Using the past to help shape our future

A new scheme designed to change the way consumers receive energy efficiency services whilst at the same time increase efforts to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland is to be launched in September and funded by the Scottish Government.

The project will install insulation, heating, and low carbon or renewable measures into households identified as living in fuel poverty. Also a wider range of options will be available to those homes that are not on the main gas grid including solar and biomass systems.

The scheme will take Scottish consumers through different projects from inception to completion all with the purpose of making their homes warmer and more comfortable. It will also bring financial benefits to the customers by helping reduce bills as well as reducing CO2 output levels in Scotland and improve its housing stock.

The overall scheme named Warmworks Scotland will be run as a joint venture involving three separate organisations and will ensure support is available on a national level to all those that require it. Changeworks, the Energy Saving Trust and Everwarm, part of the Lakehouse Plc, will join forces to provide full support and assistance on all related matters from insulation and heating to micro generation measures and will target lower-income families.

Speaking at the launch of the scheme Energy Saving Trust Director of Government Services, Mike Thornton said: “This will give people living in fuel poverty really practical support. The initiative provides a more integrated step-by-step service to customers, from the initial referral through to the installation and beyond.

“Each customer will receive their own personal adviser and be supported through any complex issue or challenge they may face. This project will continue to help improve the lives of people in Scotland by making their homes warmer and more comfortable.”

Changeworks Chief Executive Teresa Bray said: “We believe the successful approach for a fuel poverty project of this scale demands an alternative delivery model. We’ve bonded the skills and expertise of two leading social enterprises with the private sector to deliver a high quality public service to tackle fuel poverty.

“This delivery model offers new opportunities to provide effective and efficient services to help struggling households in rural and urban Scotland.”

Managing Director at Everwarm, Michael McMahon said: “This partnership brings together stable funding, the strongest policy expertise and on-the-ground practical support to take a new approach to energy efficiency.

“We have a successful track record of designing and installing a range of energy efficiency measures and experience of delivering on a national scale. Over the next five years, we will be harnessing major Government investment to install improvements in thousands of homes in Scotland. This is an important step in addressing fuel poverty and helping residents understand the opportunities of energy efficiency and access support.”

Scottish Government Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said: “This new scheme will give vulnerable households living in fuel poverty access to even more measures to make their homes energy efficient. These will be tailored to meet their needs to stop them from paying unnecessarily high fuel bills.

“By making sure people in the islands and in more rural parts of the country, have the same chances to make their homes, warmer, cheaper and easier to heat, we are tackling the inequalities that exist in our country.

“It will provide vulnerable people or those on low incomes, with heating or insulation measures, and will help thousands of Scots across the country have homes that are easier and cheaper to heat. The wider community will also benefit from the Warmworks Scotland contract as it will offer vocational training and employment opportunities.

“Since 2009 we have allocated over half a billion pounds to make Scotland’s homes more energy efficient with over 700,000 households benefitting from measures like new boilers or insulation, and this new scheme – alongside our other Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland – will build on this over the next seven years.”

28,000 households currently in fuel poverty are expected to benefit via this new scheme making their homes easier and less expensive to heat.

In other Scottish renewables news a Victorian hydro scheme which once provided power at Mar Lodge in the Cairngorms National Park, at the time home of Queen Victoria’s grand-daughter HRH Princess Louise Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife, is set to be rebuilt and provide electricity once again, this time for the local community of Braemar.

The instillation on the Corriemulzie burn is subject to a community benefit scheme, set up to raise funds for the project. Within ten days of the scheme being launched the share offer of £150,000 was fully subscribed with just fewer than fifty investors with connections to the local area sponsoring the project.

Speaking at the announcement Braemar Community Hydro Director Al Hubbard said “It’s been a long haul to get to this stage. Braemar Community Ltd first started monitoring flow on the burn seven years ago. Once we were confident the scheme was viable there were many challenges to be overcome.

“Now, terms for the lease has been agreed with Mar Estate, planning permission and a Licence from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency are in place, we have a grid connection offer from Scottish and Southern Energy and Braemar Community Hydro has been set up.

“The Pioneer share offer was launched in the village at the end of March and we were overwhelmed by the support from the community.  There was real enthusiasm for such an unobtrusive renewable scheme with such an interesting pedigree.

“It’s overgrown now but in Victorian times, as well as generating power, the Linn of Corriemulzie was a favourite beauty spot. The Pioneer offer will fund the design of the new scheme, the turbine deposit and the grid connection and a further share offer will be launched in May.”

