Solar and savings – crisis energy and Government exemptions

Solar and savings – crisis energy and Government exemptions

How long to a green recovery? Companies can maximise their use of cheap green energy, legally minimise Government energy charges and cut hidden building energy costs … while waiting. Our webinars below show that every little helps when the going gets really tough!

As the Prime Minister unveils his vision to build back better on a grand scale, he is under considerable pressure to create a green economy and the net-zero carbon transition for at least two key reasons.

The first is because they offer a long-term sustainable route out of the current pandemic crisis. The second is that they are also the UK’s best option for preparing effectively and quickly to meet the next impending nightmare – climate change.

Covid-19 has side-tracked normal Parliamentary business, including the long-awaited post-Brexit Environment Bill; the environmental implications of a final Brexit deal – or no deal – are also unclear just six months before the UK finally cuts its current EU links. Many pieces of the jig-saw are still to be placed.

However, on the optimistic side, business secretary Alok Sharma did commit the UK in June to the UN’s ‘Race to Zero’ campaign (https://unfccc.int/climate-action/race-to-zero-campaign) to pump life into Glasgow’s pivotal COP26 climate conference now moved forward a year to November 2021 (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/cop26-president-speech-at-race-to-zero-campaign-launch).

Action this day … and some good news!

Meanwhile, there is a lot we can do while waiting. The Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) programme mission includes providing local companies with customised hands-on advice – now delivered successfully mainly online – to support sound renewable power decisions and cut overall energy use.

Our own good news is that we can now confirm that the CLC programme will continue until July 2023!

Importantly for many companies, this means that we will continue to process funding applications remotely to help shape their low-carbon future. Many audits are now made via the internet. We are also asking businesses to provide photographic evidence.

If you would like more information, or to talk to the CLC team, don’t hesitate to contact us directly. Please email Debbie, our marketing officer, at d.treadwell@chamberelancs.co.uk, or calling 01254 356 487.

Triple energy webinars

Meanwhile, to provide further support in the current circumstance, the CLC team has organised a trio of lockdown online Lunch & Learn webinars in which guest expert speakers tackle important business energy issues.

If you are not able to join us live the first time round, each be seen again on YouTube.

How Solar has changed & how it can help” – on 5 June, Ged Ennis of The Low Carbon Company (https://www.lowcarbonenergy.co/) explained how solar energy has moved on massively in recent years, with up-to-date information on costs and benefits to businesses, ways of financing projects and how the current crisis can be used to re-set the economy and industry.

Ged’s presentation can be replayed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tRbpfPG2kQ&feature=youtu.be. If you have any questions, please contact Ged directly (info@lowcarbonenergy.co), or talk to a member of our team. We’re here to help.

Government Cost Exemptions – how to claim” – on 19 June, Andrew Warner, an independent Energy Manger at Green Technologies (https://www.green-technologies.co.uk/) gave a very pragmatic and well-received presentation that can be seen again at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tpg8cT1tX0.

Again, if you have any questions, either speak to Andrew directly (andrew.warner@green-technologies.co.uk), or contact the team.

“Help … my buildings are wasting all my energy!” – looking forward to 12 noon on Friday 3 July, Andy Brunt and John Pickup, Directors of Edge Efficiency (https://www.edgeefficiency.co.uk/) a Lancashire-based energy and sustainable buildings specialist, will look at this ticklish topic.

You can book in advance to join us live at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/low-carbon-lunch-and-learn-helpmy-buildings-are-wasting-all-my-energy-tickets-110952120780. This is also an opportunity to ask individual questions that may be bothering you – with confidential follow-ups later.

Because we believe that it is important to act in small ways to support the wider national picture, a brief overview of the first two presentations may be useful.

The sunny side of solar

Ged’s goal is to help businesses make the most out of solar power, now and in the future, as energy use changes. He emphasises that solar is cost-efficiency with relatively short payback periods (typically five years) compared to a 25-year product lifespan and low maintenance requirements.

While solar power still only accounts for about 3% of UK national power output today, the industry has changed dramatically over a decade. Ten years ago, solar panels had an output of 180W. Today they are rated at 340W, with 580W units now entering the market. Output power costs of 3p/kWh also stand well against general electricity prices of 13p to 16p/kWh.

Another attractive measure of solar industry performance is that while a 50kW system would have typically cost some £250,000 to buy and install in 2010, the price has now fallen to circa £30,000. Inverters, which are a kind of electrical converter, have also improved in leaps and bounds and now offer internal controls, monitoring and smart functions, says Ged.

The commercial benefits are substantial, he adds. They include increased property prices, high rental values, low maintenance commitments, plus support for CSR (corporate social responsibility), meeting ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) international management standards and supply chain requirements.

