clear solar panel

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.

solar panels in skyscrapers

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 .

The last twelve months have witnessed incredible expansion and change here at BHESCo. Our team has doubled in size  compared to this time last year, prompting a recent relocation to a larger office space within the Brighton Eco Centre. We raised £270,000, which we continue to plough into new community energy projects.

We have completed eight clean energy projects this year, including our largest project to date at the Montessori Place school in Uckfield.

Our Energy Saving Service that was launched in January 2016 has now completed over 200 domestic and commercial energy surveys.  We are now authorised to issue Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and our application for a consumer credit licence was approved by the FCA.

It is always nice to be recognised for the work we do and we were humbled to receive several awards for our work in the community, which included a day out at the Houses of Parliament.

Being a relatively small team, there is no way we could possibly have achieved so much this year without the invaluable contributions of our many dedicated volunteers, and of course without the belief and community spirit of our members. Thank you everyone who has helped make BHESCo’s dream a reality – we wish you all a wonderful Christmas, and look forward to reporting again soon on the exciting new projects and programmes we have lined up for 2017!

 

The Age of the Atom was to herald a new dawn in humanity’s quest for energy. Euphoric reports at the time declared that this revolutionary new energy source was so abundant it would be “too cheap to meter“. Our energy worries, we were assured, were over forever…

History of course, has shown none of this naive optimism to be true, and sadly will it prove the same for our current cabinet’s total reliance on nuclear power as the basis of energy policy.

Hinkley is expected to cost between £18-24 billion to construct, of which UK taxpayers are expected to subsidise a significant portion. To compound matters, a substantial share of the profits generated will leave the country due to the plant being owned by French and Chinese investors. Worse still, a future based on nuclear power will maintain the centralised energy system we have now, and let’s not even get started on the cost of clean up, transport security and waste disposal that future generations will thank us for…

Similarly, nuclear weapons nuclear protestare an expensive and dangerous consumer of taxpayer money, and BHESCo is steadfastly against the renewal of Britain’s Trident defence system. We were very proud to join Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn, and the thousands of protesters in Trafalgar Square to voice our opposition to this £100 billion so-called deterrent, and were profoundly moved to see that so many people shared our view of a nuke-free future.

BHESCo suggests that all money intended to be invested in new nuclear power stations or weapons be transferred to the production of clean, renewable energy. Imagine what we could build with £100 billion? This money could be invested in all manner of new and proven technologies as well as going towards an electricity grid that can handle the distributed energy system we need in order to create real energy security.

The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. It is time to say goodbye to our atomic past, and move toward a brighter, cleaner, and fairer future. We say No to Nuclear Power because this makes the most sense for the future inhabitants of our planet. We say No to Nuclear Power because it does not make sense for our country.

trident

 

Brace yourself, there’s another £17 billion in national spending cuts predicted for this year.

Half of the cuts will be to bnuclear power plant and housesenefits, like the National Health Service.  This government has been relentless in pursuing its agenda of protecting their ideology at the cost of poor and vulnerable people, especially the elderly.   The Treasury introduced a budget that reduced corporate taxes, increased the personal allowance, costing the Treasury millions while cutting back benefits to offset the impact of their ideology on our national debt.  Our deficit has reached a serious state of concern, now ballooning to £1.2 trillion, three quarters of the size of the UK economy.  This might help to explain why fracking is so alluring to the people who control our energy policy – we need a source of income to boost the UK economy.  

The clean tech industry is consistently the fastest growing sector in the world.  Insufficient investment and policy turnarounds have badly impacted the UK’s low carbon industry, culminating in an attack on vulnerable people by stopping the Energy Company Obligation in March 2014.  Our Energy Policy has been broken for many years.  It’s time to start fixing it.

