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Energy security, fuel poverty and social change: the lowdown on renewables



The seventh annual New Energy & Cleantech Awards take place in London on April 30. For the second consecutive year, the evening awards ceremony will be preceded by a cleantech forum.

Cleantech and clean energy companies looking for growth finance will present to an investor audience, drawn from the venture capital, private equity, business angel, crowd funding and investment bank communities. Each will have 15 minutes to deliver their firm’s ‘elevator pitch’ and explain why it is an attractive investment opportunity.

One of the presenting companies is Natural Technology Developments (NTD), and here, its managing director Paul Laidler speaks to Blue & Green Tomorrow about the future of renewables.

What problem does your business uniquely solve? How do you solve it?

Rising energy costs and secure supply are now a global concern. Solar Angel is an innovative dual generation solar panel made in the UK that provides over four times more energy per square metre of collector area than standard photovoltaics (PV). By successfully blending PV and solar thermal technologies this panel provides both heat and power at an affordable price, providing users with improved energy efficiency by reducing energy costs and carbon dioxide emissions. Designed to be slimline, lightweight and easy to install, Solar Angel is ideal for businesses with high heat and power demands, and for situations where roof space or roof structure provide challenges for traditional solar technologies.

Describe your primary drivers for working in renewable energy or cleantech.

The cleantech sector is vibrant and creative with significant growth potential. I founded Natural Technology Developments in 2011 with the aim of developing and commercialising new solar products to meet the expanding needs of this sector. My co-director, Jo Walters, and I have a passion for business, technology and innovation and love making a positive difference to the current and future power challenges by pioneering novel ground breaking energy solutions.

Jo Walters (left) and Paul Laidler, co-founders of NTD Limited.

Imagine sustainable heat, light and power systems operating 24 hours a day, all year long. We believe that our exciting photovoltaic thermal (PV-T) technology Solar Angel can be an essential part of creating that solution.

Is the government doing enough to support your sector? What should it be doing?

Successful sustained growth in the cleantech sectors relies upon the three pillars of technology, policy and capital, along with the entrepreneurs and inventors to drive growth. The government now has a long-term renewables policy and a more integrated approach across a broad range of renewable technologies to support innovation and growth. This of course includes a dedicated solar strategy, which has in part recognised the importance of hybrid solutions such as ours.

One of the products we have in development is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) Energy Entrepreneurs Fund and we have also benefited from research and development tax credits and seed enterprise investment scheme (SEIS) investment, so we can vouch that there is a strong level of government support for new product development.

However, more can always be done to help early stage companies bridge the gap between developing a new technology and taking it through to commercial success. Greater government support for large-scale trials to validate new technology would be helpful.

Why do you think your business is attractive to investors?

Solar technology is the fastest growing part of the renewables mix. First generation PV-T technology producing both heat and power has been around for some time but the market is still undeveloped. We have created an innovative next generation design that works well, is easy to install, operate and maintain. And it’s made here in the UK at an affordable price.

The business team is experienced and energetic, and has a good track record of developing innovative products and a strong growth vision with global aspirations.

We think we have a good business model, and have established Solar Angel as a memorable brand with personality; we are in the midst of launching our first product and generating lots of interest from potential customers.

Our Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certification was finalised this week so we are now ready to sell. Investors will be helping the business at the beginning of the commercialisation and growth journey and have the opportunity to both shape the future success of the business and enjoy good financial returns.

What will the renewable energy and cleantech sectors look like in 10 years’ time?

Vibrant! Carbon-based fuels along with hydroelectricity, biomass and geothermal power will still have a significant role in the energy supply mix, but other renewable technologies such as solar and wind will be much more widely deployed. Grid parity will be a reality in many countries around the world and a combination of smart grids and local energy supply networks will be commonplace. Significant progress will have been made towards the holy grail of renewable energy storage.

There will be increased renewable investment globally, creating improved materials and technologies that form the basis for integrated sustainable energy solutions in different applications and markets. Novel technologies and materials such as solar fusion reactors and graphene will become better developed and technology integration with smart control/monitoring will form the basis for new more effective energy supply and storage.

Affordable renewable energy solutions will be more common across domestic, industrial and commercial applications. This will begin to create sustainable and affordable energy provision, addressing energy security issues, fuel poverty and social change around the world.

Paul Laidler is managing director of Natural Technology Developments (NTD) Limited.

Further reading:

Government sets out plans for ‘solar hubs’

Solar PV market increasingly focused on energy savings

Nina Skorupska: we need energy ‘prosumers’ to effect real change

The green levies review: when is investor reassurance not reassuring?

Renewable energy: debunking the subsidy and efficiency myths


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

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.


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




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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