Category: Industry News

Positive environmental and climate news from 2019

Is there any good news about climate change?

A couple of weeks ago, we found an interesting article that poses the following question:

Do we have any right to feel optimistic about climate change?

The piece urges us to face the facts. We’re in a mess, and its unlikely we can totally undo the damage already reaped on the environment. It argues that we should be hopeful, not optimistic, about tackling climate change:

“Overestimating society’s powers can be as dangerous as false hope, because we start telling Disney-like stories in the midst of a global crisis”…[The] antidote is healthy skepticism… we should settle our hope in our values – in what we believe is right and needed. Our actions can’t be based on the expectations of a happy ending. That outcome is outside of our control.”

The article argues that our hope must be grounded in action. If we do our bit, we can hope: but we should not assume we have ‘saved’ the planet. And we certainly can’t hope if we do nothing, and leave it up to others.

That said: while we can’t assume that everything will be alright, going too far the other way is equally damaging. Environmental anxiety is rising. While it may be naïve to feel totally hopeful about climate change, feeling hopeless won’t help either.

We believe it’s important to celebrate positives, without resting on one’s laurels. So, without being too optimistic, we’d like share just a handful of environmental good news stories from the last year. We still have a long way to go, and we might never get there. But we believe it’s important to recognise that some progress has been made, thanks to the hard work of committed individuals and organisations.

 

UK reliance on fossil fuels hit an all-time low in 2019

If you’re considering the UK’s energy usage, and where that energy came from, 2019 was the greenest year on record. We generated more renewable energy than ever before, and the carbon intensity of our electricity dropped to the lowest it has ever been. Here’s the full breakdown of stats from the National Grid Electricity System Operator:

  • December 10 2019 – highest ever level of wind powered electricity generation, 16873 MW
  • May 14 2019 – highest ever level of solar powered electricity generation, 9550 MW
  • Longest ever period of operation of GB’s electricity system without using coal power to produce electricity (437.5 hours) ending on June 4 2019
  • August 17 2019 – lowest ever carbon intensity: 57g CO2/kWh (carbon intensity of electricity is a measure of C02 emissions produced per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed)

 

EU to ban single use plastics by 2021

In the Autumn of last year, the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastics by 2021. MEPs argued that if no action was take, there would be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. By 2021, anything plastic that’s used once then thrown away is banned in the EU: plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks.

Of course, we can’t celebrate this yet. It is too soon to see any results from this initiative, and does not undo years of wasteful plastic usage. However, perhaps we can feel quietly hopeful. Following the introduction of the 5p plastic bag levy in 2015, public plastic bag usage reduced by 85%. This has already created a positive knock-on effect for the environment. In the first year, the number of plastic bags washed up on UK beaches fell by half.

 

Citizen interest in climate change is increasing

The global conversation around climate change is becoming more open, and more vocal. It makes the news several times a week, and infiltrates other forms of media, too. David Attenborough fans will notice that his more recent documentaries are becoming more and more environmentally focused. 2019’s Netflix series, Our Planet, explores the devastating effects of deforestation, pollution, over-hunting, and climate change. Of course, consuming media and “scrolling for hope” won’t tackle climate change: but citizen action will. Fortunately, we’re seeing more of this too.

Regardless of what you think about their methods, examples of citizen activism like Extinction Rebellion show that normal people feel genuinely passionate about tackling climate change. Extinction Rebellion has staged protests in over 60 cities, with thousands of people arrested for ‘disruptive’ and dangerous behaviour. And this passion that incites protest knows no age limit: across the world, school children take part in regular school strikes for the climate.

Such protests don’t stop climate change on their own. Additionally, we can’t ignore the C02 impact of thousands of people travelling to these events. However, they do send a strong message. Brands and organisations must step up to their environmental responsibilities, or risk losing the trust of customers and stakeholders.

 

Electric vehicles becoming a mainstream option

At the end of 2019, there were almost 265,000  electric vehicles on the roads: that’s 3.2% of the average market share. EVs are shedding their ‘hippie’ reputation, with many of the major car manufacturers releasing electric models in 2019.

