Cutting carbon can help the price rise battle

Lower carbon and lower bills. The multiple energy, costs, supply chain, and lingering virus crisis is nudging businesses very firmly towards the sustainable advantages of low-carbon efficiency, waste reduction, technical innovation … plus net-zero and the fossil-fuel era’s long-overdue end.

If you are a northwest company or business leader with an open diary on Thursday 3rd March, please join us for ‘Reducing bills and carbon footprints’ – the Chamber Low Carbon programme’s second Lunch & Learn seminar of 2022 which will be held both in-person and online.

Priorities change quickly. Just months ago, the big issue of the day was controlling global warming. Now, for many firms it is more likely to be just staying in business. However, the two are connected.

Two of the world’s main focuses in 2021 were Covid-19 and the UN’s COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow … plus an important third of meeting the critical net-zero emissions by 2050 goal.

But as firms struggle to cope with rising prices, supply shortages and spiralling energy bills, the low carbon programme will expand in 2022 to provide a wider range of low-carbon answers designed to be applicable to big global and pressing local problems.

Little and large benefits

It is a sign of unprecedented times that businesses are now facing both huge economic and environmental challenges and basic bread and butter business survival issues.

Costs are particularly important – which is why Hannah Drake of Enerlytic will explain on 3rd March why “… you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and the key role of data in energy use and reducing emissions. More details in a moment.

However, there are other positive developments under way that could help the UK to source alternative secure and potentially inexpensive forms of green energy and use available energy more effectively. These are also explained later.

Little and large benefits

Chamber of Commerce CEO Miranda Barker is aware of the close link between giving SMEs a competitive low-carbon business edge and the urgent global need for clean ‘green’ technologies.

Having helped to make a strong low-carbon business case for the Northwest at COP26’s ‘commercial window to the world’, she wants to ease the growing pressures on local businesses, and where possible open up new markets.

“One of our main takeaways from COP26 is the good news that Lancashire has many opportunities to make money from a new generation of sustainable technical and environmental solutions. But that means actively grasping our own opportunities from the wider opportunities,” she explains.

For many SMEs working hard to set up new low-carbon product and service supply chains with existing and new customers ‘sustainability now equals survival’, she says.

Extra advantage

“However, as costs rise and economic activity falls, low-carbon products bring two bonuses. The first can help households and companies to reduce soaring bills, while the second makes it easier for SMEs to make sales to new clients and customers,” Miranda adds.

“Become more energy-efficient cuts costs. However, to really minimise carbon footprints it is also important to understand and cut Scope 3 supply chain emissions outside a business’ direct control. In 2022, this will be part of the low carbon programme.”

Wider carbon remit coming soon

In fact, the low-carbon programme will be widened and rebranded significantly, explains programme manager, Stephen Sykes.

The basic low-carbon message will remain (https://www.chamberlowcarbon.co.uk/support-available/energy-and-environmental-advice-and-support/ and https://www.chamberlowcarbon.co.uk/support-available/low-carbon-technologies-and-renewable-energy-generation/).

However, it will have the enhanced triple goals of: – firstly, saving money for businesses; secondly, helping the UK to meet its legally-binding net-zero by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions target; and thirdly, working closely with companies to develop new green technologies and take them to market successfully.

There will also be a new series of Lunch & Learn events that look closely at specific technologies, says Stephen.

More details on the new advanced suite of advice, information and hands-on support will be announced shortly. Watch this space!

Making your energy data work hard

Before then, joining us with Hannah from 12.00 to 13.00 on 3 March in a four-step session looking at net-zero will be a good move. To register, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/live-lunch-and-learn-reducing-bills-and-carbon-footprint-tickets-228820166277.

Hannah will explain how understanding your data is key to reducing both bills and carbon footprints. She founded Enerlytic (https://www.enerlytic.co.uk/) in 2020 to create a software platform that allows energy users to measure, analyse and then reduce their energy use.

New green money and net-zero

One missing ingredient has been green finance. However, 43 of the world’s major banks, – including NatWest, Lloyds and HSBC that joined the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) in 2021 – came together at COP26 under the banner of the new Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ).

By 2030, their joint aim is to cut the carbon emissions they finance by more than 50%. UK high street banks are expected to reflect this in their commercial financial service offerings in early 2022.

Please join us again online this time for the Chamber Low Carbon Energy & Environment Forum on Thursday, 10 February 2022 from 10:00 to 12:00 when Susan Haslem from NatWest will be a special guest.

She will explain why NatWest is so focused on climate and sustainability and its economic importance. An overview from NatWest’s asset finance division, Lombard, will talk through examples of support for SMEs to fund assets which specifically support net-zero plans.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-energy-environmental-forum-follow-the-money-tickets-228278355707?ref=enivtefor001&invite=MjE3NjcwMTkvam9uaGVyYmVydEB0d2VudHk2LmNvbS8w%0A&utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=inviteformalv2&utm_term=attend

COP-out

Meanwhile, the longer-term implications of what COP26 did and did not achieve to keep future global temperature rises down to no more than a relatively safe 1.50C this century to prevent extreme environmental damage, and what should be done next, rumble on.

