The government has boosted local renewable energy projects with the unveiling of a £10m fund to help communities generate their own power, saving money and cutting carbon. Here is the pick of the reaction to the news.
Ed Davey, energy and climate change secretary
We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy. The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.
Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.
Greg Barker, energy and climate change minister
The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses – bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money, too.
The coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.
Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA)
We are delighted that the government is really serious about helping ordinary people become active participants in the energy economy. People are beginning to rethink energy, seeing that it doesn’t have to be expensive and polluting, and that they can even supply clean energy themselves. This is why we are seeing such excellent growth in the number of community energy companies.
We are looking forward to starting this dialogue with the community energy sector. We are confident that greater community engagement and investment in commercial project development will accelerate renewables deployment and the benefits that brings to society – mitigating climate risks, reducing dependence on energy imports and creating jobs in the green economy.
Communities should benefit directly from renewables development as well. Local benefits can take many forms, from new jobs and exclusive investment opportunities to self-supply of renewable heat, electricity, transport fuels and fertilisers.
Julia Groves, managing director of Trillion Fund
The launch of today’s strategy will give people wanting to invest in community energy projects more confidence that they are not throwing their money into a black hole.
With returns typically ranging from between 3- 6%, community renewable energy projects not only reduce bills and increase energy security for locals, they also offer steady, long-term, income generating and asset-backed investments that beat inflation.
They can offer everyone – not just people local to the projects – a meaningful, sustainable financial stake in the future of energy, something which fracking, nuclear and fossil fuel energies cannot boast.
Through buying shares or bonds in renewables projects, people can become the owners of their own clean power generation and have a financial interest in its success. This is more important than ever at a time when the major utilities are focusing their efforts on shale gas and nuclear power.
To those who say renewables do not work, we would say: go and ask communities with renewables installed. We are willing to bet there are fewer nimbys objecting to wind and solar than there are those opposing fracking rigs – and as more people realise the benefits of community renewables, there will be even fewer.
Russell Gill, head of membership and social goals at the Co-operative
The government’s new strategy is positive news for the vibrant and growing community energy sector. As its supportive measures are realised, we are optimistic that a huge increase in community and co-operatively owned projects will be forthcoming, giving people the ability to bring down household energy bills.
We have worked closely with government on the strategy’s development and are pleased to see the barriers to expansion we highlighted being addressed. We look forward to continuing to work with government and the other members of the Community Energy Coalition to champion co-operative solutions to the energy and climate change challenges we face, and congratulate the tens of thousands of Co-operative members and customers who have campaigned for this strategy to be brought about.
Giles Bristow, director of programmes at Forum for the Future
The publication of this strategy marks an important step by government towards enabling community organisations to realise the opportunity we now have to progress widespread community ownership of energy. This sector must grasp this opportunity and help create the big shift we urgently need to a clean, fair and desirable energy system. If we do work together, the vision of 1m homes being fully community powered and saving huge amounts of energy, carbon and money is there for the taking.
Nick Clack, senior energy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England
Community energy has the potential to play a critical role in reducing the impact of our energy needs on the countryside and delivering low-carbon energy. Today’s announcement is a promising first step, but there’s a long way to go if communities are to overcome the financial and regulatory barriers they face in running and getting projects off the ground.
Robust and sustained support from the government is essential and while the current proposals are encouraging, they don’t yet go far enough. In particular, we need to see much more direct funding for communities to improve their energy efficiency. Increasing energy efficiency is a cost-effective way of meeting our low-carbon energy requirements whilst protecting the countryside.
Will Cottrell, chairman of Brighton Energy Co-op
The new community energy fund is exactly the kind of innovative assistance that will help projects like Brighton Energy Co-op to grow.
By helping communities help themselves the government is providing a valuable service – creating energy independence and supporting the delivery of cheap, green energy to UK communities nationwide.
Naomi Luhde-Thompson, planning campaigner at Friends of the Earth
This new pot of money is a useful first step in helping more people to generate their own clean power, but more needs to be done if we’re going to make community projects more than a sideshow in the UK’s energy mix.
Imagine whole streets and villages producing their own energy with wind and solar power, creating jobs while helping to tackle climate change – it’s possible within the next few years if the government removes the barriers.
This year ministers should also require larger energy developments to have mandatory share offers for local people – making energy bills more affordable for many of us.
Jemma Benson, fund manager at CO2Sense
This strategy will provide further confidence to communities already actively developing their own energy generation schemes. The new support programmes announced will hopefully be important in removing some of the key barriers to projects. Its pragmatic approach is to be welcomed. However, stable policy and long-term certainty around incentives will be an important backdrop to the strategy to ensure the opportunity can be realised.
Patrick Begg, rural enterprise director at the National Trust
The National Trust welcomes the government’s community energy strategy. At a time of rapidly rising energy bills and growing concerns over the impact of energy infrastructure on our precious landscapes, community energy can offer people a chance not only to take more control of their energy – where it comes from and what it costs – but also feel confident that the places they love have not been sacrificed to generate it.
We, like the rest of the Community Energy Coalition, are ready to work with the government to support a big increase in community owned energy and in particular create a step change in energy efficiency schemes. If fully realised, the broad package of policies and the signal of ambition contained in the strategy can be the catalyst for a community energy revolution.
Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association (STA)
The public are very concerned by the lack of competition in our energy markets and poll after poll shows they back renewable energy. So it’s great to see the UK government recognise the vast potential for everyday communities to directly own renewable energy and by doing so, to break open our consolidated electricity sector. International experience shows it is bottom-up investment by everyday people and organisations that can really drive renewables. At the same time this gives people real ownership of the energy they depend on, and increases support for local schemes.
No technology democratises ownership of the power sector better than solar. The UK’s solar power output is already owned by half a million solar households and by new independent companies outside the big six utilities, as well as a few thousand businesses and communities. It is clear that solar is already delivering a revolution in ownership, as well as in clean power generation. The further scope for community ownership of solar across the UK is tremendous. However, in practical terms, fulfilling this exciting vision does require government to ensure the feed-in tariff can support the take-off of community-scale schemes.
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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