Worldwide worries – local solutions. As the UK’s new strategy to head off the global energy crisis is criticised for neglecting onshore wind and energy-efficiency, the Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) and RedCAT project are taking the good fight to international audiences and markets.
A daunting international and national start to April improved during the month with encouraging Lancashire and Northwest low-carbon news that will have significant long-term benefits.
Two major documents set against a backdrop of deepening economic, political, and environmental crises contained ominous energy warnings … but also slim opportunities for avoiding the worst outcomes.
Northwest help is at hand
However, positive changes closer to home mean that pioneering low-carbon product and technology companies can now look forward to much-needed new help in reaching wider UK and international audiences.
The catalyst is CLC programme and RedCAT project developments that will be unveiled in May. A preview of what to expect – plus two case study overviews of RedCAT funding, technical and worldwide marketing help in action – is given below.
Also included below is an analysis by East Lancashire Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker of shortfalls and missed opportunities in the UK’s new energy security strategy.
Three-year final warning
The first document published on 4th April was a frantic warning from UN scientists that global warming is still not being taken seriously (“Mitigation of Climate Change” – https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/).
They now give the world just three years until 2025 to get its act together, pass peak carbon, and move on very swiftly to net-zero by 2050. We will look at the implications more closely next month.
However, the British Energy Security Strategy, released on 6th April to stimulate a ‘major acceleration of home-grown power generation’ in both low-carbon and fossil-fuels, has been criticised for neglecting onshore wind power and greater energy-efficiency (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-acceleration-of-homegrown-power-in-britains-plan-for-greater-energy-independence).
Better homefront news – part 1
As explained above, Lancashire’s good news is twofold. The first part is that Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) events, after two years of lockdown when our online events were joined regularly by international visitors, are going live and in-person again.
As well as an expanding events programme, in May we will announce new CLC team expert appointments, a messaging change from low-carbon to net-zero, plus new activities to energise our initial five-year mission which ends in June 2023.
On the ground, the developments will include a new low-carbon hub with a co-working space for businesses in the RedCAT area within the Chamber headquarters at Red Rose Court, Clayton Business Park in Accrington.
Meanwhile, in the first-ever edition of Insider’s Green Power List, Miranda, who is also RedCAT’s CEO, and Stephen Sykes, Director of Sustainability for the Chamber and its CLC programme, are now listed as Champions for their commitment to sustainability, commercialising low-carbon technologies, and support for the low-carbon economy.
Yet another string of our expanding international reach and credentials, Stephen has been invited to Shanghai to speak at and exhibit at the UK and China Carbon Expo (due to the current Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai this has been postponed) and Ljubljana in Slovenia to talk and share the Chamber’s experience of Net Zero and engaging SMEs and supporting them on their journey.
These are transferable strengths, assets and values that we want to share. Watch this space!
RedCAT low-carbon mission – part 2
The second part of Lancashire’s good news is that the RedCAT project (https://www.red-cat.uk/) is now actively supporting low-carbon entrepreneurs and leaders with practical resources and commercial advice to win firm footholds in key markets.
The county is already a significant global advanced manufacturing centre. RedCAT is helping to bridge a technical and financial gap between the development and commercialisation of low-carbon products, technologies, and services.
As the Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies, it helps carefully-selected projects to find funding, maximise innovation, increase manufacturing, and enter local, UK and world markets.
As examples of what can be achieved, we look later at two key companies – Advanced Bacterial Sciences, a spin-off from Lancaster University, and Global Energy Systems, based in Lytham.
The UK’s new secure energy strategy
However, before that it is important to understand how the energy strategy is meant to ensure that 95% of UK power comes from renewables by 2030 – with UK net-zero goals unchanged.
Nuclear capacity will rise from 7GW to 24GW if up to eight new power stations are built. Rolls Royce hopes to bring sixteen £2 billion small modular reactors (SMRs) made in Lancashire online by 2025.
The offshore wind capacity target will also rise from 40GW to 50GW; 5GW could come from floating turbines. Current capacity is 11GW. There is a mild commitment to onshore wind; 10GW of ‘green’ and ‘blue’ hydrogen power could also be available by 2030
Solar energy should see a fivefold capacity increase from 14GW to 70GW by 2035. There will be an ‘impartial’ review into whether controversial fracking technology is safe.
The good, the bad, and the missed opportunities
Miranda sees the strategy as good news for new nuclear and Lancashire’s energy sector, but missed opportunities in onshore wind and the energy efficiency drivers needed for “a real shift to net-zero”.
Nuclear commitments – including SMRs – must be ‘executed at pace’ to secure the ‘future of our expertise in nuclear fuels innovation, manufacture in the UK, and associated jobs in Lancashire,’ she says, with nuclear vital for a ‘transition to low carbon energy production and hydrogen generation’.
But she is disappointed at the “… lukewarm approach to onshore wind” which avoids “a significant source of low carbon energy” and “demonstrates a lack of commitment to real energy transition”.
No efficiency measures
However, Miranda is also appalled by “… no mention of energy efficiency/support for energy use reduction plans for businesses, homeowners, new builds and retrofitting across the UK”.
This is because “… the first step in any energy security, energy supply or energy transition has to be to reduce the amount we use, and will need to use into the future”, she notes.
