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April 10, 2013
Record levels of interest are being reported in renewable energy as a source of income among farmers struggling financially.
In a year that saw crop yields reduced and productivity down to levels seen in the 1980s, renewable energy provided support for British farms according to Dr. Jonathan Scurlock.
“2012 was a difficult year for the farming community, with bad weather hitting incomes hard. Investing in renewable energy provides farmers and growers with additional earnings at a time when farm budgets have become very stretched” said Dr Scurlock, NFU chief adviser.
According to lending figures from NatWest and RBS, the bulk of farmers interested in renewable energy are in the Midlands, at 40 per cent, followed by Scotland, the North East and the South West.
The NFU Farm Energy Service celebrates its first anniversary and has so far helped 1,550 farms around the UK in the twelve months since it was launched.
52% of renewable queries made to the service relate to solar technologies, which tend to have more eligible sites than any other technologies.
The number of agricultural solar installations has increased recently, according to renewable energy specialists.
“We have seen an increase in the number of agricultural customers as from a farmer’s point of view it makes sense to reduce their energy bills and make the most of the land they have available by installing solar panels” said Sam Tilley, Managing Director of Infinite Energy.
“People often think solar systems need to be implemented on roofs but ground implementations are becoming increasingly popular.”
Wicks Manor has been producing pork for over 40 years on the family run pig farm in Essex. They saw the electricity bills continuing to rise and wanted a way to reduce their CO2 emissions.
“Pigs are born and bred at Wicks Manor, they eat wheat and barley grown and milled on the farm. We wanted to find a ’greener’ way to run the operation, renewable systems are the way forward for farmers” said Fergus Howie, Partner of Wicks Manor.
30 per cent of renewable queries relate to wind turbines which, according to specialist surveyors Fisher German, offer farmers a particularly strong rate of return. Yields can reach 25 per cent in areas of high wind.
Meanwhile, analysis from NatWest and RBS and trade association RenewableUK today suggests that most wind farm installations for 2012 were up to 80kW, making farmers between £12,000 and £50,000 a year.
Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, said: “Farmers are experts at harnessing the Earth’s natural resources, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the way on wind energy.”
“The UK has the most powerful wind resource in Europe and this has provided a vital source of income for farmers, helping to preserve rural communities in Britain.”
The past year has also shown that two barriers to the uptake of renewable energy – financing and planning – have not been as difficult as was feared when the Service launched.
In a January 2012 survey before the Service was launched, the NFU and NatWest found that 34 per cent of farmers were concerned about the cost and over half were nervous about planning.
However, according to Fisher German, the approval rate for wind projects is very strong.
82 per cent of applications for smaller wind turbines (between 5 and 50kW) are approved at local level (Planning Committee or under Officers delegated powers).
Of the 18 per cent that do go to appeal, a further two thirds are also granted consent.
Medium sized turbines can take 18-24 months to get through planning but, even here, the success rate remains high with 85 per cent of the applications being granted planning permission.
Liberty Stones from Fisher German said: “National Planning Policy currently recognises that small scale renewable projects make a valuable contribution to cutting emissions and promotes the approval of such projects subject to their impacts being acceptable. Provided farmers receive the right support, planning is not the concern that many anticipate.”
Scientific tools can also help make financing less of a concern. In July 2012, NatWest and RBS teamed up with the Met Office to provide farm prospects with tailored wind speed data, allowing farmers to assess the profitability of a wind turbine project early on and in great detail.
Altogether, the NFU estimates that, in 2012, one in five NFU members produced clean electricity from the sun and wind.
