Wind Turbines and the foolishness of subsidising them

About ten miles north of Ramsgate, in the middle of the Thames Estuary some 175 offshore wind turbines have been installed and are now operating, as wind turbines operate, in their own misunderstood fashion. If it is windy, and not too windy, the turbines generate electricity. The publicity claims that the wind turbines will generate enough electricity for 470,000 homes but the publicity is imprecise. There are only 22.5 million homes in the United Kingdom and to power them all will need another 50 arrays of similar turbines but unfortunately it is not as simple as that. Continue reading

How to Save on Fuel Bills: Solar Water Heating

The Government of the United Kingdom has announced that it will enact legislation to force energy companies to offer no more than four tariffs and to advise their customers of the cheapest tariff. At a time when energy companies are making record profits from record margins the change is long overdue. Sometime son energy companies will no longer be able to confuse customers with a plethora of tariffs and they will be forced to abandon the so called legacy tariffs under which someone that has not to time or to skill to understand that the tariff they are paying is ridiculously high. Continue reading

Get the Government to pay you for heating your home’s water with Genersys Solar

Just in time for the cold weather British Gas is raising its prices by more than 8% for gas and electricity consumed by domestic residential households. I had personally expected that shame would probably keep the big energy companies from holding back their price rises until after Christmas, but I was wrong. Continue reading

My Response to DECC’s Consultation on the Renewable Heat Incentive

I set out below the questions in the RHI Consultation together with my answers. I have underlined the questions.  Continue reading

Energy Prices Start to Rise

Just in time for the winter weather Scottish and Southern Energy will be raising their prices of domestic gas and electricity by about 9% from the 15th October 2012. More than five million customers will have to pay more for gas and electricity and in these days where inflation depending on what you spend is around 3% and where wage inflation is virtually non-existent, these energy prices rises will make it hard for many people to pay their energy bills. Come 2013 the average dual fuel customer will be paying nearly £1300 a year just to keep warm, was in hot water cook and keep the lights on and the appliances in power. Continue reading

Savings on Solar Water Heating Systems

I suppose that it is easy to by repeating things, give them an aura of the truth. I was at the Eisteddfod in South Wales, hugely enjoying visiting the stalls. I have never been to one of these events before and this one was like a combination of a music festival and an outdoor exhibition. It was well worth visiting especially as many exhibitors were showing items that they made themselves and which being handmade had the unique quality that comes of something special. Continue reading

Air Unfit for Purpose

London has the worst air quality of any European capital, to our shame. It air is contaminated by diesel particulates, nitrous oxide, in some places heavy concentrations of carbon dioxide and all sorts of other pollution caused by burning. Londoners burn fuel to power their vehicles, gas to provide heat and hot water, and coal and gas to provide the electricity that the city uses. Considering that there are no power stations in London, no heavy industry in London and very little light industry in London it is astonishing just how much the air quality is made bad by what is basically a city where most of the working inhabitants are providing services of one kind or another, rather than being manufacturing workers.

There seems to be a strange reluctance by the national or local government to do anything to improve London’s air quality. The United Kingdom is bound by European legislation to keep air quality within certain limits and the regulations that have created these limits have been in force for many years. It is not just London that suffers from poor air quality; the UK government has applied for exemptions from complying with the air quality regulations for Aberdeen and north-east Scotland, Belfast, Birkenhead, Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool, Preston, Sheffield, South-West England; South Wales, Swansea and Tyneside and the exemptions have all been refused by the European Commission.

The refusal to do anything substantive about air quality except apply for exemptions will mean that in addition to bearing the £20 billion a year additional health costs caused or contributed to by poor air quality, the UK taxpayer will have to cough up substantial fines for the Government’s failures on air quality. It is a lose-lose situation. Everyone loses except the European Commission which will gain some fines and no doubt use the fines as purposefully as it uses its other income.

The health care costs are significant. Some years ago I was asked to umpire a cricket match played by twelve year olds in South Wales. I was astonished when four of the children came up to me before the start of the match and ask me to look after their inhaler devices for asthma. I had not understood that air quality was affecting the very young so badly.

There are three main government measures about London’s air quality and the air quality of the nation:-

1. The Clean Air Acts, brought into being in the early 1950s which prohibit the burning of coal and smoke type fuels

2. The Low Emission Zones, under which polluting vehicles are charged because they pollute, but not prohibited from being on the road because they pollute beyond levels that are acceptable.

3. Subsidies for electric cars, which simply displace the emissions and pollution from the city to the power stations.

To improve air quality we have to change people’s behaviour. My suggestions are:-

1. Free public transport, which will take many cars off the road

2. Improved public transport which will take even more cars off the road

3. More solar water heating which will reduce particulates from burning natural gas

4. Tighter smoke washing controls on fuel burning power stations.

These measures will be costly, but we can pay for the costs out of the savings of health expenditure and out of taxation. After all the air is free, but there is a cost to keeping it clean. The air we breathe must be rendered fit for its purpose.