An “energy-responsible strategy for the UK”, with firm public sector procurement measures and a national and local purchasing framework, plus proactive energy plans from suppliers, is vital too.
Another priority should be “setting firm planning baselines for energy efficiency measures in all new build domestic and industrial premises, and for retrofitting all re-licenced premises”, she believes.
“A sound licencing procedure for Green Finance schemes would have helped householders and small businesses to use energy saving technologies now to reduce spiralling energy costs,” Miranda adds.
RedCAT to the rescue
A challenge many enterprising companies keen to expand face is closing the gap between innovation and successful commercialisation – or as Miranda describes it, ‘the Valley of Death’.
“RedCAT is about accelerating the development of low-carbon technologies and putting them on the grid in Lancashire with a potential to export to the world,” she explains.
“We have the world’s fourth largest aerospace cluster, plus an advanced manufacturing capability, and are a major centre of low-carbon technology and job creation. In fact, Lancashire has the highest number of potential future low-carbon jobs per local head of working-age population in the UK,” she adds.
Lack of finance and demonstrator capacity
“However, it can take decades for innovative companies to commercialise successfully, mainly because there is no flow-through of funding. We are able to fill that gap,” she continues.
The RedCAT capital funding – £1.5 million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund secured with the sterling support of the Lancashire LEP – is for ‘kit’, she stresses, adding, “What makes RedCAT unique is that it provides technical, marketing and funding support in one place. It also specialises in taking post-university spinouts to market.”
“There is also a shortage of demonstrator capacity, which is why we are fortunate to have the AMRC North West (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre – https://www.amrc.co.uk/facilities/amrc-north-west) on our doorstep at Samlesbury and their successful Low Carbon Demonstrator project also supported by £2.5 million from the Getting Building Fund.”
RedCAT in practice
RedCAT first assesses whether businesses are close enough to commercialisation, and have the right potential, for it to support. This is where the expertise of consultants like Ian Trow comes in.
If, with Ian’s input and help, the answer is ‘yes’, the first step is often identifying initial funding to put exciting projects on track, followed by additional help to access further financial sources.
However, support also includes business planning plus business rationale, and publicity to send sales messages to chosen markets.
Advanced Bacterial Sciences (ABS) (www.abs.eco)
Ian has worked closely with ABS, a spin-off of the Environment Centre at Lancaster University, which over the next two years will create 50 jobs at its new laboratory, office, and innovation centre of excellence at White Lund.
The company was part of Lancashire’s delegation to COP26 in 2021 and will provide environmentally friendly solutions for three interlocking global crises – climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
Importantly, its new location means ABS can reduce its current use of third-party manufacturing outsourcing while providing a more tailored approach to customer needs.
ABS is developing a series of products that harness non-toxic, non-pathogenic bacterial solutions to solve pressing environmental problems. These currently include natural remedial and regenerative solutions.
First generation products reduce uric acid build-up in urinals and unblocking grease traps eliminating the need for the need to use toxic chemicals and costly interventions and reduce water pollution restoring ecological balance.
– Help to navigate challenges
“The financial and technical support from RedCAT and connected ‘assets’ has enabled us to accelerate our product development plans more efficiently and cost effectively,” explains ABS CEO and Chairman, Gareth Hughes.
“By leveraging RedCAT’s valuable and relevant informed connections, Ian Trow has helped us to navigate through a number of what would otherwise have been more difficult challenges. Locating in the Northwest is proving to be the right decision and we are excited about the future,” he adds.
Global Energy Systems (GES) (https://globalenergysystems.co.uk/)
GES is an established renewable energy company based at Lytham which designs and manufactures air source heat pumps that extract energy from the air around them and are seen as a much-needed alternative to fossil-fuel gas or oil-fired boilers.
What makes GES’ products stand out is that they are designed specifically to work in the British climate. Working with a network of UK installers, the company draws on 50-years of international experience.
However, the last decade has been dedicated to renewable energy technology via high-performance air source heat pumps; GES’ Eco Air Boiler which provides central heating and hot water can cut CO2 emissions by 60% and heating bills by up to 65%.
Awarded a Shell Springboard Award for carbon-reduction technologies, its designs outperform gas, oil and electric systems and have a 25-year life expectancy.
RedCAT has helped to source funding for a temporary plant extension to double manufacturing production ahead of a permanent extension to increase output tenfold.
Ben Morris, Managing Director of GES, explains how significant this is for the company at an important time. “We are facing the challenge of having to significantly increase our production capabilities to enable us to meet the rising demand and new opportunities we are experiencing,” he says.
“RedCAT and Ian Trow have been instrumental in providing us with the support we need for our expansion, thereby allowing us to play our part in aiding the Government’s Heat and Building Strategy.
“We thank RedCAT and Ian for their invaluable and ongoing support.”
Low carbon levelling up
Debbie Francis, Lancashire LEP Chair, adds “The Getting Building Fund at its heart is about creating new economic opportunities post pandemic, and RedCAT, Lancashire’s Centre for Alternative Technologies, will do exactly that.
“By helping to fund and grow the County’s low carbon technologies jobs and expertise, supporting advanced manufacturing and the export of UK designed and built low carbon technology to the world.
“This is exactly what we mean when we look at levelling up, putting the County at the heart of innovation and development”.
