Monthly Archives: January 2013

The growth in community led energy projects in Germany

January 2013: BBC Radio 4’s environment programme, Costing the Earth, has this week looked at the energy market changes in Germany –  with the planned closure in nuclear being replaced by a  massive shift to renewables – and the significant role that community energy groups are playing in helping with this change. Further information on the programme – Berlin’s Big Gamble here. The programme is available as a podcast here.

A recent news report highlighted that there are “more than 80,000 German citizens have come together in some 600 energy cooperatives” and a 2012 report covering co-op groups energy projects in Germany ‘Citizens, communities and local economy in good company‘ states that these groups have invested over 800 million euros in renewable energy schemes.

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The Mayor on climate science…and the responses

January 2013: The Mayor has used his latest Daily Telegraph column to consider our current winter weather period and pontificate what this means in terms of climate change saying ‘Something is up with our winter weather. Could it be the Sun is having a slow patch?’

For his column, the Mayor turns to the work of what appears to be his ‘theorist of choice’ Piers Corbyn (Boris has referenced his work twice before in July 2012 and December 2010) stating that “According to Piers, global temperature depends not on concentrations of CO2 but on the mood of our celestial orb.”

The Mayor then brings in his memories of childhood winters, moving on to referencing sun spots, both Shakespeare and JMW Turner, Aztec solar theories  and the effects of  something called the Maunder minimum.  After all of this, Boris then goes on to say: “Now I am not for a second saying that I am convinced Piers is right; and to all those scientists and environmentalists who will go wild with indignation on the publication of this article, I say, relax. I certainly support reducing CO2 by retrofitting homes and offices – not least since that reduces fuel bills. I want cleaner vehicles. I am speaking only as a layman who observes that there is plenty of snow in our winters these days, and who wonders whether it might be time for government to start taking seriously the possibility — however remote — that Corbyn is right. If he is, that will have big implications for agriculture, tourism, transport, aviation policy and the economy as a whole. Of course it still seems a bit nuts to talk of the encroachment of a mini ice age.”

Responses to Boris’s pontifications were both rapid and comprehensive. Carbon Brief were first to come forward with a really excellent article, including contributions directly addressing points raised by Boris from experts at Imperial College, the Met Office and UCL. A really interesting read that rightly concludes that :

Unfortunately polling data shows a significant number of people are still confused about what’s causing climate change. Fringe scientific theories receiving more attention than they warrant from some parts of the media – and some columnists – probably doesn’t help.”

Other reactions include The Guardian who reference the Carbon Brief article and Greenpeace who provide some additional analysis on Boris’s comments.  The Skeptical Science blog also provides a useful contribution to the debate on the issue of solar activity and climate change. The LSE’s climate change unit also responded via the New Stateman.  Meanwhile Piers Gough’s website says that “Piers was filmed by BBC Politics London Show discussion Sunday 27 Jan BBC1 11am A representative of Boris Johnson will be interviewed.” So it appears that the discussion will continue for at least a few more days…

Despite the controversies that have arisen around the Mayor’s comments, it should be mentioned that the Mayor has released comprehensive strategies on climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation in 2011.

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Waltham Forest continues to lead on PV

January 2013: DECC have released their latest quarterly dataset of “Sub-regional statistics show [ing] the number of installations and total installed capacity by technology type at the end the latest quarter that have been confirmed on the Central FIT Register (CFR)”. [DECC weblink;  Excel file] The data provides a useful breakdown of installations under the Feed in Tariff (FIT) programme by ‘local authorities’ and also ‘parliamentary constituency’. The top 10  London boroughs by total installs of PV (photovoltaic) installations under the FITs programme (which started in April 2010) is provided below.

Waltham Forest 861
Bromley 730
Croydon 577
Havering 491
Bexley 404
Richmond upon Thames 397
Barnet 394
Ealing 383
Redbridge 336
Lewisham 315

Points to note:

  • Waltham Forest continues to be the local authority with the most number of total PV installs
  • By comparing the latest dataset to the previous October 2012 dataset, it can also be seen that Waltham Forest had the highest number of PV installs over the past quarter (136) – 3-4 times as much as the next nearest boroughs (Bromley (49), Croydon (33) and Havering (32)
  • Over the last three quarters London has seen a small drop in its percentage of total PV installs as a proportion of the UK total – from 2.79% to 2.76%
  • Further comparison of PVs in London compared to other UK regions can be seen here.
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‘2012: London’s sustainable Games leave lasting benefits’

January 2013: The Mayor’s Environment Advisor, Matthew Pencharz, contributes a column to the C40cities ‘Expert Voices Blog’ on how ‘London’s sustainable Games will leave lasting benefits’

“The achievements have been impressive. No other Games had predicted its carbon footprint, so a new methodology had to be designed and delivered, one that included all the emissions from winning the bid to the end of the Games.

