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Energy scheme brings down Government

The Northern Ireland version of the Renewable Heat Incentive has become the first UK energy efficiency scheme to bring down a government.

Political turmoil in Ulster following revelations that the botched scheme may cost taxpayers half a billion pounds more than expected led today to the removal of power from the Northern Ireland Assembly, and its transfer to the NI Office at Westminster.

The move was forced by Deputy NI First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) of Sinn Fein, who quit his role a week ago after failing to pressure First Minister Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party into resigning over the scandal.

Under the Northern Ireland Power Sharing Agreement, Sinn Fein has had 7 days to nominate a replacement for Mr McGuinness, which it has refused to do, meaning that power will now pass to Northern Ireland Minister James Brokenshire, who may try to broker an agreement between the Ulster parties, but must otherwise call fresh elections.

It was Mrs Foster who set up the RHI scheme in Ulster in 2012, to encourage the use of renewables in business premises and public buildings and cut energy consumption, but flaws in its subsidy rate left the scheme open to abuse, since claimants could get more subsidy if they burned more fuel, leading to a massive overspend expected to amount to £490m.

In a scheme subsidising biomass boilers which inevitably became known as ‘cash for ash’, it was claimed by whistleblowers that empty farm buildings were being heated to obtain subsidy, and that reports to officials as long ago as 2013 and 2014 were ignored.

Regulator Ofgem announced on Friday that of the 63 RHI installations inspectors had examined so far they had suspended payments currently being made on half of them, and the NI assembly was expected to hear details today of a plan to ‘mitigate’ the cost of the scheme.

Unlike domestic RHI, assessors are not involved in the commercial version of the scheme, but the RHI ‘scandal’ as it has inevitably become known in Northern Ireland, is the first instance in the UK, and possibly anywhere, of an energy efficiency scheme bringing down a government, and it could affect public attitudes to other schemes that assessors are involved in.

Public statements by both sides in the political crisis have become increasingly acrimonious over the past month as the stakes were raised by all parties. The DUP clearly hoped that a statement to the NI Assembly by First Minister Mrs Foster before Christmas would settle the matter, but instead it exacerbated the problems as all the other parties walked out when she spoke.

Mr McGuinness accused the ruling party of arrogance, and repeatedly demanded Mrs Foster’s resignation, saying that people should be allowed to “make their own judgement on these issues democratically at the ballot box”.

When she repeatedly refused to resign, Mr McGuinness did, though some political opponents suggested that his frail health might be a motivation for his decision.

Mrs Foster (right) said: “At a time when we are dealing with Brexit, needing to create more jobs and investing in our health and education system, Northern Ireland needs stability. But because of Sinn Féin’s selfish reactions, we now have instability.

“This is not an election of our making, but the DUP will always defend unionism and stand up for what is best for Northern Ireland.”

Assembly elections will be held on 2 March 2017.

Source: Energy assessor magazine

No rates on 'green' homes proposal

Tenants moving into energy efficient new homes in Northern Ireland could pay no rates for the first three years under plans currently being consulted on by the Ulster administration.

The plan is part of a series of proposed measures on Northern Ireland rates reform, and if implemented, the measure will be the first instance of a long hoped for link between rates and the energy efficiency of homes.
The proposal has been welcomed by accreditation body Elmhurst Energy which said this is something that they have been campaigning for over the past few years.

The Rates Rethink process was launched in the Northern Ireland Assembly in November by the province’s Finance Director, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Fein (right), who was formerly Lord Mayor of Belfast.
On the energy efficient homes proposal he told assembly members: “I want the domestic rating system to incentivise good behavior.

“I have asked my officials to consider reopening the low-carbon new homes scheme and refashioning it as an energy efficiency incentive by providing an extended domestic rates holiday for the first occupants of new houses that meet the required standard, thus also helping our construction sector. That will need more research into standards and value for money, but that work is under way.”

A consultation has since been launched which will run until 16 February 2017, and can be responded to by letter or email, with addresses on the Consultation link below.

The scheme will only be offered to the first occupants of new build homes in the private sector but it is proposed that eligible homes will be entitled to a three year domestic rates holiday.

Elmhurst has told its members: “We welcome the consultation document issued by Northern Ireland Department of Finance that proposes a domestic rates holiday based upon either the property’s EPC rating or an improvement on the Target Emissions Rate as required by regulations. This is something that Elmhurst Energy have been campaigning for over the past few years.