March 21, 2013
RHI tariffs up for review following underspendGreen policy news – by Louise Bateman27th February 2013The Government is to look at changing the tariffs for its subsidies to encourage homes and businesses to switch to renewable heating systems, such as solar thermal and biomass, following a significant underspend in its annual budget and concerns raised by industry that current proposed levels will not incentivise take-up.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said today it was planning to consult in the Spring on changes to the tariffs for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), as it confirmed it expected less than a fifth of the total £133 million RHI budget for 2012-13 would be paid out in this financial year.DECC also confirmed today that it would introduce a ‘degression’ mechanism to control spending on the RHI, similar to the regime adopted for the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, and announced it would hold two further reviews of the RHI, probably in 2014 and 2017.New tariff reviewA spokeswoman for DECC said the early review of RHI tariffs aimed to “drive increased uptake and ensure the scheme continues to provide value for money”. She did not provide details of which tariffs the Government is looking to change, but last September the renewable heat industry raised concerns over the tariffs levels being proposed for solar thermal and biomass.“We are continuing to explore whether the tariffs we offer are set at the best levels to encourage further uptake, looking at how we can open up the scheme to new technologies, and considering the right approach to encourage householders to invest in renewable heat,” Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said.The RHI launched for non-domestic customers in 2011 and so far has received 1300 applications, but only around £24 million worth of RHI payments are expected to be paid out in this financial year. And there are concerns when it launches for domestic customers in the summer take-up could be subdued. The Government has spent the last year and half testing the domestic RHI through a system of vouchers called the Renewable Heat Premium and published its proposed tariffs last September. It suggested domestic tariffs for biomass boilers should be set at 5.2-8.7 pence per kilowatt hour (p/kWh), while solar thermal technologies should be set at 17.3p/kWh.
But the Micropower Council warned at the time these tariffs were not attractive enough to stimulate take-up of these technologies among householders.Degression mechanismDECC said the degression-based approach to managing the RHI budget would ensure the scheme remained “financially sustainable” and that the taxpayer got “value for money”. The same approach was introduced for the FIT for renewable electricity following the solar FiT fiasco. Under the system, tariffs available to new applicants will be gradually reduced if uptake of the technologies supported under the RHI is greater than forecast, using a trigger system on quarterly basis. DECC said trigger points for most RHI technologies will be set at 150 per cent of DECC’s expected levels of uptake, but will be set differently for solar thermal and large ground source heat pumps “due to forecasted uptake”.“I am fully committed to ensuring our Renewable Heat Incentive helps as many organisations as possible get on board with a range of exciting sources of renewable heat, and at the same time stays within its means. That’s why we are introducing a new, flexible way to control spending, alongside some further improvements to the scheme,” said Barker.Industry reaction
Today’s announcement on the RHI was broadly welcomed by the renewable heat industry, but concern was raised about setting new reviews for the scheme and on the lack of decision on ‘enhanced preliminary accreditation’, a system whereby developers of projects with long lead times would be able to ‘lock in’ tariff rates to guard against subsequent falls in tariffs.“We are pleased that Government has published its response to this consultation on the Renewable Heat Incentive,” said Charlotte Morton, chief executive, Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association. “We are, however, concerned that today’s announcement does not give developers the certainty they need. With tariff degression in place, preliminary accreditation is important and it is disappointing that it has not been brought in at this point.”Morton added: “Further scheme reviews are a clear risk to certainty, and we believe the RHI instead needs to be given the chance to bed down so that developers can get projects off the ground,” she said.But a spokesperson for DECC said the planned reviews intended to provide certainty. “Reviews will allow us to make more directed and considered changes to tariffs and tariff structures, outside of those changes that can take place through the degression mechanism. Reviews will also allow us to take account of changes in the evidence and assumptions on which tariffs are based. This will ensure that the non-domestic RHI is able to respond to changing market conditions while maintaining good value for money and managing budgets,” she said.
DECC also announced today that sustainability and air quality requirements will be introduced for all solid biomass installations looking to get RHI support and that metering requirements will be simplified to reflect feedback received from participants and to reduce burdens on industry.
March 8, 2013
EU to Register Chinese Solar Panels, Highlighting Tariff Threat
The European Union ordered its customs officials to register imports of Chinese solar panels, underscoring the threat of tariffs on the shipments in the biggest EU trade dispute of its kind.
The step, part of inquiries into whether Chinese producers of solar panels receive trade-distorting government aid and sell them in the 27-nation EU below cost, would allow the bloc to impose duties retroactively. Both probes stem from complaints by EU ProSun, an industry group led by Germany’s Solarworld AG. (SWV)
The two cases cover 21 billion euros ($27 billion) of EU imports in 2011 of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules or panels and cells and wafers used in them. Levies against subsidies are called countervailing duties and those against below-cost — or “dumped” — imports are anti-dumping duties.