The main share offer which will be launched next month will be open to everyone and aims to raise a further £650,000. Braemar Community Hydro aim to begin installation this autumn and to be generating electricity by the late summer of 2016.

This project is the type we appreciate greatly here at ILI Energy. The area in which it is situated is one of scenic beauty and therefore unsuitable for wind turbines. However it proves that renewable energy solutions can be found in many guises, old and new, if we look hard enough to find them. The commitment and dedication shown by both the developer and local community has created a success story we can all aspire to.

As the need for clean renewable energy continues to grow and space for the more traditional methods of generating it dwindles more leftfield ideas like this will be required in order for us to increase and maintain our output. With the community benefit aspect the local population can benefit with both clean locally produced electricity and a potential return should they choose to invest. And all with an advancement on technology used for the same purpose almost 100 years ago.

 

Renewable Heat and a Record Breaking Turbine

In our previous blog I spoke of our need to address the issue of renewable heat generation and highlighted an innovative new project designed to help combat this. This month the Scottish Renewables first Low Carbon Conference will hear just how challenging the issue of renewable heat is and what we have to do in order to meet our 2020 targets.

Up until now sector progress has been slow with only 3% of heat coming from renewable sources. We therefore now have just over five and half years to dramatically increase that to reach our target of 11%.

Scotland’s commitment to renewable heat and achieving this target will be a major topic of the Low Carbon Conference, which be held in Perth on the 28th of April, the opening session of the conference being “Is Scotland serious about heat?”

Policy manager at Scottish Renewables Stephanie Clark explained that a major change of mindset was required in order to reach our goal. “More than half of the energy consumed in Scotland is in the form of heat. As a society, we take warm homes and workplaces and constant hot water for granted, but the time is now right for us to re-think our relationship with heat and the way it is generated, transported and used.

“We have a chance of reaching what is a very ambitious 2020 target, but we have to act now. If we can do it, consumers and businesses will be insulated from the price fluctuations and uncertainty of supply associated with gas. We can also create hundreds of jobs and help thousands of families out of fuel poverty by using more sustainable forms of warmth like wood, solar and heat pumps.”

She added “Most of our homes, businesses and public buildings are warmed by conventional gas boilers, and we must kick that addiction. District heating, for example, is a great way for hundreds of homes to share one heat source, but we have yet to see a consensus on its importance in Scotland.”

Projects and developments from continental Europe will be examined at the conference to see if they can help effect change in Scotland. Kate Read, Policy Manager at independent regulator Ofgem will speak at session dedicated to the Renewable Heat Incentive to judge how well the scheme is performing and whether the incentives provided are enough to increase uptake and develop the supply chain.

The conference will conclude with an innovation showcase presented by heat pump expert and Star Renewable Energy Director Dave Pearson who will guide the delegates through a variety of technologies which can help us meet our renewable heat target.

There was further good news for the Scottish Renewable Energy industry last week when wind turbine in Orkney set the landmark record of being the first in the UK to generate 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

The instillation which sits on the extremely exposed Burgar Hill, the windiest location for a turbine, in Europe, was installed in 2002 as a prototype but now produces enough electricity to supply 1,400 households and day.

When constructed 13 years ago, at 2.75megawatts output and standing at 70m it was one of the largest wind turbines in world. Locally the wind speeds are an extremely high average of 11.5m/s; winds a large turbine like this can utilise to great effect. It is currently maintained by local engineering firm Bryan Rendall Electrical on behalf energy firm Thorfinn Speaking of achieving this record the company’s marketing manager Tracy Jackson said “The NM92 wind turbine on Burgar Hill turned 100,000,000 kilowatt hours (kwh) on the counter at 3:30am on Tuesday. This is the first single turbine in the UK to have reached that milestone and to have generated over 100,000,000kwh.”

Speaking of the record breaking news WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Once again Orkney and Scotland are leading the way when it comes to UK renewables.

“Orkney can already proudly boast it produces more electricity from renewable sources than the islands consume and is a hotspot in the UK for electric vehicles.

“It’s fantastic news that Orkney can claim yet another renewables record by being home to the first wind turbine to generate over a hundred million kilowatt hours of electricity. In the decade that has passed since the Burgar Hill wind project was established, wind power output in Scotland has more than quadrupled, helping to cut carbon, create jobs and keep the lights on.”