“We also encourage the Governments of England, Wales and Scotland to consider similar incentives. We do however encourage the Northern Ireland Government to consult with the industry to ensure that opportunities for misuse, as have been reported with the RHI scheme, are minimised.

“We also encourage Northern Ireland to take this opportunity to update their Building Regulations from SAP 2009 to SAP 2012, in common with all the other parts of the UK.”

Full details of the Consultation Paper are at https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/consultations/rates-rethink with addresses for Consultation submissions and a PDF of the Consultation on Part 2 Domestic Rates Reform – Energy Efficient New Homes

Details of the Overall Rates Rethink process can be found at:


The full Ministerial Statement by Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/ni/?id=2016-11-22.2.40&s=c

Source: energy assessor magazine

Minimum energy regs could cost 16bn

As many as one in five business premises could be unlettable in 2018, wiping more than £16bn off the value of the UK’s commercial property portfolio.

Those are amongst the conclusions of a report jointly prepared by property solicitors and arbitrators on the impact of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards legislation, meaning properties for letting require ‘E’ ratings from April 2018.

The research report was published by CO2, a US software company offering commercial real estate improvement analysis software and services, which has a UK base in Glasgow.

It highlights the potential effects of the Minimum Energy standards on rent and capital values by examining the implications of the various related arguments valuers might raise at rent reviews or lease renewals.
The company said: ” The report is unique in that for the first time arbitrators and solicitors have quantified the risk using a realistic building lease case study. It has revealed that the capital value of commercial property could be reduced by up to 10%.

“The UK Government reported that 19% of all commercial property in England & Wales is in danger of not complying with the legislation, which means that an estimated £165.49bn of the UK commercial property market is at risk.

“The research paper has found that the 19% of properties not complying could see the capital value reduced by as much as 10% with the impact on the total UK value estimated to be as much as £16.54bn.

“The news will come as a stark warning to the property industry, as properties affected could become legally uninhabitable or see a significant change in value.”

Maureen Eisbrenner (right), Managing Director of CO2 Estates said, “Landlords and tenants are being forced to reassess the energy performance of buildings because legislation has, for the first time, created a mechanism for monetising energy efficiency.”

She said the research paper highlights the potential for valuers to develop highly polarised arguments in rent negotiations, depending on whether they are appointed by the landlord or tenant.

Ms Eisbrenner explained how the research paper could inform those discussions: “Our detailed case study suggests the possible effect of MEES regulations on value ranges from a sum slightly in excess of the cost of relevant energy efficiency improvements, to one considerably in excess of the cost of relevant energy efficiency improvements.

“Overall this could lead to a reduction of over 10% in the building’s capital value, which in the commercial property world, could well be a significant sum.”

Pauline White, Underwriting Analyst at Zurich said, “I support collaborative research and I will watch with interest to see the outcome the energy legislation will have on the industry.

“It is clear there is a lack of awareness surrounding the MEES legislation. Bilfinger GVA’s ‘Green to Gold’ report highlighted that almost half (43%) of property portfolio managers have not yet assessed their portfolio’s risk in relation to MEES.

“There is no doubt the MEES legislation will have an impact on commercial property portfolios. There will also be added confusion as there are different stances being taken by the Scottish Parliament and Westminster, which will only add complexity. Any research which highlights the need to act now and gives practical guidance on how to prepare for this issue is very welcome.”

The full research paper can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/MEES-report

Source: energy assessor magazine

Building stock research unveils massive efficiency potential

An official survey of the UK’s non-domestic building stock has uncovered significant potential for energy efficiency technologies, which could save owners or tenants as much as £1.3bn each year.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published its Building Energy Efficiency Survey results earlier this week, based on the 2014 to 2015 non-domestic building stock.

The survey found that the total stock in England and Wales, which comprised of more than 1.8 million buildings, consumed a total of 161,060GWh of energy each year. Of that figure, 53 per cent (84,820GWh) was electrical and the rest non-electrical.

Crucially BEIS found that as much as 63,160GWh of that total energy consumption could have been avoided through the adoption of energy efficiency technologies. More than a third of those potential savings could also have been abated through measures with payback periods of three years or less, representing possible bill savings of £1.3bn.

Measures with the greatest potential savings were carbon and energy management systems, lighting replacement and control, and building services instrumentation and control measures which combined represented more than half of the total savings potential.