Switching to electric vehicles isn’t enough on its own to mitigate climate change. Plus, we need to power them with clean electricity (solar, wind, or hydro). But, an openness to explore more sustainable transport methods is a step in the right direction.

However, in order for this to succeed, we need to invest in improving EV infrastructure. Despite the ban in petrol and diesel vehicles being brought forward, charging an electric car at home is still not a viable option for most people.

 

So, can we feel positive about climate change?

As you can see from the handful of stories above, positive news about climate change is happening. However, these stories are always tinged with a ‘but’. We’re taking steps to tackle to climate change… but it’s never enough on its own.

There is no one perfect solution when it comes to tackling climate change. Despite our best efforts, we might never achieve the results needed to prevent drastic warming.

All we can do is try, celebrate our progress, and then keep trying.

Our clean energy predictions for 2020

EV fleet vans being charged

RenEnergy’s energy predictions for 2020

To mark the start of the new year, we’re sharing our clean energy predictions for 2020. Here’s what we think will be big in the world of solar and storage this year…

Majority of energy to come from renewables

In 2019, 48.5% of the UK’s electricity came from renewable sources. We anticipate this year will be even higher, with over half our energy being green.

We also think that the UK will go for longer periods without using fossil fuels. In 2019, the UK went almost three weeks without burning any coal. In 2020, we’d like to see that raise to a whole month.

Bigger and better batteries

We predict that improvements in battery technology will make solar and storage options even more popular. Not only are batteries becoming more effective, they are also becoming more affordable. Without the feed-in-tariff (or a battery), any solar energy not used in real-time is effectively wasted. A battery allows solar energy to be saved, and used outside of daylight hours. Solar plus storage is essential for those who want to operate off-grid, so better batteries will be particularly useful for our colleagues in South Africa. Their customers often need to maintain a steady energy supply to protect their homes and business in times of load-shedding.

However, it is worth mentioning that battery technology comes with some challenges. Mining for lithium (an essential ingredient in many batteries) can cause pollution and damage to local ecosystems. As public interest in environmentalism becomes increasingly passionate, we expect to hear more about this in 2020, too.

EV boom continues 

We think these improvements in batteries will continue to grow the adoption of electric vehicles. An improved EV battery allows the cars to retain more charge and achieve a better range. Likewise, the affordability of solar and storage may encourage more customers to choose an EV.

Great progress is already being made. In 2010, there were just 972 EVs on UK roads. At the end of last year, there were over 15,500. As EVs become a more mainstream option, the number of public and community EV charge points will increase too.

Innovation in solar panel design 

As well as updates to battery tech, we think there will be further developments to the composition of solar panels, improving their efficiency. For example, bifacial solar panels that absorb sunlight from both sides of the panel. Additionally, researchers are exploring alternatives to silicon, such as perovskite. While investigation into these options is ongoing, we don’t expect to see the products become available until the end of this year. However, we know our trusted technical partners are continually improving their products to ensure quality and effectiveness.

Smart Export Guarantee: not so smart

From 1 January 2020, the Smart Export Guarantee replaces the now-abolished feed-in-tariff. Under this scheme, customers with small arrays (under 5 MW) may receive a payment for exporting additional energy back to the grid. However, the scheme is not as generous as FIT and faces stricter regulations, allowing customers to export much less back to the grid. Our prediction is that the Smart Export Guarantee won’t make much of a difference. It may provide a small perk to domestic customers who don’t use all their generated electricity. But, the real benefit is saving on energy bills and fulfilling a commitment to environmentalism.

What are your clean energy predictions for 2020? Let us know on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

How to spot fraudulent activity

In September we posted an article titled “A new scam taking place”. It highlighted that companies were phoning PV system owners to sell products and services to stop their system catching on fire.  We wanted to make sure that our customers knew this was incorrect.

Since then, companies have become more imaginative and have created other stories and scenarios to get you to buy their “service or product”. Examples of this are inefficient inverters, inverter health checks, panel failure and potentially many more. We at RenEnergy do not want you to pay out money to these companies to not receive the service you pay for and do not need.

