The Hydrogen Age

EIC explores the potential of Hydrogen fuel to decarbonise the UK, its domestic supporters and success it has already enjoyed in the EU.

Hydrogen showing carbon the door

In the wake of COVID-19, economic recovery is now top priority for the UK government. However, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have both staked their flag in making sure it is a ‘green’ economic recovery. As such, industry leaders – particularly within the energy sector – have reopened the conversation on the role of hydrogen in reaching net zero.

The CCC (Committee on Climate Change) published a report in 2018 summarising its recommendations for a UK hydrogen strategy. The hope is to utilise Hydrogen in the UK’s heating systems, specifically by blending it with natural gas, to reduce its carbon footprint.

UK buildings account for 40% of its energy consumption and 70% of industrial building energy is used on space heating and cooling. With these figures in mind, hydrogen’s value is clear to see provided it can get off the ground.

Unfortunately, there are several roadblocks to hydrogen use on a mass scale. The biggest of these is that it would require an infrastructural overall of current heating systems. Blended gas requires plastic pipes while the vast majority of those in the UK are iron.

In addition, the production of hydrogen fuel is highly carbon intensive. Fortunately, this embedded carbon can be offset by CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology into its production.

However, these are costly caveats to making hydrogen a viable fuel replacement. Naturally, there are concerns that the government may opt for cheaper, quicker progress that, ironically, may prove unsustainable.

 “On the one hand, we need to put money where it has an immediate economic impact and in the most affected sectors. On the other, we need to keep in mind the long-term benefits of making our economy more resilient.”

– Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for energy

Private sector rescue

The EU commission announced in June that it would provide €750 billion for its green recovery plan, reserving €1 billion for R&D into green hydrogen. Simson has stated that hydrogen has the potential to capture 10-16 percent of the EU’s energy market by 2050.

Following the EU’s lead, industry leaders in the UK approached the government and questioned the absence of hydrogen in both the spring budget COVID recovery plan.

Last month, a letter from the chiefs of four major unions implored the government to move forward on hydrogen development. The leaders of GMB, Prospect, Unison and Unite cited, in the letter, the massive reductions this could offer in the heat, transport and heavy industry sectors. Of course, the development of any new technological sector would also create thousands of jobs.

However, the letter was only one component of the “Hydrogen Strategy Now” campaign led by firms like EDF and Siemens. These companies, along with others supporting the campaign, have stated intentions to invest £1.5bn into hydrogen development.

The government must now sieze the initiative and provide the necessary funding and support to make hydrogen happen. Firms that desire to adopt a long-term view of their energy and heat use might benefit from EICs services.

EIC’s combined heat and power solution has saved businesses up to 40% on energy costs. EIC can also provide a  carbon management team able to deliver a comprehensive net zero strategy. Full details of these services, as well as others, are on the EIC website.

 

EPBD: What you need to know

EIC unpacks Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), it’s origins, purpose and how firms can make sure they are compliant.

The Kyoto Protocol

Two years after the 1992 UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the Kyoto Protocol emerged as an extension to the conventions primary treaty.

The UNFCCC’s objective is the following:

“Stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”

The extension took effect in 1997 and was as much political as it was scientific, viewing the climate crisis from a purely mathematical perspective. The consensus was that industrially developed nations were far greater contributors to climate change than rural and agricultural ones.

CO2 emissions would not be divided equally between the committed nations but rather based on their industrial activity. Subsequently, the EU and its member states committed to binding emission reduction targets which remain in effect today.

Following Kyoto, the EU established EPBD in January 2003 to ensure sufficient CO2 reductions from European buildings. The primary objective being to incentivise widespread improvement of their energy efficiency. The beauty of this that its criteria apply more to industrially developed nations due to their carbon intensity.

What legislative requirements are covered by EPBD?

The UK governments interpretation of embedding EPBD, recognises 3 streams of certification, required by both private and public sectors:

  • DECs (Display Energy Certificates) – required by publicly owned or funded buildings on an annual basis
  • TM44 / Air Conditioning Inspections – required for all buildings with installed comfort cooling
  • EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates) – required for both domestic and non-domestic new builds, majorly refurbished, sold or let out

The certificates are valid for 10 years from issue. EPCs underpin the MEES standard, whereby a building cannot be sold or let with an energy rating below E.