“Imports of the product concerned should be made subject to registration in order to ensure that, should the investigations result in findings leading to the imposition of anti-dumping and/or countervailing duties, those duties can, if the necessary conditions are fulfilled, be levied retroactively,” the European Commission, the EU’s trade authority in Brussels, said today in the Official Journal. Registration will start tomorrow and last nine months.
Last September, the EU opened an inquiry into whether Chinese makers of solar panels such as Suntech Power Holdings Co. dump them in Europe and harm European competitors including Solarworld. Two months later, the EU began a separate investigation into whether Chinese producers receive subsidies.
EU governments must decide by early December whether to impose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on Chinese solar panels for five years. The commission must decide by early June whether to apply provisional anti-dumping duties and by early August on possible preliminary countervailing levies.
EU ProSun hailed the commission decision on registration, saying it would slow imports from China because of the possibility that European importers would later be forced to pay punitive duties on the goods.
“This is a very important step,” Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, told reporters today in Brussels. “This has an immediate impact on imports. We expect the amount of imports to go down very rapidly and significantly.”
Chinese companies have gained more than 80 percent of the market in Europe for solar goods compared with almost zero in 2004, EU ProSun said on Sept. 6 when the commission opened the dumping case.
Europe accounts for around three-quarters of the global photovoltaic market. China produces about 65 percent of solar panels worldwide, the commission said six months ago when opening the dumping case. The EU is China’s main export market for the renewable-energy technology, accounting for roughly 80 percent of Chinese sales abroad, according to the commission.
February 26, 2013
Ecosphere are delighted to announce that Wealden District Council have chosen our team to roll out Diakin Altherma Air Source Heat Pumps across their social housing stock.
The properties are 3 bedroom houses that are off the mains gas grid. Air source heat pumps work really well for properties that are off gas, as they are much more economical than oil.
The green alternative was chosen to lower tenants bills and help battle fuel poverty.
For more information on Heat Pumps please call us on 01825 880603.
January 17, 2013
Greg Barker urges industry to beef up marketing efforts to get the message out
Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has predicted the coming years will see a surge in solar installations as the cost of the technology continues to fall and businesses and households realise solar panels offer an effective means of reducing energy bills and carbon emissions.
But he warned the technology will only realise its full potential if the industry and government step up efforts to “get the message out there that solar is now on a firm footing to build deployment and a ‘go-to’ solution for energy generation”.
Speaking at the official launch of BRE’s new National Solar Centre, Barker acknowledged the sector had faced a turbulent 18 months as a result of the government’s controversial reforms to feed-in tariffs (FiT) and admitted the changes had “difficult consequences” – the government is still facing legal action over its handling of the cuts to the incentives with a handful of solar firms seeking damages.
However, he insisted the government had “no choice” but to reform a scheme that was on track to significantly exceed its budget and had now delivered a stable policy framework that could “bring about a solar energy revolution in the UK”.
“Despite all the adverse publicity these changes generated, one fact remains true – solar is still a great deal,” he told an audience of solar industry executives. “There’s been much disinformation out there on how solar is now just uneconomic and unaffordable.
“The opposite is true. Unit costs have fallen dramatically. And it’s worth underlining – the rates of return under the new bands actually remain broadly similar to those when the FiTs scheme was first launched in 2010. Together, we need to get that extremely positive message out to the wider public.”
Barker also predicted that with 1.8GW of solar capacity now installed and the technology included in the government’s Renewables Roadmap for the first time it has the potential to deliver over 20GW of capacity by 2020.
“Thanks to dramatically falling costs, costs that will… and must, fall further, solar PV will play a critical role in helping the UK meet its vital renewable energy targets,” he said. “And we in the coalition government are absolutely committed to working with you to make that happen… We have the ability – and more importantly, the ambition – to see a 10-fold increase in solar power by 2020.”
He added that there were signs the market was picking up after a slow second half of 2012, with 1,500 installations totalling 5MW of capacity installed last week.
But he admitted that the industry had “a long way to go” to meet the 20GW target and as a result would have to embrace innovative new technologies, such as those expected to be developed at the National Solar Centre, at the same time as stepping up efforts to promote the technology.
“The sector needs real champions; champions with the vision, the ambition and the resources to lead the charge on the next stage of the solar power revolution,” he said.