COP27 in Egypt in November 2022 will try to make the emission cuts not achieved at COP26. However, COP26 President Alok Sharma is adamant that agreements negotiated during tough talks in Glasgow will still be implemented.

“We will continue in the same vein through 2022 to make sure countries keep their promises, re-visit their emissions reductions targets, get finance flowing, and deliver on the many commitments made during the two weeks of the summit,” he says.

However, the UK’s promises in Scotland have left many people unimpressed. The Government is being sued over its net-zero strategy by ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth (FoE) whose lawyers argue that under the Climate Change Act the UK does not have policies in place needed to meet its emission cut commitments and is on course to miss its 2025, 2030 and 2035 targets, which is illegal.

Filed court papers also claim that a failure to meet legal carbon budgets will contravene the Human Rights Act by impacting on young people’s right to life and family life. ClientEarth has previously defeated the Government three times in court over air pollution policies.

Underwater sea turbines could supply 10% of UK energy

But there is more positive news too in sourcing alternative forms of green energy.

Tides, unlike wind or solar power, can be forecast reliably for hundreds of years into the future. Undersea turbines that extract energy from the mass movement of water in the oceans and rivers could generate a tenth of Britain’s power, according to renewable energy expert.

The UK is in ideally placed to exploit this because its waters hold roughly half of Europe’s tidal stream resource, according to Dr Stephen Wyatt, director of research and disruptive innovation for Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE).

He says tidal stream technologies are “on the cusp of commercialisation” and could be cost-effective with the potential to create 26,600 jobs by 2040 if they are given investment and subsidies.

Tidal energy, he adds “… is on track to be cheaper than both nuclear and fossil fuels, providing clean and sustainable energy around the world.”

Hydrogen to short-cut the energy shortage

Meanwhile, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) says the UK’s gas grid will be ready for distributors to start using hydrogen and natural gas blends from 2023. It has also published a plan for scaling up the delivery of hydrogen across the UK.

Within the plan, the UK’s five gas grid companies will be able to complete the pipe upgrades needed to deliver a 20% hydrogen blend from winter 2023-2024, it explains. Upgrades will be minimal.

UK regulations currently limit the blend to 0.1% hydrogen in public gas networks and 23% in closed networks. But 20% blend trials showed no impact on gas users and led on to a wider trial on 670 homes and a school in Gateshead. ENA says no changes to boilers, cookers or radiators are needed.

Flexibility sourcing

A study of new technologies that include smart meters and electric vehicle (EV) chargers which can ‘unlock’ energy flexibility in UK homes says electricity demand could be cut by 10% this decade if smart pricing signals are used to decide when to reduce or increase energy use. However, they would have to be deployed on a wide scale.

Circa 25,000 homes were studied. Instead of flat tariffs, some were put on time-of-use tariffs to cope with fluctuating energy prices and demand. On average, they reduced their evening peak demand (4pm to 7pm) by 15% to 17%. The reduction averaged 23% in homes with EV chargers.

Other homes signed up to “Big Turn Up” and “Big Turn Down” initiatives with rewards for changing their electricity demand over a specified two-hour period. The “Big Turn Down” recorded a 59% energy use fall in homes with EVs, and 41% for homes without EVs.

New heat pump could ease the UK shift to low-carbon homes

In parallel, two Swedish and Dutch firms have claimed their technology could replace gas and oil boilers without the need for added insulation. They say their new type of heat pump could make it easier for UK homes to move over to low-carbon heating.

The Swedish company Vattenfall and the Dutch company Feenstra say their new high-temperature heat pump, which will be launched in the Netherlands in 2022, could replace gas and oil boilers in UK homes without the extra insulation or new radiators that other heat pumps need.

Heat pumps extract heat from outside air and release it indoors. But without significant changes in the home, most heat pumps cannot create heat equal to the gas and oil boilers they replace.

The two firms warn that their product is no universal “one-size-fits-all solution”. However, it could be the most effective answer for low-carbon heating in rural and suburban areas.

Innovative efforts

The Government is also putting its shoulder behind new R&D projects. Its Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/net-zero-innovation-portfolio) is now providing funding for a range of advanced projects that will help the UK move to net-zero.

The £1 billion fund was unveiled in 2020 to accelerate the commercialisation of low-carbon technologies, systems and business models in power, buildings, and industry.

Its goal is to cut decarbonisation costs, put the UK on a path to a low-carbon future, create world-leading industries plus new green jobs, invest in the regions, and help to make the UK a science and innovation superpower.

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