This tallies with the most common end uses of energy, which included space heating, internal lighting, catering and cooled storage, which were responsible for 70 per cent of energy consumption. Electrical energy was commonly used to power internal lighting, cooled storage and ICT equipment.

But while the potential for efficiency savings was undoubted, a large number of barriers were also identified by those who participated in the survey. Economic barriers were the most prevalent, including restricted access to capital, perceived hidden costs within investments and external risks.

A number of organisational barriers were also referenced. Complex chains of decision making was a barrier mentioned frequently, corresponding with the results of similar surveys which have found that decision making processes have prohibited energy efficiency investments from going ahead in a number of businesses.

Source: Energy assessor magazine

Smart auditing is here to stay

A decision to continue with Smart Auditing following an extended trial with domestic assessors is one of the conclusions from the Government response to proposals to revise Scheme Operating Requirements after a consultation.

The initiative to revise SORs, under which accreditation bodies have to work, was begun by the Department of Communities and Local Government in September 2015, to combat fraud following claims of faked EPCs for ECO by installers’ staff trained as DEAs.

DCLG consulted with assessor organisations and accreditation bodies, and its response to the consultation, published today, is largely in line with the information it received from the energy assessment industry.

On Smart Auditing DCLG said: “85% of respondents were in favour of changing the current approach to quality assurance from random to smart auditing. Many considered that smart auditing would enable schemes to improve the overall reputation of the industry by identifying and removing the worst performing energy assessors.”

They also felt that allowing schemes to target known risk factors such as improbable values, data items that impact on eligibility for grant funding programmes and multiple energy performance certificates entered onto the Register for the same property, would be an improvement on the existing system.

“The proposal would also enable schemes to reduce the number of audits on competent energy assessors, making better use of their resources,” said the Department.

However, DCLG agreed with 70% of respondents that “more data stored on the Energy Performance of Buildings Register should be shared with organisations such as Ofgem and Action Fraud in order to improve Government’s ability to investigate and take appropriate action in cases of suspected fraud.”

Despite continuing with Smart Auditing, DCLG refused to tighten error margins for audit after there was 60% industry support for making no change, and the department also refused to make any change to the situation where assessors are not charged for independent appeals of QA decisions.

DCLG did agree to assessors being given a single accreditation number, to avoid anyone circumventing suspension with another AB under a different number, but did agree that assessors should still be allowed to accredit with multiple ABs.

Also agreed were clearer rules about when accreditation schemes can strike off energy assessors, something which 70% of respondents were in favour of, especially in cases of persistent or serious misconduct or malpractice. Many felt this would help to improve professional standards in the energy assessment industry.

Accreditation bodies have welcomed the Government response to proposals in the consultation.

Andy Parkin, Technical Manager of Stroma Certification said: “Stroma welcomes the SOR Consultation response. DCLG’s response broadly mirrors the feedback that Stroma provided during the consultation period and we look forward to working with DCLG on making these improvements to the SOR.”

Accreditation body Elmhurst Energy has responded to the DCLG response, saying: “We welcome the open approach of Government in attempting to make improvement to the current systems and processes.

“We agree with all the results of the responses, in fact we at Elmhurst noted that in all questions we sided with the majority of the decisions in all responses to the consultation.

“We at Elmhurst believe that the outcome of this consultation and the changes to the processes will deliver better quality EPCs and a more professional industry that is good for us all.

“We welcome the opportunity to contribute, and we hope that our members see the benefit of these improvements suggested. We will work with Government and the industry to ensure that EPCs are valued and built upon.”

DCLG said: “The Government will now work with industry and Landmark, the operator of the Energy Performance of Buildings Register, to implement those measures that we are minded to take forward following this consultation. We will also revise all of the documentation relating to the Scheme Operating Requirements to take on board the changes.”

For full details of DCLG’s Consultation Response go to:


To see Elmhurst’s original Response to the Consultation go to:


Source: energy assessor magazine

Bonfield review appears

Accreditation bodies have welcomed the publication on Friday (16 Dec) of the long-awaited Bonfield Review, and its emphasis on the importance of EPCs, but Elmhurst Energy said it was disappointed with some of the report’s omissions.

Elmhurst said the report avoids a detailed analysis of why Green Deal was not well received by consumers, the findings of which may have better informed the industry and government on how to tackle fuel poverty, poor energy efficiency in the UK housing stock and climate change targets.