Spring statement, stimuli, and strife. The Chancellor announced a mixed bag of economic measures in March to help with the energy and cost of living crises – including some help for low-carbon initiatives. UN scientists, meanwhile, have warned that the climate emergency is getting worse faster.
Early in March, the Government said it would draw up new energy supply measures to better align the UK’s energy mix to international pressures, and specifically the effects of war in Eastern Europe.
Although there have been extensive rumours and second-guessing about what the secure energy strategy will contain, world events have helped to push the Prime Minister final announcement into early April.
Informed speculation suggests that there could be a substantial boost for new nuclear power plants, plus a drive for onshore wind investments that would reverse a moratorium imposed six years ago.
There are also reports of some disagreements about whether strict planning laws should be loosened to encourage the rapid development of renewable resources to make the UK more independent of both energy imports and high international energy market prices.
Why heat pumps matter
One ‘certainty’ may be an extra emphasis on the efficiency and low energy use of heat pumps. Anticipating this, we would like to invite to join us at the next Chamber Low Carbon LIVE Lunch and Learn event – ‘Demystifying Heat Pumps’ – from 12.00 to 14.00 on Thursday, 14th April.
To register, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-demystifying-heat-pumps-tickets-228865792747?aff=odeccpebemailcampaigns&utm_source=eventbrite&utm_medium=ebcampaigns&utm_campaign=4823359&utm_term=ctabutton&mipa=ABIdvVt-wLOfNPDdyjSsRZC-U7FwYRdyYO1Z63wjQQzhxo3bB27RIk3O09seUI8e-JUxo0HpvGoL2wQIE0UhWTc6oKa3HXT4iKIpA_yUbOrLpN6MlsE-omNfpGgjOTjAAI65kfBY-qDP6RXrjqa6AE-ciA976EPtHmvSblMtJGHt7oA6IcgdEOukbe7xVR9-3A1A9IBKjKJoA7OcNbs505F2tnTTJAo4qZFvo7tktSFqSnVTe-emzFa5w7Ipr4d38T1_1cDWBv1y0ENutbbxWMOgTpbCBliH5A#tickets
Rising climate impacts and biodiversity
When Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked to name the greatest challenge for statesmen in the turbulent 1960’s, his reply was, ‘Events, dear boy, events’. Little seems to have changed.
It is easy to forget that the climate crisis is getting worse, according to the latest IPCC report which made recent headlines but has been buried since by current news events. There is also disappointing news on international protection for biodiversity – the sister of climate change impacts.
More on both of these key issues in a moment.
The Treasury gets its retaliation in first
What did happen on 23rd March was that the Chancellor made his Spring Statement. Facing high debt levels with little financial wiggle-room, he set out what is seen as a compromise to balance cost, supply, and geo-political factors with environmental, technical and innovation priorities.
On the positive low-carbon side, he has paused VAT on energy efficiency measures to help tackle high energy bills. Homeowners will pay no VAT on solar panels, electric heat pumps and insulation installed in the next five years.
Mr Sunak said energy efficiency will make a “big difference” in curbing rising energy bills, adding that the Government will reverse the EU’s decision to take wind and water turbines ‘out of scope’; EU ‘red tape’ will be abolished too.
“A family having a solar panel installed will see tax savings worth over £1,000, and savings on their energy bill of over £300 per year,” he told MPs. Energy efficiency measures in the last decade will save UK homes £1.2 billion this year, an average of nearly £200 for six million homes, the Government suggests. It adds that it has committed £6.6 billion to energy efficiency improvements.
Greenpeace UK sees VAT on insulation, solar panels, and heat pumps as a ‘welcome start’ to end a huge waste of energy from leaky homes, keep bills down, and cut gas use.
The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) comments that, “Removing VAT on energy efficiency products such as insulation is an immediate boost for families facing soaring gas bills”, but adds that, “… there are lots more tools within the Chancellor’s grasp for getting off Russian gas and reducing household bills,” – such as low-interest loans and incentivising the switch away from gas boilers.
Moving heat – not making it
A powerful case for the widespread adoption of heat pump technology has also been made in “Why You (and the Planet) Really Need a Heat Pump” – https://www.wired.com/story/why-you-the-planet-need-heat-pump/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits.
It explains that heat pumps work on the same principle as refrigerators, transferring heat rather than creating heat. They keep food cold not by pumping cool air in but by pumping warm air out. In summer, heat pumps cool buildings by moving hot indoor air out-of-doors.
Similarly in winter, they warm buildings by working as ‘reverse refrigerators’, extracting outdoor heat and bringing it indoors, even on cold UK days. This is important for Northwest innovators.
Climate change impacts will be devastating … but avoidable
Going back to other continuing crises, the UN International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that many global warming effects are now irreversible, pushing humans and nature beyond their ability to adapt. But businesses can help to avoid or reduce the worst impacts.
Between late 2021 and August 2022, the IPCC will release a series of four seminal studies compiled over seven years into the causes, impacts, solutions, and lessons learned about climate change.
With two still to be released in 2022, they already make disturbing reading (https://www.ipcc.ch/).
The first in August 2021 on the physical science of global warning found conclusive evidence that human activity is an ‘unequivocally’ cause of accelerating climate change.
The second released recently – “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” – focusses on causes and solutions, and details how we can adapt and protect against some negative effects (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/).
