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.

 

  1. 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.
  2. Simple Switch, October 2016: Government Overrules Council to Allow Fracking in Lancashire, https://www.simplyswitch.com/government-overrules-council-to-allow-fracking-in-lancashire/
  3. 10:10, April 2017: Stop the government wrapping wind turbines in red tape, https://1010uk.org/articles/blownaway-planning
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. MAIS, May 2017: Housing Crisis: Community Solutions 2017, 11/05/2017, https://maisnetwork.net/2017/05/11/housing-crisis-community-solutions-2017/
  7. Residential Landlord’s Association, 2017: MINIMUM ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARDS, https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/guides/minimum-energy-efficiency-standards.shtml
  8. Whitworth, February 2017: Revenge eviction law ‘not working’, 09/02/2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/38795177/revenge-eviction-law-not-working
  9. NEA, Feb 2017: IN FROM THE COLD: The funding gap for non-gas fuel poor homes under ECO and a proposal to fill it.
  10. Solar Trade Association, August 2016: 2017 Business Rates Revaluation: Rooftop Solar PV.
  11. Ofgem, 2017: Feed-In Tariff (FIT) rates, https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes/fit/fit-tariff-rates
  12. 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.

 

 

Energy Efficiency Spider GraphImproving the ‘energy efficiency’ of a building has more benefits than can be covered in a single blog. These range from reducing fuel bills and carbon emissions to improving health creating jobs.

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.

29 September 2016 was a landmark day for the British people. Greg Clark, the newly appointed head of the newly formed department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, signed an agreement with EDF, a company owned by the French government and with the Chinese government as a 33% investor, to proceed with the construction of the first new nuclear power plant in the UK in a generation. Despite all the fuss and furore, the dream of Hinkley C in Somerset is poised to become a reality, albeit by 2030.  The Government claimed that UK businesses will benefit from 60% of the estimated £18 billion to be spent on the plant, with 26,000 jobs and internships created.

This decision is a disaster for our nation, primarily because it is an extreme waste of taxpayer money, poses a great threat to our country’s energy security, and to the safety and security of future generations.

Extreme waste of taxpayers’ money

s300_Hinkley60% of 26,000 jobs is no benefit when one considers that over 27,000 jobs have been lost in the past two years by the solar industry, decimated by Government cuts to the Feed in Tariff and by the death of the Green Deal.  The EPR technology is not yet proven in the three countries already constructing the new nuclear power plants, causing each of their budgets to skyrocket out of control.  The Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) plant in Finland was supposed to be operational in 2010.  It is still not running today.

In December 2012, Areva (the nuclear plant supplier), estimated that the full cost of building the Finnish reactor will be about €8.5 billion, or almost three times the original delivery price of €3 billion. Compare this to the estimated price of the UK plant, estimated at between £18 billion to £29 billion.  The UK taxpayer is not privy to the reasons why the plant cost more than 3 times the price in Finland.  In Flamanville, France, cracks were found in the plant’s construction.  Cracks have also been found in the Taishan facility, in China creating delays and mounting fear of radioactive leakage in Hong Kong, just 130 miles away.

If it is ever completed, the Hinkley C plant is expected to account for 7% of our electricity supply, with a capacity of 3.2GW.  UK Power Networks has recently revealed that it has applications to install 6GW of energy storage to our electricity network, virtually eliminating the issue with renewable energy intermittency for a fraction of the cost of Hinkley C and a bringing  lot more safety.

Dangerous stockpiles of plutonium in Britain 

nuclear-wasteA catalogue of errors that occur unresolved eventually culminates in disaster.  On 5 September 2016, the BBC broadcasted a Panorama programme on the serious accident that is likely to happen at Sellafield in Cumbria.  It is hard to believe that our government will ensure UK jobs through the nuclear industry when Sellafield does not employ sufficient employees to sustain reliable safe operations.

The Nuclear Management Partnership, a consortium of French, UK and US companies that were running Sellafield was sacked in 2015 because they were spending too much money.  The government has taken over control of the management of Sellafield.  Since then, alarms are frequently reset without being investigated, creating conditions that pose an intolerable risk according to those who have managed Sellafield.

The Windscale fire on 10 October 1957 ranks 5 out of seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale.   While the name has been changed to Sellafield, the severe dangers persist.  An accident occurred in November 2013 forcing the plant to close for 11 months because exposure to radioactive dust made it unsafe to work there.

Experts who have worked at Sellafield say that if something happens, the safety team employed there are not equipped to handle it.  Many experts believe that an accident is inevitable, because the plant frequently operates at below minimum safety levels.  The poor management and run down infrastructure could lead to a fire that would emit a radioactive plume contaminating our air for 150km. Cracks could allow seepage that could expose the radioactive chemicals to the air.  To date, no nuclear waste has been removed from a building that won’t last another 25 years.

sellafield

Sellafield has the largest stockpile of plutonium in the world, more than the United States and Russia combined.   Experts estimate that it will cost £162 billion to clean up Sellafield to make it safe. This experience alone makes it very clear that there is no room for new nuclear power generation on our small island home.

National & Energy Security

Concerns about our national security were raised by politicians and energy experts because of a lawsuit in the US against a Chinese investor in their nuclear power station.  The concern is that the Chinese are using their position as investor to improve their knowledge of nuclear science that could be threatening to the national security of the host country.

Real energy security comes when our electricity and heat are affordable for everyone.  The Hinkley C plant will not create energy security; in fact it is sure to increase our energy prices  because of the guaranteed price that has been secured in the energy Capacity Market.  The only way to create real affordable energy is for communities to take the power back into their own hands. This is what we at BHESCO believe, and this is what we will ceaselessly work towards until our own dream has become a reality, when the people of the UK will be writing about a new landmark day in our history.

 

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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!)

 

 

Yesterday, Mondagreenpeacey 28 July, ministers opened the bidding process for companies seeking licences to explore the UK for onshore oil and gas by the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Companies now have the details they need to apply for licences which will enable them to start exploring for shale gas across the UK. Whilst this is only the first step and further drilling requires planning permission, permits from the Environment Agency and sign-off from the Health and Safety Executive, this action highlights the lack of commitment to exploring renewable, clean energy in the UK.

There has also been guidance released for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites, National Parks and the Broads, which state that if exploration in these areas is rejected by local authorities, the Communities minister will automatically review and can overturn the decision.

This is not the way towards a stable energy market, with lower prices for consumers. There is a multitude of risks to fracking: methane contamination of drinking water; accidental spillages of fracking fluid contaminating waterways; minor earthquakes and landslides; problems disposing of contaminated fracking fluid; and noise, disruption and local air pollution from lorries and rig operations.

This is why we need to put pressure on the Government to champion clean, renewable energy sources and not those that impact our environment, health and the global climate.

Follow the link to sign Greenpeace’s petition:

https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/s/fracking-david-cameron-most-shocking-speech?source=em&subsource=20140728fraem02&utm_source=gpeace&utm_medium=em&utm_campaign=20140728fraem02


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