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.
02 Nov 2017
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.
In Summer 2017, the people of Lewes celebrated the tenth anniversary of their local energy co-op Ovesco by honouring them on the latest Lewes Pound note.
Ovesco was born out of the Transition Town movement and has gone on to develop many high profile community energy projects in the area, including huge solar installations at Harveys Brewery, Brickyard Farm, and several schools and colleges.
Being commemorated on the Lewes Pound is a brilliant visual demonstration of the way that Ovesco keeps money within the local economy, and adds value to the community far beyond the energy systems they install.
Research on spending shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.
In contrast to the Big Six energy companies (only two of which are UK owned), community energy groups are rooted in their localities and understand the concerns of residents and stakeholders. You would never find BHESCo or Ovesco, for example, embarking on a project that was opposed by local people, such is the case with fracking plans in Lancashire or oil pipelines in North Dakota.
By embracing the community, and employing local traders and installers to carry out projects, community energy groups are able to support local business and stimulate the local economy. Not only does this benefit domestic job creation, but it has a positive impact on business rates too.
Because community energy groups are owned by local residents, any profits made can be reinvested in developing more locally owned energy projects, instead of being paid out as interest to shareholders. It is also common for community energy groups to channel some of their revenue towards tackling fuel poverty and improving the energy efficiency of cold homes in the area. As well as benefiting individual households, this can also alleviate pressures on local health services as physical and mental wellbeing improve.
In fact, even generating and using energy locally has intrinsic advantages, because it cuts down on transmission losses and is a much more efficient use of the energy produced. In addition, creating a local supply network (such as residents of the Brooklyn Microgrid have recently achieved), insulates a community against external price increases and even possible power cuts.
In all of these ways, whether its creating jobs, reducing bills, or improving health, it is very clear that keeping it local has tremendous benefits for creating an independent and resilient community. When services and insitutions are owned by and run by the people they serve, they will inevitably be responsible, democratic, and sustainable.
Our advice? Act local, join your community energy co-op ASAP.
11 Apr 2017
‘Warmth for Wellbeing’ was a pioneering 15 month fuel poverty intervention project that lasted from January 2016 – March 2017. Funded by the British Gas ‘Healthy Homes’ programme, the project was supported Brighton & Hove City Council and involved 13 partners from the community and voluntary sectors across the city, including Citizens Advice, Money Advice Plus, and BHESCo.
As of March 2017, the programme had provided direct support to more than 555 households, with BHESCo delivering 220 free home energy surveys and helping residents to save an estimated £34,000 on winter fuel bills!
The Universities of Brighton & Sussex were asked to provide an independent evaluation of the project, and concluded that Warmth for Wellbeing had a significant impact on the lives of vulnerable people living in cold homes in Brighton and Hove.
Paul Bramwell of Citizens Advice and lead co-ordinator of Warmth For Wellbeing, said that “the project has clearly reached some of the most vulnerable people across Brighton & Hove and it is pleasing that we have been able to help people who need it.”
BHESCo were acknowledged by clients and project partners alike as being a cornerstone of the project’s success, and were recognised as demonstrating a level of ‘care’ from an energy service provider that stood out as being in distinct contrast with how people are ‘normally treated’ by energy companies.
The full report can be viewed here.
Find out how to reduce your fuel bills and energy use by visiting our Energy Saving Service page.