Public Sector Energy Editorial 13 October 2015

An analysis of the local authority energy market and the latest developments around the UK.


Policy & Strategy

Last week the Conservative Party conference saw the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, (the first Conservative Energy Secretary for 20 years) come out fighting in relation to Conservative energy policy. Her speech, delivered on 5 October, is worth a read and is here:

https://www.politicshome.com/energy-and-environment/articles/news/amber-rudd-speech-conservative-party-conference

She makes a number of points about the Government’s position. It said that it would end wind subsidies, it has acted on that promise. Solar PV is big enough to stand on its own two feet. They have arranged investment in nuclear energy and support fracking, which has been so successful in the US. She also makes the point that the green agenda is not right or left in political terms. Then there is the obvious swipe at Jeremy Corbyn and his so-called desire to re-nationalise the energy industry.

It all sounds persuasive when spinning from the pen of the speechwriter. It’s just that I do not know anyone in the green industry who agrees with any of it. Government policy is seriously at odds with the renewable energy community and this is unlikely to change any time soon. The proposed savage cuts to FITs (Feed-In-Tariffs) are a good example. The STA estimates 27,000 jobs will go and it is pure nonsense to say that the costs saved will make this worthwhile.

So the Tories talk it up at their Party Conference. Interestingly, the Minister is not going to be attending Solar Energy UK in Birmingham tomorrow. DECC probably can’t afford the bodyguards!

And the changes are not universally supported in her own party either. Last time I reported that Boris Johnson was unhappy with the changes. Here, Solar Power Portal reports on another Conservative MP who has realised the impact on community projects in his area:

http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/conservative_mp_becomes_latest_to_slam_draconian_fit_proposals_7412

Solar Power Portal reported on the speech at the Party conference and criticised her suggestion that the renewable energy industry expects a ‘magical money tree’ of support. Compared with the costs of new nuclear this seems a bit rich:

http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/uk_must_be_tough_on_subsidies_says_rudd_6126

On the general climate change front, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England has added his voice to those saying that catastrophic climate change must be avoided, this time to avoid global instability. He said this in a speech to the insurance market Lloyd's of London last week. Carney said: "The challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come."

BBC news has the story here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34396961?utm_source=REA+Members+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=f68d1ad226-151001_REA_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e5d7ecbe99-f68d1ad226-250326797&ct=t(151001_REA_Newsletter)&mc_cid=f68d1ad226&mc_eid=b07cc4415d

And finally, a decent policy decision – to charge for plastic bags in supermarkets! This charge has now come into force. It was noticeable in Sainsbury’s yesterday when I visited that the normal huge piles of flimsy plastic bags that sit next to the tills were absent. From now on, customers have to pay for bags or bring their own.

Here is the Government’s news story of 5 October:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plastic-bag-charge-introduced-in-england

And here is the Government’s justification for this policy:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/single-use-plastic-carrier-bags-why-were-introducing-the-charge

In this piece The Guardian examines the Daily Mail’s claim that the change will result in ‘panic on the streets’ and concludes – of course – that this has no merit whatsoever:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/05/plastic-bag-charge-is-there-really-panic-on-the-streets?CMP=EMCENVEML1631

Solar PV

This week is Solar Energy UK conference in Birmingham. This is the largest and easily the best solar event in the calendar and this year will be no exception. The proposed changes to FITs and ROCs have put a particular edge on this year’s programme and to find out what is really going to happen, you need to be in Birmingham. Registration is free and APSE Energy is running a special session for local government on Thursday 15 October 2015 at 10.30 am. There are currently approaching 50 local authorities booked on this.

I will be speaking about life post Government subsidy and how the APSE Energy ‘medium term strategy’ can help bridge a difficult gap. It is this solution that authorities such as Ipswich Borough Council (see Jamie Hailstone’s news report his week) need to adopt to keep their solar aspirations on track.