However assessors now have an opportunity to give feedback on the report before action is taken on any of its recommendations.

The report was commissioned from BRE Group Chief Executive Peter Bonfield (right) in 2015, and as late as December of that year we were confidently being assured that it would be out by the end of March of this year.

The long delay before publication has tended to suggest that the Government may also have had reservations about the report, which we were told would be called Every Home Matters, but finally came out under the name Each Home Counts.

Despite having the scope of reviewing ‘Consumer Advice, Protection, Standards and Enforcement for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’, the report instead focuses on improving the quality of installation and providing consumers with better advice.

The report recommends the need for a ‘quality mark’ for the domestic retrofit sector, with a new ‘Code of Conduct’; ‘Codes of Practice’ and a ‘Consumer Charter’.

Elmhurst Managing Director Martyn Reed (left) said: “We commend the Bonfield team on a well presented report, and it was particularly pleasing that Energy Performance Certificates are seen as the start point for energy efficiency measures and at the core of a new ‘data warehouse’.

“Unfortunately there is no analysis of the low take up of Green Deal plans and it is unclear why the new proposition would be more attractive. However, an expectation that  ‘new private investors’ will be entering the market could be exciting.

“There is also no indication as to whether the role of Green Deal Advisors and Assessors will change in the future, but it is reassuring that assessments are to remain as an important tool. We look forward to working with BRE and the implementation team to help make this scheme a success.”

Andy Parkin, Technical Manager of Stroma Certification said: “Stroma welcomes the publishing of the Bonfield Review following the earlier delay to its release.

“We will be fully reviewing the content of the report as a business over the Christmas period and will issue a full comment and response to members and customers in the new year.”

The report sets out the recommendations from the review chaired by Peter Bonfield, with ‘workstreams’ led by industry representatives from across the sector.

It makes a number of key recommendations, and BEIS said in the next stage, industry will develop detailed plans to implement “the vision set out in the report”.

As part of the initial stage of planning, the Review Team invites feedback on the review recommendations and related proposals for action.  Feedback can be sent to EachHomeCountsReport@beis.gov.uk until 31 January 2017.

BEIS said: “Feedback provided will then be considered in the context of implementation going forward.”

To read the full report go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/each-home-counts-review-of-consumer-advice-protection-standards-and-enforcement-for-energy-efficiency-and-renewable-energy

Source: energy assessor magazine

Community-led renewable energy production on the rise in Scotland

More communities are producing their own renewable energy, with a 17 per cent increase in nine months, according to a new report.

Scotland had 595MW of community and locally-owned renewable capacity in June this year, which is enough to power about 300,000 homes, the research found.

The amount of power was a 17 per cent increase on the operational capacity in the last report in September 2015, when the operating capacity was estimated at 508MW.

As in previous years, the largest proportion of operational community and locally-owned capacity was on Scottish farms and estates, which produced 41 per cent (244MW), followed by local authorities, which made 18 per cent (108MW).

The Energy Saving Trust report discovered that there are 15,570 locally and community-owned renewables sites in Scotland at present, though more wish to pursue projects.

The two largest power sources of which are already in place continue to be onshore wind (273MW) and biomass (162MW).

Paul Wheelhouse, Business, Innovation and Energy Minister, claims that Scotland has exceeded its 2020 target of achieving 500MW in community and local ownership and now pledge to double the figure to 1GW in the same timeframe.

“Putting this in context, 1GW would be enough electricity to power half a million homes in Scotland. Locally-owned renewables have the potential to help drive social, economic and environmental change in communities across Scotland,” he said.

“These projects frequently generate funds that can be spent at local people’s discretion on a wide range of projects that reflect local communities’ priorities, as well as playing an important role in our energy mix and helping us to meet our vital climate-change obligations.”

Mr Wheelhouse said the Scottish Government will publish a draft of its energy strategy early this year, which will form its strategic response to the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

It will also set out the Scottish Government’s long-term vision for energy in Scotland up to 2050 as well as informing and supporting the climate change plan to meet its annual, statutory greenhouse gas emission targets between 2016 and 2032.

The report found that solar has seen the largest increase in capacity, which has more than doubled between September 2015 and June 2016, which is due, in part, to councils and housing associations installing solar PV cells in their buildings.

Alister Steele, managing director of Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association, commented: “Investment in solar panels is an integral part of our strategy to improve the energy efficiency of our homes and tackle fuel poverty whilst contributing to national targets for carbon reduction.”

