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Why aren’t business rate reforms doing more for climate change?



Sunshine By Hiromichi Torihara Via Flickr

It seems impossible for our fight against climate change to advance more than three steps without taking at least two back, and then stopping completely for us to adjust our sunscreen and waders. Even as the UK’s highest profile sceptics crack under record levels of heat, and admit that humans are responsible for global warming, their calls to action are next to nonexistent.

Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson (number 1 in the sceptics hall of shame and founder of an global warming denial think tank) told the House of Lords that the UK “accounts for less than 2% of global carbon emissions and so it’s crazy for us [to try and decarbonise our economy]… we cannot do anything on our own.”

Unfortunately these unhelpful, harmful views appear to be dominating the minds of leaders and governing bodies worldwide. As the window of opportunity for limiting climate change becomes a narrow slit, we continue to miss critical opportunities to make a difference.

One such opportunity is the British reevaluation and reformation of business rates, coming into effect in April 2017. Current taxes are under a lot of criticism from business rates advisors, who feel the costs are “out of touch with reality” for many retailers. While the reform is a chance to realign rates with reality, and take both economic and environmental factors into consideration, many industries are concerned that these needs will not be met.

Two steps back: Scotland scraps Renewable Energy business rates relief schemes

Over the last few years, Scotland has established itself as a leader in the battle against climate change, with greenhouse gas emissions falling further there than in the rest of the UK in 2014. The country’s concern to meet annual emission reduction targets has been reflected in their business rate relief strategies, primarily the Renewable Energy Generation Relief scheme.

This scheme, exclusive to Scotland, enables businesses to reduce their payments by up to 100% if they produce energy from renewable sources. Scottish businesses which qualified for this rates relief saved approximately £4 million in 2011-12, freeing this money up for further investment in green energy technologies.

However, in the last year, the Scottish Government decided to scrap this scheme, limiting the relief to “schemes in community ownership”. This seriously endangers the economic viability of country’s exemplary renewable energy sector. For the rest of the UK, we may have lost our chance to follow this eco-conscious business rates model, and to effectively foster positive attitudes towards addressing climate change.

Indeed, these are attitudes which need addressing. In the month following Scotland’s Renewable Energy scheme scrap, then-chancellor George Osborne announced that the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which aims to incentivise energy efficiency, would also be ending. The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, would see significant tax cuts, including the abolition of the Petroleum revenue tax.

As far the 2017 reforms are concerned, the Solar Trade Association has recently discovered that business rates on commercial rooftop solar panels will increase by up to eight times. In some cases, this would completely reverse the benefits of solar installation: companies could be left spending more on tax and maintenance than they receive from returns on energy, removing any new incentive to invest in this renewable energy.

Three steps forward: Take a leaf from the Green party business rate proposals

Following the release plans for the 2017 business rate reforms, the UK solar industry has called for action and support from the government. In response, they have promised to “look closely at the impacts of the forthcoming valuation” and will continue efforts to “put the right support in place” for renewable energy businesses who will be affected.

In the run up to last year’s general election, the Green party manifesto featured plans to change the then-current business rates system. Their primary adjective was to hand power back to local authorities and small businesses by enabling councils to impose extra business rates on out-of-town supermarkets and chains. As a result, local businesses would be under reduced threat from high business rates and supermarket competition.

However, this Green party proposal could also have environmental benefits, as it would encourage customers to shop closer to home, reducing the carbon footprint of local households. If these considerations were given high priority by business rates, then attitudes towards climate change could see improvement, as businesses become more aware of how they use energy.



7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption



Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions |

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis




Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens |

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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