Building better 

As lockdown restrictions ease, and the ‘Build Back Better’ initiative gains momentum, compliance with EPBD will only become more relevant.

The most recent recast of EPBD, in 2010, focuses on new builds and major renovations thereby adopting a long term view of the situation.

EPBD also protects consumers, it requires disclosure of efficiency measures within a property to buyers, to inform them of running costs.

The requirement led to the widespread introduction of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), one of the major successes of EPBD to date. First introduced in 2007, the UK national database now contains energy performance information on a staggering 40% of homes.

Last year marked the EPBD deadline for all member states to have NZEBs – or Nearly Zero Energy Buildings. The criteria for an NZEB is simply that it have a very high energy performance, made possible by quality insulation and on-site renewable generation.

Since Zero Carbon Homes was scrapped in 2016, EPBD is one of the few legislations that targets the energy performance of buildings.

The fervour in reaching net zero means that this legislation is here to stay and so firms should be asking how they could ensure they are taking part.

Upgrading for EPBD

Improving the energy performance of a structure needn’t be a complex process, however it must be an informed one.

EIC’s approach to structural efficiency is twofold, assessing pre-existing assets using integrated metering and monitoring technology. Next, EIC adopts an end-to-end approach, carrying out initial certification, devising and implementing improvements. Finally undertaking a certificate review to demonstrate progress.

Depending on site limitations, EIC can consult on the installation of on-site generation, with a particular focus on solar generation. Thereby lessening a structure’s energy consumption, lowering your utility bills and improving its overall energy profile. Full details of these services, as well as testimonials from past clients, can be found on the EIC website.

Success is negative: Carbon negative office spaces

EIC explores the carbon-negative office spaces that are emerging, their role in the green recovery and the technology that make them possible.

Favour the bold

The path to net zero is fraught with obstacles and among these is the carbon intensive nature of the mainstream construction sector. Materials like concrete are extremely resource intensive to produce.

While often offset on a citywide scale, some firms are beginning to focus on the buildings themselves and work sustainability into their initial designs.

Blazing the smoke-free trail are Norwegian architects Snøhetta, who will design exclusively carbon-neutral buildings over the next decade.

The aim is then that from 2030 onwards, Snøhetta will focus on creating carbon-negative designs.

Carbon negative structures either generate more energy than they consume, or sequester more carbon than they produce. The figure includes expenses from initial  construction and materials, as well as operation and decommissioning.

Elusive costs like these are problematic, with 85% of building emissions generated by materials and construction, before the structure is ever used.

“For the next 10 years, we have the ambition of having projects on the table that will become CO2 negative in the cradle-to-cradle definition… This means we have to understand the embodied energies and all the materials used.”

-Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Thorsen

Balancing the books

Since less intensive materials suited to large scale construction are not yet widely available, balancing through generation will be key.  Solar is central to Snøhettas plans, with structures taking about 60 years to hit carbon negative with embedded generation. The architect recently completed its Powerhouse Brattørkaia project, which boasts an identical timeline for net negative. The Powerhouse also sports a cutting edge ‘wedge’ shape designed to maximise exposure to the sun’s rays.

While this may seem like a life sentence for business leaders, it is refreshing that groups like Snøhetta are beginning to think in terms of multi-generational gains.

Bywater Properties are leading a similar development project aimed to create the lowest-carbon workplace in London. The office, named ‘Paradise’ for the road it occupies: Old Paradise Street. Supermarket, Iceland has already secured the majority of this space, planting a green flag for the brand in the minds of its customers.

My generation

It is no secret that the attraction of short-term gains have significantly contributed to the environmental challenges we now face.

However, vision extending beyond the next board meeting can help transform the UK and global economy to reach net zero. Carbon negative buildings are a part of that vision.

Unfortunately, that can feel exclusionary to firms that have already established their sites and do not have the luxury of completely retrofitting them.

The complex, modular nature of structures does mean that while carbon negative may not be feasible, ‘carbon-light’ might be possible.