But the conference is being held against a difficult backdrop. There is no denying that. This week there is news that two solar companies have already gone to the wall, causing more loss of jobs and income. The Guardian reports on this one:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/08/second-solar-firm-in-two-days-goes-bust-blaming-tory-policy?CMP=EMCENVEML1631

The Solar Trade Association has been monitoring the development of all the proposed changes to FITs and ROCs for solar PV. In a note to members it states:

“Based on latest intelligence from DECC the changes to FITs are now not likely to come into force until late January/early February according to public statements at the DECC FIT workshop from Gareth Redmond, Head of Renewables Programme Team at DECC.

This comes in addition to expected delays to the <5MW RO response which is now expected ‘towards the end of October’ – delayed by nearly a month.

DECC have not yet determined if there will be a banding review consultation, but if one is to be issued according to DECC sources it is not likely to come into force until March/April 2016. We sense DECC’s workload is simply too great to deal with all these consultation deadlines!”

The Guardian has now launched the second phase of its climate change campaign ‘Keep it in the Ground’. This will focus on alternatives to fossil fuels and starts with solar PV:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/05/a-story-of-hope-the-guardian-launches-phase-two-of-its-climate-change-campaign

On the European front, the Solar Trade Association also reports that 14 MEPs have written a letter co-ordinated by Solar Power Europe stating that Minimum Import Pricing has negatively impacted the European solar sector and contributed to its slowdown, both in terms of installations and jobs. Hence they have called for an end to the minimum import price and anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on solar PV products coming into the EU from China.

Local authorities are also interested in solar PV on car parks and other such areas, such as park and ride sites. Here Solar Power Portal reports that Corbin Industries is to launch its new structure for car parks at the SEUK show in Birmingham this week:

http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/corbin_industries_to_launch_new_carport_product_ranges_at_seuk

But the best news of all in solar PV is the story by Jamie Hailstone in this week’s news that West Sussex County Council becomes the fourth local authority in the UK to successfully build a solar farm. It follows in the footsteps of Cornwall County Council, Telford and Wrekin Council and Wrexham CBC. Its Tangmere Airfield scheme is 5 MW in capacity.

Wind Power

It was a big part of the Conservative Party’s election manifesto that it would end subsidies for on shore wind if it was successful at the General Election. Well it won, and so it is making the changes. As reported by Jamie Hailstone in this week’s news, the Energy Bill currently going through Parliament will ensure that the Renewables Obligation is closed for onshore wind from April 2016. There will be grace periods for projects already ongoing, where there has been a financial commitment. Details are provided in the DECC Policy Paper of 8 October and the accompanying grace period paper:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/renewables-obligation-ro-grace-period-for-new-onshore-wind

And all this against the background of a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, confirming that onshore wind is the THE cheapest form of energy currently in the UK. The Guardian confirms that:

“Costs have dropped to $85 (£55) per megawatt hour (MWh) compared with the current costs of about $115 for constructing coal or gas-fired plants, its analysis found.”

The Guardian’s report is here:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/07/onshore-wind-farms-cheapest-form-of-uk-electricity-report-shows?CMP=EMCENVEML1631

Anaerobic Digestion

In a blog on the REA website, Jeremy Jacobs reveals that the UK is the worst country in Europe for wasting food. Europe wastes 22m tonnes of food a year and the UK wastes more than any other country. Apart from being a disgrace for more social reasons, it is also devastating that this food is not being turned into energy. This week’s news includes a story from Jamie Hailstone on a new AD plant in South Wales, and more civic projects of this type should be planned across the country. Here is the REA blog:

http://www.r-e-a.net/blog/waste-not-want-not-12-08-2015?utm_source=REA+Members+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=f68d1ad226-151001_REA_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e5d7ecbe99-f68d1ad226-250326797&ct=t(151001_REA_Newsletter)&mc_cid=f68d1ad226&mc_eid=b07cc4415d

Wave & Tidal Power

The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project has been put back by a year to 2017, as discussions with the Government over CFD (Contracts for Difference) support continue. Renews.biz reports:

http://renews.biz/96611/tidal-lagoon-delays-swansea-splash/

Energy Efficiency and Buildings

Research analysis from DECC, refreshed on 9 October confirms the supporting evidence for the Government’s claim that through switching energy supplier “many households could save around £200 a year – and some even more;” and that the changes to tariffs and support services have made it easier for consumers to switch energy suppliers. See the details here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/household-energy-savings-through-switching-supporting-evidence

