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Parliamentary Ructions over Government Treatment of Solar Power

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Parliamentarians of all parties, in both the Lords and the Commons, are objecting to the government’s treatment of solar power.  Labour has tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill which would prevent a damaging potential VAT rise on domestic solar systems in future, which will be voted on next Tuesday. The Solar Trade Association was braced for a 20% hike in VAT on domestic solar in the budget yesterday, but, while the budget was silent on the issue, the STA has been advised the decision has been postponed and could happen at any time before Autumn.

The FT Political Correspondent has tweeted that up to 50 Tory MPs are set to rebel in support of preventing the solar VAT hike. The STA has urged the Chancellor to stand up to the European Commission and not to go ahead with tax hikes that would see households installing solar power taxed at 20%, while fossil fuels remained at 5%. This outcome would be perverse given EU and UK commitments on climate change and ending fossil subsidies.

Last night Members of the House of Lords won a vote against the Government’s Renewables Obligation Closure Order, which closes key support for solar up to 5MW in size from next month. The vote on a motion tabled by Baroness Featherstone has no legal power, but the vote sends a clear signal of unhappiness from the Lords with Government policy, applying pressure on Government to reconsider their actions.

STA Chief Executive Paul Barwell said; “Parliament is right to recognise a serious problem with the Government’s treatment of solar power, which had been the major clean energy success story of the last Parliament. Of course we understand there needs to be good cost control, and we are very happy to work with Government to achieve that. But Government has gone to extremes; slashing support under the Feed in Tariff by 64% for rooftop solar and removing all support for larger projects from this April, leaving much of the industry in limbo.

There is now huge consensus across the energy industry, both at home and internationally, that solar sits at the heart of a modern power system – it makes no sense to limit the UK stake in a powerful technology that even Shell believes will form the backbone of the world’s future power supply.”

The Government’s closure of the Renewables Obligation in April would leave all solar in the UK over 1MW in size with no viable support. The Solar Trade Association has calculated that the Government will be spending just 1% of all support  for low-carbon power (under the Levy Control Framework) over the next three years on solar via its one remaining support scheme – the Feed-In Tariff. With solar power the cheapest major renewable, alongside onshore wind, the marginalisation of solar has left a previously successful industry facing huge risk and uncertainty while leaving energy bill payers paying for more expensive alternatives.

In the House of Commons last night the opposition has also objected to the closure of the Renewables Obligation Order, which will lead to a vote in the Commons next Wednesday.

The Government claimed in yesterday’s Lord’s debate that the solar industry no longer needs support in the UK, but its own latest cost analysis by ARUP shows solar needs the same support as onshore wind (0.8ROCs). DECC also anticipate up to 18,700 job losses as a result of sharp cuts to the Feed-In Tariff – more than half of estimated previous employment in the industry – again illustrating Government awareness that the cuts will have a damaging impact. No assessment was made of the potential jobs impact of closing the Renewables Obligation for solar entirely.

Barwell said; “We want to work with Government to re-stablish the momentum of solar deployment in the UK. The withdrawal of financial incentives for one of the most cost effective renewables in favour of much more expensive alternatives shows a concerning steer away from market based economics. Derailing this technology now will guarantee higher prices for consumers in the long term and this surely can’t be the objectives of a long term government energy policy. As the Lords said last night, if the government is serious about delivering low carbon power at the lowest cost it needs to get serious about solar power. Parliament is quite right to stand up for this crucial technology in the national interest.”

The government has budgeted only £12m of support for roof-top solar for each of the next three years under the Feed-In Tariffs. A Solar Strategy produced by DECC in 2014 put strong emphasis on larger commercial rooftop solar power in the UK however DECC is anticipating only 60MW of deployment of solar power over 50kW (about the size of a school roof) per annum. This compares with an already week rooftop market last year of nearly 200MW. The domestic rooftop market is currently running at a fifth of levels seen this time last year. The Solar Trade Association had set out a comprehensive plan for getting rooftop solar off support, which would add only a further £1 to household bills by 2019 –investment that would be quickly recovered through increased market competition.

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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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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