Intelligent building control is one of the most effective ways to improve your carbon profile. Primarily because it streamlines the carbon-producing elements of a building, mainly utility consumption, and shrinks carbon footprint as a result.

A holistic ally in carbon reduction is the addition of green spaces to working environments, since these also sequester carbon.

On-site generation further reduces your reliance on the grid and the subsequent sequestered carbon in meeting demand – particularly across long distances.

Other benefits include improved energy supply security, added leverage in procurement talks and a better carbon profile for crucial legislation.

EIC understands that intelligent building design and frugality around resource-use work in hand in glove. As such, EIC offers a comprehensive carbon service combining building management, intelligent procure and compliance acumen.

Marriage of these three pillars means unlocking the full potential of sites, and leveraging for the benefit of all. EIC’s full offering is on its services page.

 

 

 

 

IETA’s net zero plan

EIC breaks down the IETA’s proposed ideas to help guide Europe towards net zero 2050, specifically the role cap and trade practices may play and why we must raise ambitions.

Rowing together

Last month the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) announced its 2020s forecast for the price of carbon emissions, expected to rise to  €32 per CO2 tonne equivalent.

The IETA, in a report published last week, also outlined several ways in which international carbon trading, spurred by the increased price, could aid the fight against climate change.

The report outlined that some countries and firms were better equipped than others to reduce and replace carbon-intensive practices. Infrastructure, resources and trade exports are among the variables that can impede or hasten an organisations ability to stay within allotted carbon allowances while remaining soluble.

The trading of such allowances frees individual states and firms up to offset one another’s emissions in order to achieve the collective goal of limiting global temperature rise.

Moreover, it is effective; the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EUETS) reported a drop of 29% in emissions from stationary structures when comparing 2018 to 2005, thanks largely to such ‘cap and trade’ schemes.

Cap and trade is not a novel concept, it has been suggested as a market-led solution to polluting industry for years. During his presidency, Barack Obama met with a lot of criticism for introducing a bill in support of such schemes with pundits calling it a “sledgehammer to freedom”.

The concern was not unjustified since it was predicted that Carbon intensive industry would simply be undercut by foreign interests able to offer more competitive energy rates to consumers.

However with international cooperation now being actively encouraged, the attraction and probability of price gouging between domestic and international firms is likely to reduce.

The price is right

Alongside the proposed price rise has emerged a surge of concern that, while ambitious, the UK will fall behind on its own national targets unless an even higher charge is established.

The IETA’s forecast would mean an increase on the €27 price that was in effect from June 2018-19 however, think-tank Carbon Tracker believes this would still fall short of the targets stipulated in the UK’s Green New Deal.

A report released by the Zero Carbon Commission has estimated that the IETA’s price would need to be increased by almost 100% to €60 by 2025 to stay within established carbon budgets.

“We need to introduce a stronger, more consistent carbon price signal across more sectors of the economy if we want to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Sam Fankhauser

Assuming that Fankhauser’s perspective is adopted in the UK, carbon allowance trading promises to become a lucrative venture for firms that are able to significantly reduce their carbon emissions ahead of time. Any shortfall between emissions and allowance could be traded with more carbon intensive firms, thereby effectively doubling the value of carbon emissions saved.

Intelligent utility management, on-site generation and smart procurement are all methods to increase the gap between emissions and allowance and, subsequently, its potential value in cap and trade. EIC offers all of these services as well as over forty years of direct experience in integrating and applying them to the benefit of its clients.

COP26’s race to zero begins

EIC highlights the key points made in COP26 President Alok Sharma’s speech, which symbolised the beginning of the organisations ‘Race to Zero’ campaign, and how business leaders can take a poll position despite the starting gun having already been fired.

Mapping the future

News that the UK will postpone its hosting of the UN climate change conference (COP26) was not unexpected, given the necessity for social distancing that COVID-19 has imposed, however it did raise concerns over the UK’s determination to enact a green recovery post-lockdown.

While the UK track record may, in part, justify some of these concerns, individual safety is not the only benefit of such a delay to talks, for one the nations taking part will need a clear idea of the state of their respective economies once lockdown ends before committing to new policy. 