Barker also highlighted the potential for solar companies to take advantage of the government’s Green Deal energy efficiency scheme, which will launch on January 28th and offers both households and businesses the opportunity to install energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies at no upfront cost.
January 11, 2013
Independent energy supplier pays £3m for project due to be completed this year
Good Energy is set to almost double its wind farm portfolio, after buying the rights to a planned 8.2MW wind farm at Hampole, near Doncaster.
The independent green energy supplier confirmed today that it purchased the site for £3m from RWE npower Renewables.
The site already has planning permission for four turbines and Good Energy now intends to complete the project by the end of this year, nearly doubling the amount of green electricity the company generates to 20,000 MWh a year.
The move comes just days after Good Energy launched a “local tariff“, which offers a discounted rate to customers living near its existing wind farm in Delabole, Cornwall.
People living within two kilometres of the wind farm can now benefit from a 20 per cent discount on tariffs from Good Energy, and those near the new Hampole wind farm will also be able to take advantage of the scheme once the development is completed.
Juliet Davenport, chief executive of Good Energy, said the acquisition would play a role in meeting the company’s target of developing 110MW of new capacity by 2016.
The Delabole wind farm in Cornwall has a capacity of 9.2MW, so the new project will increase Good Energy’s portfolio to 17.4MW, while additional capacity is in the pipeline through a planned wind farm in Turriff, Aberdeenshire.
“Acquiring sites like this one, that have already received planning permission, brings a welcome balance to the portfolio so that we can have this site in development in 2013,” she said.
“We also plan to bring online some of the sites we are currently developing from scratch in 2014/2015. With that in mind, we are pleased to have reached this agreement.”
She addded that Good Energy was keen to speak to the local community about how the wind farm could help drive investment in the area.
January 11, 2013
Conservation groups ‘concerned’ as Cambridge city officials approve proposal for panels on Grade I listed building
A solar system proposed for the roof of the historic Trinity College has been given the go-ahead by Cambridge city planners.
The world-renowned college had included details of the proposed installation as part of plans for an ambitious renovation of accommodation and offices at the 200-year-old, Grade I listed New Court site.
Insulation work will also be carried out and a ground source heat pump installed alongside the solar array if the plans are subsequently approved by the government, which makes final planning decisions on changes to listed buildings.
When completed, the project could cut the historic building’s carbon emissions by 88 per cent, slashing the Trinity’s energy bills in the process and providing a new revenue stream through the feed-in tariff incentive scheme.
Trinity College said the work needs to be undertaken to meet modern fire safety and environmental standards.
However, elements of the plan have been opposed by conservation groups, including English Heritage and Cambridge Past, Present and Future, who argue the building’s character would be altered by fitting the two rows of panels.
The plans have been altered to make the panels less visible, but English Heritage said it “remained concerned” about the proposals.
“We believe that the building’s performance can be greatly improved without the harmful installation of double glazing and the unnecessary lining of the external walls of the building,” it said.
December 13, 2012
The government has given the go-ahead for a firm to resume the controversial technique known as fracking to exploit gas in Lancashire.
The company, Cuadrilla, was stopped from fracking after two tremors near Blackpool.
Conditions have been imposed to minimise the risk of seismic activity.
In fracking, a mixture of water, sand and some chemicals is pumped into a well under high pressure to force the gas from the rock.
The Energy Secretary Ed Davey said shale gas was a promising new potential energy resource for the UK. It might contribute significantly to energy security and substitute for imports which are increasing as North Sea gas is decreasing.
But he warned against over-excitement: “We are still in the very early stages of shale gas exploration in the UK and it is likely to develop slowly.
“It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment. Fracking must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe.”
He said the government had uncovered management weaknesses in Cuadrilla following the minor earthquakes. These had been put right, he said.
He said impacts on water and local air pollution were already covered by the UK’s existing “stringent” rules on oil and gas.
Mr Davey said the advent of shale gas would not weaken the UK’s legally binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. He announced a study from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) chief scientist David McKay on the impact of shale gas on climate change.
But he asked: “Is it not better that we produce gas in this country than gas shipped half way across the world?” He said his view was that, overall, greenhouse gases from shale gas in the UK might only be slightly greater than importing gas exploited in the conventional way.
