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UK Could Struggle To Shift To Low Carbon Economy, Warn Top Environment and Development Groups



Christian Aid Envelope by Howard Lake via flickr

Prior to the autumn statement, six leading UK development and environment organisations have published new report showing how far the government has to go on low carbon energy, transport and heating.

These organisations include Christian Aid and the RSPB, who are calling on the chancellor to use the autumn statement to announce new investment in low carbon infrastructure.

While acknowledging that the government has, until recently, taken an international lead on low carbon development, they highlight the extent to which UK domestic policy is now undermining progress:

• Renewables investment is expected to drop by 96% by 2020-21.
• Total public investment in domestic energy efficiency declined from £1.5 billion to £0.7 billion in 2015 and the number of energy efficiency measures installed in homes fell by 80% in the same period.
• Government prioritisation of infrastructure projects like Heathrow will lock the UK into high carbon growth.

The organisations say the government has to act swiftly during this parliament to reverse these trends and get the UK back on track.

They emphasise the extent to which raising investment in the low carbon power, heat and transport sectors now will benefit the whole UK economy, boosting jobs and local growth. It would also open up opportunities for the UK to export its skills and expertise to the fast expanding global low carbon market.

• With continued government backing, the UK renewables industry could attract £47 billion in new investment from 2021 to 2026.
• Retrofitting more of the UK’s housing stock to improve its energy efficiency could unlock £73 billion in new investment and support 86,000 jobs a year.
• And, with new investment in skills and infrastructure for EV and autonomous vehicles, the UK could benefit from £51 billion a year investment and 320,000 new industrial jobs by 2030.

The report provides a menu of three actions the government must take to meet its low carbon commitments and realise these benefits:

• Allocate an additional £2 billion funding support for low carbon power post 2020
• Allocate funding to scale up low carbon heat technologies
• Continue to support people in buying ultra-low emission vehicles beyond 2018 and develop a nationwide network of publicly accessible low carbon charging points

Glyn Davies, acting chief executive at WWF-UK said:

“As a green industrial revolution gets underway worldwide, the UK – once a leading player in international climate negotiations and the first nation to adopt a domestic Climate Change Act – is in danger of slipping behind. Swift ratification of the Paris agreement and a comprehensive plan for low carbon growth are urgently needed to restore the confidence of investors, environmentalists and green entrepreneurs.”

Chris Bain, director at the Catholic aid agency CAFOD, said:

“If we are to rise to the challenge set by Pope Francis to urgently tackle climate change and protect the world’s poorest people, then the UK has to stay on track with reducing its own carbon emissions and delivering the low carbon infrastructure that requires. We must look past temporary setbacks in policy and remain focused on the long term goal of being free of polluting fossil fuels by 2050.”

Martin Harper, conservation director at the RSPB, said:

“Investment in low carbon infrastructure is crucial not just for our future economic prosperity but also to protect the nature we love. We know that, with the right policies in place, it is possible to make the transition to a low carbon future in harmony with nature. As the government makes key decisions on infrastructure investment, it’s vital that impacts on the natural world are considered at an early stage. We urge the government to consider the recommendations in our analysis, and bring forward an ambitious low carbon investment plan as soon as possible.”

Loretta Minghella, chief executive of Christian Aid, said:

“The very countries being hit hardest by climate change are also priority markets for low carbon investments and exports. Green investment is growing fastest in low and middle income countries, and Britain is in pole position to partner with them using our skills and technologies to build resilient infrastructure. The prize is £43 trillion of investment in low carbon infrastructure in developing countries by 2030. However, Britain’s export strategy cannot springboard into these markets without a stronger domestic supply chain. If the UK does not match the level of vision and focused delivery of its global competitors, not only will it hurt the poorest hardest, but Britain will fund itself stuck in the slow lane while others overtake and race ahead.”

John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace, said:

“The government should grasp the potential of the huge technological changes that have led to the cost of electric vehicles, renewable energy and battery storage falling over recent years. The UK is well positioned to be a leader in the next industrial revolution especially for electric vehicles and offshore wind. But if we miss the opportunity, other countries will seize it, and we will miss out on new jobs, sustainable economic growth and export potential. The air that we breathe would also benefit from a detox that investing now in electric vehicles could deliver.”

Leah Davis, acting director at Green Alliance, said:

“The government has given welcome early signs that it is committed to ambitious leadership on climate change. But, in the wake of the US election result, it is now critical that it states its position unequivocally to the world and backs it up with clear actions. The autumn statement is an ideal opportunity for the government to show it is serious about action at home, providing much needed fiscal support for low carbon power, heat and transport.”


Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?



The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy




Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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