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Community Energy Fortnight: Scene Consulting

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Community energy specialist, Scene Consulting, will deliver a renewable energy workshop during Community Energy Fortnight on September 26.

The workshop is open to members of community groups who would like more information on renewable energy and what it can offer to locals. The event will be held at Hartwood Farm in Schotts, Scotland from 10am – 4pm and is free to attend. Tickets can be booked online and a variety of energy types will be discussed, including geothermal, hydro, solar and wind.

Vijay Bhopal, projects manager at Scene Consulting tells Blue & Green Tomorrow more about the initiative.

Tell us a bit about your organisation

Scene is a social enterprise focused on growing the community energy sector through project consultancy and research, we aim to have our boots on the ground whilst also helping to shape and expand the sector as a whole. Our work covers everything from researching progress and trends in community energy for lenders, thinktanks, NGOs and governments, to project specific management and technical consulting support. We aim to promote community ownership in both the developed and developing world and have recently been working in the UK, Cameroon and India and with partners from a variety of other regions.

What excites you about community energy?

Despite the fact that project drivers have a shared vision of distributed ownership, community energy projects are diverse, which is always exciting. No two projects are ever the same – even within the UK, never mind across borders. Whether there are particular technical challenges or social structures that are difficult to overcome, projects are rarely boring or easy, and always have great associated benefits.

What is the biggest challenge in scaling up community energy across the UK?

The earliest pioneers aside, trends in community energy tend to lag two or three years behind commercial developers in terms of uptake. This is a major challenge, which causes community projects to be even more vulnerable to changing incentive frameworks than all of the other actors in the market.

For community energy to thrive I think it needs to have its own incentive framework, which is bound within more relaxed time-frames and has more certainty going well into the future. The current incentive frameworks are not fit for purpose for a booming, but late blooming, community energy economy, which is why I strongly advocate a community feed-in tariff which would differ from the normal tariff in a variety of ways.

Feed-in tariffs don’t last forever, as seen in Italy and Germany, where the schemes were recently ended for solar PV as they had reached their allocated budget limits. My worry is that by the time real momentum is built up in our communities, the tariffs will be so degraded that the finances are no longer so favourable. We can safeguard against this by having a community feed-in tariff.

What’s your vision for community energy in the UK?

My vision for community energy in the UK is one in which communities large, small, poorer or wealthier all understand the benefits that can flow from your own energy supplies. Grassroots knowledge is in short supply in many regions of the UK, especially poorer areas, despite the growing popularity of the sector.

I want to see an expansion in our collective knowledge-base leading to an expansion in the numbers of community energy activists, and therefore many more projects – both 100% community owned and community-commercial joint ventures.

Would you encourage others to get involved in community energy?

Community energy offers a rare chance to improve social and economic aspects of your area, whilst doing a little bit to help solve a global environmental crisis. Those are pretty good reasons to get involved in a project in my book!

 

The Community Energy Coalition (CEC) formed in 2011 and runs the Community Energy Fortnight, with the first one taking place last year.

The CEC is made up of 36 members, made up of a wide range of organisations and charities, including Forum for the Future, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Co-operative Energy.

The fortnight hopes to inspire and engage people about the benefits of clean, green energy and encourage community groups to set up their own projects.

The public can see renewable energy projects close up with a variety of events and open days held across the UK from September 13 – 28.

Photo: Scene Consulting 2013

Further reading:

Community Energy Fortnight: Drumlin Wind Energy Co-operative

Community Energy Fortnight gears up for second series of events

Community Energy Strategy launched to help local renewables projects

Public shows renewables interest ahead of Community Energy Strategy unveiling

Community Energy Strategy: the reaction

Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

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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Energy

What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?

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Clean Growth Strategy for green energy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By sdecoret | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/sdecoret

It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?

The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.

A Strategy, Instead of a Plan

But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.

The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.

A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth

But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.

Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push

While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.

The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.

But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.

This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.

Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.

In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.

It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.

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