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‘The government just needs to stop politicking and meddling in renewables’

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The New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2013 take place on Thursday in London, and are preceded this year by a conference for the first time. Alex Blackburne caught up with one of last year’s winners – Adrian Reed, a managing director at Altium Capital, which won Advisory Firm of the Year in 2012 – about the business of sustainability.

Altium, which is a pan-European investment bank, provides advisory services to companies, entrepreneurs and investors across Europe. The firm is split into a number of sectors, with Reed heading up the energy, waste and renewables team in the UK.

In the past three or four years, his team has worked on helping developers sell and raise finance to build renewable energy infrastructure – wind, solar, biomass, anaerobic digestion – as well as  working with cleantech and energy efficiency companies.

Reed spoke with Blue & Green Tomorrow.

Firstly, Altium was named Advisory Firm of the Year at the 2012 New Energy Awards (as they were called last year). How did that come about and what was it like to be recognised in that way?

Hopefully we were recognised by the fact we’ve done lots of deals over the last few years. We’ve got a very broad breadth of transactions; we speak to lots of people in the industry and work with many companies.

The award came about in recognition to the work we’ve done and the contribution we’ve given to the companies we’ve helped finance. It’s nice to be recognised. In the end, like with all these things, it grows your profile – meaning more people call you – and it means hopefully that you can do more, better quality transactions.

Is there a typical company that you would work with?

A typical company that we would work with would be in the £15-200m range, but there is no typical company. We do everything from development capital through leverage buyouts, providing liquidity for shareholders, bringing in private equity who will then provide additional skills, financing, working capital, acquisition capital to businesses, and then we’ll also sell companies on behalf of shareholders and investors to large corporates or other financial investors.

So we’ve got a very wide range, but that’s our core expertise. We are a financial adviser advising companies on how to develop, grow and crystallise value.

How do the deals work? Do they come to you or do you go to them?

A bit of both. People find us through the media – I sat on a panel at Eco-Connect with senior industry guys giving views on the sector and trends – and we know lots of financial investors and corporates. We also do search work and go to conferences.  Word of mouth, too – people contact us; we have a lot of contacts in the industry.

What do you think are the greatest challenges that we’re facing in energy, waste and renewables?

The greatest challenges are the constraints and the criteria around financing for the development of large-scale infrastructure projects and the availability of debt.

What the renewables industry wants is tougher legislation which is consistent and has very well-defined timelines

But I think there are some great opportunities for companies providing energy efficiency and cleantech services, whereby a large corporate with lots of buildings or a large energy demand can not only materially improve its carbon footprint, but more importantly, its financial position. It can also give greater certainty, reduce costs associated with energy procurement and energy usage, so that’s a great opportunity.

There has been a degree of uncertainty over the last 12-18 months, maybe even a bit longer, around the incentive and the legislative regimes. I think that’s just starting to finish off, and to be honest the UK has been a relatively good legislative environment for this kind of thing.

The debacle around the feed-in tariff for solar PV is not particularly helpful. What the industry wants is tougher legislation which is consistent and has very well-defined timelines.

What could the government be doing in the energy, waste and renewables sector to ensure future progression, and at the same time, what has or hasn’t it done already?

The uncertainties created by things like the feed-in tariff have been unhelpful. The complexity and the time it has taken for the government to work out the electricity market reform (EMR) bill provided quite a degree of uncertainty, and there’s still some uncertainty around that because the pricing mechanisms and how everything is going to work are still yet to be determined.

Getting that sorted quickly and drawing a line in a way that works for the industry is going to be very important.

There are some very good things it has done – the best legislation has been set long-term and gradually. And some of the things the government is doing, it’s not getting credit for.

I thought the Green Investment Bank could have been a bit of a hollow promise, but it has brought in some really good industry people to work on developing the industry and solving problems of market failure. It has placed out some money for energy-from-waste/biomass, with a couple of professional organisations to deploy it quickly. That looks like it’s going to happen and relatively well. It is looking at ways it can support large-scale utility infrastructure, and it’s looking at how it can support other areas like offshore wind. So I think the Green Investment Bank is a really good and strong tick in the box.

The government just needs to stop politicking and meddling. It needs to make firm decisions and it also needs to try and get a more cross-party support. There needs to be a little bit more honesty about what’s really going to happen in the energy market over the next 20 years.

If there’s a problem, it will paint the utilities as the bad boys for the costs going up, but we buy gas from a global commodity market to produce our power. Shale gas isn’t going to provide us with a solution in the near term – three to five years – and it might not even provide one in the medium term – five to 10 years.

So we’ve got to have a really strong balance and a diversified energy make-up because that’s what’s going to mean we are best placed to ride out whatever the global economy can throw at us on an energy and a climate basis.

What role can renewable energy play in the mix?

Renewable energy has to be an important part of the mix, because we’ve got binding international targets on energy and carbon.

It shouldn’t overly dominate the news; it shouldn’t overly dominate people’s thoughts in corporates – they should always be thinking about how they buy, use, utilise and improve their energy and commodity usage.

And it’s not just all about the high-profile arguments about wind turbines. You’ve got to think about resource consumption and water stress.

There are increasing number of areas around the globe – in the Middle East and high growth areas in Asia, India, China and Bangladesh, for example – where water quality, purification, treatment and desalination are needed – and all those things are to do with energy, cleantech and renewables.

They’re very important and the UK is very good at them, which we will be exporting new processes of technologies. These concepts touch on pretty much everything you do and that’s why it’s important.

Further reading:

Shortlist revealed for New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2013

Conference added to New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2013

New Energy Awards 2012: the winners

New Energy Awards 2012: the nominees at a glance

New Energy Awards 2012: an overview

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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