 

A Commentary on the Renewable Heat Incentive

A few days ago the Minster of State for Climate Change, Mr Greg Barker, made an announcement on the Renewable Heat Incentive. I was going to write about it, but instead of an essay, I thought that I would add a commentary on the Minister’s statement. I have therefore set out the statement and my comments, and I hope that the Minister can find time to read them and take account of them.

“The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is the first of its kind in the world and provides long term support for renewable heat technologies such as heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal panels.”

The Renewable Heat Incentive may be the first of its kind but like nuclear fusion exists as a concept, when it comes to its application on residential homes, which is the major part of the of where the emissions are created and where the incentive is needed.

“On 26 March 2012 I reaffirmed Government’s commitment to growing the UK market for renewable heat technologies by announcing further support for the domestic sector under a second phase of the Renewable Heat Premium Payment Scheme (RHPP).”

Weasel words indeed. The alleged reaffirmation comprised merely of saying that the residential RHI would come into full operation now three years after this “world’s first” incentive was announced (instead of two years), on uncertain terms.

 “At the same time I set out our delivery timetable for providing longer term support for  households,”

Not quite true, Mr Barker. You did not set out the delivery timetable but extended it!

“expanding the non-domestic scheme and transparent plans for staying within our budget for this year.” 

There was no expansion of significance and the public and solar thermal industry still do not know what the actual yearly incentive will be! That is lack of clarity, not transparency.

“I am pleased to report that we are on track to meet the RHI delivery timetable and have met our first milestone.”

I do not understand what milestone has been met. Can Mr Barker explain what it is because as far as I can see he has simply pushed the milestone further down the road and then run backwards.

“In March we consulted on a mechanism for more effectively managing the RHI budget in the short term.  Today, I am pleased to publish our response which will ensure we have a stand-by budget management mechanism in place this summer, enabling the sustainability of the scheme by allowing us to keep within the budgetary limits set by the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).  Further, I can confirm that we are on track to consult on longer term proposals in July 2012 as planned.”

This is re-arranging the deckchairs stuff. The mechanism to ensure that the RHI will be kept within budget will be in place (a) nine months before the RHI for residential homes will take effect and (b) for the rest of the RHI at a time when there is not much take up of the RHI. Over spend is not a present worry. The lack of incentive being predictable and available now is by far the most important issue.

To ensure the supply chain can be maintained with the available funds in this spending review period, we have set an upper limit of £70m for 2012/13.  However, it is important to note that the funding amounts announced in the spending review for 2013/14 and 2014/15 are unchanged. 

The supply chain in the solar thermal industry lost faith with anything that DECC published some time ago. The supply chain has had any certainty while there is uncertainty as to what incentive the supply chain cannot plan. On a small business level, a qualified installer will have had to renew his or her MCPS qualification for two consecutive years without having any business income from that qualification.

The upper limit of £70m ensures that the 2013/14 budget of £251m would be enough to pay for existing installations and new installations, were the 2012/13 limit to be reached.  A higher limit for 2012/13 would leave insufficient funds available in the following year for new installations and therefore could be very damaging to the renewable heat industry.

Agreed but by then will there be a solar thermal industry left in the UK to damage?

In the event of having to use the stand-by mechanism, a notice period of one week would allow for a much higher trigger point for suspension of the scheme (£67.9m, 97% of the £70m limit) compared with one months’ notice (£56m, 80% of the £70m limit) and would also reduce the chances of scheme suspension being triggered unnecessarily.

Probably the least important thing about the RHI.

We recognise the need to provide comprehensive information on current and forecast scheme expenditure and make it publically available.  To do this we will provide a weekly information update on our website, tracking our committed expenditure. If required we will also provide an estimated date of suspension prior to the formal notice period, in the event of an unexpected surge in uptake such that suspension is likely to be triggered.

This will be helpful if the world’s first renewable heat incentive is ever fully implemented.

I would like to thank all those people who helped us develop these plans.  I can confirm that after careful consideration, should we need to use the stand-by mechanism, this will be done when the spend in 2012/13 is forecast to reach £67.9m with a formal notification period of one week.  Given current uptake figures, we do not currently envisage having to use this mechanism. However, we have learnt from our previous experiences and want to provide assurances to the market and the public that we are spending money on the RHI in a sustainable way.

There is no sign that they have learnt from previous errors, but are repeating them.

Government remains committed to the deployment of renewable heat and as such we are continuously looking at innovative ways of supporting it across all sectors.

I simply do not believe this.

My Response to the Latest Renewable Heat Incentive Consultation

The United Kingdom’s Department of Energy & Climate Change has been pussy-footing around with the Renewable Heat Incentive. there is another short consultation which closes on 23rd April 2012. You can get the web link to the consultation at http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_energy/Renewable_ener/incentive/incentive.aspx

I have replied to the consultation on behalf of Genersys Plc. I set out my response below:- Continue reading

Warmth in a Changing Climate: more thinking required

I have always wondered why a think tank is so named. Is it supposed to be like a military tank, that trundles through battlefields and cities firing shells or a fish tank in which in a special environment sheltered for the protection of the thinkers the thinkers can operate. Perhaps it is a water tank, with thinkers encapsulated inside, shielded, but that cannot be it. Continue reading