UK cities pledge to switch to 100% green energy by 2050

Last week a number of UK city and borough councils announced they plan to run entirely on green energy by 2050 in order to reduce localised carbon emissions. In total more than fifty Labour led councils including Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, and Glasgow signed up to the pledge, orchestrated by the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary Lisa Nandy, which will mean new procedures and policies including green transport, a large scale home insulation programme, and an end to domestic heating by gas. Labour claim this will reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 10%.

A number of the Labour councils that have signed up to pledge are in London including Southwark, Lambeth, and Greenwich. This is expected to put the candidates for next year’s London mayoral election under increasing pressure to include London as a whole in the pledge.

With international climate talks due to start in Paris in December a number of cities around the world including New York, Sydney, Munich, and Copenhagen have made similar pledges.

Potential US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton backed the full clean energy bill stating “We should do nothing that interferes with or undermines efforts to reach that goal as soon as it is possible.”

When speaking of the pledge Lisa Nandy said it showed the impact positive green policies could have locally at a time when the government was cutting subsidies to the wind and solar industries.

“Where Labour is in power we will push for a clean energy boom even if the government will not,” she said. “Ministers say they support devolution to our towns and cities so they should back these council leaders by ending their attack on the schemes that can help to make this safer, cleaner future a reality.”

The leader of Manchester city council Sir Richard Leese said the transition would happen “through acts of leadership by the many, not the few.

“We are taking action to show a completely clean energy future is both viable and within reach within the course of a generation.”

The pledge states: “We have the ambition of making all our towns and cities across the UK 100% clean before 2050, in line with the commitments made nationally and internationally at the Paris summit.

“We hope other towns and cities across the globe will join us to demonstrate that this transition will happen through acts of leadership by the many, not the few, and that a transition to a clean energy future is both viable and already beginning to happen in many towns and cities today. Our UK towns and cities are committed to making a better future for all.”

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband went one step further this week, calling for the UK to become the first country to target zero carbon emissions. Miliband, who was energy secretary under Gordon Brown, said Britain should send a clear signal by increasing its existing target of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050 under the Climate Change Act to 100%.

The proposal of cities and regions run entirely on green energy and having a number of other green policies and projects in place should be embraced wholeheartedly. With the Paris climate talks due in December more must be done to reduce our carbon emission and both central and local governments are responsible for moving us the right direction. The 10% reduction may at first glance not seem like much but in a carbon heavy country like the UK this will help make a massive difference to our carbon output.

The challenges we face will be tough and will not happen quickly. We all must pull in the same direction for it to be successful but with this initiative and more like it we can succeed. However in order for this initiative to succeed there must be a sufficient supply of green energy. One option for a least a portion of this could be offshore wind.

A new report published last week by Offshore Wind Vision has claimed that energy generated by offshore wind could account for 35% of the UK’s electricity demand by 2030 and support a skilled workforce of up to 50,000.

The report, which was published as part of Offshore Wind Week offered the following main points;

  • Offshore wind is getting cheaper with the level of subsidy dropping by 38% and is on track to be competitive with other new generation sources by the mid-2020s;
  • Offshore wind has become the most productive of all the renewable technologies, and this improvement is set to continue, with the newest wind farms are already operating at load factors of up to 50%;
  • The sector is attracting global investment, with over £9.5bn coming from investors since 2010 encouraged by stable and predictable regulatory regimes for renewable energy; and
  • Offshore wind already provides employment for 13,000 people and with continued deployment that figure could grow to 50,000 by 2030 across development, supply chain, construction and operational roles.

Speaking of the report’s findings Benj Sykes, Offshore Wind Industry Council co-chair said: “It is only 15 years since the first UK offshore wind farm – just two 2MW turbines – began operating. Since then the technology has matured rapidly to the point where the UK leads the world in deployment and could readily build 30 gigawatts of capacity by 2030 – enough to meet 35% of UK demand.”

The capacity the UK has for offshore wind energy generation is staggering but due to a number of factors currently remains expensive. However, as stated in the report, like all renewable energy technologies the cost is decreasing. It is feared though that the uncertainty created by the recent government cuts to subsidies may take the investment necessary to continue the growth of the industry elsewhere.

The 100% green energy pledge should force us to explore all of the options and offshore wind is one which can provide a sizeable percentage of the energy required. If the government is serious about reducing our carbon emissions it is an option they cannot overlook.

Our Renewable Energy Targets

Research by industry group Scottish Renewables has revealed that unless support for renewable energy continues the country will fail to achieve its target of producing 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The research showed that electricity demand in Scotland was likely to be 38,256 GWh by 2020 however only 33,122 Gigawatt (GWh) hours is on course to be generated from sources including wind power, biomass and hydroelectricity, 87% of the total.

Proposed onshore and offshore wind developments could make up the shortfall however they are unlikely to go ahead without a long term contract for power.

Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart said: “The 100% target has provided a powerful focus for government, industry and supporting bodies like Highland and Island Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, and really put Scotland’s renewable energy industry on the map.

“However, current projections show that we’re not going to meet it unless we get more projects going ahead between now and 2020.

“There are consented schemes onshore and offshore that could get us there, but they can only go ahead if they are allocated a long-term contract for their power.

“The industry had expected an auction round for contracts this autumn, but UK ministers postponed that and we are still unsure if and when that will go ahead – which is inevitably impacting on investor confidence across the industry.”

“Also the delay could fatally undermine the timeline for the projects on Scotland’s main island groups, ending prospects for major developments on the Western Isles and Shetland.”

“It would also raise serious questions about whether the proposed offshore wind projects can make the 2020 deadline. Essentially it is this simple – if we get an allocation round next spring and enough Scottish projects are successful we can still hit the target.”

Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “Recent announcements by the UK government represent an attack on the renewables sector, creating huge uncertainty for investors, developers and communities and undermining Scotland’s ability to fulfil its renewable energy potential.

“Our renewables targets are ambitious and challenging and I am pleased we have seen almost half of our electricity demand coming from renewable sources in 2014. However, I share Scottish Renewables’ concerns that the damaging and premature cuts to support for renewable energy being driven through by the UK government will hamper future progress.”

Lang Banks, director of campaign group WWF Scotland, said “This report makes it clear that the renewables industry urgently needs certainty from the UK government about future funding if it’s to continue to thrive, create jobs and cut emissions in Scotland.

“However, the good news is that there’s more than enough renewables projects in the pipeline to hit our 2020 target if funding is secured. Making progress on reducing our demand for power would also help to bring the target within reach, while cutting fuel bills for consumers at the same time.”

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Our priority is providing secure, affordable and reliable energy for hardworking families and businesses.

“Renewables make up around 25% of our electricity generation and we are on track to meet our ambition for 2020. We continue to make progress to meet our overall renewable energy target.”

However despite this the UK’s energy minister Amber Rudd conceded last week that the government does have the right policies to meet its renewable energy targets.

Speaking before a Parliamentary Committee, Ms Rudd confirmed that the Government was set to miss the EU requirement of 15 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption coming from renewables by 2020.

She said: “I am concerned about the work done in transport and in heat to make the additional targets. That’s why I have been writing to other ministers in other departments, particularly transport, to urge them to work across Government to ensure we make this target.”

“We don’t have the right policies, particularly in transport and heat in order to make those 2020 target.”

“There’s insufficient evidence that we are going to make the target for 2020 unless we take certain action. I remain committed to taking action.”

When asked if the government’s decision to cut the subsidies for the renewable energy industry had a bearing on projected shortfall she replied “I don’t believe it has because the mix we would have [is] 30 per cent electricity by 2020 and we are on track to have that despite the cuts to subsidies to renewables.”

She did admit that the government may have to purchase renewable energy from overseas or face the possibility of judicial review and potential fines from the European Court of Justice.

Caroline Lucas Green Party MP said “This Government’s credibility on climate change is lying in tatters. To create jobs and tackle climate change, the UK should be leading the way on clean home-grown energy. Ministers must get a grip and urgently act to ensure we meet our renewable energy targets.

“With public support for wind and solar power consistently strong, and the Paris climate conference coming up, it’s scandalous that this Government continues to undermine what should be a great British industrial success story.”

Since winning the General Election in May the Conservative government have overseen a number of policy changes and cuts which have a had a negative impact on renewable energy generation.

Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary Lisa Nandy, said “At the very same time the Energy Secretary is telling her colleagues in private we’re not on course to meet our legal target on clean energy, she is cutting wind and solar schemes that could help us to meet it.

“It beggars belief that Ministers are pursuing these regressive steps, and damaging our international reputation on climate change, less than a month before the important Paris Summit.”

There is a gaping hole in the government’s argument. They claim that the subsidy cuts to wind and solar have no bearing on potentially missing the binding targets as we are on course to meet the target of 30% of electricity generated from renewable sources. This however is a government target and the EU target could be achieved by increasing our generating capacity in wind and solar.

At present our two alternatives are either to import expensive renewable energy from overseas or to pay large fines for missing the target, both of which are likely to be higher than reinstating the renewable energy subsidies. This invokes the following question: why is our government willing to spend more than the subsidy cuts to meet our EU targets and ultimately who is going to pay for this?

Innovative projects and support for renewable energy as global temperatures rise

Households and businesses on the Orkney Isles will soon be benefiting from discounted electricity thanks to a project by Hamsin Wind to install over 60 small scale turbines free of charge by the end of 2015.

