The UK’s solar industry will challenge the UK government’s green policy reset and market uncertainty when it meets this week at Birmingham’s NEC for Solar Energy UK, the country’s largest international B2B solar energy event, which runs 13-15 October.
Now in its sixth year and with more than 5,000 attendees expected, the exhibition brings together the whole of the UK’s solar value chain and low carbon professionals attracting a wide selection of international companies with new investment opportunities in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, India, Ireland, Europe – and of course the UK.
Recent policy moves undertaken by the UK government has created great uncertainty in the UK’s solar market and last week saw the first major announcements of job losses in the industry, which could jeopardise 27,000* positions should the proposals be enacted in their current guise. The event will give attendees strategic information necessary to beat such uncertainty and help plan ahead in 2016. In addition, companies will be updated on how Europe’s tendering process will change and the impact this will have upon developers and installers.
Almost 60% of the UK’s solar installers are looking to diversify into new technologies should the government’s feed-in tariff proposals come into force next year, a survey conducted by Solar Power Portal publisher Solar Media recently found. And just 7% of those surveyed said they would be intending to stay solely as a PV installer, enforcing the current market switch to more diversified offerings. One mooted area of particular interest is energy efficiency measures, incorporating technologies such as smart meters, LED lighting and increased building insulation, due to the UK’s emerging need to ramp up efforts in the space.
Solar Energy UK will address all these opportunities through seminars and discussions designed specifically to help guide installers towards diversification, including the energy+ stage dedicated to sessions on storage – large scale and domestic. UK policy workshops will also run and sessions for energy managers, the public sector, land owners, rooftop owners, DNOs, electric vehicle companies and energy buyers decarbonising their own operations feature significantly.
Tim Mann, managing director at Solar Media, said: “Despite recent market conditions, we’ve had a record number of total registrations and we’ve put together content specifically for those of you working out what to prioritise in 2016, both in the UK and in international markets. We also have more exhibitors than ever from complementary technologies such as storage attending to show what’s coming for 2016. Tuesday night’s Solar Power Portal Awards will sell out by tomorrow as market participants want the opportunity to meet and update, in more informal surroundings, on the direction others are taking. We have remained focused on encouraging all of you who are involved, to support UK solar by making the trip to Birmingham and engaging with the thousands within the industry who are focused on doing business. We applaud the resilience and creativity of those supporting the industry with their attendance and contributions this week”.
Finlay Colville, Head of Market Intelligence at Solar Media, added: “As the UK’s solar industry adjusts to proposed government changes to incentive rates, it is now more important than ever that the industry comes together. SEUK is the one event annually that all key stakeholders of UK solar are present, making the show this week all the more pertinent. Understanding what’s left in the government pot for solar is an immediate question to be answered, alongside having the correct long-term strategy to emerge as an industry leader post-subsidies.”
“Nothing will stop Solar now, attending the Event is a must for all attached to the UK Solar Industry and establish where their business opportunities will be in the future” says Ray Noble, REA Solar, Storage & EV Advisor. “Solar Energy UK is the ‘must attend’ annual event for anyone doing solar PV business – it is a key networking opportunity, and gives the STA as a trade association time to meet with our members and take the pulse of the industry,” added Paul Barwell, CEO, the Solar Trade Association.
Solar Energy UK comes at the close of an unprecedented year for the UK solar industry. Installed capacity has gone from strength to strength despite policy updates and 2016 is set to be another big year as companies rush to beat the subsidy cut-off. The event will also address what companies need to do to ensure operating assets maintain their value with dedicated asset management and O&M sessions and attendees will be able to access new international opportunities, find new rooftop business and see how they can work with new technologies.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
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.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
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 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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