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Posts tagged with: Climate change

A poll released this ahead of the World Climate Day on Friday revealed that the British public has a keen concern regarding action to tackle climate change. The poll, carried out by Christian Aid illustrates a general consensus of concern and awareness of government policies with regards to matters concerning meeting climate change targets.

With the UK government passing the Energy Act and establishing the Department of Energy and Climate Change, they have taken important steps to both meet their climate change objectives and revitalise the economy through the nurturing of a new green economy. Certainly, with the European elections at the fore, many of the electorate are taking a much closer look at the green policies of prospective political parties. Indeed, the results of the survey were thus,

·          77 per cent believe the UK government ought to do more to reduce carbon emissions

·          57 per cent say a political party’s climate policies would influence how they vote

·          70 per cent want the UK government to take a leading role in international climate change negotiations

·          90 per cent have taken steps to reduce their own carbon emissions

With these results in mind, the importance of recent climate change legislation affecting the solar industry will be even more in focus. The feed-in tariff provisions set out in last years Energy Act will become a reality next year as a mechanism designed to kick start investment in the fledgling industry.

With the UK government going through a consultancy process to determine the optimum tariff structure to energise the much hyped green economy, the YouGov report findings such as those above will offer a stark reminder that the public are now fully aware of the importance of government action in determining the success or failure of the UK solar industry.

The UK government announced this week that it will roll out smart meters by 2020 and is currently going through a consultancy that will last until July. The introduction of the new high-tech metering system will bring an end to estimated energy bills and will make the growth of micro-generation much easier as it will allow monitoring of energy being consumed and fed-in to the grid.

For supporters of the proposed feed-in tariff, set to be introduced next year, this will also be an encouraging indication that the government is putting in place the infrastructure capable of dealing with the complexities of energy feed-in tariff monitoring. The Department of Energy and Climate Change declared the announcement as a ‘key-step’ in the move towards an intelligent grid system which will be of benefit to energy producers, micro-generators and consumers alike.

Micro-generation of energy across the UK will be kick started by the introduction of feed-in tariffs in 2010 as they will provide a fixed contract, guaranteeing a premium rate for small scale renewable producers feeding energy in to the national grid. The new smart meters and the technology involved will enable the monitoring of energy consumption and of course the energy fed in to the grid in order to make tariff payments accurate. Because of the increased potential for analysis of energy usage, smart meters will see the end of estimated bills and blanket tariffs which offer no rewards to consumers with energy conservation and climate change in mind.

Ed Milliband, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced,

“The meters most of us have in our homes were designed for a different age, before climate change. Now we need to get smarter with our energy. Smart meters will empower all consumers to monitor their own energy use and make reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions as a result.

They will also mean the end of inaccurate bills and estimated meter readings. This is a big project affecting 26 million homes, and several million businesses, so it’s important we design a system that brings best value to everyone involved.”

The smart meter roll out, thought to be a step towards a fully integrated smart grid will be a huge tool in the introduction of the tariff system next year. The take up of renewable energy micro-generation in homes and business along with a cultural move towards carbon emission reduction will indeed herald smart meter technology as an important means for the government to meet its climate change targets in the next ten years.

As a solution to the global economic crisis, Gordon Brown has called for an international ‘Green New Deal’ in order to spark investment in new technologies and create jobs in the emerging renewable sector. In reference to F.D. Roosevelt’s economic plan to revitalise the US economy during the Great Depression the Prime Minister explained that he believes striving to evolve the UK in to a low carbon economy will create jobs while at the same time help the government to meet its climate change targets.

The British government has already set the target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and have taken some measures to instigate this reduction. Overseeing this gradual change towards a low carbon economy will be the Secretary of State for the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Milliband. The minister has already advocated government investment in renewable energy technology and research and was a key figure behind last November’s Energy Act which set out the main provisions for government funding for green energy and paved the way for the implementation of a feed-in tariff in 2010.

Despite these changes, some environmental lobbies and members of the renewable industry have criticized the government for not providing enough funding for green projects and not setting out a concrete breakdown of the feed-in tariff which will be necessary to attract investment as it has done for example in Germany. Spokesman for Friends for the Earth, Andy Atkins summed up the frustration in certain circles by commenting,

“We need urgent and decisive action, not more token gestures and hot air.”

