5 things you need to know about this year’s party conferences and energy

We round-up the key issues in energy which the UK’s political parties are grappling with at their respective conferences.

1. Energy prices won’t go away

According to this i news briefing, MPs of all parties are demanding Theresa May keeps her promise to curb big energy price rises.

It claims Theresa May is facing a growing Tory rebellion before her party’s conference, over failing to act on a manifesto commitment to cap electricity and gas bills for 17 million families across the UK.

The government signalled on Thursday 28 September that it was prepared to legislate to curb excessive price rises if the regulator Ofgem failed to produce adequate proposals to combat profiteering.

2. Labour to re-nationalise energy

Metro writes that John McDonnell has confirmed that Labour will re-nationalise railways, water, energy and Royal Mail, if in power.

“Building an economy for the many also means bringing ownership and control of the utilities and key services into the hands of people who use and work in them. Rail, water, energy, Royal Mail: we’re taking them back.” he said.

3. Brexit trumps energy

Richard Black, Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, says feedback from MPs suggests it is difficult to predict what will be happening in Parliament over the next couple of months following conferences. “The prime ministership is very fragile,” he told Utility Week.

But others are more candid; saying there’s little doubt which issue will be most on Tory activists’ minds when they assemble in Manchester. “The Tory party will be dominated by Brexit, I’m afraid,” says Tim Yeo, the Conservative former Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

4. But, there is hope…

However, Luke Clark, Head of Public Affairs at Renewable UK, believes the consensus around the need to decarbonise the energy mix has strengthened over the past year.

“Across the parties there is a very strong majority in favour of continued development of renewables. Very few fringe voices are questioning the direction of travel,” was his takeaway for Utility Week.

5. Nuclear is in the mix

The sense is that nuclear power will continue to be under the spotlight at the Tory conference, with environmentalists calling for a rethink of government support following the dramatic reduction in offshore wind prices thrown up by the recent contracts for difference auction.

The nuclear lobby will be heartened that BEIS Secretary Greg Clark’s biggest energy speaking slot on the Tory fringe will be an hour-long Q&A at a Nuclear Industry Association meeting.

“There’s so much electricity capacity coming off in the next 10 to 15 years that we need to develop all of the low-carbon options available to us and that includes nuclear,” says Peter Haslam, Head of Policy at the Nuclear Industry Association.

Energys Group are experts in delivering energy efficient technologies. We’d be delighted to talk about any of the issues and themes covered in this article. Give us a call for a chat.

What does London’s Draft Environment Strategy hope to do?

London has a fast rising list of environmental issues. They range from harmful air quality to climate change mitigation, plus achieving greener energy, less waste and less noise.

London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, published his draft London Environment Strategy in August. Right now, it’s out for consultation, and all Londoners can have their say.

Khan promises to tackle the urgent environmental challenges facing the capital, as well as safeguard London’s environment over the longer term.

What’s the problem?

Half of Londoners have poor access to public open space, and water demand is set to outstrip supply by 2025.

Further, carbon dioxide emissions are way too high, and in some areas the city’s electricity infrastructure is approaching full capacity.

Interestingly then, some of London’s major challenges are identical to those facing the UK as a whole. It’s to be hoped its Strategy can act as a test-bed, for rollout across many other areas.

In another interesting coincidence, the Strategy sets out its overarching vision for London for 2050, the same year the UK Carbon Budget targets kick in.

Key Strategy targets for London

By 2050, London will be a zero carbon city, with zero emissions transport. London will send zero waste to landfill by 2026 and recycle 65% of its waste by 2030.

More than half of London will be green by 2050, featuring new parks and biodiversity. The Mayor’s new Energy for Londoners programme will help Londoners and businesses to generate more renewable energy.

In this new capital, tree canopy cover will increase by 10% by 2050. London will have the best air quality of any major world city by 2050, going beyond the legal requirements.

London’s transport system will phase out fossil fuels including diesel, making the whole bus fleet zero emission by 2037 at the latest. The Ultra Low Emission Zone, by 2019, will deter the most polluting vehicles from entering the capital. 2,000 EV charging points will appear.

London’s zero carbon 2050 target is very tough. By 2019, all new buildings will be zero carbon. Renewables will provide 15% of energy by 2030. Low carbon heat will be city wide by 2030.

