All posts by Zoe Forbes

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is Britain’s second investment choice after property

When asked about their preferred investment areas, a survey of the British public showed 43% chose property; 33% renewable energy; 23% traditional energy (oil, coal, gas);

When asked about their preferred investment areas, a survey of the British public showed 43% chose property; 33% renewable energy; 23% traditional energy (oil, coal, gas);

Renewable energy is the British public’s second investment choice above ‘traditional’ energy and manufacturing, according to a new national survey.

The ‘Great British Money Survey’, carried out by One Poll, gathered insight into the spending and investment habits of 2,000 people across the United Kingdom.

When asked about their preferred investment areas, 43% chose property; 33% renewable energy; 23% traditional energy (oil, coal, gas); 19% manufacturing; 15% consumer goods; 14% hospitality; 12% transport and 3% ‘other’.

Commissioned by finance platform, Abundance Generation, the survey also showed that Brit’s place most importance on financial return; risk; transparency; environmental and ethical impact when deciding their investments.

Findings mirror DECC’s public attitudes tracking survey from September, which showed that 76% of the public want to see more renewable energy in the UK.

The survey also showed that renewable energy is the top investment choice for 18 to 24 year olds, over property, while 75% would be unhappy if their money was invested in companies that damage the environment or are otherwise unethical.

However, surprisingly 22% are happy with their money being invested in companies that damage the environment or are otherwise unethical, it found.

Abundance Generation co-founder and joint managing director Bruce Davis said: “We’re now not only seeing majority public support for renewable energy, but people actively wanting to put their money in it too. Britain is a nation in love with property, so it’s no wonder this is at number one, but to see renewables favoured above old energy is a great vote of confidence in the sector.

“We know that from the rapid take up of crowd funded renewables, investors are actively looking for inflation beating returns. People would much rather get them through investing in the real economy in assets that they can see, trust and believe in,” added Davis.

Labour calls for clarity on which ‘green levies’ are under review

Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex writes to Ed Davey calling for clarification on whether or not renewable energy schemes are at risk of being cut

Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex has challenged the government to clear up once and for all whether renewable energy schemes will be subject to the Prime Minister’s “green levy” review following conflicting signals from Ministers.

Renewable energy companies were relieved earlier this week when Conservative Energy Minister Baroness Verma declared that “no one is talking about changing support for large-scale renewables or feed-in tariffs”, indicating that the Renewables Obligation and upcoming contract for difference schemes would not be cut as a result of the review.

Renewable energy trade associations also confirmed this week that they had received assurances from the Department of Energy and Climate Change that Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that “between now and 2020, the support we give to low carbon electricity will increase year-on-year to £7.6bn – a tripling of the support for renewable energy”.

However, Conservative Energy Minister Michael Fallon had previously insisted that the government was looking at all “green levy” schemes as part of the review.

When asked by Labour MP Dr Alan Whitehead at yesterday’s Energy Statement in the House of Commons to clarify which schemes were under review, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey failed to offer any assurance that renewables schemes would be exempted. “The honourable Gentleman, who is very knowledgeable in this area, will have to await the outcome of the review,” Davey replied. “It will be announced at the Autumn Statement or before. He and his colleagues will hear the results of the review at that time.”

The response prompted a letter from Greatrex to Davey calling on him to clarify precisely which schemes are being reviewed following the Prime Minister’s controversial pledge to “roll back” some “green levies”.

“In this morning’s Annual Energy Statement you were asked by Dr Alan Whitehead MP which of the levies on consumer bills were subject to the review initiated by the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 30 October 2013,” the letter states. “Your response failed to answer the question, and leaves many concerned that either you do not know or you would rather not say.”

It calls on Davey to confirm which of the carbon floor price, energy company obligation, warm homes discount, renewable obligation certificates, feed-in tariffs, and contracts for difference are subject to review. “Given the level of concern and confusion caused by your response today, I – and many others – would appreciate a swift response,” Greatrex writes.