Source: energyzine

Continuation of energy efficiency fund gives Northern Ireland boost

Firms in Northern Ireland that want to purchase energy efficient equipment to cut costs and reduce the environmental impact of commercial energy consumption can continue to access Invest Northern Ireland’s 0% APR Energy Efficiency Loan Fund for at least two more years.

Following an independent review of the scheme’s success over the past 13 years and a competitive tender, the Carbon Trust has been awarded a new contract by Invest NI to extend the loans scheme.

Loans are provided to support businesses that are looking to replace their out of date and inefficient equipment, or that want to invest in renewables.

“Staying competitive in an increasingly challenging market is going to become a bigger priority for businesses in Northern Ireland. With our help, there are costs businesses can reduce without impacting their productivity”, according to Abigail Hermon, Head of Loans at the Carbon Trust.

Businesses in Northern Ireland can borrow between £3,000 and £400,000 to fund their project, at zero interest. Loans are designed so that in most cases the monthly savings on energy bills should exceed the monthly repayments, with the repayment term being between one and four years.

One business that has benefitted from an energy efficiency loan was Beverage Plastics in Craigavon. The company was able to install a new injection moulding machine, which saved them 55 per cent on their energy bills in just six months and will create an estimated reduction in carbon emissions of 700 tonnes a year.

Source: Energyzine

Investors could slash energy use by a third with £2.56bn injection

British manufacturers could inject £2.56bn into the UK economy and cut energy consumption by nearly a third over the next decade by investing in clean technologies and efficiency measures, according to research from British multinational bank Barclays.

The bank claims that if all manufacturers worked to be as energy efficient as current sector leaders, this could create an industry worth £160bn to the wider economy by 2025.

Economic modelling from the financial group shows that greater investment in energy efficiency and clean technologies could result in significantly higher levels of profitability and value added by the UK manufacturing over the medium and longer term.

According to Barclays, the increased investment represents a significant opportunity for UK manufacturing to enhance its international competitiveness through better export performance and protection against low-cost imports.

The Barclays Corporate Banking Powering On report also examines current attitudes of UK manufacturers towards energy supply and management and models how manufacturers could reduce their energy demand.

A survey of 525 managers in the UK manufacturing industry conducted late last year reveals UK manufacturers consider energy resilience as ‘critical’ to the sectors maintaining international competition.

The research also demonstrates that availability, reliability and energy costs are among high concerns for businesses, with 27 per cent of manufacturers surveyed suggesting that energy supply is a higher concern to businesses compared to beginning of 2016.

Barclays head of manufacturing, transport and logistics Mike Rigby believes that energy resilience and costs are vital considerations for UK manufacturers and are a critical element of our manufacturing sector’s ability to compete internationally.

“In recent months, attention has focused on the future of energy supply but we need to look at all aspects of energy. By considering energy management on the demand side in intensive sectors such as manufacturing, we can ensure the UK remains competitive,” he said.

Source: Energzine

New homes fuel bills cut by half

A new home built to the latest building regulations can cost half as much to heat as a Victorian house of the same size, according to a report published yesterday by the NHBC Foundation, the research arm of construction standards body the National House Building Council.

‘The advantages of new homes’ was based on a survey of 2,000 people who had recently moved into a new home and were asked what they considered the advantages of new homes to be.

Many of the people surveyed pointed to the energy efficiency benefits of new homes, with the better standards of insulation, enhanced draught-proofing, and improved ‘airtightness’ which can help to lower household annual energy bills and improve levels of comfort.

The report said that energy bills were expected to be around £440 lower in a modern one-bedroom ground floor flat compared to its Victorian equivalent, and for a new build four-bedroom detached house bills were estimated at £1,050, saving £1,400 compared to those of a nineteenth century house.

Homeowners of newer properties were also drawn to the idea of buying a ‘blank-canvas’ ready to be personalised, free from the nasty surprises of previous owners’ DIY, and they also commented positively on the contemporary, flexible layouts and modern facilities of new homes, such as new kitchens, bathrooms and appliances, covered by manufacturers’ warranties.

The report outlines the safety advantages of new homes raised by some respondents, such as mains-powered smoke alarms, interlinked throughout the home, which are standard, and the benefits of safety glazing, safer stairs and the additional security features.

But the report added that the advantages of new homes extend beyond the front door and many of the new homeowners surveyed considered that moving to a new development of like-minded people was also an attraction, allowing the opportunity to make new friends and neighbours in a new community.

