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Solar industry to tackle market uncertainty at this year’s Solar Energy UK exhibition



The UK’s solar industry will challenge the UK government’s green policy reset and market uncertainty when it meets this week at Birmingham’s NEC for Solar Energy UK, the country’s largest international B2B solar energy event, which runs 13-15 October.

Now in its sixth year and with more than 5,000 attendees expected, the exhibition brings together the whole of the UK’s solar value chain and low carbon professionals attracting a wide selection of international companies with new investment opportunities in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, India, Ireland, Europe – and of course the UK.

Recent policy moves undertaken by the UK government has created great uncertainty in the UK’s solar market and last week saw the first major announcements of job losses in the industry, which could jeopardise 27,000* positions should the proposals be enacted in their current guise. The event will give attendees strategic information necessary to beat such uncertainty and help plan ahead in 2016. In addition, companies will be updated on how Europe’s tendering process will change and the impact this will have upon developers and installers.

Almost 60% of the UK’s solar installers are looking to diversify into new technologies should the government’s feed-in tariff proposals come into force next year, a survey conducted by Solar Power Portal publisher Solar Media recently found. And just 7% of those surveyed said they would be intending to stay solely as a PV installer, enforcing the current market switch to more diversified offerings. One mooted area of particular interest is energy efficiency measures, incorporating technologies such as smart meters, LED lighting and increased building insulation, due to the UK’s emerging need to ramp up efforts in the space.

Solar Energy UK will address all these opportunities through seminars and discussions designed specifically to help guide installers towards diversification, including the energy+ stage dedicated to sessions on storage – large scale and domestic. UK policy workshops will also run and sessions for energy managers, the public sector, land owners, rooftop owners, DNOs, electric vehicle companies and energy buyers decarbonising their own operations feature significantly.

Tim Mann, managing director at Solar Media, said: “Despite recent market conditions, we’ve had a record number of total registrations and we’ve put together content specifically for those of you working out what to prioritise in 2016, both in the UK and in international markets. We also have more exhibitors than ever from complementary technologies such as storage attending to show what’s coming for 2016. Tuesday night’s Solar Power Portal Awards will sell out by tomorrow as market participants want the opportunity to meet and update, in more informal surroundings, on the direction others are taking. We have remained focused on encouraging all of you who are involved, to support UK solar by making the trip to Birmingham and engaging with the thousands within the industry who are focused on doing business. We applaud the resilience and creativity of those supporting the industry with their attendance and contributions this week”.

Finlay Colville, Head of Market Intelligence at Solar Media, added: “As the UK’s solar industry adjusts to proposed government changes to incentive rates, it is now more important than ever that the industry comes together. SEUK is the one event annually that all key stakeholders of UK solar are present, making the show this week all the more pertinent. Understanding what’s left in the government pot for solar is an immediate question to be answered, alongside having the correct long-term strategy to emerge as an industry leader post-subsidies.”

“Nothing will stop Solar now, attending the Event is a must for all attached to the UK Solar Industry and establish where their business opportunities will be in the future” says Ray Noble, REA Solar, Storage & EV Advisor. “Solar Energy UK is the ‘must attend’ annual event for anyone doing solar PV business – it is a key networking opportunity, and gives the STA as a trade association time to meet with our members and take the pulse of the industry,” added Paul Barwell, CEO, the Solar Trade Association.

Solar Energy UK comes at the close of an unprecedented year for the UK solar industry. Installed capacity has gone from strength to strength despite policy updates and 2016 is set to be another big year as companies rush to beat the subsidy cut-off. The event will also address what companies need to do to ensure operating assets maintain their value with dedicated asset management and O&M sessions and attendees will be able to access new international opportunities, find new rooftop business and see how they can work with new technologies.


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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