People with lesser means are still being fleeced by the Big Six energy suppliers.  Six million households in the UK are on key meters.  Five million households are in debt to their energy supplier, meaning that they are held captive and cannot switch.  Studies conducted by BHESCo in Brighton & Hove, have determined that people pay 20 – 40% more for their electricity and gas on prepayment or “key“ meters.  In winter, this means that people with key meters may run out of heat or electricity and not have the money to get the heating or lights turned back on.   Increasing more people across the city must make a decision whether to heat or eat.  Last year, 31,000 people died in the UK from the cold.  According to Age UK, 90% of these deaths were in people over 65 years old.  For the state not to provide for our  elderly and vulnerable people is a lamentable turn of events.  Considering the progress we’ve made in technology, our social services are evolving to Dickensian conditions.

67% of the British population would like the failed privatisation of 1993 reversed, to re-nationalise the energy industry.   Unfortunately, this is more a dream, disappointingly, a likely impossibility.   With a combined value well into the 100s of billions of pounds, the cost to the Treasury of reacquiring the energy suppliers and national grid would be too great to inspire political will.  We can also assume that since taxpayer funds have been spent on bailing out the banks, we do not have the economic capacity to buy back national assets we once owned.

Yesterday, the Department of Energy and Climate change released their Community Energy Strategy.  This report pledged support for community energy groups across the country.  BHESCo will continue to work with Brighton & Hove City Council to drive down the cost of energy locally, investing in the local community.  We expect that any support that we receive will create value for money for the taxpayer, delivering a low cost transition to a low carbon economy for less investment per kWh of energy generated or saved.

That is why Co-operative energy groups are so important.  Groups managed by social entrepreneurs are picking up gauntlet to remedy a failed energy industry.  20 years experience has been enough time for us to recognise that the model didn’t work and its time to consider attractive alternatives.  Show your support for community energy by joining BHESCo.  Call us or write to us.  Get in touch, we are here to help.

Hinckley point_Oblique_Aerial_View_1.70_MFINAL_RGB_cropped

photo courtesy of EDF Energy

This week, the Government announced that the taxpayer would be subsidising the construction of a £16 billion, 3.3GW new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.  The deal was stuck with EDF, the French state owned utility.  In the wake of the disaster at Fukishima, with dangerous levels of radioactive Strontium entering into their water, any investment in the construction of a new nuclear facility is short-sighted, presenting a formidable threat to the economic health and potentially the physical well being of future generations.

The subsidy presents the threat of a dangerous economic legacy for us now and for future generations.  The guaranteed strike price of £92.50 per MWh lasts for 35 years, and is twice the current price of electricity in the market today.

What this means is that every taxpayer, regardless of whether one benefits from it or not, will be financing the generation of this electricity for the next 35 years.  Because of the base load nature of nuclear power, there may be times when no one is consuming this electricity yet, the taxpayer will still be paying EDF and the investor consortia for generating it.

Foreign investment could comprise more than 50% of the ownership of the plant, which means our taxpayers’ money is contributing to the wealth of foreign nations instead of being invested at home.   It’s a no brainer for the Chinese to take up to a 40% stake in the consortium, because for them it is a guaranteed investment return with very little risk.  The move creates distortions in the supplier market and sets a greedy precedent for other suppliers.

Energy subsidies EnergiewendeThis graph, prepared by the EEG to analyse the level of subsidy to be provided for Hinckley Point demostrates that even when the taxpayer subsidy for decommissioning the plant and the long term storage of the nuclear waste is excluded, the subsidy for nuclear power far exceeds any subsidies for solar PV or Wind (either on or offshore).

It doesn’t make any sense to continue to invest good money into an expensive and dangerous source of electricity.  The lion’s share of the budget for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is allocated to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to manage our legacy of radioactive nuclear waste.

The UK has the highest stockpile in the world of radioactive Plutonium buried in a temporary storage facility in Cumbria.  The cost of managing our nuclear legacy is estimated to be about £100 billion, the equivalent of the entire investment required to upgrade our electricity network.

We must reject this plan to expand the facility at Hinkley and support investment in clean, renewable energy generation and energy efficiency investment.  We must invest in a smart grid that would transform our network into a low carbon, clean energy generation, transmission and distribution network.  Please contact your MP and let them know you do not support any subsidy for nuclear power.


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