital climate targets. We could have an economy that works for local, small to medium-sized businesses and domestic consumers alike, rather than an economy that benefits only the large energy corporations which still dominate over 80% of the UK’s energy market. The constant drain on the public’s finances by the UK’s large, enormously profit taking energy companies, duping the customer with over-priced energy tariffs, have serious consequences for people’s livelihoods and wellbeing.
One significant step to reducing energy bills for both domestic customers and businesses is to improve energy efficiency. According to the Office of National Statistics’ 2011 census, Brighton & Hove had the highest proportion of residents privately renting out of any town or city in England and Wales; more than 30% of households. Around 26,000 people are on the council housing waiting list and 1 in 69 people in Brighton & Hove are homeless6.
However, the incentive for private landlords to increase the energy efficiency of their properties just isn’t there. The government’s weak legislation requiring landlords to improve their properties’ energy efficiency, by achieving a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) by April 2018, isn’t helping at all. Yes, there are other regulations, which came into effect from 1st April, where a tenant can apply for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements in privately rented properties7 under the provisions of the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) Regulations 2015. However, in the current climate of retaliatory evictions for tenants who merely ask for simple repairs, let alone applying for consent to carry out improvements, it makes this legislation appear a greenwash exercise, with no meaningful support for those threatened with homelessness8 or suffering in fuel poverty.
To make UK households truly energy efficient the government needs the EPC rating of landlords’ properties to be at least a D. This is overdue for the huge numbers of residents living in sub-standard, enormously expensive, energy inefficient properties across the country. The government could help landlords achieve warmer, more comfortable homes with incentives. With the new round of Energy Company Obligation 2 Transition (ECO2t) funding for efficient heating and insulation grants, there should be more focus on offering all those landlords’ properties with EPC band ratings below a D, more fully funded grant access9.
BHESCo is an award winning not-for-profit community energy co-operative offering an innovative PAYS (pay-as-you-save scheme) for those domestic and business customers who can’t afford to pay for the energy efficiency improvement measures up-front. The savings from their energy bills are used to pay for the installations over a period of time and the occupants or tenants feel more comfortable in a warmer home, helping to reduce their energy bills. However, to encourage uptake there needs to be more of an incentive and active promotion in all sections of our community.
Another reason for requiring a D rating, is those landlords who wish to invest in solar energy generation can do so, thus helping to stimulate the UK’s wounded solar PV industry10 and make it economically viable for landlords. To obtain the maximum Feed-In Tariff (FIT) for solar PV installations, a household must attain a minimum EPC band D rating11. However, the government also needs to realise that renewable energy is going to be the cheapest form of energy production in the near future. Onshore wind is already our cheapest source of electricity. Not to mention the benefits of secure, locally-produced energy and the dire consequences from global climate change if we don’t act now. The government’s own Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a report saying a solar project commissioned next year was predicted to cost between £62 and £84 per megawatt hour (MWh) with onshore wind coming in at £49 to £79/MWh. Compare this to the cheapest form of gas costing between £60 and £62 and £154 to £166 for a more expensive gas system12.
We need active, forward-thinking local councillors and MPs to lobby Westminster and help promote energy efficiency and renewable technology in their constituencies, especially coming up to this general election in June. The technology and capability is already here, but we need the political will to make it happen now and not when it is too late.
- Holder, May 2017: 50 MPs back fight to divest parliament pension fund of fossil fuels, Guardian, 08/05/2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/08/5o-mps-back-fight-divest-parliament-pension-fund-fossil-fuels?CMP=share_btn_link.
- Simple Switch, October 2016: Government Overrules Council to Allow Fracking in Lancashire, https://www.simplyswitch.com/government-overrules-council-to-allow-fracking-in-lancashire/
- 10:10, April 2017: Stop the government wrapping wind turbines in red tape, https://1010uk.org/articles/blownaway-planning
- Johnston, March 2017: Budget 2017: Solar industry facing devastating 800% tax increase, Independent, 08/03/2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/solar-industry-budget-2017-800-per-cent-tax-increase-green-renewable-energy-a7618191.html
- BEIS, May 2017: Energy & Climate Change Public Attitude Tracker – Wave 21, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-and-climate-change-public-attitude-tracking-survey-wave-21
- MAIS, May 2017: Housing Crisis: Community Solutions 2017, 11/05/2017, https://maisnetwork.net/2017/05/11/housing-crisis-community-solutions-2017/
- Residential Landlord’s Association, 2017: MINIMUM ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARDS, https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/guides/minimum-energy-efficiency-standards.shtml
- Whitworth, February 2017: Revenge eviction law ‘not working’, 09/02/2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/38795177/revenge-eviction-law-not-working
- NEA, Feb 2017: IN FROM THE COLD: The funding gap for non-gas fuel poor homes under ECO and a proposal to fill it.
- Solar Trade Association, August 2016: 2017 Business Rates Revaluation: Rooftop Solar PV.
- Ofgem, 2017: Feed-In Tariff (FIT) rates, https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes/fit/fit-tariff-rates
- Johnston, February 2017: Government accused of trying to kill off UK solar industry before it can become cheapest form of electricity, Independent, 08/02/2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/solar-energy-uk-government-accused-trying-to-kill-off-climate-change-theresa-may-a7570161.html.
