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Crowdfunding could provide much needed turbo-boost to clean energy investment

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Ramsay Dunning of Co-operative Energy writes how crowdfunding could play an integral part in the UK’s energy future.

The world needs to find $1 trillion (£590 billion) a year of clean energy investment if we are to have any chance of avoiding runaway climate change. Last year, just $254 billion (£150 billion) of finance was found globally – which is less than flowed in 2012 and down a fifth on 2011’s record $318 billion (£188 billion) of investment. Europe in particular is seeing a fall-off in finance: in 2013, investment in clean energy slumped by 41% to $58 billion (£34 billion).

The UK was one of the more positive areas of Europe last year, with investment falling just 8% from 2012’s record figure of $14.3 billion (£8.5 billion). But then the UK is well behind most European countries when it comes to renewable energy. We derive just 4% of our energy from renewables, lagging behind Sweden (51%), Austria (32%), Denmark (26%), Italy (14%), France (13%) and Germany (12%). In fact, the only two nations we better are Luxembourg and Malta.

The UK needs to tap new sources of clean energy finance to move things forward at an accelerated rate. It can’t rely on the ‘big six’ energy providers or mainstream banking establishment to drive change – they are far too wedded to their large fossil fuel assets. Pensions and investment funds will be increasingly important in the future, but in many countries a combination of community energy generation and crowdfunding has been a key additional part of the answer.

A quarter of Germany’s electricity is from renewables, and one reason for this is that nearly half of its renewable energy capacity is owned by individuals, community groups and private developers. Between them, tens of billions of euros have been leveraged to produce a community energy revolution. In Denmark, 30% of power consumption was from renewables in 2013 (at some days more than a 100% of demand was covered, with the excess being exported) – with a contributing factor being the requirement for wind developers to offer at least 25% of a project to local investors. In the US, the country’s largest solar power provider has predicted that crowdfunding will provide rooftop solar projects with $5 billion (£3 billion) of investment within five years.

A recent publication from ResPublica, Community Energy: Unlocking Finance and Investment, which is supported by Co-operative Energy, sets out how crowdfunding could help realise a community energy revolution here in the UK.

Co-operative Energy has been supportive of community energy and crowdfunding since its inception in May 2011. We currently have power purchase agreements in place with six community energy groups; and enjoy productive strategic relations with innovative crowdfunders such as Abundance Generation and successful community developers such as the Resilience Centre. However, there is insufficient community energy in the UK to meet our needs – never mind other suppliers who may wish to support community energy.

The Unlocking Finance report calls on the Treasury and the financial services regulator to offer further support to crowdfunding platforms. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) needs to move beyond its narrow focus on risk protection and play a much greater role in facilitating a diverse financial sector. Regulation should allow smaller and more innovative crowdfunding and peer-to-peer initiatives to thrive, not hold them back.

There also needs to be greater incentives to encourage more people to invest. The newly introduced Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) should be opened up to a wider range of community businesses. In parallel, Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) reliefs that were dropped in the small print of this year’s budget need to be reinstated for community energy schemes. Tax-free saving via ISAs should also be extended to include the debt-based securities that are offered by peer-to-peer lenders.

Earlier this year, the UK Government launched a highly welcome Community Energy Strategy. However, this does little to address how finance will be encouraged to flow – a critical point when major banks are failing to lend to community energy businesses in this country. The UK needs a strategy for unlocking the billions sitting in the bank accounts of the large majority of the population who support renewable energy. Crowdfunding could be the turbo-boost that is needed to finally bring ‘power to the people’.

Ramsay Dunning is general manager of Co-operative Energy.

Photo: Mark Alan via freeimages

Further reading:

Budget 2014: Investment tax relief to boost social enterprises

Treasury and financial watchdogs can help crowdfunding ‘thrive’

‘Alternative’ finance no more: Crowdfunder on why it’s eyeing up the mainstream

Peer-to-peer lending doubles in size to £843m in 2013

Treasury looks to extend ISA reach to peer-to-peer finance and crowdfunding

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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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

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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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