Stephanie Clark, Scottish Renewables policy manage, said “Orkney constantly manages to amaze with the sheer variety and inventive application of renewable energy technology deployed there – no wonder, when it’s very name means ‘energy islands’ in Icelandic.

“The cable which connects the islands to the GB electricity grid is too small, and until an upgrade is installed there are limits to the amount of power it can carry.

“Necessity has already produced world-first projects which have enabled more and more green energy generation to connect to the Orkney system, as well as a pilot scheme to convert wind electricity into hydrogen used to power a ferry, so it’s no surprise that this hugely-impressive milestone has been reached in Orkney.

“The team at Bryan Rendall Electrical are to be congratulated for a maintenance regime which has helped the turbine survive 14 Orkney winters – an application of technical know-how which proves Scotland’s renewable energy industry has much to teach the world.”

We have discussed the implications of the renewable heat issue in previously and it does concern us so we therefore welcome the intuitive taken by Scottish Renewables and the Low Carbon Conference and believe it can help drive us towards generating more of our heat energy from renewable sources.

With the right investment and encouragement we have shown we can be great innovators and although these issues exist at present together they can be overcome. It is something however that we all must to subscribe to and further assistance from Government bodies would go a long way in securing a sustainable heat energy future.

Finding new sources of renewable energy

The continuing search for solutions to reduce our carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels often brings up novel ideas from researchers, some more suitable and successful than others. One such recent idea which is providing successful preliminary results comes from researchers at Nottingham Trent University working with renewable energy firm Alkane Energy.

As part of a two year project they have explored the possibility of using water from abandoned mines to heat homes and businesses via a heat pump and through a district heating network.

Using the disused Markham Colliery in North East Derbyshire they established that thermal energy contained in the naturally lukewarm water found in mines can be condensed and used to heat and cool all types of buildings.

Speaking of the findings Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh, of the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, who led the study, said “In a way we may never have previously envisaged, coalmines could once again be used to provide warmth to thousands of homes across the UK. But the key difference between yesteryear and tomorrow is that we now have the ability to harness their energy potential in a completely sustainable way.”

The technology developed for the project was based on a ground source heat pump system which removes water from the mineshaft and pumps it to the surface where the latent heat energy can be extracted using a heat exchanger. The water is run through the heat pump a second time where the energy can be condensed and circulated in a separate central heating system producing a much higher temperature of water than that originally used. The now cooled groundwater is then returned to the mineshaft where it becomes heated again due to the ground heat.

The Coal Authority provided permission to explore a number of disused mines over a 30km squared with the potential to generate enough energy to heat 45,000 homes. At the Markham Colliery, the heat was used at an industrial complex owned by Alkane. The project was funded by Innovate UK and the research findings were presented at the global Applied Energy Conference, in Abu Dhabi, last month.

The project also assessed periods for which renewable energy supplies (primarily from solar and wind) were insufficient for powering the ground source heat pump. Mains electricity was used as an alternative and even with this it was found that the technology was still four times more efficient than a modern gas boiler running at 90% efficiency.

Keith Parker the project director at Alkane Energy concluded “Alkane has traditionally utilised gas contained in disused coal mines to power its core electricity generation business. The utilisation of heat from mine water gives rise to a further opportunity to make use of the mines to provide green, sustainable energy to homes and businesses in the UK.”

It should be the aim of all nations to produce both 100% of electricity and heat via renewable sources. We are however some way off that at present. As shown in recent months renewable energy generation via wind and solar is doing a fine job providing electricity but the next step is heat generation.

The technology for providing heat via renewable sources like that above is still very much in its infancy meaning we are more likely to be years rather than months away from reaching this goal. However wind and solar had to start somewhere and if you had said 10 years ago that these forms of renewable energy would be regularly producing 100% of our electricity demand few would have believed you. However renewable energy is regularly generating 100% of our electricity demand and while heat generation from renewable sources has some catching up to do, innovations and research like the heat from mines project above have put us firmly on the right track. We believe that all of our energy needs, electricity and heat, can be generated from renewable sources and that is why the inventiveness and determination of these researchers and the solution they offer cannot be underestimated.

The popularity of renewable energy

Renewable energy in Scotland received a boost last week when the results of a new survey confirmed that almost four out of five Scots support the continuation of renewable energy developments including wind turbines and solar arrays. Also almost two thirds of those polled want the Government to actively tackle climate change and implement policies to cut carbon emissions.

