Renewables making headway in USA energy mix

The United States’ reliance on coal-fired power generation appears to be diminishing, despite President Trump’s best efforts to support the industry through favourable legislation.

On more days than not this year, utilities got more electricity from renewables – hydro, wind and solar – than from fossil fuel.

Last year, there were just 38 days when this was the case; however in 2020 already, the number is up to 122 days, including the whole of the month of April and all but three days in May.

While this is encouraging news in the global fight against harmful carbon dioxide emissions, the US is still lagging behind other nations in terms of cleaning up its act.

The UK, for example, went a record 67 days without any coal-fired power generation between April and June this year, when demand at the peak of the Covid-19 lockdown was admittedly low because of business closures.

Even so, that 67-day record represented the longest run without coal power since 1882.

In the US, government intervention does not seem capable of reversing the trend from coal to renewables, as natural gas is a cheaper alternative due to an increase in supply.

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have enabled an 80 per cent increase in U.S. gas production since 2006, and about a 50 per cent decline in price. By contrast, coal prices have risen modestly over that period.

UK’s electricity system could go carbon-negative from 2033, say National Grid

A combination of carbon capture technology and continued reliance on renewable forms of energy generation could result in the UK’s electricity grid becoming carbon neutral by 2033, according to the latest Future Energy Scenarios report from National Grid.

With investment in renewable energy generation growing, National Grid expects at least 3GW of new wind power capacity and 1.4GW of solar generation every year from now until 2050 as a result of the upsurge in projects.

It is also anticipated that the Electrical Vehicle (EV) market, set for a boom year in 2020 until Covid-19 put the brakes on, will play a big role moving forward with the potential for as many as 30 million EVs effectively acting as smart-charging “batteries” to help balance the electricity grid. For this to be realised, there needs to be a serious upgrade in vehicle to grid networks

Meanwhile, homeowners will play their part by consuming up to a third less electricity after switching from gas boiler central heating systems to heat pumps fitted with thermal batteries.

Mark Herring, head of strategy at National Grid ESO, said: “Across all scenarios, we see growth in renewable energy generation, including significant expansion in installed offshore wind capacity. There is widespread uptake in domestic electric vehicles, and growth and investment in hydrogen and carbon capture technologies too.

“Although these are not firm predictions, we’ve talked to over 600 industry experts to build this insight and it’s clear while net-zero is achievable, there are significant changes ahead,” he added.

Renewed focus for green energy procurement

As the UK strives towards a zero-carbon future, green energy procurement has become a key focus for such minded companies.

Switching away from fossil fuels to renewables has become much more straightforward given the increase in the range of options available, such as solar and wind turbine generation, and the growing affordability of the energy such methods produce.

Today, renewables produce more than 20% of the UK’s electricity, and that figure is forecast to rise to 30% by 2030, especially with the largest solar farm of its kind to be built shortly in Kent.

Organisations are now aligning their energy strategy to reflect the shifting trend, with increased investment in renewables gathering momentum.

Supporting sustainability

As one of the UK’s leading consultancies, Energy Management LLP recognises this and has devised a Green Energy Framework (GEF), which is designed to support public sector bodies in their commitment to a more sustainable future.

Incorporated within the over-arching framework agreement is a desktop audit of current energy efficiency schemes and analysis of half-hourly (HH) energy consumption data.

Once these initial steps are taken, a site survey is then conducted by one of our chartered engineers, and based on their findings, a detailed action plan highlighting areas of improvement will be discussed with clients.

At Energy Management, we are committed to helping clients for the whole duration of their journey towards net-zero carbon, and ongoing support is available through accountable auditing.

The Green Energy Framework follows on from the successful launch of the Choice Energy Framework, another of Energy Management’s initiatives that allow public sector bodies to access the best energy solutions.

Are you SECR compliant?

As of today (April 1), the first Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) reports are due.

SECR was brought in last year to encourage groups of businesses that fulfil the specified criteria to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint.

It replaced the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) with the aim of widening the net and bringing the benefits of carbon zero to more businesses.

