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Energy security, fuel poverty and social change: the lowdown on renewables



The seventh annual New Energy & Cleantech Awards take place in London on April 30. For the second consecutive year, the evening awards ceremony will be preceded by a cleantech forum.

Cleantech and clean energy companies looking for growth finance will present to an investor audience, drawn from the venture capital, private equity, business angel, crowd funding and investment bank communities. Each will have 15 minutes to deliver their firm’s ‘elevator pitch’ and explain why it is an attractive investment opportunity.

One of the presenting companies is Natural Technology Developments (NTD), and here, its managing director Paul Laidler speaks to Blue & Green Tomorrow about the future of renewables.

What problem does your business uniquely solve? How do you solve it?

Rising energy costs and secure supply are now a global concern. Solar Angel is an innovative dual generation solar panel made in the UK that provides over four times more energy per square metre of collector area than standard photovoltaics (PV). By successfully blending PV and solar thermal technologies this panel provides both heat and power at an affordable price, providing users with improved energy efficiency by reducing energy costs and carbon dioxide emissions. Designed to be slimline, lightweight and easy to install, Solar Angel is ideal for businesses with high heat and power demands, and for situations where roof space or roof structure provide challenges for traditional solar technologies.

Describe your primary drivers for working in renewable energy or cleantech.

The cleantech sector is vibrant and creative with significant growth potential. I founded Natural Technology Developments in 2011 with the aim of developing and commercialising new solar products to meet the expanding needs of this sector. My co-director, Jo Walters, and I have a passion for business, technology and innovation and love making a positive difference to the current and future power challenges by pioneering novel ground breaking energy solutions.

Jo Walters (left) and Paul Laidler, co-founders of NTD Limited.

Imagine sustainable heat, light and power systems operating 24 hours a day, all year long. We believe that our exciting photovoltaic thermal (PV-T) technology Solar Angel can be an essential part of creating that solution.

Is the government doing enough to support your sector? What should it be doing?

Successful sustained growth in the cleantech sectors relies upon the three pillars of technology, policy and capital, along with the entrepreneurs and inventors to drive growth. The government now has a long-term renewables policy and a more integrated approach across a broad range of renewable technologies to support innovation and growth. This of course includes a dedicated solar strategy, which has in part recognised the importance of hybrid solutions such as ours.

One of the products we have in development is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) Energy Entrepreneurs Fund and we have also benefited from research and development tax credits and seed enterprise investment scheme (SEIS) investment, so we can vouch that there is a strong level of government support for new product development.

However, more can always be done to help early stage companies bridge the gap between developing a new technology and taking it through to commercial success. Greater government support for large-scale trials to validate new technology would be helpful.

Why do you think your business is attractive to investors?

Solar technology is the fastest growing part of the renewables mix. First generation PV-T technology producing both heat and power has been around for some time but the market is still undeveloped. We have created an innovative next generation design that works well, is easy to install, operate and maintain. And it’s made here in the UK at an affordable price.

The business team is experienced and energetic, and has a good track record of developing innovative products and a strong growth vision with global aspirations.

We think we have a good business model, and have established Solar Angel as a memorable brand with personality; we are in the midst of launching our first product and generating lots of interest from potential customers.

Our Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certification was finalised this week so we are now ready to sell. Investors will be helping the business at the beginning of the commercialisation and growth journey and have the opportunity to both shape the future success of the business and enjoy good financial returns.

What will the renewable energy and cleantech sectors look like in 10 years’ time?

Vibrant! Carbon-based fuels along with hydroelectricity, biomass and geothermal power will still have a significant role in the energy supply mix, but other renewable technologies such as solar and wind will be much more widely deployed. Grid parity will be a reality in many countries around the world and a combination of smart grids and local energy supply networks will be commonplace. Significant progress will have been made towards the holy grail of renewable energy storage.

There will be increased renewable investment globally, creating improved materials and technologies that form the basis for integrated sustainable energy solutions in different applications and markets. Novel technologies and materials such as solar fusion reactors and graphene will become better developed and technology integration with smart control/monitoring will form the basis for new more effective energy supply and storage.

Affordable renewable energy solutions will be more common across domestic, industrial and commercial applications. This will begin to create sustainable and affordable energy provision, addressing energy security issues, fuel poverty and social change around the world.

Paul Laidler is managing director of Natural Technology Developments (NTD) Limited.

Further reading:

Government sets out plans for ‘solar hubs’

Solar PV market increasingly focused on energy savings

Nina Skorupska: we need energy ‘prosumers’ to effect real change

The green levies review: when is investor reassurance not reassuring?

Renewable energy: debunking the subsidy and efficiency myths


7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption



Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions |

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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Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis




Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey 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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