Sources have indicated that the schemes most likely to be reformed are the Energy Company Obligation efficiency scheme and warm homes discount fuel poverty grant scheme, with speculation mounting that some of the costs of the schemes could be moved onto general taxation.

Renewable energy firms have been offered assurances that there will not be late changes to support schemes designed to encourage investment in clean energy, and Davey has pledged to “fight like a tiger” to protect “green levies” that serve to curb energy bills in the medium to long term, while also helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

However, some Conservative MPs are pushing for the review to cover all “green levies” and are keen to see support for renewable energy schemes cut alongside support for energy efficiency schemes.

Responding to the letter a DECC spokesman gave the clearest indication yet that renewable energy schemes would not be discussed as part of the green levies review.

“The Government is looking at how to get people’s energy bills as low as possible to help hard-pressed families,” he said in an emailed statement. “We’ve already increased competition, brought new players in to the market to offer consumers real choice and the most vulnerable are getting direct help with their bills this winter. We’ll continue this work to make sure consumers are getting a good deal.

“No one is talking about changing investment incentives for renewables, such as the Renewables Obligation, Contracts for Difference and feed in tariffs, which are essential for investor confidence in the renewables sector and our commitments to a low-carbon economy. Between now and 2020, the support we give to low carbon electricity will increase year-on-year to £7.6bn – a tripling of the support for renewable energy.”

Rising energy bills: How are you set for winter?

According to one of the leading consumer organisations in the UK, rises in energy bills expected this winter – the Big Six are forecast to raise annual bills by as much as £120 – could be catastrophic for the finances of UK property residents. So what are you doing to get ready for the colder weather ahead?

With winter on the way, Gillian Guy, chief executive of national charity Citizens Advice, said price increases at this time of the year could prove the final nail in the coffin for many people when it comes to being able to afford their bills.

“It’s hard to justify high profits when rising bills mean that many families have to chose between heating their homes and putting food on the table. Energy firms must keep price rises to a minimum and make sure that any drops in wholesale costs are passed on to customers,” she added.

Ms Guy said providers must do more to make bills more affordable for consumers, but there are things homeowners can do to ensure their properties are as ready for the colder weather and efficient as possible.

For example, did you know most heat escapes through the roof of your house? This means if your roof is not doing its job, you are essentially throwing money away.

To start with, get yourself up a ladder and check the health of roof tiles. If all of them are not in good nick and in place then they will need replaced. This is a vital way to conserve heat and lower gas bills.

You can also back this up by making use of insulation in the loft. This will make the house feel notably warmer throughout the winter and stop the heat simply circulating around the attic area, which will do you no good.

Other steps you can take ahead of the colder months descending on us could include installing draught strips around window panes and door frames. These may not seem like much, but the stickers can drastically reduce the wind-chill factor in the home. Other low-cost options that have a significant impact can include things like insulating wallpaper.

You might also want to look at installing a more efficient boiler, if you have the funds, as newer and more efficient models will save substantial amounts of money in the long run.

Wealden Disrict Council

Wealden District Council continue to lead the way in reducing the councils carbon footprint and working towards battling fuel poverty for the tenants of properties across the district.

Ecosphere will continue it’s roll out of Solar PV across it’s sheltered home schemes vastly reducing electricity bills.

Ecosphere will also be installing Panasonic Heat Pumps into their properties replacing expensive gas and electric heating systems with a much more economical system that will cut tenants bills dramatically and also reduce co2 emissions.

Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive tariffs set

Farm house and buildings

Farmers and rural landowners installing renewable heat technology in their homes will be able to apply for up to 19.2p/kWh in government support from spring 2014.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) last week (Friday 12 July) confirmed the tariffs for the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme – 7.3p/kWh for air-source heat pumps, 12.2p/kWh for biomass boilers, 18.8p/kWh for ground-source heat pumps and at least 19.2p/kWh for solar thermal.