Gordon Brown is confident that the green sector will provide some relief to the recession in the jobs that it creates, not just in the UK but globally and he was keen to make this point last week at a summit in London. The prime minister produced the results of an independent report which states that the renewable energy sector will generate around 400,000 new jobs within the next 8 years meaning that by 2017 1.3 million people will be involved in the renewable sector in the UK.

During his historic visit to Washington last week for his meeting with US President Barack Obama, Brown stated that it was imperative both for the economy and the environment that changes are made to the way governments approach renewable funding stating,

“We know that the more we are able to co-ordinate these measures internationally, the more confidence and certainty we will build and the more investment we will be able to bring forward.  That’s why I want to create a global ‘green new deal’ that will pave the way for a low-carbon recovery and to help us build tomorrow’s green economy today.”

Key to this shift towards a low carbon economy is the feed-in tariff which has already proved extremely successful where it has been implemented elsewhere. Members of the industry have already expressed the need for a tariff which is more than a token gesture and is able to attract investors through coherent, long term, viable contracts. Some have suggested that a rate of 50p per unit of kWh energy fed-in to the grid by renewable systems under 5 Megawatts would be sufficient to help Britain catch up with nations such as Germany where feed-in tariffs are now well established. The feed-in tariff rate is crucial as it will offset the cost of producing energy by renewable means by offering investors long term contracts with fixed rates for their megawatts production.

Andy Atkins of Friends of the Earth, regarding the summit and the need for government action on tariffs and project funding added,

“Today’s summit is an encouraging development, but ministers must grasp the scale of the challenge we face. We need urgent and decisive action, not more token gestures and hot air”.

Sharp Solar announced last week that they will begin to match their photovoltaic (PV) products to individual customer needs in a move designed to meet the needs of the housing trade. Sharp Solar, part of the Japanese electronics company Sharp spoke last week during the Ecobuild exhibition in London and reaffirmed the massive popularity of Solar roofing systems. Sharp Solar announced that interest in PV systems has grown dramatically and that Ecobuild has also highlighted a growing desire from businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and of course hopefully benefit from government schemes which will come in to lay in 2010

The new PV systems will be part of a bespoke service which will allow a choice of colours and more importantly, can be installed on roofs more easily making the possibility of future retrofitting much more convenient as the systems can be locked in to place on brackets. The new ‘Slot and Play’ system which was exhibited in Earls Court last week will offer value to new low carbon projects across the UK where buildings are fitted with the latest PV technology.

Key to the success of companies such as Sharp Solar is the highly popular feed-in tariff, due to be introduced next year by the UK government. Members of the industry have, since November’s Energy legislation and the creation of the Energy and Climate Change department been highly supportive of the tariff system as they believe it will give a much needed kick start to renewable investment as it has done for example in Germany.

Solar Sharp have given their backing to the ‘We Support Solar Campaign’ along with other leading members of the industry, providing a lobby which is seeking to push solar to the forefront of the energy debate and seek key government legislation and funding which will be paramount to the initial success of investment in Photovoltaic technology in this country.

The crucial factor in the success or failure of the solar industry will of course be the feed-in tariff, designed to spur the growth of investment in the renewable sector by guaranteeing long-term, healthy yields to investors. The long-term contracts set a fixed, above market rate for megawatts fed in to the national grid by small (systems under 5MW), green energy producers. The fixed rate for the renewable energy is paid by the power companies, the additional costs of which are absorbed by all consumers adding a small amount to monthly utility bills. Certainly, in order to keep apace with the infrastructure of areas such as Germany and California many believe that the government should set a rate of around 50p/kWh unit generated and the ‘We support Solar Campaign’ will make this clear when they produce their research findings to the government at the end of March.

Regarding the possible findings of the report, Andrew Lee of Sharp Solar commented,

“I can’t pre-empt what it is going to say, but there’s a lot of work being done on feed-in tariffs. There are a number of different options how feed-in tariffs would work, and certain job creation scenarios. There could be 300,000 to 400,000 people in this market if the feed-in tariff is fit for purpose.”