The analysis; can it happen?

Khan’s promise is immeasurably challenging. Remodelling every facet of a city London’s size for zero carbon in 30 years is a vast undertaking.

His full Strategy document numbers some 200 pages; worryingly any high quality, deep strategy document or review on London’s energy alone should take at least this many pages.

Add in a missing 200 pages for a deep review on waste and water, let’s say about 100 for air and another 100 for vehicles and the deeper insight, or cohesive plan behind the promises begins to appear very lacking.

Aspiration vs reality

But, in many senses this is an aspirational plan. Zero waste, included in its promises, has always been an idealistic idea.

Further, any environmentalist knows London’s 2050 success, given its size and infrastructure, depends on myriad factors way outside the Mayor’s direct control, or that of his Strategy.

What matters may not be Khan’s deep understanding or detail, but his top level desire and willingness to transform London into one of Earth’s greenest cities.

That is worthy of high praise indeed; but the path to getting there, one suspects, needs stronger foundations than this one document.

We hope you enjoyed this article? Please drop us a line if you’d like to chat about any of the issues and themes covered we’ve covered.  

Energys Group’s News Round-Up: What’s new for energy efficiency in September?

Rapid decarbonisation

Excitingly, the UK is decarbonising fastest among G20 countries, claims PwC.

Clean Energy News notes that figures compiled by the accountancy giant revealed that the carbon intensity of the UK economy fell by 7.7% last year, reaching an intensity of 142 tonnes CO2 for every US$1 million of gross domestic product (GDP).

PwC cites the drastic reduction in coal consumption within the UK as a crucial factor for its decarbonisation success.

Jonathan Grant, Director of Climate Change and co-author of the LCEI report at PwC, lauded the UK government for creating a “pretty positive investment climate” for low carbon technologies in previous years.

But, “The UK now needs to tackle other parts of the economy, whether it’s increasing renewables or efficiency improvements, in order to maintain its position as a climate leader,” he said.

His words contribute to this month’s overwhelming sense that efficiency must become central to a future low carbon UK.

Energy efficiency policies ‘could save UK homes £270,’ report finds

Startling findings from Carbon Brief point to a telling new focus on domestic energy efficiency this September, to match efficiency’s ongoing ascendency within the corporate sector, as noted by PwC.

Investments in efficiency up to 2035 could save a quarter of the energy used by households, the UK Energy Research Council (UKERC) report says, worth an average of £270 per household per year at current energy prices.

Around 140 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy could be saved, roughly equivalent to the output of six Hinkley C-sized nuclear power stations, it notes, though savings would be in heat as well as power.

Yet more tellingly, the investments would deliver net benefits worth £7.5bn to the UK, the analysis found, using the government’s own guidance.

Almost half of the total savings could be achieved through building fabric improvements, such as installing better loft insulation, along with boiler replacements and upgrades of heating controls.

These are precisely the technologies Energys knows to offer powerful dividends in the commercial environment already.

Efficiency bests nuclear again

Yet more research, this time from Green Alliance, suggests if the government fully commits to renewables and energy efficiency, it would be unnecessary to invest in the much more expensive replacement of the UK’s nuclear fleet.

For many in the sector, this may be old news. But the sense is that as 2017 nears its final quarter, more and more documents are piling on the pressure for Government to truly give efficiency the kudos it merits.

Is the new energy efficiency digital?

In this month’s final trend, Energy Live News argues digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart data are the key to energy efficiency.

Mike Hughes, Zone President for Schneider Electric UK & Ireland, spoke at the company’s Innovation Summit.

He explained how these disruptive technologies could vastly improve productivity and reduce costs once they allow the widespread linking of industrial and domestic devices and appliances.

He said: “The key impact on the energy space will be having the ability to use those assets in a more efficient way.

“The biggest single factor is actually energy saving, it’s energy that you don’t need to consume in the first place.”

Energys Group are experts in delivering energy efficient technologies. We’d be delighted to talk about any of the issues and themes covered in this article. Give us a call today.

British Gas price rises: How the industry can help mitigate energy price rises

Earlier this month, a storm of media interest resulted from the latest energy price increase, announced by Centrica.

