For the solar industry to thrive and become subsidy free in the next five years the Government must remove barriers to growth.
1. Stop the Solar Tax Hike
The proposed changes to the business rates for companies that self-supply themselves with solar power, risks devastating the commercial rooftop sector. The changes, which only affect companies that own panels and use the power on-site, not systems that are mainly for export, will see rates increase six to eight fold. If these changes go ahead then many companies and public sector buildings will see retrospective changes to their tax burden, which could make systems no longer financially viable. To meet their Paris Agreement obligations the Government should be using the tax system to reward clean energy investments, not make them non-profitable; they must drop these proposed changes.
2. Create a level playing field in taxation for solar energy and fossil fuels
The Solar Trade Association is calling for the extension of 100% Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs) to commercial rooftop solar power through the Energy Technology List (ETL). Unlike solar power, shale gas and North Sea oil operations qualify for 100% capital allowances so development capital expenditure qualifies for immediate relief. Relief is also available for decommissioning oil infrastructure after production. Currently solar only qualifies for Capital Allowances at 8%, less than general plant and machinery at 20%. The tax system must be realigned to reward clean energy investments, not polluters. The STA recommends Enhanced Capital Allowances of 100% in the first year for solar power. Currently Ireland offers solar 100% first year Capital Allowances, while Kenya is offering Accelerated Capital Allowances of 150% (with a 10 years limit). Solar thermal is currently eligible for 100% Enhanced Capital Allowances, and ECAs were extended to Energy-from-Waste plant in the last Budget. It is difficult to see why they should not be reinstated at 100% for solar power.
3. Provide clarity on Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) funding
The UK is falling far short of its domestic targets on renewable heat. Despite this the consultation on RHI early this year proposed removing solar thermal from the scheme; somewhat paradoxically because it is too popular. The industry is still waiting for the results from this consultation, due by the end of this year, and the insecurity has caused solar thermal deployment to collapse. Solar thermal has the lowest maintenance costs of all the RHI options, and is the only one with no emissions. This means it is perfect for fuel poor houses, and those in dense urban areas with air quality issues. The Government should keep solar thermal within the RHI and expand its uses to include industrial and space heating.
4. Carbon Floor Price (CFP)
The Carbon Floor Price, the levy paid by electricity generating companies upon the emission of CO2, is up for review. The CFP has been an important driver in moving away from high-polluting coal power plants, which lead to solar producing more power than coal for the first time in Q3 this year. When reviewing this policy the Government must keep in mind domestic and international commitments to decarbonising UK energy production.
5. New Pot 1 Contract for Difference (CfD) round
As well as decarbonising the energy system, the Government should look for value for money. Keeping the cheapest renewable energy sources out of the CfD auction rounds will slow down the Government’s progress towards reaching emissions targets, while simultaneously keeping consumer bills unnecessarily high. Established technologies such as solar (in “Pot 1”) have the potential to provide power far cheaper than either the less established technologies (Pot 2) and other negotiated and non-competitive contracts but do not currently have the ability to compete in auction rounds to deliver this cheap, clean power.
6. Reform Feed in Tariffs (FiTs)
The Feed-in Tariff scheme as amended at the start of 2016 could be significantly improved with only minor tweaks. In some FiT bands the deployment caps are too low, constraining meaningful markets, in other FiT bands the tariffs themselves are too low to stimulate investment. This distorts and limits the industry, constraining its potential to drive down costs in the future. The STA have produced a report detailing the changes we would like to see to the system that would require only £6 million additional resourcing spread out across the entire parliament, and would stimulate investment of around £500 million.
7. As strong voice for energy and climate change issues within BEIS
With the creation of the new Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy department, from the merger of the Energy and Climate Change and Business, Innovation, and Skills department, it is essential that energy and climate change issues do not get drowned out. The STA will be looking to the Autumn Statement for signs that the Government are still committed to tackling climate change, and that transitioning to a low-carbon energy supply is still a priority
8. Clarity on the Levy Control Framework from 2020 onwards
The Autumn Statement may include some kind of announcement on the Levy Control Framework green energy budget post 2020. The current budget caps only run to 2020/21. This is absolutely essential so that solar investors can plan ahead – 2020 is only 5 years away. Clarity on this is essential, and the LCF needs to become more transparent so that stakeholders can understand how the budget is being spent and how spend is forecasted.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!