The government admission at Ecobuild this week of the abysmal first year for its flagship green deal programme hides bigger issues with energy strategy.
Ed Davey, energy and climate change secretary, chose the high-profile sustainable design, construction and energy event at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London to confirm that the green deal loan scheme designed to fund household green efficiencies had been “disappointing” in its first year.
That’s putting it mildly. The scheme is costly, unproductive and a tactical car crash. Whether it survives to celebrate its second birthday in 2015 is open to heated debate but Davey’s optimistic tone about the green deal’s future has been drowned in a sea of data on the scheme’s costs.
Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) figures show that £33.2m has been spent in operating costs alone for the scheme, around £45,500 for each of the 746 homes currently on the green deal. Money better spent saving energy, I think.
For balance, Davey advised the Ecobuild audience that a million homes in England and Wales will have been insulated under the broader green deal scheme and its sister Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) since January last year.
While every little bit helps in reducing energy consumption, both the green deal and ECO do appear to be tinkering at the edges. There are clear and present dangers in the energy field that will demand a much more coherent, long-term and far broader national strategy.
The drivers for this demand are many but with one prime mover – rising costs of energy production. The government itself admits that “the era of cheap energy is over”. Many power stations are reaching end-of-life or are being mothballed to meet carbon emissions targets and investment in new productive capacity is being hampered by the uncertainties in the sector.
Renewable energy shows promise but even there, the lack of clear government leadership is discouraging investment, the latest being the decision this week by RES to scrap plans for a £300m biomass plant in Northumberland, blaming “inconsistent” government support.
Fracking is the darling of many members of the coalition but this will take years to produce energy, even if the conditions are favourable. The same goes for the planned new nuclear power station in Somerset, which will come on-stream in around 10 years’ time, and the energy unit cost will be very high.
Meanwhile back in the real world, at least one energy chief has warned of the risks of black outs because supply will soon be unable to meet demand at peak times. Sam Laidlaw, Centrica’s chief executive, told the BBC, “No new power stations are being sanctioned at the moment because everybody is worried about the political situation.”
All of which makes it imperative that the government acts now, and decisively, to help businesses, households and organisations to cut substantially the amount of energy (and water) they consume.
This has to go much further than Davey’s Ecobuild announcement that new incentives, announced later this month, would spark fresh interest in the green deal. The deal itself is limited in the energy reductions it can facilitate. The scope has to be much broader and much more active in promoting all areas of energy reduction, particularly in low-energy lighting which is currently not covered.
There should be no confusion that quality LED lighting, for example, retrofitted to an existing home, will repay purchase costs very quickly with energy saved and go on reducing energy consumption for many years.
But this simple fact is still not widely known. At Ecobuild this week, many visitors we talked with were surprised to learn about how energy efficient LED lighting is – with energy savings of up to 90% – as well as the longevity of LED products. A quality LED should last around 50,000 hours. That’s 10 times the lifespan of a compact fluorescent and 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb.
Further associated savings should accrue from reduced strain on council recycling services, increasing the benefit for the environment.
Another area untouched, but included, in the green deal is water efficiency. While there is limited scope for support to install eco showers, eco shower heads, eco taps and tap aerators, the actual take up has been low to zero in the past year.
Reducing water consumption by more than 50 per cent through these simple, efficient products is a clear winner because it reduces energy used to heat and pump water, while providing quick payback.
A new green deal that explicitly supported and promoted these ‘quick-result’ solutions as part of the broader package of longer-return energy-saving measures like loft insulation, double glazing, solar panels, efficient boilers and wall insulation, should achieve more for the consumer and help take the strain off the National Grid.
Mark Sait is managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com.
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.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
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
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.