An extension of the non-domestic RHI, which has been up and running since November 2011, the domestic scheme will cover new projects, schemes installed since 15 July 2009 and any installations currently being funded by the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) grant scheme.

“The RHI is designed to encourage householders to switch to renewable heat from traditional heating systems, in order to save money on bills, cut carbon and meet renewables targets,” said Dan Thory from Fisher German.

“Renewable heat can be very cost effective, especially for those living off the gas grid, and therefore is of particular interest to farmers and those living in rural areas.”

Edward Holloway from Knight Frank’s renewable energy team welcomed the news, but warned that the scheme would require homeowners to have a Green Deal assessment and meet minimum loft (250mm) and cavity wall insulation targets.

Green Energy could save Britain up to £100 Billion

Green energy could save Britain up to £100 billion, says Government climate advisers

Households could save up to £1,200 each if only Britain built more wind farms and nuclear power stations, David Cameron’s independent energy advisers suggested today.

Gas flame

Photo: REX

The Committee on Climate Change acknowledged that paying for “green” energy may be costly in the short term but it will actually save the country up to £100 billion in the long run.

The Prime Minister has been under pressure from his backbenchers to stop the spread of onshore wind farms across the countryside and rein back the cost of green taxes on household bills.

However, the committee will today urge Downing Street to not to row back from the “green” agenda as it will ultimately hurt consumers.

It said the building more wind farms, nuclear power and other green energy sources would save £25 billion to £45 billion compared with relying on gas.

A third of this cost would be borne by households rather than businesses – working out at between £300 and £540 per household.

Renewable energy offers lifeline for struggling farmers

26-02-2013 10:34 AM | News, Renewable Energy

Renewable energy offers lifeline for struggling farmers

Renewable energy offers lifeline for struggling farmersRecord levels of interest are being reported in renewable energy as a source of income among farmers struggling financially.

In a year that saw crop yields reduced and productivity down to levels seen in the 1980s, renewable energy provided support for British farms according to Dr. Jonathan Scurlock.

“2012 was a difficult year for the farming community, with bad weather hitting incomes hard. Investing in renewable energy provides farmers and growers with additional earnings at a time when farm budgets have become very stretched” said Dr Scurlock, NFU chief adviser.

According to lending figures from NatWest and RBS, the bulk of farmers interested in renewable energy are in the Midlands, at 40 per cent, followed by Scotland, the North East and the South West.

The NFU Farm Energy Service celebrates its first anniversary and has so far helped 1,550 farms around the UK in the twelve months since it was launched.

52% of renewable queries made to the service relate to solar technologies, which tend to have more eligible sites than any other technologies.

The number of agricultural solar installations has increased recently, according to renewable energy specialists.

“We have seen an increase in the number of agricultural customers as from a farmer’s point of view it makes sense to reduce their energy bills and make the most of the land they have available by installing solar panels” said Sam Tilley, Managing Director of Infinite Energy.

“People often think solar systems need to be implemented on roofs but ground implementations are becoming increasingly popular.”

Wicks Manor has been producing pork for over 40 years on the family run pig farm in Essex. They saw the electricity bills continuing to rise and wanted a way to reduce their CO2 emissions.

“Pigs are born and bred at Wicks Manor, they eat wheat and barley grown and milled on the farm. We wanted to find a ’greener’ way to run the operation, renewable systems are the way forward for farmers” said Fergus Howie, Partner of Wicks Manor.

30 per cent of renewable queries relate to wind turbines which, according to specialist surveyors Fisher German, offer farmers a particularly strong rate of return. Yields can reach 25 per cent in areas of high wind.

Meanwhile, analysis from NatWest and RBS and trade association RenewableUK today suggests that most wind farm installations for 2012 were up to 80kW, making farmers between £12,000 and £50,000 a year.

Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, said: “Farmers are experts at harnessing the Earth’s natural resources, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the way on wind energy.”