And from a psychological perspective it might be argued that due to the all-consuming nature of the pandemic when it comes to public and government attention, the conference would not receive the attention necessary if it went ahead this year.

How far we’ve come

Despite the conference now being slated for Q4 2021 (-12 November), Alok Sharma gave a speech last Friday that reasserted the UK’s ambitions and responsibilities with regards to the 2050 net zero target and how the race to zero was already hastening its completion.

The UK, in collaboration with Chile and the U.N., are already leaders of the Climate Ambition Alliance – representing over half of global GDP – however Sharma insisted in his speech that “…we must go further”.

Sharma outlined some of the UK’s major achievements in reducing carbon emissions in the last thirty years:

  • Since 1990 the UK economy has grown by 75% while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions by 43%
  • In the same time, the UK has two offshore wind turbines able to power 2,000 homes, as of 2020 the UK is leading nation for offshore wind capacity
  • Globally, the cost of solar and wind power have dropped by 85% and 49% respectively
  • Over two thirds of the worlds nations can now generate renewable energy cheaper than coal

While details of the path forward remain scant – not surprising given the reasons for postponement – Sharma made it clear that liberating capital to fund green initiatives and widespread support for electric vehicles would be crucial to the UNFCCC’s success.

Approximately 1,000 business leaders, representing revenue totalling in excess £3.5tn have committed to the scheme including British motor giant Rolls Royce. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC, around 75% of these businesses have already developed strategies and targets aligned with the 2050 target.

Dr. Alison Doig, international lead at the ECIU (Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit) recently commented on the danger of complacency in the opening stages of such a race. 

“This is not, however, about pushing climate action to some date in the future; no entity can reach net-zero in 2050 without starting now… participants will have to present delivery plans, including setting interim targets for the next decade, by the time COP26 opens in Glasgow next year.”

Clean energy was the first element of the British economy that Sharma cited when referring to the need for green growth after lockdown, making it a pressing issue for business leaders looking to get a head start on net zero. EIC provides comprehensive  support and advice to businesses in the procurement, management and generation of alternative energy sources. Each service forms an element of the robust energy management service that EIC offers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EIC’s Utility Belt: Tips for more effective utility management

EIC outlines its best advice for intelligent energy management, minor changes that can yield significant savings and the importance of consistency in establishing new workplace cultures.

Technology vs culture 

The majority of your utility belt will be focused on the technology that you are currently using or could utilise in future however there is also a short section on the culture within your business and how that can factor into your success.

Heating and Ventilation 

Comfortable ambient temperature has become something of an assumption, commercially speaking, however the technology behind it often remains unexplored except to establish its basic controls for the user. Given that air conditioning alone can account for up to 30% of a site’s energy consumption, this is a significant oversight that, sadly can be solved very simply.

Sealing off or switching on 

A common method of controlling indoor temperatures is by sealing buildings, preventing windows being left open, however this can actually exacerbate the overall costs trying to be mitigated. It means air conditioning will be working overtime during hotter periods but also that air circulation may take a dip, meaning higher concentrations of CO2 and dampened performance from staff as a result.

IoT connectivity across sites can use occupancy monitoring and responsive temperature and air quality control to mitigate these issues. The provision of real-time data streams means that you can control individual spaces across large sites, maintaining utility usages that are responsive to demand and need.

Casual is smart 

Enstating a casual dress code during acutely hot or cold weather conditions means that staff will be able to offset their own demand on heating or cooling, not to mention be more comfortable in their work. 

Dig for victory

Planting trees is also a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to offset heating costs, since they provide shade and fresh oxygen as well as absorbing latent humidity in the air.

Lighting 

Intelligent lighting control can save 30-50% on energy costs automating this utility according to occupancy and respective demand means that you will not have spaces unnecessarily drawing power that isn’t being utilised. 

Let the sunshine in 

Not always an option depending on how sites are initially designed, however by using automated lighting, you can schedule lights to power down during daylight hours and reactivate once night falls. 

Using what you have 

The installation of LED bulbs for better efficiency and a longer lifespan can be an added boost to light use efficiency without being disruptive to pre-installed equipment, motion sensors are another low-impact option that help ensure that light is never wasted.