Companies on the frontline
‘Irreversible’ impacts include melting ice caps and glaciers, plus cascade effects where wildfires, dying forests, drying peatlands, and thawing permafrost release further emissions that amplify the initial warming.
Businesses are being asked to set sustainable long-term goals to cut energy consumption, use renewables, reduce waste and early obsolescence, reassess transport needs, develop green supply chains, and adopt low-carbon and heat-free technologies.
IPCC authors caution that the Earth’s ability to adapt to impacts will diminish rapidly the higher temperatures rise, and quickly reach ‘hard’ limits after which adaptation will be impossible.
However, they stress over-heating is not inevitable if the world can come together to suppress the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to atmosphere – and carbon dioxide and methane in particular.
A third assessment due in April 2022 will cover how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced; a fourth in October will then help to show countries meeting at Egypt’s COP27 climate summit how to make the cuts that were not achieved at COP26.
Emphasising that the chances of avoiding the worst impacts are narrowing rapidly, the UN panel said in their ‘bleakest warning yet’ that the global climate emergency is deteriorating much faster than previously expected.
They added that no inhabited region will now escape severe rising temperatures and extreme weather. More than 40% of people – 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion– already live in ‘highly vulnerable’ areas. Millions will face food and water shortages if current heating levels continue.
Worse still, circa half the planet’s population now suffer severe annual water shortages. One in three are exposed to deadly heat stress, a figure that could rise to 50% or 75% by 2100.
An additional 500,000 people every year now face serious flooding risks. This figure is projected to reach a billion on low-lying coasts by 2050. Rising temperatures and rainfall will also increase the spread of crop, livestock, and wildlife diseases.
Threats to the natural world
Meanwhile, nature is also under siege in more ways than one.
The jet stream moves eastwards in the Northern Hemisphere at 110mph driven by the Earth’s rotation. However, it has now started an unprecedented shift northward which could bring more droughts and heat waves to southern Europe and the eastern US.
A recent study (https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2104105118) suggests that the delicate balance of warm and cold air which keeps the stream in place is changing. Without a curb on emissions, the stream will break out of its normal range by 2060.
The result could be increasingly severe climate risks that may affect the polar vortices which cause sudden intense cold snaps.
Water on the move
Climate change is also amplifying the earth’s water cycle above predicted rates. Rising temperatures have pushed at least twice the normal amount of freshwater from warm regions towards the poles.
The intensity of the global water cycle has increased by 7.4% compared to previous modelling estimates of 2% to 4%, the journal Nature reports. As a result, sub-tropical regions will get drier.
From 1970 to 2014, the estimated volume of additional freshwater transferred from warmer regions is somewhere between 46,000 and 77,000 kms3.
NGOs want biodiversity action by UN members
Environmental interest groups have asked the UN to adopt a Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to “achieve a nature positive world by 2030”. The Nature Conservancy, WWF International, Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society want to reverse species losses.
Unfortunately, late-March talks between 195 countries in Geneva were described as a ‘major disappointment’ with failure to agree on any of 21 new targets.
This means that the second part of the UN’s convention on biological diversity (CBD) due to start on 25th April in Kunming, China has been delayed for a fourth time and moved back to August 2022; the first part closed in October 2021. The ambition is to halt nature loss by 2030, with a net-positive gain to follow so that humanity can ‘live in harmony with nature’ by 2050.
Seen as the natural equivalent of net-zero for emissions, the agreement is now more than 18 months behind schedule due to Covid-19.
About 50% of living creatures might now be moving towards higher ground or the poles. Some 14% of species may face a very high extinction risk with a temperature rise of 1.50C, increasing to 29% at 30C. The extinction risk of animals in vulnerable biodiversity hotspots could double at 20C, and increased tenfold at 30C.
Forests do more than store carbon
Trees, particularly in tropical forests, play a more complex role in tackling climate crisis than previously thought because of their physical effects on global and local temperatures, according to new research. They act as ‘carbon sponges’, but also help to keep air nearby and farther away cool and moist by the way they physically transform energy and water.
Researchers have found that, overall, forests keep the planet at least 0.50C cooler when biophysical effects of chemical compounds, turbulence and reflected light are combined with carbon dioxide.
In cooler northern climes, gardeners can do their bit to future-proof towns and cities by planting hedges between properties, says the Royal Horticultural Society that is studying which species best tackle the climate crisis and pollution.
Hedges reduce pollution, improve air quality, slow the flow of rainwater, assist flood management, provide shelter for wildlife, and help to regulate temperatures through shading and cooling.
In fact, the humble hedge is now seen as a garden hero that provides important environmental services relatively cheaply over long periods on small ground footprints.
So, the message to save the world is simple. Don’t sit on the fence!
I went out for a business meeting last week. Yes; that’s right. I went OUT for a business meeting last week; and boy did it feel good! The event took place in the coffee shop (outdoors) of a local garden centre; it was about an hour long, two cups of hot chocolate and a 15 minute drive there and back.
It sounds pretty routine, even hum-drum, but it was a truly seismic event, as the first time I’ve been to a business ‘meeting’ in 15 months without opening my laptop, clicking the link and then taking off ‘mute’. It was truly liberating to go out to work… but then my thoughts turned, naturally, to the petrol cost and consumption, the energy output of the coffee shop etc, etc… and I resolved that the remote way of working, to which we have all become used to and generally comfortable with, must be good for the planet.
