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.
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.
27 Oct 2017
Thousands of beautiful homes in Sussex are quite old and can lose a lot of heat through their walls, ceilings, and windows. With energy prices expected to rise for the foreseeable future, there’s no better time to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
If you think about it, when heat is lost it’s not only a waste of money but also our natural resources. UK households waste a staggering amount of heat and electricity each year, which pushes up bills and accelerates climate change.
Knowing how to improve your home is now straightforward and surprisingly economical, as our local energy services co-op is making it easy for homeowners to take action.
Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-op (BHESCo) is an award winning social enterprise who work with homeowners and businesses across Sussex to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, achieving significant financial savings while greatly enhancing comfort.
We offer a unique ‘Pay As You Save’ loan which allows homeowners to make improvements without any upfront cost, a scheme that is already working for many property owners and businesses. We take care of the whole process from start to finish, so there’s no hassle involved for you.
Typical energy saving measures can include LED lighting, loft and wall insulation and double-glazing for windows. You can even get help with solar panels and wood burners if that was something you always wanted but didn’t know how to go about.
Upgrading the energy saving potential of your home can improve quality of life and increase the value of your property. What’s more, you can take comfort in knowing you’re taking an active role in reducing climate change.
Book an energy survey today to discover how much you can save on your energy bills – you may be pleasantly surprised!
07 Sep 2017
Earlier this year, Community Energy England produced the UK’s very first ‘State of the Sector‘ report, highlighting the emerging influence and importance of community owned energy in 2017.
The community energy movement has witnessed tremendous growth over recent years, now boasting 222 organisations throughout the country, which can collectively generate 121MW of clean renewable energy. That’s enough to power 85,500 homes, and has reduced carbon emissions by 110,000 tonnes since 2002.
The emergence of this new type of energy ownership and generation is in keeping with a wider transformation of our energy supply.
We are in the midst of a seismic shift in the way we use and consume energy. Developments like electric cars, smart grids, battery storage and demand response will make a huge difference to our relationship with energy by making it more local. Community groups are perfectly positioned to be at the vanguard of this revolution.
Their drive, commitment and local insight provide an ability to put into practice emerging market developments, while the trust associated with being community owned can be vital for encouraging the uptake of new technologies such as smart meters.
In an era of increasing devolution, it is fundamental for communities to invest in initiatives that will improve resilience. As well as generating energy independently (and reducing transmission loss), community energy creates local jobs and keeps money in the local economy. A 2014 government strategy paper on the subject observed that:
“Putting communities in control of the energy they use can have wider benefits such as building stronger communities, creating local jobs, improving health and supporting local economic growth.”
The age when coal and nuclear power dominated the supply market is over. The gigantic power stations and reactors required to generate huge power outputs that travel for thousands of miles through the wires of the National Grid will soon be history . With access to affordable generation technologies like offshore wind and solar power, coupled with battery storage, heat pumps and a more effficient use of energy, we, as communities, are truly able for the first time to seize control of our energy future.
In countries like Germany, 35% of all renewable energy installations are community owned. Our future, here in the UK is also community owned.
Let’s work together to make this happen.
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 .