We have put together some tips to spot if the company is fraudulent:

  1. Has the company contacted you? Always think why and how a company has your details? We never hand out customer details out to third parties so if a company says that they have received your details from us then always be suspicious.
  2. How does the company know about your system? If they are talking about an inverter issue how do they know what your inverter is reading? Often they are placed in a loft or out of sight place and would only be read remotely by yourself or your installer.
  3. Do you recognise the company name? Ask for their name and details and do a Google search. Often the companies we have seen are registered with the government’s Company House data base, but there is no website and the details are very vague. Any scam reporting may be highlighted too.
  4. Have the Energy Savings Trust heard of the company? If you are still unsure call them and see if they recognise the company. They will often give a number of a local reputable company you can call.
  5. What do the installers of your system say? Always phone the installers of your system, or they are no longer operating you can call us, to ask if we can give anymore information. With years of experience we will know if the enquiry is correct or if we think it is a scam.

Always stay aware and don’t agree to pay for any product or service that you are unsure about. It never hurts to get a second opinion even if it is genuine.

If you are unsure and would like to talk to us we can be contacted on 01603 713448 or info@renenergy.co.uk

Lastly, if you still want your system to be checked over give us a call and we can give you more information, and whilst we are out there explain how your system works.

Is subsidy free solar viable?

The government definitely thinks so. How about industry experts? Again, many believe it is.

Abid Kazim, the MD of NextEnergy Solar Fund, is passionate that solar can indeed be subsidy free, if, as he pointed out in the opening session of yesterday’s Solar Finance and Investment Europe event, the government “get out the way”.

Kazim starts off with saying how the solar industry has changed and that it had “entered a period of enlightenment”.  Down playing the cost of panel prices, development costs or finance being the main barriers of deployment but instead went on to say that counterproductive policies and regulation red tape were the largest issues. He issued six required changes that would need to enacted if the UK were to let subsidy free solar thrive:

  • A reshaping of the regulatory framework to reflect how low carbon technologies are approaching grid parity;
  • The abolishment of Contracts for Difference;
  • The establishment of long-term PPAs so that carbon intensive and low carbon technologies can compete on a level playing field;
  • The re-categorisation of batteries as energy storage;
  • Introduction of a regulatory framework to manage the pace and cost associated with a shift to a totally self-regulated decentralised energy system, and;
  • A carbon pricing model within a ‘polluter pays’ framework where the levies of energy supply companies are not passed onto consumers.

Kazim also said that in order to keep the energy market fair there must be a carbon price paid by the utility companies that is not passed onto the consumer.

Today is the last day of the Solar Finance and Investment Europe. We look forward to seeing what The Solar Power Portal have to report and how many other experts share this opinion.

2018 Energy Trends

Last week the guardian posted an article on five renewable energy trends to watch in 2018, and here is a summary of what they are:

Renewable energy costs will continue to fall

Since 2009, solar prices have dropped by 62 % and off-shore wind by 50 %, reaching £57/MWh. Record low prices for both solar and wind at power auctions have made way for subsidy free energy. This trend is predicted to continue, with decreasing prices in India creating better competition in auctions.

China will push ahead with its ambitious energy plans

Contradictory, China is both the world’s biggest polluter and the global leader in solar generation. In 2017, China expected to install a whopping 54 GW of solar, surpassing their targets for 2020 already. By 2020, China plans to have invested £292bn in renewable power and to introduce a cap on the amount of coal burning that has caused severe air pollution in many of its cities.

China have eight large-scale carbon capture projects underway, plan to be the global leader is electrical vehicle manufacturing and adoption, and have finally introduced its national emissions trading scheme which put a price on the carbon emissions across the Chinese power generation sector.

Corporations will make bold commitments 

Many companies are pledging to become RE100 companies, where 100 % of their energy come from renewable energy, joining the likes of Apple and Goldman Sachs.

Experts expect that the number of corporations pledging ambitious renewable targets to increase in 2018, mainly due to the prices of renewables falling and corporations being exposed to climate change and NGO campaigns.