“British Gas has raised electricity prices by 12.5%, in a move consumer experts warned could kick off a new round of price rises from rival suppliers this winter,” wrote The Guardian.

The Government is determined to tackle energy costs as part of its overhaul of UK energy as a whole; promising the lowest energy costs in Europe is a key Conservative pledge.

Rising costs then are not only a consumer worry, but an issue in Downing Street too.

Energy price flux; the lowdown

“The company [British Gas], owned by Centrica, left its gas prices unchanged, which means the average annual dual fuel bill will rise by 7.3%, or £76, to £1,120,” noted The Guardian’s analysis on British Gas.

“The increase, which takes effect on 15 September, will affect 3.1 million customers. The company said it would give a £76 credit to more than 200,000 vulnerable customers to protect them from the increase.”

Shadow Energy Minister Alan Whitehead called it a “whopping rise” and said the Government should take further action.

Iain Conn, Centrica’s Chief Executive, defended the move, saying the electricity price rise was the first since November 2013 and reflected a 16% rise in the cost of energy and delivery to customers’ homes since 2014.

Actions to manage energy costs

Reading between the lines of wholesale costs, Centrica profit and realistic energy charging is hard, especially for the layman. The cost of wholesale electricity, which impacts on prices, has fluctuated by about £20 per MWh over the past four years.

“UK energy prices are nigh-on impossible to understand for those outside the sector,” comments Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys.

“Thankfully, energy efficiency is simpler. By using more efficient technologies, we can reduce energy usage in the UK as a whole and that, by definition, reduces how much we pay.

“Efficiency will save money no matter what the actual bottom line price on energy is. It’s a game changer and it couldn’t be easier to understand either.”

A raft of solutions

Energys offers a number of efficiency solutions covering LED lighting, boiler controls and more, all ready for installation across UK schools, libraries and hospitals.

“By getting efficient technologies into such places, we can tackle the impact of rising costs in a sustainable and long term way, building a lower carbon, less expensive future,” Cox concludes.

The Government’s latest Energy Tracker is out. What’s energising the UK public this year?

 

The Government surveys UK energy opinions every March, with three shorter surveys in June, September and December.

The trackers offer insights into UK energy issues among the public, providing fascinating glimpses into everyday understanding of energy. What do the latest numbers show?

The public’s views on energy

On energy security, levels of concern remain consistent with those a year ago, though they have decreased considerably since the last survey. Meanwhile, those of us who give genuine thought to saving energy remained very stable since last year.

On renewables and nuclear, renewables support has been consistently high, with 77% expressing support. The latest figures report 35% support nuclear energy with 21% opposed.

Elsewhere, relatively fewer people are worried about energy bills, and on suppliers and switching, numbers planning to switch energy supplier in the next year remained stable compared with last year.

Shale gas remains unpopular; 48% neither supported nor opposed it, but of those who did offer an opinion 33% opposed it, with 16% supportive.

The most common reason for supporting fracking was the need to use all available energy sources (42%).

Deeper insights

The proportion of people that like saving energy in the home remained very stable since last year. 23% claimed to give a lot of thought to saving energy at home, whilst half claimed to give it a fair amount of thought.

Worries over paying for energy bills have dropped to their lowest since the tracker began, with only 20% either very or fairly worried.

The level of worry was lowest among those with household incomes over £50,000 (12%), 16-24 year olds (13%) and social grade AB (14%). It was highest among social renters (27%), 45-54 year olds (27%) and those in social grade DE (26%).

On billing itself, we remain likely to trust suppliers to provide a bill which accurately reflects energy use (69%), and to provide a breakdown of the components of bills (70%).

The Energys opinion

“Energys welcomes every comprehensive UK energy survey; it’s essential to act on and understand data that shoes how consumers are reacting to energy issues,” says Kevin Cox, Managing Director, here at Energys Group.

“The Energys Group viewpoint remains that low carbon, energy efficient technology remains crucial to the UK’s energy futures. The megawatt that isn’t used is clearly the cheapest.

“If anything, we would like to see more questions on efficiency and low carbon. This would help spread awareness in addition to generating valuable insights.”

Click to find out more about Energys Group’s expertise in low carbon solutions.