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UK to miss out on renewables price dividend, research indicates

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Recent changes to government energy policy mean Britons are likely to miss out on electricity price reductions now being seen in Germany. The price of wholesale electricity in Germany has fallen by 37% since 2011 owing to the addition of large amounts of wind and solar capacity, which produce the cheapest electricity once installed.

According to one recent analysis, renewables have begun similarly to drive the wholesale price downwards in the UK. Now a new study, published in the journal Nature Materials, shows that Britain was on track to reap the same scale of dividends seen in Germany before the government withdrew support for onshore wind and solar energy.

“If Britain carried on building wind and solar at the rate we’ve seen over the last few years, the fall in the wholesale electricity price would continue,” said Keith Barnham, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Imperial College London, lead author on the new study.

“Unfortunately, policy changes mean the rate of solar and onshore wind power build is going to plummet, so UK companies will miss out on the dividends that their German competitors are starting to enjoy.”

The Nature Materials analysis shows that before the raft of recent UK policy changes, such as withdrawing onshore wind projects from the Renewables Obligation and drastically cutting the Feed-in Tariff for rooftop solar, UK renewables were being built fast enough that as a proportion of total electricity demand they would roughly catch up with Germany around 2018-2020. Thus, the same scale of price fall seen there would be likely to materialise here.

“This study confirms that renewables do lead to cheaper electricity,” commented Catherine Mitchell, Professor of Energy Policy at Exeter University, who was not involved with the study.

“It’s somewhat baffling that the UK Treasury either isn’t aware of this or inclined to take advantage of it, particularly when industries such as steel are complaining about high energy prices.”

Prof Barnham’s analysis also suggests that subsidies paid through bills for the proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley Point could be substantially higher than the government estimates.

The subsidy – known as a Contract for Difference – puts levies on consumers’ bills that will fund the difference between a guaranteed price (the ‘strike price’) and the wholesale price when the reactor produces electricity. The Hinkley strike price is set at £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh) in 2012 money, which will rise with inflation. (This is about double the current wholesale price.)

The government calculates that the total sum raised through levies for Hinkley will at most be £19bn, based on a projection that the wholesale electricity price will rise between now and 2025.

Environment group E3G calculates that this could rise to £45bn if the wholesale price remains constant; but if it falls, as the Nature Materials paper indicates is likely, the Hinkley bill will be even higher.

“Our data suggests that by 2025 the wholesale price of electricity could be close to zero,“ said Professor Barnham.

“If so, UK electricity consumers could face a total bill approaching £90bn for new nuclear electricity.”

Professor Barnham’s research focuses on adapting findings of a German research project on renewable energy, Kombikraftwerk, into a UK context. Kaspar Knorr, the head of Kombikraftwerk, is a co-author of the Nature Materials paper.

Based at the Fraunhofer Institute in Kassel, Kombikraftwerk shows how Germany could meet all of its electricity needs from renewables including 80% from wind and solar power, 17% from biogas electric power and 5% from storage. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit featured the project in a public event in London during the summer.

Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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Economy

IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.

We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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