The renewable industry will generate more jobs

The International Renewable Energy Agency released a report stating that 9.8 million people now work in the renewable sector worldwide, with wind turbine service technician and solar PV installer jobs becoming the fastest growing occupations in the US. Here in the UK, jobs should be created thanks to the £17.5bn invested in offshore wind.

To keep up with the increasing uptake of renewables there needs to be an increase in skilled workers, otherwise the speed of energy transition will be limited.

Competition in the battery market will increase

In 2018, Tesla will complete is Gigafactory in Nevada. In 2021, China plans to install 120 GWh capacity of battery cells.

In the UK? In April 2017, the Faraday Challenge was introduced. This is the first phase of £246m investment in battery technology designed to boost research and development, hoping to put the UK at the forefront of the energy storage market.

There is also a prediction that pumped hydro storage,compressed air storage, hydrogen storage, solid state batteries and water based batteries will all see a growth in 2018.

 

So there you have it, 5 renewable energy trends of 2018. Watch this space.

The future of FiT

Last month the government published their Autumn Budget 2017, which not only mentioned that renewable energy levies will be cut (see our previous post) but it also confirmed that the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) will close to new accreditation at the end of March 2019.

What is the FiT?

For those of you who haven’t heard of the FiT we will give a small summary.

The FiT is a support mechanism provided by the government to encourage the uptake of various renewable energy generation. It is limited up to 5 MW and is split into tariff levels. The owner of the power supply is paid for generation of electricity and for any export to the grid. For more tariff details click here.

The scheme was introduced in April 2010 and has since seen both households and businesses become very large investors in renewable energy. A whopping 808,051 installations were accredited to the scheme by 30th November,  which equates to 5,868 MW of electricity.

What’s happening right now?

As the scheme moves into its final stages the tariff is decreasing each quarter, which could be why many forecasts reveal a slump in new installations. Cornwall Insight noted that  Q3 2017 had 90 MW accredited, which is the lowest in any quarter since Q2 2011, and 5,662 installations, the fewest in any quarter since Q2 2010. Other reasons for the decline in uptake is that many technology types now fall under the quarterly deployment caps set by BEIS. Since Q4 has begun (October-December) only 20 solar PV installations have been accredited, in comparison to 2,116 in September alone. Further echoing this decline is that for the first time ever hydropower had more accreditation in October than any other technology type.

What does this mean for the future?

Predictions based on historical data show that electricity demand will be lower than original predictions showed and that uptake in the FiT accreditation will also decline. After March 2019 there will be no more new applications, however, the majority of projects who have benefited from FiT will receive payments for 20 years after the commission date. This means that the first projects to receive the subsidy will do so until 2030.

 

Are the UK’s birds being confused be a changing climate?

We are seeing the effects of climate change all around us and we all know we need to do our bit. New evidence shows that climate change is affecting the behaviour of our migratory birds. Birds are arriving more than 20 days earlier than they did in the 1960’s, according to the state of the UK’s birds 2017 report. One example is the swallow. Swallows are now arriving 15 days earlier than they did 50 years ago. If climate change continues we needs to predict the future effects on birds and other wildlife.

This may not seem like a massive issue to many, but the report warns that there will be winners and losers, with some opportunities for some birds but higher extinction risks for others. For example. the night heron are now breeding in the UK, whereas the snow bunting are declining. In addition, these changes in behaviour mean that there could be a discrepancy between the time that chicks need to be fed and the food that’s available, meaning they may be less successful in their breeding.

Dr Stuart Newson of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) said thousands of volunteers have submitted observations over many decades to show how birds have responded to climate change. He urges that “ongoing monitoring is essential if we are to track the future effects of a changing climate on our birds.”

Collatte Hall, from Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), has said “We also need to look beyond the UK and make sure that the protected site network continues to cover the right places throughout Europe and that they’re monitored elsewhere as thoroughly as they are in the UK.”

If you would like to know how your business or home can help reduce the effects of climate change by installing renewable energy solutions then talk to us at RenEnergy. After all, we only have one planet and we all need to do what we can to save it.

 

With thanks to the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42225917

How the 2017 Budget will affect the solar industry?

On Wednesday we tuned in to listen to the budget announcements made by Philip Hammond.