Well it is, but that’s not the end of the story. UK companies have already realised just how big a chunk of their carbon footprint is made up of home working. Investment business Standard Life Aberdeen is already onto it, having reported that 55 per cent of their emissions come from their remote working employees, and now they are asking staff to monitor their carbon footprints to help the company meet its ambitious reduction targets, and build on the advantages which working from home bring.
When the United Nations produced its Development Programme back in 2015, adopted by 193 countries, it proposed 17 Goals, two of which are greatly assisted by the rapid growth in home working, which was not anticipated at the time.
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable ad modern energy for all
This target aimed to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and working at home reduces the impact of commutes and can increase the efficiency of building energy. Employees are in control of their own heat and light usage and keep an eye on their own bills.
Take urgent action to combat climate change
By working at home as much as possible, not only do employees reduce the companies’ travel emissions, there is the added benefit that people can continue to work during adverse weather conditions, and so the well rehearsed radio message, during icy weather, which counsels us to ‘avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary’ makes more sense now.
Which is all good; but the explosion of remote offices and the likely shift to hybrid models of working has, rightly, turned the attention of Standard Life and others to the area where most of their footprint is generated. And while people who pay the bills will often have a close eye on their cost and consumption, it can’t always be the case when that priority fights for attention with the family or other householders!
But 55 per cent can’t be left unattended and there must be many cases where home energy efficiency lags behind the office; and so Standard Life is using anonymised data which aims to better understand its workers’ emissions. Employees are tracking their energy use through an app, which will measure their carbon footprint and help them to make positive changes.
Here in the UK we have a weather system which is designed to test our usage of energy. Remember lockdown 2020 when the biggest challenge was to stay inside and get some work done while our furloughed friends and family sparked up the barbeque? Well 12 months on we have just endured a May which was indistinguishable from February!
Home workers who usually retire the central heating after Easter, have been heating their offices for much of the day, even now as we approach June, so Standard Life has it right. We all need to be aware of our carbon footprint, not just as citizens but as workers too, and the first step is to measure what we use, understand the data and then make the most impactful changes.
We haven’t seen the end of coffee shop meetings, but the daily commute is fast becoming a chore of the past, and that sounds like a good balance to me.
3 of 3 posts – National grid takes major step forward to decarbonising UK power
As part of the UK’s Net Zero commitments, the government has already announced its plans to decarbonise the nation’s power system by 2035. A major development in these plans happened in February 2022: for the first time, renewable generators have had the green light to provide stability services to the National Grid ESO, which is the electricity system operator for Great Britain.
Starting from the 15th of February onwards, wind, wave and solar generators will now be able to offer specific stability services to the National Grid. Up until now, these sorts of services have only been provided by conventional generators, such as hydrocarbon or nuclear plants. The change is the result of a formal change to the Grid Code, which is essentially the system that sets the specification for everything that connects to the National Grid.
Updates to the Grid Code aren’t always especially newsworthy in themselves – the Grid is routinely updated to ensure that it’s always responding effectively to new economic influences, and continually able to meet demand.
However, this particular Grid Code update is a significant event in itself, given that it paves the way for a new market in stability services from renewable sources, and moves us a big step closer to successfully decarbonising our power system and facilitating our achievement of Net Zero.
The approval for green generators to stabilise the National Grid has been described as a ‘breakthrough moment’ by Tony Johnson, who led the project for the National Grid’s ESO’s markets team.
“It’s the culmination of up to 10 years of thinking and working with stakeholders to find the common ground between what equipment is capable of doing and what the system needs.” He said. “It also ensures that as we transition away from conventional fossil fuelled generation, we can operate the grid securely and efficiently, which will ultimately save consumers money.”
2 of 3 posts – Renewable Energy Enjoys Another Year of Record Growth in 2021
The latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that the world has installed a total of about 290GW of new renewable energy generation capacity, mostly in the form of wind turbines and solar panels.
According to the US Department of Energy, it roughly equates to the output of over 900 million solar panels, and it’s enough to power thirty-one billion, nine hundred million LED light bulbs. If the current trends remain on track, renewable energy generating capacity is likely to outstrip the capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear energy (combined) by 2026.
Renewables are set to account for 95% of the increase in global power generation capacity from now until the end of 2026. However, it’s worth noting that this is still only about half of what’s required to meet Net Zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.
Net zero has never been more important
CSR should be right at the top of your agenda this year. The public and commercial sector are expecting businesses to be ever more rigorous about measuring their impact on the environment, and bringing in more measures to mitigate it – which is exactly where commercial solar panels come in.
Commercial solar panels provide a significant range of short and long-term benefits to your business, doing everything from helping you save money on your energy bills, to giving you more energy security against turbulent market hikes and troughs. Crucially though, when it comes to CSR, they serve as tangible and demonstrable evidence of your commitment to transforming your energy supply.
5 signs your business is a good fit for solar panels
As a rule of thumb, just one square foot of space has the potential to produce about 15 watts of energy. So basically, if you have large, free and unused areas (be it the roofing of your business or the surrounding land) these could be the perfect spaces for installing solar panels.
On top of having available space, it’s also important that these areas get a lot of sunlight. Ideally these should be south-facing in the northern hemisphere, as this orientation will give the optimum and most direct amount of sunlight. You can of course still look to invest in solar panels if the areas you’ve earmarked aren’t south-facing, but you should check they’re not overlooked or in shadow from other structures, buildings or wildlife.