Professional culture 

As social creatures, culture is effectively the software that our communities run on, understanding this means that you can leverage your professional culture to become more energy efficient with a minimum of cost.

Empowering your team 

The use of environmental posters can help remind team members that their actions have weight in something larger than themselves. Small adjustments like the use of power strips also make it easier for them to adopt the positive habits that will be the foundation of your new professional culture. 

Communicate that computers should be shut down at the end of the day rather than left in standby, especially before the weekend. It has been estimated that a company with 200 PCs could save £12,000 annually this way. 

Breaking ranks 

2020 has demonstrated many things, among them our ability to work remotely and effectively and how doing so can help foster trust between managers and staff members. Encouraging this way of business means you can reduce or re-purpose the amount you are spending on office space and its attached utility costs. The same can be said of meetings that might’ve taken place on-site, by using video technology to bridge these physical gaps you reduce the occupancy on your own sites and the utility usage along with it.

Measure for measure 

Meters and sub-meters are essential tools in understanding the energy needs of a site as well as what areas have the highest concentration of usage. Armed with this information you are better equipped to make policy decisions pertaining to both technology and culture within your utility management. The Carbon Trust has found that a site meter can save 10% in energy costs while sub-metres, which allow you to pinpoint areas where demand is highest, can offer a further saving of 30%.

Going the extra mile

There are a number of additional features that can be added to the design of many sites to both off-set and reduce utility costs including on-site solar generation & storage, combined heat and power and demand side response schemes.

EIC can create a comprehensive and all-inclusive package for your business that oversees all aspects of utility management from metering & monitoring to IoT empowered devices that keep you connected to site data 24/7.

Open architecture technology affords access to all your vital business systems, meaning EIC can communicate with, control and report on any aspect of any site including heating, lighting and ventilation. Our services page contains full details of our offerings.

 

 

 

 

 

An update on ESOS Phase 2

The ESOS deadline for Phase 2 was 5 December 2019. Unlike Phase 1, no extra time has been issued to allow for late submissions. Any qualifying organisations who did not complete their assessment and submit a compliance notification by the deadline are at risk of enforcement action. Penalties issued in Phase 1 for compliance failures ranged up to £45,000 with a potential maximum fine of £90,000.

Compliance Notices

ESOS Regulators are currently issuing compliance notices to all UK corporate groups who they believe should have participated but they haven’t yet received a notification of completion from.

If you receive this, you must inform the regulators whether you are;

  • in the process of completing your compliance, or
  • provide evidence you have already submitted your notification, or
  • advise that you do not qualify for ESOS

ESOS submissions

You can find a published list of all businesses who have made a submission via the ESOS notification system as of 1 February 2020 here.

Further evaluation on the effectiveness of energy audits and ESOS can be found here.

ESOS support

If you need urgent support with your Phase 2 compliance, talk to EIC today. Our dedicated team of ESOS Lead Assessors and highly trained Energy Auditors will work hard to help you comply as soon as possible, and support you in any conversations with the Environment Agency.

After ESOS compliance

It’s vital that you don’t let your compliance go to waste. ESOS aims to highlight where companies can make energy improvements, cut wastage and lower costs. Use these opportunities to improve your operations and make significant energy savings. The most common areas for energy savings are lighting, energy management through smarter energy procurement, metering, monitoring and controls, and air conditioning.

SECR

If your business complies with ESOS, it’s highly likely you will need to comply with Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) too. SECR was introduced in April 2019 as a framework for energy and carbon reporting. Its aim is to reduce some of the administrative burden of overlapping carbon schemes and to improve visibility of energy and carbon emissions for large UK organisations.

SECR can also help businesses on their first steps to meet the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target. Companies in scope of the legislation will need to include their energy use and carbon emissions in their Directors’ Report as part of their annual filing obligations. They will also need to report any energy efficiency actions they have taken within each financial year. If the coronavirus is likely to cause a delay to your accounts, there is guidance here.

Talk to EIC on 01527 511 757 or email info@eic.co.uk if you need any further advice on ESOS or SECR. We’re here to help.

