Pressure on energy bills continued to increase as the coalition reshapes the national renewable power policy with two announcements.
Underlying policy moves in the renewables sector is the implicit understanding that the era of cheap energy is well and truly ended. The costs of producing our power will continue to rise painfully over the next 20 years as we import more gas and build nuclear power stations while subsidising renewable sources, as we phase out ‘dirty’ generators like coal.
The government first trumpeted the decision to give the green light to eight major renewable electricity projects. Over the next six years, the projects will attract up to £12 billion of private sector investment, supporting as many as 8,500 jobs.
Then the Conservative party announced on Thursday that, with a parliamentary majority, it will not only end the subsidy for onshore wind farms, but also give local councils powers to stop more being built. The coalition is split on this, with Conservative energy minister Michael Fallon saying that the country has enough onshore wind farms while Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, predicting that the move would lead to higher energy bills.
Contrarily, Davey also predicted that whole package on energy reforms would at some point lead to lower consumer energy bills. His prediction did not go into detail about how this will be achieved and the only conclusion, given the energy arithmetic, is that we will all have to reduce our consumption of power substantially and in a sustainable way.
The combined projects are expected to add 2% to an average household electricity bill by 2020, or £11 per household.
Whatever the cultural, commercial and aesthetic drivers behind the two decisions, it is accepted that power from renewable sources is more expensive, and always will be so. But investment in renewables is absolutely essential if the UK is to meet short and longer-term carbon emissions reduction targets.
We are slowly getting used to the idea of expensive utilities and it’s an uncomfortable time for all. On the positive side, the government backing for the eight renewable electricity projects should contribute around 15 terrawatt hours (TWh) or 14% of the renewable electricity target for 2020. They will also reduce emissions by 10 million tonnes (MtCO2) a year compared to fossil fuel power generation.
The mix of offshore wind farms, coal to biomass conversions and a dedicated biomass plant with combined heat and power could add a further 4.5 gigawatts (GW) of low-carbon electricity to the country’s energy mix, around 4% of capacity, generating enough clean electricity to power over 3 million homes.
The projects have been offered under contracts for difference (CfD), which form part of Government’s electricity market reform programme, supported by the new legislative framework introduced through the Energy Act 2013.
Under CfDs, generators and developers receive a fixed strike price for the electricity they produce for 15 years. These contracts give investors the confidence to pay the up-front costs of major new infrastructure projects but clearly add upward pressure on what the consumer must pay.
While there are serious concerns over the Drax biomass element, the overall scope and vision of the renewables package is welcome, if more than a little overdue. In fact, there were 57 applications for renewable project support by way of CfDs – but the government’s coffers could not accommodate them all.
However, as Davey says, “These contracts for major renewable electricity projects mark a new stage in Britain’s green energy investment boom. By themselves they will bring green jobs and growth across the UK, but they are a significant part of our efforts to give Britain cleaner and more secure energy.”
Time will tell whether the electricity market reform programme will build the world’s first low-carbon electricity market and attract the many billions of pounds needed for energy production but the goal of reducing costs of ‘clean power’ must be viewed as a very long-term target.
There has been significant growth in renewable electricity sector with the renewables’ share of total electricity generation more than doubling since 2010 but obviously from a very low base. The coalition believes that the EMR will deliver over 30% renewable electricity by 2020.
The next step is in May, when the contracts will come into legal force. The next step for all of us is to seriously examine our consumption of energy and water. Even without serious government support for necessary reductions in power use, the imperative for action is crystal clear now.
Mark Sait is managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.
Photo: Attilio Lombardo via Freeimages
7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
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