Other questions in the poll commissioned by Scottish Renewables revealed that only 26% support fracking, 45% want to see new nuclear power stations, and as little as 14% believe that that Government should not be seeking solutions to climate change. In total 1,008 people took part in the survey.

Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “These poll results illustrate the strength of support for renewables among Scotland’s electorate. It is the only energy option that a majority of potential Scots voters say they would support.

“I believe this survey reflects the fact that most people in Scotland accept we must continue to change the way we power and heat our homes and businesses in order to tackle climate change.

“Renewable electricity generation in Scotland has doubled in recent years and we hope that all the main political parties will continue to back the growth of our sector after May’s general election — which certainly looks like the wish of potential Scottish voters.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “It’s great to see that the vast majority of the public in Scotland want to see the next UK government continue to take action on climate change as well as deliver more renewables.

“When given the choice, it’s clear that the public would rather see more clean renewables rather than polluting fossil fuels of nuclear power.

“If we’re to realise the full potential of our renewable resource, it’s vital that the next UK government listens to the public and does all that it can to ensure Scotland is not held back from harnessing the power of its winds, waves, and tides.”

Renewable energy became Scotland’s largest energy source in 2014 and the industry currently employs 11,000 people. The Scottish Government has set a target of 100% of the country’s electricity supply from renewable sources by 2020 and is well on its way to achieving this.

The country is one of the world’s richest renewable energy sources with 25 per cent of all of Europe’s tidal power potential and 10 per cent of Europe’s wave potential. However there remains concerns over the safety of Scotland’s nuclear power plants. Torness power station in East Lothian was subject to scrutiny recently over the revelation a radiation leak was detected at the 27-year-old plant last month. A radiation leak was also reported at the Dounreay nuclear plant in November.

SNP MSP Dennis Robertson argued that while Scotland has made significant progress, there has not been enough support from Westminster governments.

“There is no doubt we have made strong progress in Scotland in growing our renewables sector, but this has come in the face of a Westminster government that has been determined to pursue horrendously expensive nuclear energy at the expense of supporting renewable energy,” Robertson said. “That is the wrong approach and threatens the future of Scotland’s energy industry and the jobs that rely upon it. It is long past time for Westminster to play its full part in supporting Scotland’s renewables sector.”

There was more good news for renewable energy on a global scale in a report published by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

New renewable generating capacity broke the 100GW barrier in 2014 and global investment in renewable energy during 2014 increased by 17% from 2013 levels to US$270bn (£183bn). Increased cost efficiency and lower risk have been cited as important factors in attracting new levels in investment.

Eric Usher, lead editor of the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment said “We have a continuation of what we have seen in previous years, which is a concentration of investment in two sectors – solar and wind.

“Solar was up 29% to US$150bn, while wind was up 11% to almost US$100bn. The other sectors did less well, some are maturing but others have yet to mature.

“Technologically, solar is doing well at both small-scale (roof tops) and larger scale.

“The big story in wind, in developed economies – Europe particularly – is large-scale off-shore, which had a very good year receiving US$18.6bn in financing in Europe alone.”

Renewable sources accounted for approximately 9.1% of the world’s electricity generation. The report calculated that this contributed to saving of 1.3 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions, almost twice emitted by the global airline industry had the electricity been generated from fossil fuels.

The popularity of renewable energy with both investors and the general public should be the driving force that safeguards the continued growth of the industry and in turn the reduction of our carbon emissions. However we are now in a period of uncertainty and government support is necessary to ensure this happens. There will be a General Election in the UK next month and some of the competing parties have spoken out against new renewable energy developments. 2014 was an excellent year for renewable energy both nationally and globally but we cannot allow our progress to stagnate now, the outcome is far too important.

 

 

Energy for our cities of the future

Scotland’s largest source of power has been confirmed as renewable electricity as new figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Energy Trends and Quarterly Energy Prices report published last week show that 49.5% of the country’s electricity needs in 2014 was met by that generated from renewable sources.

In the last year we have seen Scottish energy generation records broken for hydro-power, solar, biomass and wind generation with onshore wind now providing 30% of Scotland’s overall electricity demand.

When asked about these new figures Joss Blamire Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables said “These figures show how valuable the renewables sector is to Scotland, with wind and rain generating almost half of our electricity needs.

“With records broken for all our major renewable energy technologies – hydro, solar, biomass and wind – 2014 was the best year ever for green energy in Scotland.