UK Energy Policy in 2020

Following the results of the UK General Election, it will be the Conservative Party responsible for delivering the net zero target and a green economy. The Conservatives made positive pledges to invest in green jobs, low carbon infrastructure and investment in energy efficiency.

Their Manifesto promised that the first Budget in 2020 will prioritise the environment and contain investment in research & development, decarbonisation schemes, new flood defences, electric vehicle infrastructure and clean energy. The Budget date is to be confirmed, but will likely take place in early Spring.

White Paper

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) intend to release an Energy White Paper, which is expected in Q1 2020. It will detail the country’s strategy to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Energy Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, has said that BEIS are currently evaluating a number of different approaches. This will include decisions on renewables, nuclear levels and the role of carbon capture, usage and storage.

The White Paper is expected to yield further policy indications on a range of energy and environmental issues that are currently unclear.

COP26

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled to take place 9-19 November 2020 in Glasgow.

The UK will host the main COP summit, which will enable world leaders to discuss actions to tackle climate change and serve as a spotlight on how far the government’s climate policy decisions have come. Claire Perry, the previous Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, will preside as the UK nominated president for the event.

Second Balancing Services Charges Taskforce

Ofgem formed the first Balancing Services Charges Taskforce, in collaboration with the Electricity System Operator, back in November 2018. The main goal of the Taskforce was to investigate the future direction of Balancing Services Use of System (BSUoS) charges.

The Taskforce found that the BSUoS charge does not currently provide any useful forward-looking signal. This makes the charges hard to forecast, reducing the influence of the charge on user behaviour.

With this information, the Taskforce assessed whether individual elements of BSUoS have the potential for being charged more cost-effectively and hence could provide a forward-looking signal. However, whilst it was concluded there were theoretical advantages to options suggested, it remained that the implementation would not or could not provide a cost-reflective and forward-looking signal that would drive efficient and effective market behaviour.

The first Taskforce concluded that it was not feasible to charge any of the BSUoS components in a more cost-reflective and forward-looking manner that would effectively influence behaviour to help the system and/or lower costs to customers. The group recommended that all costs included with BSUoS should be treated on a cost-recover basis.

Taskforce key deliverables

The new Taskforce will aim to assess who should pay BSUoS charges, how these charges should be recovered and how principles from the Targeted Charging Review can be applied. In order to achieve this the Taskforce has compiled five deliverables:

  1. Consideration and assessment based recommendation as to who should pay balancing services charges
  2. Investigation and recommendation for recovering balancing services charges, including collection methodology and frequency
  3. Produce interim report providing detailed reasoning and any relevant analysis behind the initial conclusions
  4. Consult on the interim report providing opportunity for stakeholder comment
  5. Issue a final report including consideration of stakeholder consultation responses providing a final recommendation on who should pay, the design of balancing services charges and potential timescales for implementation

The final report, containing the recommendations to Ofgem, is scheduled to be published in June 2020.

Electric Vehicle Smart Charging consultation response

On 15 July 2019 the Government published a consultation on Electric Vehicle Smart Charging. This was to seek views on the outline of the current approach and objectives for the implementation of smart charging systems for electric vehicles (EVs).

The Government believes that the encouragement of consumer uptake and innovation is necessary to meet future targets. To this effect, Government’s overall aim is to maximise the use of smart charging technologies to benefit both consumers and the electricity system, whilst supporting the transition to EVs.

The consultation states that without government intervention, it is unlikely that smart charging will be taken up at the rate required to achieve the full potential benefits. This could lead to the risk of varying standards and inadequate protections for the grid and consumers.

The long and short-term plans for smart charging

The Government provided detail on both short and long-term plans for smart charging. The approach for Phase One of the project would see new non-public charge points required to have smart functionality, compliant with the British Standards Institution.

Phase Two is a work in progress, as the Government seeks views on what the long-term approach for operational requirements should be, with some potential options. The consultation proposes that a decision should be made between 2020 and 2022.

A potential response to the consultation is expected in 2020 and would dictate the rate and method of rollout of new EV infrastructure across the country in the future.