Neil Smith (left), Head of Research & Innovation at NHBC, said: “It is pleasing that homeowners are able to identify the many benefits of new homes, ranging from the obvious advantages of a ‘blank canvas’ with everything being new, through to the much-improved energy efficiency standards, which lead to greatly-reduced fuel bills, compared with those of older homes.

“Maybe less obvious are the more solid foundations on which new homes are built, which are designed to suit local ground conditions, as well as the safety advantages of modern wiring and mains-powered smoke alarms, interlinked throughout the home.

“This report is a useful reminder of the benefits of buying a new home, designed and built in accordance with up-to-date standards. What’s more, an important advantage frequently raised in the survey is the peace of mind provided by NHBC’s warranty and insurance protection under Buildmark, from exchange of contracts through to a maximum of 10 years after completion.”

To download the report go to https://www.nhbcfoundation.org/publication/the-advantages-of-new-homes/

Source: Energy assessor magazine

EU Commission prioritises efficiency in new energy plan

The European Commission has published a new 1,000-page strategy, intended to deliver “A Clean Energy Package for Europeans”. Launching it, Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete (right) began by deliberately insisting: ”Let me start with energy efficiency first.”

He continued: “I am particularly proud that we are proposing a binding 30 per cent energy efficiency target for 2030, up from the current indicative target of at least 27 per cent”. During earlier negotiations, the UK government had insisted both on the lower target, and that it was not legally binding (see EiBI Nov 2014).

Many other governments – including Germany, Denmark and France – had always sought a more ambitious and legally enforceable target, including designated national contributions towards the total. While the UK intends to be “fully involved” with negotiations, those in the other 27 member countries are confident that – once having begun the Brexit process this March – its ability to influence others to follow its more timid approach will be very limited.

The European Parliament had voted to instruct the Commission to examine the likely impact of a 40 per cent reduction target between 1995 and 2030. Significantly the formal impact assessment has demonstrated clearly that in terms of making an impact a 40 per cent reduction target would be significantly more effective.

The Brussels-based Coalition for Energy Savings said: “Every additional 1 per cent of energy savings could be taking 7m people out of fuel poverty, securing 500,000 local jobs.”

Although six of the eight dossiers in the package cover energy production, Cañete’s declared “priority” has been taken up by the European Council, representing national governments. Malta, which assumed the Council of Ministers’ six-month presidency this month, is fast-tracking the Commission’s proposals to strengthen two existing directives concerning energy saving. These are the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and the Energy Efficiency Directive.

The present timetable projects agreement upon the new texts by the end of 2017. At this point, the UK will still be a formal member of the European Union. Consequently even when Brexit is completed, it should be the more ambitious texts and national objectives that will be automatically transferred into UK law – at least, initially.

Source: energyzine

Cornwall look to pioneer more renewable projects

Cornwall Council’s ambitious green plans are continuing with a new series of projects that have been developed over the last four years.

The council has worked with various partners to make the most of the area’s natural resources, as an abundance of wind and sun mean Cornwall is ideally suited to generating clean energy.

Nearly a third of the power used to light its homes and run its businesses already comes from green energy, with around a quarter of this being owned by individuals such as farmers, businesses and households, while the council now has plans to make Cornwall even more sustainable and independent by developing energy storage technology in the area and spending £25m on creating a local energy market for residents and businesses.

Cornwall Council has recently taken ownership of Wave Hub, an offshore tidal energy test centre. It will be used to develop the first commercial-scale wave array off the Cornish coast and there are also plans to develop a Cornish geothermal industry.

Julian German, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Culture, believes Cornwall has long been a pioneer in low carbon energy.

“25 years ago we were at the forefront of the emergence of commercial wind energy.  With funding available to support deep geothermal and control over the world’s foremost wave energy testing device, Wave Hub, Cornwall remains firmly at the forefront of clean energy innovation,” he said.

Source: energyzine

UK showing no commitment to making buildings less wasteful

The UK may have signed up for the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive but that’s as far as our commitment goes. As a result UK buildings are as wasteful as ever.

It is now eighteen years since I was invited by the business directorate (DG Enterprise) of the European Commission to chair an inquiry into “Sustainable construction and energy efficiency.” My (large) committee consisted of national civil servants, professionals from the construction sector, and EC officials.