“While we are still on track to meet our interim target for electricity generation, we must not forget that much still needs to be done in order to meet our target for heat, which makes up more than half of the energy we use in Scotland.”

In addition the report stated that renewable electricity provided a record percentage of supply in the last quarter of 2014, reaching 22%.

Also welcoming the news was industry body RenewableUK as Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith commented: “It’s wonderful to see renewable electricity reach another record of almost 50% of electricity generated and to see wind providing the lion’s share of that. Communities up and down the country benefit from wind power via the 34500 people employed in the sector, and local benefits and contracts, and these statistics show its doing its primary job of providing clean homegrown power and weaning us off fossil fuel imports.

“Onshore and offshore wind is a UK success story, and as the General Election approaches, politicians should recognise its value, and support it fully.”

The report also confirmed that renewable electricity provided a record percentage of power in 2014 at 19.2%. Onshore and offshore wind made up nearly 50% of this total, with both seeing increases in the amount of power generated compared to 2013; onshore wind power generation increased 7.9% and the amount of offshore wind power generated was up by 16.1%.

Last week also saw the publication of another new report ‘Smarter, greener cities: ten ways to modernise and improve UK urban infrastructure’ from the UK Green Investment Bank which gives cities the opportunity to invest in ten varieties of green infrastructure.

The ten technologies showcased are already being used in at least one UK town or city and are capable of a large scale immediate roll out across the entire country.

With 98% of the UK’s urban areas maintaining a growing population demand for effective transport, communications, energy, water, waste, and building structure also continually grows. Therefore investment in modern green infrastructure offer a tangible solution to these issues as well and offering a range of benefits including a reduction in air pollution, less traffic congestions, better energy efficiency (which leads to lower energy bills), and an overall improved living space.

Also as these technologies as all designed to be greener they will aid cities in meeting their environmental commitments by reducing greenhouse gas and in particular carbon dioxide emissions, increasing recycling – which in turn reduces landfill requirements – improving energy efficiency, and increasing the amount of renewable energy an urban area both produces and uses.

The technologies featured in the report include anaerobic digestion, district heating networks, LED street lighting, combined heat and power schemes, low carbon transport and building energy efficiency and the UK cities already making use of some of these green infrastructure technologies include Aberdeen, Birmingham, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Reading, and Sheffield.

Shaun Kingsbury, chief executive of the UK Green Investment Bank speaking at the launch of the report said “Across the UK we have some world class examples of innovative green energy infrastructure. Our challenge now is to take these technologies, which can be used in any city, and roll them out in every city. Investing in this type of infrastructure will have a transformational impact on the competitiveness and livability of our cities.”

Cities Minister, Greg Clark said: “National growth is the sum of local growth, for Britain to prosper every part of the country needs to fulfil its potential. That is why the Government is focused on empowering our great cities and communities to drive growth. This report highlights that green infrastructure has the potential to deliver both economic and social benefits that make our cities more liveable and workable in the future.

“We are undertaking the biggest ever transfer of powers away from Whitehall so we can grow the economy in a balanced way and enable Britain’s cities to become engines of growth in a range of industries.”

Peter Madden, chief executive of Future Cities Catapult said: “Many of our cities are already taking the initiative to drive a low carbon renewal of the nation’s urban infrastructure, and with the prospect of greater devolution this momentum is only set to grow. With the technology now available to us we can take this opportunity to deliver joined-up investment in truly integrated and cost-effective infrastructure, meeting the ambition of our cities’ leaders and the changing needs of communities.”

Stephanie Clark, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “This report shows the transformational effect that green energy technologies, particularly those in the low carbon heat sector, can have on cities, and it is particularly encouraging to see Glasgow and Aberdeen mentioned as innovative leaders.

“Increased public sector leadership in low carbon heat, and the vision and imagination to make the best use of technologies like heat pumps, anaerobic digesters and combined heat and power schemes can deliver huge benefits in both economic terms, and in our ongoing battle to combat climate change.”

As our urban populations continue to grow the energy demand will also increase. However the growing population also means a reduction in space so innovative ideas and technology are must in order manage this increase in energy demand. Therefore the opportunity offered by the UK Green Investment Bank is one which our cities and towns cannot ignore if they are to meet the energy needs of their residents whilst at the same time protect and enhance the environment in which they live. Solutions to these issues do exist though and the positive steps made so far are encouraging. With continued growth and investment they can be improved upon making them even more cost effective and efficient creating greener, cleaner, and more sustainable cities of the future.