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Farmers feel pain of UK Government cuts to green energy scheme

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Reduction or removal of Feed-in Tariff comes on top of decimated agricultural prices. Renewables and farming groups join forces to highlight harm as consultation closes tomorrow, Friday.

Major cuts to a scheme which supports small scale renewable energy are the latest blow to farmers already hit by low prices, according to a group of organisations representing green energy and farming.

Industry body Scottish Renewables, the National Farmers Union Scotland and Glasgow-based wind turbine manufacturer Gaia-Wind have condemned UK Government cuts to support for small-scale green energy projects.

The warning comes ahead of the end of a consultation on changes to the Feed-in Tariff scheme on Friday (Oct 23) which could see funding for solar cut by 87% and wind down 58% – or the end of support altogether.

Gaia-Wind CEO Johnnie Andringa said: “For the vast majority of our turbine owners a sensible and supportive Feed-in Tariff is a crucial part of the economics of ‘distributed energy’ – the generation of power mostly for on-site use.

“Farm-scale wind – a sector with a substantial, if shrinking, base of British manufacturers – is becoming a core element of the rural economy as farmers seek to diversify from dwindling traditional income streams.

“The changes to the FiT, however, mean we could now see more company failures and job losses as a direct consequence of government policy.”

Stephanie Clark, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Reductions in support for small-scale renewables provided through the Feed-in Tariff will hit rural businesses particularly hard, coming as they would on top of well-publicised low prices, particularly in the dairy industry.

“The UK Government’s consultation on changes to the FiT ends on Friday, and we are asking that rates be kept at a viable level in order to safeguard the jobs and environmental and economic benefits that the sector provides.”

Recent research by Scottish Renewables showed Scotland is home to 42,000 FiT-scale solar schemes (equivalent to around 660,000 250W solar panels), 2,557 small wind projects, 204 hydro-electric schemes and three anaerobic digesters, which turn food waste and farm slurry into gas and electricity.

Gemma Thomson, NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical Policy Manager, told how the proposed FiT changes would “severely limit” the number of on-farm renewable schemes in future.

She said: “These proposals will end many on-farm renewable plans, and severely limit the number of new projects that will come forward in the future.

“NFU Scotland’s President Allan Bowie has written to DECC to voice the Union’s concerns directly.

“The knock-on effect for farm businesses will be that a previously viable way of dividing risk and reducing exposure to price volatility will no longer be an option.”

The Feed-in Tariff supports renewable developments below 5MW. Electricity from this scale of development can be used to power machinery and property on a farm or small business.

A UK Government review of the FiT scheme is considering reducing the amount of money paid to people who generate their own green energy. Submissions to that review, which ends on Friday, will be made by Scottish Renewables and NFU Scotland, among others.

Perthshire Farmers: ‘Wind Turbine Helps Us Offset Decline In Income’

Debbie and Neil McGowan’s 11kW Gaia-Wind turbine powers the farmhouse, water borehole and cattle sheds at their mixed livestock and arable business in Perthshire.

Debbie told how changes to the Feed-in Tariff mean “it’s now hard to see how farmers in our position would be able to invest in renewable energy”.

She said: “Our wind turbine is a central part of our business, and a sensible FiT rate is key to making renewables the invaluable support that it is.

“Our Gaia-Wind turbine powers a water borehole supplying four farms. About 73% of the energy is used on the farm and the rest is sold to the national grid. Our electricity bills have reduced by nearly a third and the extra income has helped us enormously in making farm improvements.

“We have been able to offset reductions in income from other parts of the business with the reduced energy prices provided by the turbine and income from selling power to the grid, but it’s now hard to see how farmers in our position would be able to invest in renewable energy with the projected cuts to the Feed-in Tariff. “

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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