In the US, exploitation of shale gas boom has sent energy prices tumbling, and the Prime Minister has expressed hopes that the UK can enjoy a similar boom.
But government advisers warn today that shale gas may be unlikely to bring down energy prices much in Britain.
In fact, the Committee on Climate Change warns that relying heavily on gas for future electricity supplies would leave households vulnerable to higher bills in the long run as the price of gas on the international market is volatile.
The UK won’t benefit from substantially lower prices unless the rest of Europe decides to back shale gas too, as Europe has a gas grid that allows gas to be traded to the highest bidder.
The CCC has examined the potential impact on bills of different energy systems and predicts that subsidies to renewables and nuclear would put about £100 on household bills by 2020, but that by 2050 a gas-based electricity system might cost people as much as £600 extra.
December 4, 2012
Government warms to renewable heat with £3m community funding
Around 1,250 homes to benefit from government-funded roll out of solar thermal, biomass, and heat pump technologies
The government has announced the latest round of funding awards from its renewable heat scheme, confirming that 38 communities will share £3m of funding to support the roll out of domestic renewable heat technologies.
The funding was awarded yesterday under the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme, which is acting a forerunner for the launch of the full domestic RHI scheme next year.
The funding awards, which are being administered by the Energy Saving Trust, will result in households in 38 different communities installing renewable heating technologies like solar thermal panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps.
The projects will be managed by local not-for-profit charities and community groups and will completed by next summer.
“We need to transform the way we heat our homes to help keep bills down and cut carbon too,” said Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, adding that the funding would benefit around 1,250 homes.
“Community groups, with their enthusiasm, local knowledge and drive, need to be at the very heart of this revolution so it’s great to see so many groups across Great Britain getting on board.”
Energy Saving Trust’s Director for Local Delivery, Andy Deacon, added that the project could help demonstrate how community-scale deployments of clean technologies can help to reduce costs ahead of the launch next year of the Green Deal energy efficiency scheme and feed-in tariff style RHI.
“Local communities are at the forefront of the scheme and will play a vital role in learning how community buying networks could help make renewable heating more affordable for millions of British households,” he said.
The funding will be welcomed by developers and installers of renewable heat technologies who have become frustrated at delays to the full launch of the RHI, which promises to deliver a significant boost to the market.
November 29, 2012
Energy Bill to create ‘low carbon economy’, says Davey
Energy Secretary Ed Davey says the Bill will transform the energy landscape
Energy minister Ed Davey has unveiled the government’s much-trailed Energy Bill, setting out the roadmap for the UK’s switch to “a low-carbon economy”.
Energy companies will increase the amount they levy consumers from £3bn to £7.6bn a year by 2020, potentially increasing household bills by £100.
But big, energy-intensive companies will be exempt from the extra costs of the switch to renewable energy.
The “transformation” will cost the UK £110bn over ten years, Mr Davey said.
He told MPs: “Britain’s energy sector is embarking on a period of exceptional renewal and expansion.
“The scale of the investment required is huge, representing close to half the UK’s total infrastructure investment pipeline.”
The government’s plan formed the “biggest transformation of Britain’s electricity market since privatisation,” he said.
The Energy Bill aims to move the UK’s energy production from a dependence on fossil fuels to a more diverse mix of energy sources, such as wind, nuclear and biomass.
This is to fill the energy gap that will from closing a number of coal and nuclear power stations over the next two decades, and to meet the government’s carbon dioxide emissions targets.
Mr Davey said government policy was “designed specifically to reduce consumer bills”, arguing that without a move to renewable energy, bills would be higher because of a reliance on expensive and volatile gas prices.
But in a statement published alongside the Bill, Mr Davey said energy-intensive industries, such as steel and cement producers, would be exempt from additional costs arising from measures to encourage investment in new low-carbon production.
“Decarbonisation should not mean deindustrialisation”, Mr Davey said.
“The transition to the low carbon economy will depend on products made by energy intensive industries – a wind turbine for example needing steel, cement and high-tech textiles.
“This exemption will ensure the UK retains the industrial capacity to support a low carbon economy.”
Without the exemption, the government fears big companies would cut jobs and relocate abroad.
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