The new regulations will require an estimated 11,900 companies incorporated in the UK to disclose their energy and carbon emissions – a far greater number than were required to act under the CRC.

Qualifying companies will need to include information on their UK energy use in line with the SECR framework in their Directors’ Report, or an equivalent Energy and Carbon Report for LLPs, for financial years beginning on or after 1 April 2019.

Where energy use and carbon emissions are considered to be of strategic importance to the organisation, the disclosure may be made in the Strategic Report instead, with a statement in the director’s report to indicate and explain this decision.

Who needs to comply?

Three groups of businesses are affected by the new regulations. Companies that fall within the following definitions must comply unless they meet certain exemption criteria:

  1. Quoted companies of any size that are already obliged to report under mandatory greenhouse gas reporting regulations.
  2. Unquoted companies incorporated in the UK that meet the definition of ‘large’ under the Companies Act 2006 will have new reporting obligations. This applies to registered and unregistered companies. Note that the criteria for ‘large’ differs from the ESOS Regulations.
  3. ‘Large’ Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) will be required to prepare and file a ‘Energy and Carbon Report’.

Unquoted companies or LLPs are defined as ‘large’ if they meet at least two of the following three criteria in a reporting year:

  • a turnover of £36 million or more
  • a balance sheet of £18 million or more or
  • 250 employees or more.

Certain companies that would otherwise be eligible may be exempt if their energy use is low – 40MWh or less over the reporting period.

Whilst not a requirement, external verification or assurance is recommended as best practice to ensure the accuracy, completeness and consistency of data for both internal and external stakeholders.

Energy Management has a proven track record in ensuring companies are compliant with all the latest relevant industry legislation so if you want to find out more about your SECR requirements, you can contact us on 01225-867722 or email sales@energymanagementltd.com.

The impact of COVID-19 on energy and the environment

covid-19

The Coronavirus is seeming to have a spiralling effect, causing major disruption to people’s lives in one way or another. It is also having multiple side-effects on the energy industry and the environment, including very turbulent market pricing.

So far, we have seen the following direct impacts on multiple suppliers/companies we work with on a regular basis, some of these include:

  • A number of suppliers are now only taking emergency phone calls, meaning regular tasks cannot be undertaken.
  • Suppliers are either not quoting which could result in out of contract rates (OCR) or taking up to 15 working days to quote or not taking on any new clients at all
  • Western Power Distribution (WPD) has stopped all contracting other than emergency work only, with many Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) set to follow suit.
  • If businesses are unable to pay bills, and this, in turn, creates a poor credit rating. Energy suppliers will charge a bond as a result which can disrupt cash flows with the knock-on effects potentially felt over the next few years.

Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, Carbon Zero was a major talking point, however, the conversation has gone quiet as short-term thinking has taken over. Personal income and wealth are the primary concerns for people at the moment.

Sustainability on hold?

Many companies had outlined their plans to Carbon Zero targets prior to the pandemic took a grip, which included green energy, renewable energy sources and Electric Vehicles (EV) and installation.

However, since the Coronavirus began it is now estimated that EV battery demand could be downgraded by 4% and solar installations are likely to be 16% lower than previously forecast. It is also expected that 7 in 10 businesses are planning on partially or fully pausing any sustainability announcements.

Many of us are currently working from home or not able to work at all, and that has affected how we communicate with one another. All key green policy meetings have also been postponed and it will be a minimum of six weeks before any UN climate meetings are held in person.

With 16.8 billion people working from home, domestic energy bills could look to increase by £5.2million – which could put a lot of strain on energy providers as well as individuals/family out of work and with no income.

So how does the rest of the world fare?

China has just announced for the first time since going into isolation that they will be relaxing their regulations slightly and allowing individuals involved in the manufacturing sector to go back to work. This could, therefore, cause problems for the rest of the world in terms of energy usage. As their energy output increases and our work decreases, how will this leave us? Will China have the energy they require? Prior to this, China had seen a 25% decrease in its emissions.

Italy has been one of the country’s worst affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, with energy demand on the 18th March recording at being down by 7.45% week-on-week.

Will this ever end?