We all got excited by the promises of stamp duty relief and funding for electric vehicles. However, there was no mention of energy policies for low carbon electricity. What Hammond neglected to mention was that the government will not provide any further levies for low carbon electricity until 2025. The government has said this to protect consumers from any further burden caused by levies and their impact on energy bills.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) have revised down its forecast for environmental levies. It now expects spending under the Levy Control Framework (LCF) to fall a further £0.2 billion to £0.3 billion a year in 2020/21 and by £0.5 billion a year in 2021/22. This is made possible by the reduced spending under the Renewables Obligation and Contract for Difference schemes.

The OBR’s reduction in CfD costs stems from a higher projection for wholesale energy prices,  reduction in the total subsidy costs paid to contracted generators and cheaper than expected contracts.

Within the budget the government outlined multiple assumptions. Within these assumptions were the forecasted deployments of different technologies under the various subsidy programmes, such as RO, CfDs and FiTs. The government has forecast that 200 MW of small scale, FiT-accredited solar to be installed in this financial year, with a further 240 MW in the forthcoming year. These forecasts are up to the closing of the FiT scheme, which is set to close to new applicant on 1st April 2019.

This would leave a significant amount of unused capacity within the feed-in tariff deployment caps, currently totalling more than 200 MW. A review of the FiT scheme is yet to be scheduled, but the department is committed to conducting the review before the end of this year. The parliament rises for recess on 21st December, which means the review should enact soon.

The wording of the government’s set of levy controls means that it is opposed to enacting new levies for low carbon power generation but it has opened the door for support frameworks which do not add to subsidy costs on the consumer bills.

 

How a Solar PPA Can Benefit Your Business?

banner of commercial solar PV webpage displaying solar farm

You may have seen that many businesses have invested in solar energy.

Why? Solar energy is a great way for your business to reduce its electricity bills, obtain energy security in the future and reach its Corporate Social Responsibility.

You may have looked into a solar power system for your own business for those very reasons but do not have the capital available. At RenEnergy we believe that this should not be a barrier and have a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to help your business.

What is a PPA?

A Power Purchase Agreement relieves your business from needing to find the capital for an upfront cost. Instead RenEnergy funds and owns the system. We simply lease the roof off you and maintain the system for 25 years.

You purchase the electricity from us, but only what you use, at a rate that is cheaper than you are currently paying.

For example, if you currently pay 14 p/kWh you may have a PPA of 11.2 p/kWh. Saving you 20 % off your current electricity price, without having to pay any extra!

What happens in the future?

We own the system for 25 years, selling you electricity at a low price that has been agreed between both parties.

After 25 years you own the system and generate electricity that is directly used by you, with no more costs to pay.

If you move premises or are no longer operating with in the next 25 years you do not need to worry! The lease is fully transferable to the new tenant of the building.

I’m interested! What shall I do now?

If you would like to benefit from a solar PPA then get in touch with us for more information and a quote:

info@renenergy.co.uk

 

How Changes To Network Costs Could Affect You?

On Monday Ofgem provided an update on its targeted charging review. But, what does this actually mean?

Ofgem have published two separate documents alongside a blog outlining potential charges to the way the regulator recovers both forward-looking and residual (historic) network charges.

Currently, Ofgem bases residual network charge recovery on a household’s net consumption. This means that customers with rooftop solar PV or battery storage reduce their reliance on the grid and therefore pay less. The cost is therefore passed on to those who solely use the grid, in order for the grid to be maintained.

Andrew Wright, the author of the blog, wrote “We want to make sure that all users pay a fair share of the costs even if they are only using the networks when their onsite generation is not producing electricity.”

The regulator has put forward four separate approaches for how these charges should be recovered from final demand:

  1. Volumetric Basis – Based on the units of electricity used in kWh. This is Ofgem’s current method of recovery of residual network charges of the distribution system.
  2. Capacity Basis – Separated into ex ante capacity and ex post capacity demand charges. This is based on either the user’s agreed or connected capacity or peak system use.
  3. Fixed Charges – Customers are separated into user profile classes, with each class allocated a fixed charge determined by Ofgem to share residual network costs.
  4. Hybrid Approach

The regulator has elected to bring forward fixed, ex ante capacity demand and ex post capacity demand charges for further assessment.