As a direct result emissions have been reduced by 400 ktCO2e equivalent to approximately 9% of the annual CO2 emissions from cars in London. The majority of this figure was achieved through reducing the impact of construction and the staging of the event. This ground-breaking methodology is available for use by future organisers of major events enabling carbon reduction on a significant scale.”

The excellent ‘Learning Legacy’ website has done a great job in compiling the knowledge gained by organisers in delivering  the Olympics, on a wide array of key issues, including sustainability.  Some energy and carbon outputs from this work includes:

Insulation from renewable sources and healthy to install
Combining photovoltaic panels and a living roof on the Main Press Centre
Achieving the Part L target at the Aquatics Centre
The Velodrome, the most energy efficient venue on the Olympic Park
Managing energy consumption during the Games
Carbon reduction in transport management
The Olympic Park Energy Strategy
Reducing embodied carbon through efficient design
Reducing and compensating the Games carbon footprint

Previous posts on energy issues related to the London 2012 Olympics can be viewed here.
Finally, the BBC programme ‘twenty twelve’ had an interesting take on the Olympics ‘ethically designed electric vehicle charging points’ and the ‘Olympic Park wind turbine’.

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22 January 2013: Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham, asked the following question in relation to the South East London Combined Heat and Power plant (SELCHP):

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had on the potential effects on human health in Newham of the operation of the South East London Combined Heat and Power incinerator.

Richard Benyon: The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), has not held any discussions on the potential effects on human health in Newham of the South East London Combined Heat and Power incinerator.

Energy from waste incinerators are regulated under environmental permits granted by the Environment Agency to meet the strict emissions standards of the waste incineration directive. The Environment Agency currently has no regulatory or compliance concerns regarding the performance of the South East London Combined Heat and Power incinerator and is not aware of any public health issues. Any potential effects on health would be a matter for the Environment Agency to assess in conjunction with the Health Protection Agency.

More on SELCHP here.

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Brixton Energy and the Future of Community Energy Schemes

January 2013: Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister, Luciana Berger MP, recently visited the team at Brixton Energy to see the excellent work undertaken there in developing a community-led PV project. The scheme has been getting a lot of attention and was raised during a recent House of Commons debate on the Energy Bill, where it was refrenced as the kind of community energy initiative the Bill should be supporting – something which it is sorely lacking to do so at the moment.

The issue of the Energy Bill and community energy schemes – and the forthcoming Government Community Energy Strategy – was picked up again during the committee stage oral evidence sessions last week, with the Secretary of State being quizzed by another Labour Shadow Energy Minister, Tom Greatrex:

“Q 37 Tom Greatrex:  I would like to ask the Secretary of State about community energy projects, because he has talked in the past about wanting to foster a community energy revolution. Will he explain why, contrary to the Select Committee’s report and other representations, he decided against increasing the threshold for the small-scale feed-in tariff above 5 MW?

Mr Davey: I know that there has been a lot of focusing on that. I would say first that community energy strategy is far wider, richer and deeper than simply that particular issue, although I know the Select Committee paid a lot of attention to it. Mr Barker and I will be publishing a consultation paper on a community energy strategy in March—I think that is the current working timetable. Mr Barker will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that we are working to March.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker)  indicated assent.

Mr Davey: Yes. We would then hope to finalise that community energy strategy before the summer recess, or it might end up going into the autumn. The community energy strategy will cover many more issues than the one that you have identified.

Q 38 Tom Greatrex:  This strategy will be after the Bill, though, so the opportunity to increase that threshold, if that were an appropriate thing to do, is therefore lost.

Mr Davey: The Bill is before the Committee. Of course, we keep those things under review, but let us be clear that the Bill’s major focus is not on community energy. It is about many other things, as we have been discussing. As you will be aware, community energy does not have to go into this Bill. As I have said, it goes much broader than the particular point that you are focusing on, important though that is.

Q 39 Tom Greatrex:  But the thresholds for where the small-scale tariff and the contract for difference come in are in the Bill, are they not?

Mr Davey: Let us be clear. In our discussions on that, the vast majority of community energy schemes that we are seeing are below that threshold.