“The UK has the most powerful wind resource in Europe and this has provided a vital source of income for farmers, helping to preserve rural communities in Britain.”

The past year has also shown that two barriers to the uptake of renewable energy – financing and planning – have not been as difficult as was feared when the Service launched.

In a January 2012 survey before the Service was launched, the NFU and NatWest found that 34 per cent of farmers were concerned about the cost and over half were nervous about planning.

However, according to Fisher German, the approval rate for wind projects is very strong.

82 per cent of applications for smaller wind turbines (between 5 and 50kW) are approved at local level (Planning Committee or under Officers delegated powers).

Of the 18 per cent that do go to appeal, a further two thirds are also granted consent.

Medium sized turbines can take 18-24 months to get through planning but, even here, the success rate remains high with 85 per cent of the applications being granted planning permission.

Liberty Stones from Fisher German said: “National Planning Policy currently recognises that small scale renewable projects make a valuable contribution to cutting emissions and promotes the approval of such projects subject to their impacts being acceptable. Provided farmers receive the right support, planning is not the concern that many anticipate.”

Scientific tools can also help make financing less of a concern. In July 2012, NatWest and RBS teamed up with the Met Office to provide farm prospects with tailored wind speed data, allowing farmers to assess the profitability of a wind turbine project early on and in great detail.

Altogether, the NFU estimates that, in 2012, one in five NFU members produced clean electricity from the sun and wind.

RHI Tariffs Review

RHI tariffs up for review following underspend

Green policy news – by Louise Bateman
27th February 2013
The Government is to look at changing the tariffs for its subsidies to encourage homes and businesses to switch to renewable heating systems, such as solar thermal and biomass, following a significant underspend in its annual budget and concerns raised by industry that current proposed levels will not incentivise take-up.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said today it was planning to consult in the Spring on changes to the tariffs for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), as it confirmed it expected less than a fifth of the total £133 million RHI budget for 2012-13 would be paid out in this financial year.

DECC also confirmed today that it would introduce a ‘degression’ mechanism to control spending on the RHI, similar to the regime adopted for the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, and announced it would hold two further reviews of the RHI, probably in 2014 and 2017.
New tariff review
A spokeswoman for DECC said the early review of RHI tariffs aimed to “drive increased uptake and ensure the scheme continues to provide value for money”. She did not provide details of which tariffs the Government is looking to change, but last September the renewable heat industry raised concerns over the tariffs levels being proposed for solar thermal and biomass.
“We are continuing to explore whether the tariffs we offer are set at the best levels to encourage further uptake, looking at how we can open up the scheme to new technologies, and considering the right approach to encourage householders to invest in renewable heat,” Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said.
The RHI launched for non-domestic customers in 2011 and so far has received 1300 applications, but only around £24 million worth of RHI payments are expected to be paid out in this financial year. And there are concerns when it launches for domestic customers in the summer take-up could be subdued. The Government has spent the last year and half testing the domestic RHI through a system of vouchers called the Renewable Heat Premium and published its proposed tariffs last September. It suggested domestic tariffs for biomass boilers should be set at 5.2-8.7 pence per kilowatt hour (p/kWh), while solar thermal technologies should be set at 17.3p/kWh.
But the Micropower Council warned at the time these tariffs were not attractive enough to stimulate take-up of these technologies among householders.
Degression mechanism
DECC said the degression-based approach to managing the RHI budget would ensure the scheme remained “financially sustainable” and that the taxpayer got “value for money”. The same approach was introduced for the FIT for renewable electricity following the solar FiT fiasco. Under the system, tariffs available to new applicants will be gradually reduced if uptake of the technologies supported under the RHI is greater than forecast, using a trigger system on quarterly basis. DECC said trigger points for most RHI technologies will be set at 150 per cent of DECC’s expected levels of uptake, but will be set differently for solar thermal and large ground source heat pumps “due to forecasted uptake”.
“I am fully committed to ensuring our Renewable Heat Incentive helps as many organisations as possible get on board with a range of exciting sources of renewable heat, and at the same time stays within its means. That’s why we are introducing a new, flexible way to control spending, alongside some further improvements to the scheme,” said Barker.
Industry reaction
Today’s announcement on the RHI was broadly welcomed by the renewable heat industry, but concern was raised about setting new reviews for the scheme and on the lack of decision on ‘enhanced preliminary accreditation’, a system whereby developers of projects with long lead times would be able to ‘lock in’ tariff rates to guard against subsequent falls in tariffs.
“We are pleased that Government has published its response to this consultation on the Renewable Heat Incentive,” said Charlotte Morton, chief executive, Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association. “We are, however, concerned that today’s announcement does not give developers the certainty they need. With tariff degression in place, preliminary accreditation is important and it is disappointing that it has not been brought in at this point.”
Morton added: “Further scheme reviews are a clear risk to certainty, and we believe the RHI instead needs to be given the chance to bed down so that developers can get projects off the ground,” she said.
But a spokesperson for DECC said the planned reviews intended to provide certainty. “Reviews will allow us to make more directed and considered changes to tariffs and tariff structures, outside of those changes that can take place through the degression mechanism. Reviews will also allow us to take account of changes in the evidence and assumptions on which tariffs are based. This will ensure that the non-domestic RHI is able to respond to changing market conditions while maintaining good value for money and managing budgets,” she said.