We published our unanimous recommendations in 2001. And effectively they became the core of the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. It became a law agreed by the national governments and the European Parliament within a breathtaking eleven months. The text was “strengthened” in 2010. Last month, as agreed under its Article 19, the directive was formally reviewed again by the EC with national governments.

The timetable to increase its effectiveness further is set for completion by 2019. That is the year during which the present UK Government has announced it intends to complete formal negotiations to withdraw from membership of the European Union. So theoretically this revision process is of marginal interest to UK citizens?

Well, no, not quite. For a start it is accepted that at least initially all European directives will remain in force in the UK. It will then theoretically be a case of establishing which directives are deemed still to be useful. With those considered otiose subsequently abandoned.

It is therefore still very pertinent to consider precisely what the present requirements of the EPBD are. And whether or not we in the UK are actually making the best use of – or even bothering to implement – what currently is the law of the land.

Essentially, the provisions of the Directive cover the efficiency of energy used for space and hot water heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting. This is in new and existing residential and non-residential buildings.

Article 9 sets a deadline for all new buildings to be “nearly zero-energy buildings” by 2020; this includes all existing buildings undergoing major renovation.

Such deadlines are set to be achieved in each of the devolved nations. But to the palpable fury of Lord Deben, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, in 2015 all such requirements were – without prior warning or discussion – abandoned in England by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. Current building codes remain nowhere near zero-carbon.

So, there is one obvious example of non-compliance. I fear there are rather too many others.

Article 4 requires each government to provide an official comparative methodology to calculate cost-optimal levels for setting minimum standards of energy performance. For existing buildings, Article 7 states that these minimum energy performance requirements must apply whenever a major renovation is carried out, whatever the building size. It is dubious whether the final (2013) round of Building Regulations changes seriously delivers any of this.

Under Article 10, the Government must publish and publicise, every three years beginning June 2011, all financial incentives available nationally to stimulate the take–up of such measures. Given the dearth of such publicly funded carrots, the latest list (due this June) may be of distinctly limited value.

Then there are Display Energy Certificates (DECs). Under Article 13, every single public building over 250m2 must display “in a prominent position” its energy rating. Despite this, in 2014 the Government issued a public consultation proposing to abolish the need for DECs. This led to massive protests from energy professionals, pointing out how much public money the scheme was demonstrably saving. But here we are in 2017, and the relevant Department, Communities & Local Government, has yet to announce formally any conclusions to this consultation.

Meanwhile, it has become clear that few if any of the 50,000 relevant buildings are now bothering to acquire an up-to-date DEC, let alone display it. And even fewer Trading Standards Departments are bothering to check upon compliance.

Article 13 also requires every single private sector building over 500m2 “frequently visited by the public” to display its energy rating. The UK Government has taken absolutely no steps to date to require this. Despite some valiant attempts by charities like the National Energy Foundation to promote voluntary compliance, involvement even by the ostensibly most eco-aware of companies has been at best sporadic.

Article 16 requires regular inspection of heating and air-conditioning systems. While even by 2011 the UK had developed standard report provisions for air conditioning, there has been precious little take-up. And while the private rented sector has long required annual gas heating safety inspections, these still pay negligible attention to energy efficiency.

Article 11 and 12 concern the issuing, and publicising, of Energy Performance Certificates. For property purchases, EPCs are (mostly) now issued. Tenants get a far worse deal: only 1 in 4 newly rented homes, and 1 in 2 leased commercial properties, have an extant EPC – even one ten years old.

In short, we in the UK are lamentably failing to implement even the existing directive that we long since signed up to. Article 27 requires our government to introduce “effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties” for non-compliance with the directive. These don’t exist. Instead, failure to implement the EPBD purposefully means that all of us are paying the penalty of excess fuel bills, as we continue to occupy unnecessarily wasteful buildings.

Source: energyzine

People power is crucial to energy savings in businesses

An organisation’s most valuable asset is its people. But too many are ignoring the power staff have to contribute to energy saving. Dr Phillipa Coan explained to EiBI how that can change.

“Any approach to energy management relies on three key things,” says Dr Phillipa Coan. “People, technology and data. There is just one problem. The people aspect is just not on the radar.”

Dr Coan is one of a new breed of business psychologist turning their skills towards energy management to try to turn make companies think about how their workforce can be a cost-effective weapon against energy waste. “Often many companies opt for the technology first, see it hasn’t worked, and then look for an alternative,” says Dr Coan.