If your business operations are on a larger scale, particularly in areas like tech and manufacturing, the chances are your current energy consumption and energy costs are quite high. Solar panels can be a fantastic means of bringing such expenses down.
If you’re operating in a sector that heavily relies on electricity and where even the smallest downtime due to power cuts could be catastrophic, solar energy can help provide energy security, as well as added peace of mind your business won’t grind to a halt.
Last but not least, a sure sign that solar panels could be right for your business is if you want to improve your Corporate Social Responsibility. Having solar panels is an incredibly effective means of showing your business is making a concerted effort to help fight climate change and is being mindful of its energy use.
1 of 3 posts – Energy Crisis Underscores Need for Net Zero Delivery
On the 3rd of February 2022, Ofgem announced an increase to the consumer energy price cap, which means that millions of households will see their energy bills rise by about 54% from Spring 2022 onwards, equating to an extra £693 a year.
The current energy crisis is driving a general rise in the cost of living, and the vast majority of that is down to the rise in wholesale gas prices. There’s no single cause of this gas price rise – it’s more to do with a combination of multiple factors.
For starters, the longer winter of 2021 meant that European and Asian countries burned through significantly more of their existing gas reserves in order to heat their homes.
The multiple lockdowns that many countries suffered didn’t help either, as that meant demand was higher and production was lower. Plus, the weather was less windy over the last summer. With less wind power available for electricity, that meant that once again the world turned to its existing gas reserves.
The entire situation has shone a harsh, unflinching spotlight on the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. While we’ve made some good progress on this front before, we’ve evidently still got a long way to go, as our domestic gas prices remain inextricably tied to volatile international markets.
Up until now, the main thing protecting consumers from these price rises was the energy price cap. Ofgem initially resisted moving this cap, to the extent that it even ended up forcing multiple smaller suppliers out of business, as they were forced to buy gas at higher rates than they were allowed to sell them. But now prices have risen to such an extent that even the price cap can’t protect consumers any further, and Ofgem has been forced to raise it.
As millions of people are forced to grapple with soaring costs, the government is being urged to accelerate the nation’s shift to renewables and prioritise implementing a more effective Net Zero strategy, to protect Britain from similar crises in the future. More renewables under the Net Zero strategy is one of our best routes out of this crisis, as it provides us with valuable energy security in an increasingly insecure world.
Last week’s headlines, aside from a crescendo of insult trading in the House of Commons and a review of Downing Street knees ups, were dominated by oil and gas prices which have soared and are set to hit consumers and business in the pocket.
While the media frenzy around Partygate and Sir Keir Starmer’s tenure as head of the CPS keeps the social media world happily fuelled, back in the real world a cost of living crisis looms for voters and the government will be acutely aware of that, as well as the need to keep the economy moving in a sustained recovery as we haul ourselves away from the pandemic and associated business interruption.
As the UK adjusts its energy price cap, households face an average rise of £700 per year and will have an even closer eye on their consumption and carbon footprint, and so to in the commercial marketplace. And the problem isn’t about to go away any time soon. While the crisis is worldwide there have been a number of factors which have created a perfect storm in the European Energy Market. Prices are increasing naturally as demand soars around the world while post Covid economies get back to business and markets compete. Add to that the fact that long winters in Europe have pushed the prices up and the phasing out of coal supply, as well as a poor year for wind production, has driven up the prices further.
The result of all this is that wholesale prices have increased by around 250 per cent since the start of the year and BP has just announced its highest profit in eight years, prompting calls for a windfall tax. Meanwhile smaller energy companies have gone by the wayside and more are likely to follow.
There has never been a more important time to take a closer look at your energy consumption.
Since April 2000, commercial property owners and landlords are no longer allowed to let properties which have an Energy Performance Certificate rating below E, so any business planning to let a property at level F or G have work to do to improve their rating, or try to register an exemption. There are plenty of ways of reducing your carbon footprint, including more energy efficient lighting, improved heating and ventilation systems and programmable thermostats.
But, as always, knowledge is power…and that’s where we at Enerlytic come in.
Our platform, Advanced Reporting & Analytics, is available to make it easier for you to control energy budgets and reduce your carbon footprint. We do this by using a cost and consumption tracker, and then by giving insight and rich analysis to our customers, by providing consumption data and interrogation to analyse patterns, anomalies and trends. We offer a live budgeting tool and a risk management tool and we keep clients informed with the very latest regulatory and market news, with 24 hour online support.
One thing the rocketing fuel prices have reminded us, is that business needs to be well informed, dynamically focused and nimble in movement.
The squeeze is on but reducing your energy waste will make it a whole lot more comfortable.
On the 22 March at 11am join Net Zero North West for a webinar to explain the support that is available to decarbonise industrial processes and reduce energy costs.
In a time of rising energy costs. businesses with high energy use will be concerned about the impact on their bottom line. Is it a good time to talk about aspirations to decarbonise businesses?
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) funds Local Enterprise Partnerships in the North West to support action on Net Zero. The Net Zero North West hub invites you to a webinar to explain support that is available to decarbonise industrial processes and reduce energy costs.
The webinar will benefit a number of organisations and professionals including:
This webinar will include a presentation from the UK Knowledge Transfer Network about the funding that is currently available for Industrial Energy Transformation – see below.