DECC also announced today that 
sustainability and air quality requirements will be introduced for all solid biomass installations looking to get RHI support and that metering requirements will be simplified to reflect feedback received from participants and to reduce burdens on industry.

EU Levy on Chinese Panels

EU to Register Chinese Solar Panels, Highlighting Tariff Threat

The European Union ordered its customs officials to register imports of Chinese solar panels, underscoring the threat of tariffs on the shipments in the biggest EU trade dispute of its kind.

The step, part of inquiries into whether Chinese producers of solar panels receive trade-distorting government aid and sell them in the 27-nation EU below cost, would allow the bloc to impose duties retroactively. Both probes stem from complaints by EU ProSun, an industry group led by Germany’s Solarworld AG. (SWV)

The two cases cover 21 billion euros ($27 billion) of EU imports in 2011 of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules or panels and cells and wafers used in them. Levies against subsidies are called countervailing duties and those against below-cost — or “dumped” — imports are anti-dumping duties.

“Imports of the product concerned should be made subject to registration in order to ensure that, should the investigations result in findings leading to the imposition of anti-dumping and/or countervailing duties, those duties can, if the necessary conditions are fulfilled, be levied retroactively,” the European Commission, the EU’s trade authority in Brussels, said today in the Official Journal. Registration will start tomorrow and last nine months.

Last September, the EU opened an inquiry into whether Chinese makers of solar panels such as Suntech Power Holdings Co. dump them in Europe and harm European competitors including Solarworld. Two months later, the EU began a separate investigation into whether Chinese producers receive subsidies.

EU Timeline

EU governments must decide by early December whether to impose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on Chinese solar panels for five years. The commission must decide by early June whether to apply provisional anti-dumping duties and by early August on possible preliminary countervailing levies.

EU ProSun hailed the commission decision on registration, saying it would slow imports from China because of the possibility that European importers would later be forced to pay punitive duties on the goods.

“This is a very important step,” Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, told reporters today in Brussels. “This has an immediate impact on imports. We expect the amount of imports to go down very rapidly and significantly.”

Chinese companies have gained more than 80 percent of the market in Europe for solar goods compared with almost zero in 2004, EU ProSun said on Sept. 6 when the commission opened the dumping case.

Europe accounts for around three-quarters of the global photovoltaic market. China produces about 65 percent of solar panels worldwide, the commission said six months ago when opening the dumping case. The EU is China’s main export market for the renewable-energy technology, accounting for roughly 80 percent of Chinese sales abroad, according to the commission.