Other positives include well-proven technology, the lowest installation costs ever, greater system efficiency and increased power outputs per m2. No planning permission is needed for small installations.

There are three routes in for companies interested in installing solar power – outright purchase; a 100% funded option; and PPA (power purchase agreements where no capital outlay is involved). Systems can also be linked to large storage batteries, electric vehicle (EV) charging point and VPPs (virtual power plants which are cloud- based decentralised power generating networks).

To make a sustainable difference, some 2.5MW of new solar power capacity needs to be installed each year. Although inevitable weather-based fluctuations in renewable power generation mean that large storage systems – mainly batteries – are needed to balance the grid, these are not cheap enough yet to be commonplace. However, it is important for individual companies not to miss out on a straightforward green technology whose time is coming.

Please see the presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tpg8cT1tX0), or talk to Ged if you would like more information.

Money saved from Government

Andrew was keen to point out that companies should act promptly to benefit from energy cost exemptions that they are legally entitled to from the Government. While the amounts may seem small now, costs are set to rise dramatically, he says. At the same time, the window of opportunity could be short if the Exchequer is forced to save money wherever possible to make up for Covid-19-related emergency spending.

As an example, an energy cost of, say, £30,000 in 2014 would have risen to between £40,000 and £45,000 today, en route to a projected £57,949 by 2025. No small change!

Andrew adds that so-called “pass through costs” – such as CCL, Duos, transmission, RO, FiT, BSUos, CM and CfD – increase energy prices and will keep on rising. Again as an example, he says that of a 13p/kW price today, 8p is an extra non-commodity cost.

Under current BEIS and HMRC schemes, it is not possible to recover the full 8p, but a substantial portion of it.

However, he also had a serious word of warning. Claiming exemptions successfully is partly down to straightforward accounting and partly an engineering audit function on site that looks at buildings and equipment. Engage the wrong advisor and, yes, you are likely to be awarded an exemption … but could then have to pay it back within 14 days after an HMRC audit!

Please see the presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tpg8cT1tX0), or contact Andrew if in any doubt.

The good, the bad and the worrying

There is other good news about low-carbon innovation, but also less good news about the world’s rapidly closing opportunity to beat climate change, plus UK progress during 2020.

The good – Highview Power’s Pilsworth liquid air energy storage plant in Greater Manchester will build the world’s largest liquid air battery. Spare renewable energy will be used to compress air into a liquid that can be stored and released later as a gas to power a turbine (https://highviewpower.com/).

The not so good – on the less cheery side, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says the world has six months to change course and stave off a climate catastrophe. “This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol, told the Guardian in June (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/18/world-has-six-months-to-avert-climate-crisis-says-energy-expert?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMjAwNjI0&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=greenlight_email&utm_campaign=GreenLight).

His logic is that governments worldwide will spend $9 trillion (£7.2 trillion) over the next few months hauling their economies back from the current health crisis. Their stimulus packages will shape the global economy for the next 36 months, he argues. Therefore, it is vital that emissions start to fall sharply and permanently in this period. Otherwise, climate targets will move out of reach!

“The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” he told the Guardian. Without action, emissions will “surely” rebound he believes, and “… it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”

The worrying – the Government’s independent advisor, the Committee on Climate Change also warns in its 2020 Progress Report to Parliament (https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/reducing-uk-emissions-2020-progress-report-to-parliament/) that too little is being done to tackle “overheating homes, flash floods, biodiversity loss and the other threats posed by a dangerously warming world”.

Measures it may recommend include: – enforcing strict environmental condition to corporate bailout matching standards in France, Germany and Canada; improving broadband and cycling routes to cut future car-use surges; considering a new fossil-fuel tax, and; introducing new building energy-efficiency policies, planting more trees and protecting peatlands.

But ending on a high note

Despite worries of a lack of low-carbon progress, June also saw encouraging reports that renewable energy accounted for almost 50% of UK power generation from January to March 2020. A huge surge in offshore wind power, rising more than one third over the year with a 53% increase in the winter quarter, plus higher output from solar panels, is said to have been behind the setting of a new clean energy record.

A wind power record of 22.3% set in the final months of 2019 was overtaken by a 30% share of total power production in the first quarter of 2020.

According to official government data, renewable accounted for some 47% of power generation in the first quarter, a substantial leap from the 39% record established in 2019. Government figures include energy from windfarms, solar panels, hydro plants, bioenergy from wood chip burning … but not coal!

Rebecca Williams of Renewable UK predicted that more records will be inevitable in the years ahead due to “a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery”.

Old King Coal’s reign ends

During the recent lockdown, helped by reduced energy demand and bright breezy weather, offshore wind and solar energy allowed Britain to operate for 67 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes up to 16 June without coal-fired power – the first time this has happened since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

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