The project will consist of both 6kW and 15kW turbines being installed with Hasmin Wind covering the planning and development costs and the home and business owners receiving discounted electricity for the life of the turbines. Hasmin will generate income via the Feed-in Tariff and a long term power purchase agreement which pays for power sales to the grid.

Approximately 95% of the electricity generated by the turbines will be consumed by the relative homeowner on site. Depending on the building’s heating system this energy could be used for heating and hot water.

The initial phase will begin shortly with the first twenty turbines due to be installed in the coming weeks. When the development phase is complete the project is expected to save at least 5000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year and over 100,000 tonnes for the full life of the project.

The turbines used come from Kingspan Wind and are less than 20m tall. They are built in Scotland have were selected due to their ability to withstand the high wind speeds the islands receive as well blending in well with the surrounding countryside.

Earlier in 2015 Scottish Equity Partners (SEP) confirmed they would invest up to £9 million in Hasmin Wind to oversea the instillation of as many as 200 small scale turbines at high wind speed locations in the Highlands and Island of Scotland.

Peter Bachmann, director at SEP, said the area has “vast renewable energy potential” and the project will “help remote communities”.

He added: “With the installation of a 6kw turbine the host is able to save up to £3,000 per annum in electricity costs. Orkney is already one of the world’s greenest islands in terms of renewable energy generation so it was a natural starting point.”

Projects like these are extremely beneficial to the landowners, the developer, the funder, and ultimately the environment. Even relatively small projects all add up to making a difference when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of energy generation.

According the UK Met Office climate change is expected to reach an unwanted milestone by the end of the year with warming since pre-industrial times set to go above 1 degree Celsius. In addition 2015 is also set to be hottest on record with temperatures so far eclipsing previous records comfortably.

The World Meteorological Organization then announced that due to the continued burning of fossil fuels 2016 would be the first year in which the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is over 400ppm on average.

This triple blow comes less than month before the Paris UN climate summit where countries will meet in the hope of agreeing a new deal for reducing their carbon emissions.

Data from January to September of this year shows average global temperatures to have risen by 1C. They state that rise is due to increasing carbon emissions combined with eh El Nino climate we are currently experiencing.

They claim that the full year temperature will remain above 1C for 2015. In 2014 this figure was below 0.9C showing a steep increase in relative climate terms.

Stephen Belcher, director of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, said “This is the first time we’re set to reach the 1C marker and it’s clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory, we have passed the halfway mark to the 2C target.”

This announcement is expected to increase pressure on negotiators to agree a robust deal on carbon emissions with the aim of preventing calamitous global warming.

Amber Rudd, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, said: “Climate change is one of the most serious threats we face, not just to the environment, but to our economic prosperity, poverty eradication and global security. That’s why I want an agreement on a global deal in Paris. Pledges to reduce emissions made by countries [are] just the beginning. We need to ensure that as the costs of clean energy fall, countries can be more ambitious with their climate targets.”

Central England Temperature record, which dates back to 1772 clearly shows climate change. Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading said “We can see the fingerprint of global warming in our own backyard. Central England has warmed 20% more than the global average [as land warms faster than oceans] and we expect that to continue.”

The UK’s Avoid project submitted further research last week which showed that compared to unrestrained global warming below 2C would reduce heat waves by 89%, flooding by 76%, crop land decline by 41% and water stress by 26%.

The report from the Met Office also states that we are two thirds of the way through our carbon budget. This is the maximum amount of additional carbon dioxide we can add to atmosphere to keep the temperature increase below 2C.

All off which seems to make the UK government’s policy changes regarding renewable energy all the stranger. To add to that a recent government survey shows that the UK population’s support for renewable energy is still high.

The quarterly survey of over 2,100 showed that support for renewable energy increased slightly to 76% with just 5% opposed to renewables and 1% strongly opposed.

Support for onshore wind rose by one percentage point to 66 per cent, while support for both offshore wind and marine energy remained at 73 per cent. Solar power remained the UK’s most popular energy source with 80 per cent of respondents saying they were in favour of its use.

Speaking of the results Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association said “These very high levels of public support for solar show yet again that this sunshine technology is the nation’s favourite source of energy.

“This is also shown by the more than 55,000 responses to the Feed-in Tariff public consultation received by DECC – an unprecedented number showing the widespread outrage and these extreme cuts.”

“No other technology empowers consumers and communities to take charge of their energy bill and act on climate change like solar power. By cutting support for solar the government is taking power away from people, organisations and communities all over the UK – and they don’t like it one bit.”

Maf Smith deputy chief executive of RenewableUK agreed, “Ordinary people see renewables as a British success story and want to see us increasing their use further.

“We hope that ministers will look at these figures carefully and listen to what the thousands of voters who took part in this official government poll are telling them.

“The costs of onshore and offshore wind are falling rapidly. Onshore wind is one of the cheapest of all sources of electricity, so we need it kept in the energy mix to drive our fuel bills down. Support for offshore wind remains sky-high too, and backing for renewables overall is also increasing.”