Also on the agenda:
Industrial Energy Transformation Fund Phase 2 Spring 2022
Knowledge Transfer Network
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in collaboration with Innovate UK KTN, will provide an online competition briefing to share details of the new Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF) Spring 2022 window of funding.
The IETF will support businesses with high energy use to transition to a low carbon future, and to cut their bills and emissions through increased energy efficiency and decarbonisation. It is a crucial part of the Government’s strategy for tackling climate change and reaching Net Zero by 2050. It complements other government programmes that offer innovation and early demonstration support, such as the Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator and Industrial Fuel Switching (part of the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio) and will help to transform an important part of the UK economy.
The Phase 2 competition for England, Wales and Northern Ireland opens on the 31st January 2022 and runs until 29th April 2022 and is worth up to £60 million in funding. It will be available in the form of a grant scheme and will fund:
For more information on IETF Phase 2: Spring 2022 and to view the applicant guidance, click here
The briefing webinar will include an opportunity to:
Yes, net-zero is alive and well! It is three months since COP26 – which may feel like a long time in both politics and since setting tough environmental targets. But as Storm Eunice has just shown, ignoring low-carbon goals and violent winter weather can both bring nasty stings in their tails.
A lot has happened in the world since the far-off relatively peaceful days of November 2021 before the energy, supply-chain, inflation and international political crises began to bite.
Cost-cutting, maintaining energy supplies, opening up new markets, but also helping to make the most of the Government’s new levelling-up strategy, are high on the business agenda.
We must not forget global warming
But that does not mean that the urgent low-carbon climate change emission targets set at November’s UN COP26 summit hosted by the UK in Glasgow have magically gone away!
Quite the opposite. According to the noted international consultancy McKinsey, the true cost of keeping the Earth relatively cool will be circa £6.8 trillion, or $9.2 trillion a year. The alternative, it says, is very costly more extreme weather.
McKinsey calculates the world now spends $5.7 trillion annually to lower fossil fuels impacts, but must add an extra $3.5 trillion each year from 2021 to 2050 to limit global warming to 1.50C. That is equivalent to half of all 2020 corporate profits, 25% of all tax revenue, or 7% of household spending.
And it does not include the high cost of reskilling, which is one of the Chamber Low Carbon Programme’s (CLC) updated 2022 priorities (https://www.chamberlowcarbon.co.uk/).
UK private sector net-zero focus
The Government’s environmental advisor, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), is refocussing its net-zero guidance on the ‘delivery and implementation’ of ‘business action, investment and finance’.
CCC CEO Chris Stark now sees business and finance as “cross-economy enablers” in the post-COP26 net-zero transition. “The UK’s climate goals have been substantially reset, so the focus moves to delivery and implementation,” he says.
He continues: “Ministers have made clear that the lion’s share of progress will be made by the private sector, led by Government.” The CCC’s attention must, therefore, also turn towards, “… private sector delivery and implementation of the public policies to underpin it.”
The CCC’s new advice “… will differ substantially from our output of recent years,” Stark says.
CCC will produce annual UK progress reports, but also ‘sector-specific recommendations’ for ‘high-emitting and hard-to-abate sectors’ such as buildings, heavy industry, energy supply and transport.
CLC’s 2022 net-zero agenda
CLC will reflect this change. Programme manager Stephen Sykes explains how CLC’s carbon footprint cutting advice and guidance offering to both SMEs and larger companies will evolve in 2022.
The established and popular Lunch & Learn events and webinar format will continue and be expanded with a greater emphasis on ‘the journey to net-zero’, he says.
This will also be carried over into the one-to-one practical action plans tailored to individual business needs that the CLC’s team of experts help to create and implement.
However, there will be a greater involvement with larger companies. CLC is working closely with the Senator International Group (https://www.thesenatorgroup.com/) to help take its 27 Lancashire based SMEs and online further afield supply chain members to net zero. Other large companies are welcome.
Another development is that Lancashire colleges are developing net-zero courses. CLC is working closely with Blackburn College on a new two half-day sessions over two weeks programme.
“We answer basic questions to get people up and running,” says Stephen. “The first is ‘what is all the fuss about?’ The second is ‘where am I now?’ The third point is ‘how to start your own net-zero journey’.
Level regional playing fields?
Chamber CEO Miranda Barker has examined the levelling up proposals for the UK regions set out in Michael Gove’s new policy consultancy (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-unveils-levelling-up-plan-that-will-transform-uk).
“Levelling up is important to the English regions for our community life, economic and industrial performance, plus long-term custodianship of the environment,” she explains.
“To date, an awful lot of nice words have been spoken. But the Government must remember that you can only impress with words once. After that you’re done!
“It’s hard to see if there is any new money. Promises were made in the past that were withdrawn again, think Northern Powerhouse Rail. Nothing happened. So basically I am saying to government, we don’t necessarily trust you to deliver!”
A united Lancashire approach
“However, the positive news is that for the first time Lancashire’s 15 different types of local authority have agreed to support an application for a ‘county deal’ for Lancashire as part of long-term investment and devolution across the regions.”
Particularly important is the requirement to improve: ‘… environment, climate change and quality housing’.
“The guiding principles are strong local leadership, ‘sensible’ economic geography, governance, joined-up services, innovation, plus financial and administrative efficiency,” adds Miranda.