So what is ex ante and ex post capacity demand?

Ex Ante – Based on the user’s agreed or connected capacity, with consumers possibly incentivised to declare their capacity needs. Ofgem have said that any forecasts issued could be used to support planned of network demand.

Ex Post –  Peak use would be measured, and a charge based on the average of a set of number of each user’s highest usage half-hours over a defined period.

Ofgem’s stated aim is to progress rapidly through the process, hold two rounds of stakeholder events throughout the rest of the year and release a consultation on its announced minded-to-decision by next summer.

Over the next year we will find out exactly how these changes will affect you and your electricity bills.

Two stakeholder sessions have been scheduled, one in Glasgow on 15th November and another in London on 30th November. Ofgem can be contacted by those interested in attending at: TCR@ofgem.gov.uk

 

With thanks to Solar Power Portal: https://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/solar_households_could_be_hit_by_radical_changes_to_network_costs

First Subsidy Free Solar Farm

This week saw the opening of the UK’s first solar farm that was built in the absence of any government support.

Clayhill Solar Farm in Bedfordshire has paved the way for subsidy free installations on a large scale. It  has a capacity of 10 MW, which is enough energy to power 2,500 homes. Clayhill received no Renewables Obligation contract nor was it offered a Contracts for Difference. Therefore, Anesco, the company behind the installation, had to make savings elsewhere.

Anesco has a four year relationship with Chinese manufacturer BYD, alowing them to reduce their prices for the 30,000  315 W poly solar cells and 6 MW of battery storage.

Huawei supplied 1,500 V inverters, with Anesco the first company to use Huawei in Europe. Each inverter has a maximum power point tracker and 12 directly connected string inputs. This improves the flexibility of the PV strings and maximising yields.

Another significant reduction in cost is down to a neighbouring 5 MW solar farm with already established grid connections.

The site is estimated to export 9,000 MWh of energy each year. This will be backed up by revenue streams linked to the batteries. Clayhill will bid for revenue streams from various tenders when it is ready. Including, the Capacity Market and the Enhanced and Fast Frequency Response. Once the site has pre-qualified for Capacity Market tenders in mid-November the batteries will be turned on.

Excellent planning and shrewd business acumen has made this Clayhill a viable endeavour, that is sure to be inspiration for any future solar farm.

 

 

RenEnergy MD Damian Baker shares international experience with Solar Business Focus

The latest issue of Solar Business Focus is out now, including insight from RenEnergy’s founder and Managing Director, Damian Baker.

This months lead feature focuses on ‘Brits Abroad’, the UK based solar companies that have looked overseas to develop and expand their business. Of course, RenEnergy is no stranger to international expansion, having developed PV projects from the Arctic to Australia, and opening an office in South Africa back in 2012.

As the PV market takes its ever changing course in the UK, many solar firms are looking abroad for new investment opportunities, and some semblance of stability. Whilst there are obviously inherent risks and challenges to international expansion, but Damian believes ‘well-structured, well-managed, well-financed UK-based businesses who want to do it for the right reasons. There are opportunities for them’.

We certainly feel that the move has been a positive one, as the company’s international footprint goes from strength to strength. However ‘take it from me, it’s not a route to fast bucks’ says Baker.

It’s sometimes not as straightforward as it might appear at first glance. “It’s not all rosy, we invested some money into a project in Brazil that hasn’t gone so well,” Baker explains, adding: ‘If you take the pure economic factors – how much sunshine does it get, how much does energy cost, what’s the supply situation – they’re a pretty good guide but there’s lots of countries out there that have major energy issues… how comfortable would you be putting your money there? Look at the Middle East. Massive solar resource, big energy issues but you wouldn’t be too happy sticking a load of solar in Syria at the moment’.

The feature was originally posted in Solar Business Focus in March 2016. To read the full feature or subscribe to the publication click on the cover image or HERE

 

Solar Business Focus Featuring RenEnergy