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Feed-in-Tariff appeal rejected by Supreme Court

After weeks of uncertainty, the solar industry has received a welcome boost as the Supreme Court turns down the Government’s appeal against a ruling that described subsidy cuts as “legally flawed”.

This means that individuals who had solar panels installed between December 12 last year and March 4, will receive the higher tariff rate of 43p/kilowatt hour (kWh), instead of the lower rate of 21p/kWh that is currently in effect.

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After weeks of uncertainty, the solar industry has received a welcome boost as the Supreme Court turns down the Government’s appeal against a ruling that described subsidy cuts as “legally flawed”.

This means that individuals who had solar panels installed between December 12 last year and March 4, will receive the higher tariff rate of 43p/kilowatt hour (kWh), instead of the lower rate of 21p/kWh that is currently in effect.

Commenting on the news, Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins said, “This is the third court that’s ruled that botched Government solar plans are illegal – a landmark decision that will prevent Ministers causing industry chaos with similar subsidy cuts in future”.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal had already rejected Government appeals after Friends of the Earth, along with solar providers HomeSun and Solarcentury, lodged legal action to the initial cuts in December.

Chairman of Solarcentury, Jeremy Leggett, said, “This final step in the legal process has wasted much needed time and money, and now we, the renewables industry, simply want to get on with creating our clean energy future.

Renewables can only play the pivotal role necessary to deliver a new green economy if we have a stable market and investor confidence backed by lawful, predictable and carefully considered policy.”

The solar industry has been very vocal in its opposition to the cuts, stating that a high subsidy is needed not only to attract customers, but also to ensure that thousands of jobs in the sector are safe.

The Supreme Court ruling means that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will be forced to shell out money to individuals who invested in solar between the stated three-month period.

And its budget is unfortunately not bottomless.

It is vital that the solar industry receives sufficient support, or we risk losing good quality firms over the next year”, said Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association.

That will be against a backdrop of new and substantial public subsidies to the oil and gas sector.”

Barwell is referring to the announcement made by George Osborne in his less than green budget statement on Wednesday afternoon.

The chancellor highlighted that the oil and gas industries would be receiving billions of pounds of subsidies over the coming year. Our fuel bills will be lower – for a while – but it’s certainly not a sustainable step forward.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Friends of the Earth’s Atkins added, “The Coalition must now get on with the urgent task of restoring confidence in UK solar power.

The Government recently pledged a huge increase in solar by the end of the decade; it must now spell out how it is going to achieve this.

Investing in clean British energy will create thousands of new jobs and help reduce our reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports.”

In January, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that investment in the solar industry had reached $136.6 billion worldwide in 2011, accounting for almost half of all clean energy investment.

A continued financial push at both a corporate and private level is imperative, if the renewables industry is going to be taken seriously. B&GT recently published an in-depth report, called The Rise of Renewable Energy 2012, to highlight the importance of renewable energy in our clean power future.

If you find you fully support the idea of renewable energy, you can do something about it today, irrespective of faltering Government police. Simply contact Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity provider, who can help you convert your home or business to green power.

Related articles:

Government turns to Supreme Court with desperate feed-in tariff appeal

Industry welcomes Government’s feed-in tariff reform

DECC plan consultation for feed-in tariff to mirror German system

Solar industry still facing uncertainties over feed-in tariff scheme

The Rise of Renewable Energy 2012

Picture source: Mike Carter

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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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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