“But we must show we are serious. It is also crucial that the Government does not treat us as a second-class area compared to combined (mayoral) authorities.”
Next month, Miranda will look at the work of the RedCAT Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies initiative and its net-zero implications.
Led by the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, RedCAT is currently supporting eight companies with investment of £1.5M of Getting Building Fund monies that should lever in over £10 million of further financial growth and investment and hopefully will create 100+ new jobs.
Levelling up and net-zero
“The ‘innovation’ element is particularly important in our net-zero goals. But what happens next depends on what further Government finance is available, for net-zero investments but levelling up as a whole,” Miranda explains.
“Two definitions of levelling up are important. The first is of parity investments in local priorities like transport infrastructure. However, real levelling-up is a much longer-term goal. We must concentrate on both to make genuine progress.
“In the successful regeneration of Wigan, joined-up thinking led to a commercial renaissance, health improvements, higher educational aspirations and achievements, plus a crime fall because of rising local ‘ownership’.
“The lesson for me is that short-term Government involvement doesn’t work! It has to be long-term Government.”
Stormy stings in the tail
Meanwhile, while battling price rises and supply difficulties, companies in the North have had to content with disruptive winter weather.
Red weather warnings have so far been rare; the Met Office sees no evidence of increasing long-term storm activity. However, there are warning that UK storms could bring new long-term risks.
Adverse jet stream-driven weather blowing across the Atlantic could contain ‘sting jets’ – small, narrow airstreams inside storms that generate intense winds over distances smaller than 100 km.
Sting jets, first discovered in 2003, may have been factors in the Great Storm of 1987, more recently, Storm Arwen in 2021, and now 2022. Lasting from one to 12 hours, they are difficult to forecast and the dangerous result of mid-latitude low-pressure ‘extratropical’ cyclones.
Meteorologists want to understand more about sting jets which could influence UK weather significantly in a warming climate. However, a low-pressure polar vortex in the Arctic is currently thought to be the main recent weather culprit.
An increasing threat?
Is climate change making storms worse?
Scientists differ over whether storms themselves will become stronger but agree their impact will increase for two reasons. Firstly, rainfall in winter storms is more intense and linked by many studies to climate change. Secondly, sea-level rises are making storm surges higher and more damaging.
As professor of climate science Richard Allan at the University of Reading explains, “Once-in-a-decade storms like Eunice are certain to batter the British Isles in the future, but there is no compelling evidence that they will become more frequent or potent in terms of wind speeds.
But he adds that more intense rainfall and higher sea levels as the planet heats up, plus flooding from coastal storm surges and prolonged deluges, will worsen when ‘these rare, explosive storms hit us in a warmer world’.
Creating commercial value from thin air
But cheers. The good news is that vodka, jet fuel and protein are products that a new group of Californian ‘carbon-to-value’ start-ups now claim can be manufactured from thin air
Twelve (https://www.twelve.co/) founded in 2015 takes CO2 from the atmosphere, and with water and renewable electricity, turns it into synthesis gas (syngas) of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This is used to make familiar products that traditionally come from fossil fuels, including the world’s first carbon neutral, fossil-free jet fuel, the founders say. Oxygen is the only by-product.
High-end goods are said to include vodka, diamonds and clothing, plus concrete, plastic, foam, carbon fibre and even food. The firm is also looking at making parts for car interiors with Mercedes-Benz, laundry detergent ingredients and sunglasses lenses.
Warming UK coastal homes with capillary heat exchangers
The UK could become a leader in technology that draws warmth from the seabed to heat coastal towns. An international study involving Nottingham Trent University (NTU) shows that capillary heat exchangers could be used with heat pumps in shallow waters to provide an endless heat supply.
The study shows that a winter seawater temperature of only 3.7°C can deliver up to 60W/m2 of heat energy to nearby coastal properties. Average UK homes need 100W/m2. Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that more than 5.3 million people live in English and Welsh coastal towns.
The research carried out in partnership with Chinese institutions builds on the development of ground-source and air-source heat pumps as alternatives to emission-producing gas boilers.
Warmth would be delivered to homes through air-conditioning units – the same technology could cool properties in hot countries by utilising cooler seabed temperatures to supply cold air.
The carbon magic of mushrooms
One giant but overlooked sequester of carbon is the world’s huge underground network of fungi which it is now estimated takes up some 5 billion tons of CO2 every year.
The dimensions of the complex filaments called mycelium are staggering, with a total end-to-end length in the top 10cm of Earth’s soil of more than 450 quadrillion km, or roughly half the width of our Milky Way galaxy.
About 25% of Earth’s species live underground in stable ecosystems that store approximately
75% of all terrestrial carbon.
The humble blue milk cap mushroom (Lactarius indigo) could help to save forests, fight climate change, and be a rich protein source. Instead of farming and forestry being in direct conflict, we could develop a system of food production and trees on the same land.
This is the focus of new research looking at how fungi that grow in a mutually beneficial partnership with trees could produce 7.31kg of protein per hectare per year, compared to 4.76 to 6.99kg from beef.
High in dietary fibre and essential fatty acids, the blue cap’s striking pigmentation makes then easy to identify safely; extracts also show antibacterial properties and an ability to kill cancer cells.
Food for thought?
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.