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.

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.

BHESCo energy effficiency rural home Sussex

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.

BHESCO solar panels on a home Brighton

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!
 

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.

community owned energy england

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.

Members of Community Energy South (Members of Community Energy South)

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.

 

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 .

solar panel montage

1. Evacuated tube solar thermal panel 2. Flat plate Integrated solar thermal panel. 3. Solar PV roof mounted panel. 4. Solar tile

The UK may have experienced one of the warmest Junes on record, according to initial statistics from the Met Office National Climate Information Centre. It is therefore unsurprising that the UK’s use and generation of renewable energy has increased this year, as reported by The Independent, Green Peace’s Energy Desk and Edie Energy. The Guardian also reported that the UK’s sunny weather boosted solar power generation, providing an estimated 7.8% of the UK’s electricity in daylight hours of solstice. Additionally this year the Solar Trade association (STA) has estimated that the capacity of solar generated from homes, building and solar farms has risen from 2.7GW in July 2013 to 4.7GW (the equivalent of 3 new nuclear power reactors) in June 2014.

At the weekend I was out with a friend, who spotted a solar panel on a roof; it was force of habit that I corrected her, what she pointed at was actually a solar water heating system. So what is the difference and how can you tell?

What is a solar PV panel?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels capture the suns energy to produce electricity using cells comprised primarily of silicon semiconductors; photo meaning ‘light’ and voltaic meaning ‘electricity’. These cells, arranged in layers on a panel, convert sunlight directly into electricity. This arrangement looks like the panel is made up of squares.  When sunlight shines on the cell an electric field is created: the stronger the sunshine the more electricity is produced. The solar panels may be roof mounted on a frame, ground mounted or even incorporated into solar tiles as show in the picture above. The generation power of a PV panel is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp), it’s the rate at which it generates energy at peak performance in full direct sunlight during the summer.  Although the technology is relatively easy to understand, the economics of solar PV are complicated, involving cost, output and quality control.

See a pop-up animation of how solar electricity panels can work in your home, from the Energy Saving Trust.

What is a solar water heating system?

A solar water heating system is a type of solar panel used for heating water. It is called a collector and like a solar PV panel can be roof mounted. Solar heat is collected and used to heat up water which is stored in a hot water cylinder.   Water is the best means of storing energy.  The water that passes through the wall mounted tubes is not the water that pours out the tap, these pipes are separated in the cylinder and in the heating system.  The hot water can also be run through pipes under the floor, creating radiating heat, improving the thermal comfort of a space.

There are two types of solar water heating panels:

  • Evacuated tubes: these are more distinctive as you can see the tubes which make up the panel, through which the water passes (photo 1).
  • Flat plate collectors: these can be fixed on the roof tiles or integrated into the roof. This can give a neater look – similar to Velux windows – and saves money on other roofing materials (photo 2).

Evacuated-tube collectors have a higher efficiency than flat-plate collectors, so they may be a good option if you only have a small area of space.  The most important aspect of choosing a solar thermal system is the use of the heat in the summertime.

See a pop-up animation of how solar water heating can work in your home on the Energy Saving Trust webpage.

The benefits

Using solar power to generate electricity or to heat water is beneficial because it is a renewable source, unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which are finite resources that will eventually run out. Electricity or heat generated from sunlight can be used all around your home or business; it doesn’t produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and there is no impact on the environment. Utility bills will also be reduced as installing the renewable initiatives will reduce your reliance on mains power.  Your roof can become a valuable asset, generating electricity and heat for your property at little running cost.  In fact, as fossil fuel prices increase, solar will become more commonplace, as people take advantage of generating their own energy at less cost.

Installing solar panels in your home or business:

Solar panels for electricity or a solar water heating system can be mounted on sloping and flat roofs, ideally south facing (can also be east/west). Solar panels can be expensive to install, although prices have halved in the last two years. BHESCo offers a Pay As You Save model whereby we can install an initiative in your home or business for no upfront cost. You buy the electricity or heat generated by the system we install for a discounted tariff.  This saves you money immediately, helping you to transition to your own energy generation once the agreement is paid off. Find out more about BHESCO’s Pay As You Save model. You can also find out more about the benefits, costs, savings and maintenance of solar PV panels on the energy saving trust website.

Finally let’s face up to those myths about solar PV and solar thermal panels!

Myth: Solar panels don’t work when it’s cloudy

Incorrect! Solar PV and solar water heating systems don’t need direct sunlight to generate electricity or heat, then can still generate in cloudy or overcast weather. Cloudy weather reduces the generating capacity of solar PV by approximately 50%, in comparison to direct sunlight. However this is still a valid, and most importantly renewable, way of generating electricity. Not convinced? Germany is the world’s leading solar power producer producing half of their electricity demand from solar power in June 2014 and they have a comparable climate to the UK.  If they can do it so can we!

Myth: Panels mounted on my roof will cause damage.

Incorrect! Panels attach to rails which fix onto brackets. On a tiled roof, these pass under the tiles and fix to the rafters in the roof. This method of mounting solar panels is very secure and provides distribution of the load. Some tiles will need to be removed in order to attach the brackets but the installer will replace these after the bracket has been attached. Depending on the tile shape and size, it may be necessary to make a small groove in the overlaying tile.  Panels can be mounted on most roofs regardless of type.  Make sure you completely understand the works that the installer intends to undertake.

Myth: I won’t be able to insure my house with panels on the roof

Incorrect! As a general rule insurers will include solar PV and solar thermal panels in overall home insurance. Here is what Aviva and Churchill say:

Aviva: ‘Our home insurance will automatically cover solar panels as part of its standard buildings policy. Customers just need make sure they include the value of the Solar Panels in the overall sum insured’.

Churchill: ‘You do not need to tell us if you have or are having Solar panels fitted to your property. Loss of, or damage to solar panels would be covered under the Buildings section of our Home Insurance policy so it is important that you ensure that the Buildings sums insured is adequate to include the replacement cost of such items’.

Myth: I need to get planning permission to install panels

Incorrect! In most cases planning permission is not needed as PV and solar thermal panels are silent in operation and visually. However if you live in a listed building, or within a conservation area, you should check with your local council.

Myth: Having solar solar panels on house will reduce its value.

Incorrect! As the panels are generating energy for free, reducing energy bills of the property, this will not decrease the value of your home. Moreover the value today of the energy generated over the life of the panels, can be quantified and incorporated in the value of the property. If an income is received from the Feed In Tariff (FIT), the new homeowner could receive an income.

Another myth? Let us know and we’ll tell you if it’s true or not!

If you have any questions about solar panels, solar thermal, renewable energy generation or the Pay As You Save model please get in touch with us to find out more.

Sources:

 


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