26 Apr 2017
The energy efficiency of a building is how it uses gas and electricity, with special attention on how much gets wasted. Simple improvements such as roof and wall insulation, low energy lighting, double glazed windows, and draught exclusion can greatly improve energy efficiency, meaning the building needs much less energy to heat and maintain.
The most obvious benefit is that monthly gas and electric bills go down, which can be very important for a family’s budget or a business’ profit margin. But there are many other less tangible benefits to energy efficiency that are just as important as saving money.
For example, using less energy means creating less carbon emissions, which is great for our planet and the environment. Investing in energy saving means that the UK can work towards its carbon reduction targets while still pursuing policies of economic growth. In addition, by using less energy we can improve our energy security, because we do not need to buy as much power from overseas. This can also help to keep prices down.
In fact, studies have shown that investing in energy efficiency is a great way of promoting economic growth. Not only is work provided for thousands of installers and traders, but the money saved by efficiency measures frees up more disposable income that can be channeled back into local goods and services. Moreover, the Government can expect greater tax receipts that would come from higher levels of trade and employment.
Adding energy efficiency measures to a property will also increase its value, especially if this results in an improved Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). A person’s health and wellbeing (physical and mental) is improved by living in a warmer home, which can lead to a reduced demand on the NHS and further savings to the taxpayer.
As we can see, there are so many reasons for investing in better energy efficiency it is a scandal that this is not a national infrstructure priority. It is therefore up to us to take matters into our own hands to improve the quality of the UK’s outdated and inefficient old housing stock. Not only will this improve our lives and the prosperity of our country, but it will be our legacy to future generations. Contact BHESCo to see how we can start your energy efficiency journey at no upfront cost.
23 Jan 2017
New skyscrapers are being built in London and other major cities all the time, with rooftop solar panels now being included as standard – excellent news for anyone concerned about the environment. If solar panels could be integrated into entire buildings however, the amount of energy that could be generated, and the consequent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, could be a giant leap forward in the battle against climate change. In this blog, we look at how close we are to achieving that goal.
Cambridge-based startup Polysolar is developing see-through panels that can be designed into buildings, greenhouses and canopies. It has already utilised the new technology at two Sainsbury’s petrol stations and a canopy at the Barbican Centre in London, and its latest installations include a transparent solar bus shelter in the centre of London’s Canary Wharf. However, research funding and green subsidy levels will dictate how quickly these panels become a widespread mainstream commodity.
To make this technology more affordable, government subsidies and investment in green technologies are necessary. Despite breakthrough innovations in creating a clear solar panel, production on a large scale is restricted by technological limitations and high costs.
The UK government could help by investing in greater research and development, with the result that once a mass production technique is achieved, it could be sold to other countries and companies around the world. Widespread uptake of the technology would further drive down costs and could make this practice an industry standard in the not too distant future.
However, such a radical transformation of energy generation is unlikely to go unchallenged by existing fossil fuel energy companies. Businesses with a focus on centralised distribution may increase funding of political lobbying to stop or restrain government support for such innovation for their own self-preservation.
Regardless of the challenges, once ‘clear solar panels’ can be readily integrated into the windows of our houses, workplaces, and leisure centres, our capacity to generate clean energy will be enormous. Clear solar panels will bring a huge change not only to local communities but also to our planet by massively reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from our buildings .
On Thursday 24 July the Government announced the closure of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF), just six weeks after its launch in June. The closure was in response to a surge in applications following the announcement of the funding cut on the 22 July.
The applicants are largely property developers and construction firms, not the local installers that are working in communities with hard to treat properties. The number of households helped via the fund is miniscule compared to the number of hard to treat properties in the country.
The funding cut meant that from Friday 25 July 2014 new applicants would receive one third less, or £4,000, towards installing external wall insulation, instead of £6,000. Then suddenly on Thursday 24 July, DECC and MP Amber Rudd, the newly appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Climate Change, announced that due to overwhelming popular demand, the GDHIF was closed for applications with immediate effect. The £50 million budget had been reached.
The cut to the GDHIF is damaging as many of the measures included have long payback periods discouraging investment. DECC’s impulsive action to close the fund means that homeowners may no longer be interested in pursuing the planned installations. In turn this will affect insulation installers, especially smaller, local businesses, which, due to the inconsistent policy and sudden changes, spend a lot of time quoting for the work only to lose customers and consequently income. This is on the back of the recent cuts in Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding that will impact people in fuel poverty this winter.
This rash action from the Government is not new. Delays in starting the Green Deal, meant that the transition from CERT and CESP to ECO created an instable investment market, stagnating the economy. It has also been revealed that the Green Deal costs more to operate than it has given out: figures from 2013 highlighted administration costs of £44,586 a month*.
In 2011, the Feed In Tariff (FIT) for electricity from solar panels was cut by 40% after less than a year. This is despite the success of the programme, with 316MW of solar PV installed, enough to power 72,000 homes, in the first 18 months. The FIT programme saw the rapid rise in Solar PV suppliers, from about 700 in 2009 to almost 4,000 by 2011. This number has now declined to 2,700. We are now seeing the same for insulation firms, illustrating the government’s consistent failure to stimulate growth in the labour market for clean tech industries.
The green economy is growing at 5% per annum**, despite these changes. We can only speculate on the growth rate that would occur were the government to adopt a logical and consistent policy for supporting the clean tech economy which is necessary for the UK to become more energy secure, reach it’s climate change targets and most importantly allow our population to live in more comfortable, energy efficient and less expensive homes.