Review of Default Tariff Cap

The initial default tariff cap came in effect on 1 January 2019. It was designed as a temporary cap on standard variable tariffs and fixed term default tariffs. In accordance with the licence requirements, Ofgem run an update progress twice a year. This is so the default tariff cap reflects changes in the cost of supplying energy.

On 7 August 2019, Ofgem updated the cap levels to come into effect for the third charge restriction from 1 October 2019 to 31 March 2020. A fall in wholesale costs saw the level of the cap reduce from £1,254 to £1,179 for this period.

The default tariff cap is intended to be a temporary measure, with an upcoming review next year on whether it is still fit for purpose. The cap will remain in place until at least the end of 2020. The government will be able to choose whether to extend the cap beyond this, up to a maximum of 2023.

Dermot Nolan, Chief Executive of Ofgem, said, “The price cap requires suppliers to pass on any savings to customers when their cost to supply electricity and gas falls.

He added, “This means the energy bills of around 15 million customers on default deals or pre-payment meters will fall this winter to reflect the reduction in cost of the wholesale energy. Households can cut their bills further in time for winter, and we would encourage all customers to shop around to get themselves the best deal possible for their energy.”

CCC to publish Sixth Carbon Budget

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is scheduled to publish its recommendation on the level of the Sixth Carbon Budget in September 2020.

The Sixth Carbon Budget, required under the Climate Change Act, will provide ministers with advice on the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit during the period 2033-2037. The Budget will set the path to the UK’s net-zero emissions target in 2050, as the first carbon budget to be set into law following that commitment.

CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, advised the Government of the Committee’s intention in a letter to the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke MP.

The letter sets out the Committee’s expectations for the Treasury’s planned review of how the costs of the transition to a net-zero economy by 2050 can be funded and distributed fairly.

The Committee called on the Treasury to conduct the review in its May 2019 advice to Government on setting a net-zero target for the UK. The Committee sees the review as crucial in ensuring a successful transition and recommend that the review is a key input to next year’s spending review and budget, and longer-term policy direction.

Lord Deben’s letter also recommends that the Treasury review develops a plan for funding decarbonisation and examines the distribution of costs for businesses, households and the Exchequer.

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Climate Emergencies and Net Zero – what you need to know

Global scientific data supports action

The action follows a highly critical 33 page report publicised in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

The report focused on the impact of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Limiting warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C significantly reduces the climate change risks according to Professor Jim Skea, who co-chairs the IPCC.

What’s alarming is the scale of the challenge ahead of us to ensure we achieve these targets and do not allow the situation to escalate further.

Five steps to achieving the 1.5°C have been announced:

  1. Global emissions of CO2 need to decline by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030
  2. Renewables are estimated to provide up to 85% of global electricity by 2050
  3. Coal is expected to reduce to close to zero
  4. Up to seven million sq km of land will be needed for energy crops (a bit less than the size of Australia)
  5. Global net zero emissions by 2050.

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement brings together nations towards a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change. It was originally signed by 196 countries back in 2016.

In line with the IPCC report its core aim is to keep the global temperature increase this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In particular, to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C.

2019 – a watershed year for climate change?

Together with the impact of Greta Thunberg – the 16 year old Swedish activist – there have been a number of key factors driving the climate change movement this year. At Glastonbury festival in June 2019, 2,000 festival goers joined protestors to stage a procession across the site.

At the United Nations Climate Action Summit in late September you may have missed the news that Russia, the world’s fourth largest polluter will finally join the agreement. This announcement was overshadowed by the stirring “You have stolen my dreams” headlines surrounding Greta Thunberg’s appearance. Hailed as “the voice of the planet” she’s already been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite the raised awareness there are real fears that most of the world’s biggest firms are ‘unlikely’ to meet the targets set. Only a fifth of companies remain on track according to fresh analysis by investment data provider Arabesque S-Ray. Of 3,000 listed business only 18% have disclosed their plans.

UK reaction

In reaction to the IPCC report, UN Paris Agreement and other related research findings and movements, the UK public sector is taking positive, proactive steps to mitigate climate change risks.

Councillor Carla Danyer led the charge in Bristol by first declaring a climate emergency and this has sparked a wave of similar responses.