Q 40 Tom Greatrex:  Because that is what the threshold is. That is why they are below it. It does not follow that they would not be—

The Chair:  Just let him answer the question.

Mr Davey: To invest in bigger schemes than that, you need quite a significant amount of money. You are talking about several more millions than most of the communities will be putting in. When you get to that size of scheme, there is a question mark about how much of a community scheme it remains. There is no science here. I cannot say absolutely that that is the right threshold. There is a legitimate debate to be had about it. I am not pretending that there is not a legitimate debate, but one can slightly over-egg the pudding and not see the overall picture of what we are trying to achieve with community energy.”

Though the Minister is right with respect to London -that we have not as yet seen community-led schemes of the MW size/millions investment – there are however such projects now going ahead elsewhere in the country which are likely to be the pathfinder schemes for other similar initiatives – including ones hopefully in the capital. An excellent scheme worth mentioning is the West Mill Solar Co-op, recently launched in Oxfordshire, which is spread over 30 acres with more than 20,000 solar panels!

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Wembley Decentralised Energy Plans move forward

January 2013: An update on plans for a decentralised energy network around Wembley has become available through the following news release from energy consultancy firm Ramboll:

“London Borough of Brent and Greater London Authority have recently commissioned Ramboll Energy to develop a decentralised energy masterplan for the Wembley Regeneration Area. …The scale of regeneration, together with the nature and mix of building uses, suggests that a district heating network is likely to have a strong role to play in delivering carbon reduction to the area. The masterplan will focus on the role of district heating, but also consider the role for building level and plot level renewable technologies in locations where the heat network may not be suitable or economically viable.”

Brent have already commissioned a heat map for the borough (which is downloadable from the London Heat Map website) and an initial feasibility study for a Wembley decentralised energy project was originally undertaken in 2008 (see earlier post on this). Details for DE network are also set out in the 2011 Wembley Local Development Framework consultation sustainability report. Brent are also advancing plans for a DE network in Kilburn – see earlier post on this.

Finally, an academic study of Brent’s planning rules and decentralised energy can be viewed here.

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Comparing PV in London to other regions

January 2013: With the publication of Ofgem’s new  FITs newsletter (Quarterly Report 10 – December 2012 which looks at data up to September 2012) – it’s useful to look at back at the data over the past 10 issues and see how the capital has been faring under the programme with respect to most appropriate of the FIT technologies – photovoltaics (ie PV or solar electric). It should be noted that PV makes up 98% of FIT installations and 90% of total FIT generation capacity installed (see the newsletter for full details).

Previous posts (here and here) have looked at various FIT data sets and highlighted the fact that London has had the lowest capacity of PV installed of any region.

Plotting the installation rates of PV capacity per region per quarter (as provided by data in the Ofgem newsletters) since the FIT programme started (April 2010) provides a comparison of not only how low London’s capacity is compared to other regions of the country (London is the line skirting along the bottom, just below the North-East), but also how the various regions reacted to the sudden and major change in FIT tariffs (a good summary of which is in the following Guardian article).

The majority of regions witnessed a significant’spike’ in the number of PV systems installed as a result of the Government’s announcement that there was to be an near-immediate reduction in the FIT tariff level for PV.  However, in London, though there there was an increase – it was incredibly modest compared to nearly all other parts of the country. Does this reflect:

  • A low level of interest in PV by Londoners?
  • More renters and more flats in London reducing demand for PV?
  • Perhaps only a small number of companies are offering PV in the capital?
  • Less knowledge in the benefits of PV by Londoners?
  • Or are PV companies more attracted to doing business outside London – ie cheaper staff, less hassle factor, easier to put up scaffolding etc etc – more installs mean more money for them?

Whatever the reason, the potential of the most appropriate of the renewable technologies for London is currently being unrealised. The GLA’s 2012 London renewable energy study estimated that PV has the technical potential to supply up to 19% of the capital’s electricity consumption.

NB More recent data – up to December 31 2012 – is available in Ofgem’s latest  FIT register database of 8 January 2013 (link  to the Excel spreadsheet here – it’s a big file at 39MB with around 350,000 separate entries for FIT installations across the UK). The database indicates that of the 31MW of PV capacity in London, the vast majority – around 27 MW – comes from small scale household installations.

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Household energy bills explained

18 January 2013: Ofgem have updated their useful factsheet on what makes up household energy tariffs (download here).

The notes states that:

  • It reflects gas and electricity prices in December 2012
  • The average gas bill for a standard account is £811 and for electricity it is £531
  • The average bills above are based on average annual consumption figures of 3,300 kWh for electricity and 16,500 kWh for gas
  • Environmental costs amount to 6% of gas bills and 11% of electricity bills – and currently amount to around £82 on a total energy (gas & electricity) annual bill.