We all know drastic measures are needed to combat the pandemic, one of which is the cancellation of flights. On the 24th March, we saw 15,650 flights cancelled – the highest number this year.

Another consideration is the number of people – 4.2 billion at the last count – who do not have access to proper sanitation and are unable to follow World Health Organisation guidelines as a result.

What do we expect to see going forward?

In terms of CO2, we could see a similar scenario to the 2008 recession when there was a 6% increase in year-on-year emissions due to businesses and policymakers making up for a loss of productivity. Much depends on the longevity of the lockdown.

Obviously this could have a detrimental impact on businesses attempts to hit their carbon zero targets and the government’s target of being Carbon neutral by 2050.

EM-Powered – the secret weapon in managing your energy costs

To reduce energy consumption and consequently your company’s energy bills, you first need to have a very good understanding of your energy profile.

Energy Management’s energy monitoring and reporting portal, EM-Powered, assists companies in compiling an instant overview of their organisation’s actual energy consumption, predicted energy consumption and peak loads in an easily downloadable report.

Especially useful for multi-site operators and energy-intensive industries, the portal can be adapted to suit an individual company’s needs.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the benefits:

  • Accurate financial reporting – incorporates budget management tools, cost and consumption break downs. Management reports can also be downloaded for an overview of all activities. Ideal for board-level reporting.
  • Market forward pricing – We provide live forward and historic market trading prices. These prices can then be compared between specific dates, or alternatively can be expanded to show a high-level overview. The portal provides the ability to set multiple price notification triggers and alerts. These alerts will then be either sent via SMS or email to the user. Invaluable for flex contract management.
  • Seasonal comparison tables – Market charges can then be compared in table form, giving the customer an accurate and concise method to measure market fluctuations. The system provides you with the current position, and with a comparison to the previous day, week, month, quarter, 6-month and 1-year prices. In addition, you have the ability to choose specific dates, forward or backward, to compare prices over any given time.
  • Market Intelligence Updates – Customers are provided with a daily market intelligence update. The portal will update 3 times a day providing them with the live day ahead, month ahead and 2-month ahead prices. There will be a short commentary of why prices have fallen/risen, along with prices on Brent Crude and EU ETS Carbon, as both have an impact on UK wholesale electricity cost.
  • Daily Updates – Daily news updates are provided within the portal which gives an understanding of current geopolitical factors which may influence the market.

More information about EM-Powered can be found here.

Report claims UK has technology to achieve zero carbon

Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in the UK is said to be achievable with current technology, according to a recent report.

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) stated a net-zero carbon Britain is already possible without any future technology developments.

The report claimed that by making changes to buildings, transport and industry, demand for energy could be reduced by 60%. It also stated making more changes to energy, our diet and the lay of the land use could lead to renewable energy being the only source of energy, as well as cutting emissions from agriculture and industry.

The UK government has, however, described the carbon capture technology as “game-changing” when addressing climate change, with the first project set to be operational next year.

So how can we become carbon zero?

Firstly, CAT said new houses being built need to be to a standard where energy costs can be cut to just £15 a year. This would be achieved by using insulated masonry and concrete, triple-glazing, LED lighting and air-source heat pumps.

It is possible that changes could be made to existing buildings to enhance temperature control, with the potential of heating being reduced by 50%.

Meanwhile, transport demand, the report claims, could be reduced by up to 78%, by increased use of public transport, walking, cycling and using EVs. The aim is also to cut flights by two thirds.

Increasing energy supplies

Based on the UK’s energy use figures in the last decade, it appears possible to meet demand with renewable and carbon-neutral energy-based sources.

Wind power would make up half with the rest being generated from geothermal, hydro, tidal and solar. Carbon-neutral synthetic fuels are also an important alternative to electricity.

Transforming land and diets

Diets can help us to reach carbon zero by switching from meat and dairy-based diets to plant-based proteins. CAT has said we can reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions by 57% and cut food imports from 42% to 17%. Three-quarters of current livestock can also be used for restoring forests and peatlands.

Also, as a country, CAT insists, we are currently importing many foods which could easily be grown in the UK.

Plenty of food for thought, I’m sure you’d agree!