With innovative community projects, strong public support, and a worrying global temperature rise there is much pointing us towards the positive contribution renewable energy can make on our environment and lives.

Also with costs coming down the level of support required for these technologies is not as much as it once was. However some support is still needed in order to improve the technology further and put us in the enviable position of renewable sources producing the majority of energy.

With that we would no longer be reliant on expensive imported energy sources while at the same protecting our environment. In this situation everybody wins, well maybe except the 1% that “strongly oppose.”

 

The growth of anaerobic digestion industry in Scotland

New figures released last week from the Anaerobic Digestion and Biosources Association (ADBA) show that Scotland’s anaerobic digestion industry has grown by 69% in the past year. In that time the number of instillations has increased from 16 to 27 with a further 43 currently with planning permission.

On top of that 12 more are currently in the advance stages of the planning process which if they were to go ahead would mean the sector would grow by more than 200% over the next 24 months.

The anaerobic digestion process uses organic material such as vegetable waste, paper and farm slurry which decomposes inside a sealed chamber to produce gas which in turn is used to generate electricity.

The increase in instillations throughout the country has led to less than half of Scotland’s household waste going to landfill in 2014 which the first year ever that this is below 50% showing that anaerobic digestion can help reduce the demand on landfill space.

Also the last year has seen dramatic increases in the amount of food waste collections in Scotland under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 adding to amount of fuel available.

Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, Stephanie Clark said “These new ADBA figures show that AD is being taken extremely seriously by Scottish businesses.

“Increasingly, waste has value. The AD process recognises that, and turns things we don’t want, like food waste and farmyard slurry, into something we desperately need – clean, affordable electricity.”

Chief Executive of ADBA Charlotte Morton added “Scotland is leading the way in demonstrating how anaerobic digestion extracts value from our waste, while supporting farming resilience, reducing billions in carbon abatement costs, improving food security and production and generating employment and investment opportunities for rural economies.

“We are particularly excited to see AD plants working in partnership with local authorities to collect residents’ food waste and to distribute in its place heat and electricity for local homes.

“Developments in Scotland are now being used to showcase the excellent return on investment that bill payers gain from the continued deployment of AD capacity. With a commitment from government to support the technology to scale – a commitment which currently does not exist – AD can deliver baseload energy that is cheaper than new nuclear by the time Hinkley Point C is built, and that can help decarbonise UK heat, farming and transport.”

Sticking with Scottish Renewables and the fifty finalists for the 14th Scottish Green Energy Awards were announced last week. Categories include Champion of Renewables, Best Photography, Best Supplier, Engineering Excellence, Business Growth, and Rising Star.

The Director-General of the CBI, an Orkney based business with world reknowned tidal and wave expertise and three community hydropower projects are all finalists in their respective categories for the respected awards.

John Cridland, the Director-General of the CBI, who throughout the year consistently highlighted the negative impact the UK Government’s policy changes on green subsidies will have has nominated in the Champions of Renewables category.

Orkney based wave and tidal energy developer Leask Marine, who worked on the removal of a tidal energy device from the seabed before returning it to its original state in what was claimed to be a world first is shortlisted in the Best Supplier category.

Community hydropower projects in Edinburgh, the Isle of Mull, and the Trossachs are all nominated in the Best Community Project category.

Also nominated is Scottish Water, the country’s largest energy consumer, for its efforts to use renewable energy. They have doubled their renewable energy capacity in the last two years and are nominated alongside a district heating project in Wick, a rural heating project in Abbey St Bathans in the Borders, and Mackies ice cream factory solar farm in the Renewing Scotland category..

Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables Niall Stuart said “2015 has been an incredibly difficult year for renewable energy, with a whole series of cuts by the Westminster Government. We should however remember that our industry is producing record levels of heat and power as we seek to lead the transformation in Scotland’s energy sector.

“This year’s finalists have all played a part in our industry’s success and show the many ways in which the growth of renewable energy is benefitting communities and businesses across the country.

“I would like to thank everyone who entered the awards, and I look forward to congratulating the worthy winners on December 3.”

One further company that has been nominated this year is ILI (Renewable Energy) to give us our full name. Along with Leask Marine, Urban Wind, and Green Marine we have been shortlisted in the Best Supplier Award.

Having started this journey six years ago we are delighted that our hard work and determination have been recognised in this manner. We started out as a small core team of specialists that grew as the sector and industry did over the following years. Our model was to package small to medium scale developments in waiting for developers with all the required permissions and leases needed in order to commence development.

Over this period we achieved eighty successful planning applications and although extreme grid restrictions meant that not all could be fully developed the majority were or are currently in the development phase.

So when we attend the awards ceremony next month we can look back at all we achieved, regardless of the outcome of the award, with pride and satisfaction. We would like to win though.