In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law. The new target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage. Other countries setting similar targets include Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and France as well as the US state of California.

Many UK councils, NHS Trusts and universities have publically declared their long term targets. Some aiming for speedier action by declaring net zero 2030 targets. These include Ipswich Borough, Vale of Glamorgan and Telford & Wrekin councils.

Unsurprisingly, Bristol University is one of the leading educational facilities leading the way. To date they’ve cut carbon emissions by 27% and are well on their way to achieving their target to become carbon neutral by 2030. The University of Cambridge, along with others, has set a net zero target of 2038 and has announced it is adopting science-based targets. On one website – climateemergency.uk – 228 councils are listed as having signed up to the targets.

In Boris Johnson’s first speech as Prime Minister, he affirmed the UKs commitment to a net zero future. Johnson proclaimed “Our Kingdom in 2050… will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet brought about by carbon emissions,” he said. “Because we will have led the world in delivering that net zero target.”

Steps towards a better future

According to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CATs) Zero Carbon Britain research a modern, zero emissions society is possible using technology available today.

Below we’ve outlined some key initiatives that can help the UK achieve its net zero ambitions:

  • Businesses implementing science-based targets.
  • Improving built environment efficiencies. Upgrading old buildings and ensuring new buildings must meet higher energy efficiency standards.
  • A shift to electric vehicles and the continued battery storage revolution.
  • Decentralised energy. Home and local energy generation.
  • Shift to renewable energy sources.
  • New policy.

The Aldersgate Group issued a green policy manifesto to Boris Johnson on 1 August 2019. They are a politically impartial, multi-stakeholder alliance championing a competitive and environmentally sustainable economy. Members of the group include Friends of the Earth, BT, M&S, Tesco, National Grid and Sky. Their green manifesto focuses on 4 key areas for the government to take decisive action and provide greater policy detail:

  • Delivering a Clean Growth Strategy Plus (CGS+) that matches the ambition of the net zero target. This should consist of a targeted update to the existing Clean Growth Strategy to increase ambition where required (for example on zero emission vehicle roll-out). Plus it should incorporate concrete policies that accelerate private sector investment to decarbonise priority sectors. These include surface transport, buildings and support the competitiveness of industry during this transition.
  • Passing an ambitious Environment Bill that safeguards environmental protections currently enshrined in EU law. They believe it must set ambitious and legally binding targets for environmental improvements in line with the vision of the 25 Year Environment Plan.
  • Implementing the Resources and Waste Strategy, through the introduction of detailed regulatory measures and fiscal incentives that drive greater resource efficiency and cut waste across the economy.
  • Building on the Green Finance Strategy, to rapidly grow private capital flows into the green infrastructure required to deliver the UK’s net zero target and the objectives set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan.

Our view

At EIC we believe new government policy is one of the most important steps needed to turn sentiment into action. Legislation relating to major energy users such as ESOS and SECR are steps in the right direction but they aren’t enough. Without doubt more effective policy is needed, to not only ensure energy and carbon is measured, but also that carbon reduction strategies are developed and implemented across the UK. Too often business cases for energy and carbon reduction are created and filed, never to be signed off.

Net Zero UK

The action will require the UK to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to nothing over the next 30 years. This is a more ambitious target than the previous, which was at least an 80% reduction from 1990 levels.

The decision follows the Net Zero report, by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which was commissioned by the government to reassess the UK’s long-term emissions targets. The report recommended the 2050 net zero target for the UK, while issuing a 2045 target for Scotland and a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 for Wales.

Representatives of the Scottish and Welsh governments have already announced intentions for the nations to aim for these targets, with the Welsh government aiming to go further than the CCC advice; targeting net zero emissions no later than 2050.

Is this achievable?

The report by the Committee on Climate Change states that the net zero target is possible with known technologies, alongside behavioral and societal changes in people’s lives. The organisation has forecast that that the target is also within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when legislating the previous 2050 target under the Paris Agreement.

The report does come with the caveat that net zero is only possible if clear, sensible and well-designed policies to enable reductions in emissions are introduced across the country in a strict timeline. The CCC highlights that current policy would not meet even the previous target.

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