Other references that go into this household energy bills in more detail are:

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£11m awarded to London energy programmes

January 2013: Responding to a competition launched last October, DECC have just announced that 132 projects have won a share of £46 million of funding. The three strands of the funds were  “to help reduce fuel poverty, boost energy efficiency, and encourage collective switching and purchasing in regions across Great Britain.” The full press release is here and boroughs successful (and amounts awarded) can be downloaded here, and shows London did well with a total of £11m worth of projects selected. These were:

Fuel Poverty

  • Barnet (£107,500)
  • Waltham Forest (£97,000)
  • Tower Hamlets (£2,254,000)
  • Camden (£407,500)
  • Brent (£102,000)
  • Hillingdon (£106,500)
  • Hounslow (£706,000)
  • GLA together with 18 London boroughs (£5,360,421)

Green Deal Pioneer Places

  • Brent (£153,000)
  • Camden (£120,180)
  • Hounslow (£262,000)
  • Haringey (£275,200)
  • GLA together with 18 London boroughts (£266,921)

Cheaper Energy Together Funding

  • Tower Hamlets (£37,351)
  • Kingston upon Thames with 16 London boroughs (£686,655)

Little information is available at the moment on what exactly these various schemes will do in their respective areas, however, some  guidance released when the competition was launched provides details of what this funding is supposed to be delivering.

London Councils reports that the last of the collective energy purchasing schemes, where Kingston Council is the lead borough, will help “Vulnerable residents in up to 1.75 million homes across London will be offered assistance by their local council to get a better energy deal and save money.” DECC’s Secretary of State, Ed Davey, is hugely supportive of such collective purchasing deals (see here and here), and promoted such programmes in his former role at the Department of Business (BIS). He’s also the MP for Kingston and Surbiton, so it’s not surprising that his local council undertook a strong role in this competition.

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Shining a light on solar power and renewable energy in your classroom

January 2013: Guardian feature on efforts to teach energy issues by a school in Enfield. Shining a light on solar power and renewable energy in your classroom
Deputy headteacher Julia Clarke has designed eco resources to take her school one step closer to a sustainable future. Full story here.

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SWI gets permitted development rights

January 2013: Solid Wall Insulation’s (SWI) time has finally come and it is now the key technology to be supported in the Government’s annual £1.3 billion ECO domestic energy efficiency programme (which came into operation at the beginning of this year). However, a significant barrier to the roll out of SWI was potential planning difficulties householders could face when wishing to retrofit their homes with SWI.

So it was good to see a tweet from DECC Minister Greg Barker last week announcing that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – which sets the policy for planning – had issued new guidance which allows SWI to be fitted without planning approval.

No DECC or DCLG news release was issued, and it was left to BusinessGreen to explain the change. “The formal clarification confirms solid wall insulation – which is commonly fitted to the exterior of a building, potentially changing the look of a property – is classified as a “permitted development”, meaning property owners can undertake the work without specific planning permission.

“Listed buildings and properties in conservation areas will remain an exception to the rule and would require specific planning permission, but Barker predicted that planning issues would “not present a problem for the vast majority of people intending to put solid wall insulation on their houses”.

The clarification is made in the following Technical Guidance issued on the government’s planning portal website ‘Permitted development for householders‘ and the wording in the document which marks such a major change for the insulation industry is remarkably succinct:

“The installation of solid wall insulation constitutes an improvement rather than an enlargement or extension to the dwellinghouse [sic] and is not caught by the provisions of d(i) and d(ii).” [p13]

where d(i) to d(ii) set out limits and conditions to permitted development rights to the enlargement, improvement or other alteration of a house.

There is now a lot of activity around rolling out SWI in London including:

“A leading SWI installer recognised that in London there was no supplier stocking the full range of SWI materials required for jobs. Consequently, firms involved in one-off SWI jobs found it virtually impossible to source products at competitive rates. As a large contractor, the firm has worked hard to bulk purchase equipment for itself. Needing a warehouse for its own operations, it decided that it could help supply the sector at the same time.”

There’s still some way to go for SWI to make its impact in London. Even with permitted development rights, planning permission will be required in conservation areas and, as the Future of London report points out – there are around 600,000 homes in conservation areas in London, roughly half the national total and around 60 per cent of all homes in the capital are solid wall.

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