Heat Networks

In this article by Energ G on Sweden’s approach to community heating, the question is asked as to whether we should follow its lead:

http://blog.energswitch2.com/blog/carbon-emissions-savings-the-environmental-case-for-district-community-heating?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=ianallen&utm_campaign=carbonemissionssavings-theenvironmentalcasefordistrict/communityheating

Meanwhile in the UK, Jamie Hailstone reported a couple of weeks back on Southampton City Council’s new scheme. This is getting wide publicity indeed; here, Heart - the commercial radio station - features it on the news section of its website:

http://www.heart.co.uk/southcoast/news/local/southampton-27m-fund-for-energy-efficient-homes/#2uAgxS3ZJTyfs0V9.97

Finance & Legal

The Committee on Climate change has published a technical note on the Levy Control Framework, the 'cap' designed to protect consumers by placing a limit on the amount of money available for investment in low-carbon electricity generation such as renewables and nuclear power. The note reaffirms the Committee's view that the LCF cap of £7.9bn in 2020/21 is compatible with meeting the UK's carbon budgets, but says that recent LCF cost control measures announced by the Government create uncertainty.

The note is here:

https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/technical-note-budget-management-and-funding-for-low-carbon-electricity-generation/

Also on financial incentives, the decision to end pre accreditation under the Feed in Tariff system came into effect on 1 October 2015. However, the fallout continues. Here, a range of renewable energy organisations, including the REA and the STA, issued a statement on the Government’s decision to close this system:

http://www.solar-trade.org.uk/joint-statement-by-renewable-energy-associations-on-closure-of-feed-in-tariff-preliminary-accreditation/

Planning

Finlay Colville of Solar Intelligence comments on the massive spike in planning applications before 22 July in order to come within the grace provisions for the Renewables Obligation and solar farms under 5 MW:

http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/editors_blog/uk_solar_industry_gives_decc_a_bunch_of_fives_2901

Electric Vehicles & Transport

The scandal of the rigged emissions tests for WV cars in America was always going to escalate in my view. If one manufacturer was doing it, odds on there were others. The Guardian now reports on four more manufacturers that have been dragged into the spotlight:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/09/mercedes-honda-mazda-mitsubishi-diesel-emissions-row?CMP=EMCENVEML1631

On a more positive note, Norway has the highest number of electric cars per capita of any country in the world and a video of an EV rally in the country has gone viral:

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1100394_norwegian-electric-car-clubs-scenic-driving-video-surprise-hit

Anything that helps promote more EV’s has got to be a good thing!

Energy Storage

The Solar Energy UK show in Birmingham this week will feature the new Powerwall battery range by Tesla. There is bound to be much interest in this product, particularly on how it will be priced in the UK. The company is due to launch Tesla Energy in the UK in the early part of next year, which will see a full attempt to woo the UK market. Solar Power Portal reports:

http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/seuk_solaredge_confirms_presence_of_teslas_powerwall_at_birmingham_show

Grid Connections

OFGEM has been conducting a study into the flexibility of the UK electricity network and has now published a position paper. This states that it is committed to enabling new business models for energy storage providers, whilst also helping network operators and consumers to take advantage of flexibility. The paper also suggests encouraging demand response efforts by businesses and promoting the use of rooftop solar and integrated generation technology for new build properties:

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/docs/2015/09/flexibility_position_paper_final_0.pdf

Community Energy

As reported recently by Jamie Hailstone in the news, Edinburgh Council has launched what is described as the UK’s largest community-owned renewables project. This will see solar PV fitted to a large number of civic buildings:

http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/edinburgh_council_launches_uks_largest_community_owned_renewables_2771

And finally …..

After granting planning permission for an eco house that included solar panels, East Lindsey DC has now told the occupiers that they must be removed. This might prove difficult, as they are the only source of power:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3259920/The-solar-panels-banned-ugly-Family-told-energy-source-single-complaint-neighbour-decision-brand-farcical.html

I see that I am not the only one struggling to complete an eco house!

Stephen Cirell