The key to success is an effective blending of the technology with the psychology, believes Dr Coan. “No one discipline has the answer. That’s where the barriers exist towards progress in energy management. There has got to be a marriage.”

Her newly formed company, STRIDE, reflects this philosophy. She has teamed up with one of the UK’s most respected consultants, John Mulholland, to bring together his technical knowledge with the emerging demand for behaviour change solutions. “Getting the staff involved should be the first port of call,” says Dr Coan. “If you have an engaged workforce then when you introduce technology you are going to have more of an impact because people know why it is there and they are going to embrace it.”

One of the first obstacles to overcome is that energy managers are very used to technology and buying things to solve a problem, believes Dr Coan. “If I’m having conversations with energy managers then they must be interested. But they have so many things going on and so many other responsibilities that trying something new seems like a mountain to climb. This is where I have to communicate that the benefits of behaviour change might make their lives easier. If they have tried lots of things there might be a gaping hole that they are not facing. Without tackling the behavioural side you are leaving that gaping hole.”

But many energy managers would say ‘we’ve tackled behaviour change in our organisation. We don’t need to do any more.’ They might have scratched the surface, believes Dr Coan, but not gone deep into the science. “Organisations will often target for energy saving that’s typical for the workspace. They they’ll introduce some interventions based on something that has been seen to work for other people. This often centres on giving out information to employees, putting up some posters, and appointing energy champions.”

But there is a fundamental flaw in this approach. “This is an off-the-shelf solution with no attempt made to gather the information needed to understand what behaviour you are trying to change,” says Dr Coan. “Nobody has spoken to the staff to find out what motivates them and what their drivers might be. What behaviour do employees have the most control over? There is no point targeting a behaviour that people can’t influence such as a BEMS. What measures are measurable?”

Dr Coan also believes that the context of the target audience must also be examined, especially their capabilities. “Do they have the skills or do they have skills that can be brought from home?”

Of top importance is to determine what is the motivation of the workforce. “Your motivation might be because its inherently enjoyable or part of what you value,” says Dr Coan. “Or there might be external consequences so you might want a reward or avoid a sanction. Alternatively, it might just make you feel good about yourself.”

A common mistake is the belief that financial incentives will work. “But what happens is that it works in the short term but reduces intrinsic motivation over time. If the supply of money suddenly stops then so does the behaviour.”

Dr Coan finds that non-financial rewards such as simple praise can be just as valuable. “I recently visited a brick factory where the energy manager had been instrumental in introducing a new piece of equipment that made the whole process more efficient and saved the company a lot of money. He never got any recognition and as a result he decided not to bother. All he wanted was a letter from management to say thank you.”

Another of the key challenges is how to embed the change. Dr Coan doesn’t ant to be a consultant that goers into a company and then disappears and hopes for the best. It’s about going in and the organisation recognising that they have the solution. They have to want to change. They need to come up with the solutions, feel responsible and feel empowered. I can keep facilitating from a distance.”

It’s also crucial that a behaviour change programme fits with the overall corporate strategy, says Dr Coan. “An oil and gas company I worked with had a policy that involved people being paid bonuses if they actually owned a second car. This is a clear example of different messages being sent in the same organisation. As an energy manager you need to feel that the organisation id all linked up. It can be so demotivating.”

There s a real shift towards accepting behaviour change as a key element of any energy management strategy, believes Dr Coan. “There is so much potential out there. People are now grasping the concept that it makes good business sense to be on top of energy. People want to be proud to be part of the company they work for and an engaged workforce working towards a common goal is something we can all be proud of.”

Source: energyzine

UK building stock could save £1.3bn per year through efficiency

The UK’s commercial building stock has the potential to save £1.3bn per year by implementing energy efficiency measures with a payback of less than three years, a new Government report into building stock in 2014/15 has found.

The projected figures, part of the ‘Building Energy Efficiency Survey 2014/15’ from the recently formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), equate to a 39 per cent reduction from current energy consumption.

The measures with the largest potential savings are carbon and energy management, lighting replacement and control and building services instrumentation and control measures, which if put together represent 55 per cent of the total abatement potential.

The paper identifies that the most commonly perceived barriers to energy efficiency are economic, including such reasons as low capital availability, investment costs and a lack of potential profit.

Complex decision chains within companies, identifying and eliminating inefficiencies, lack of interest in energy efficiency and inertia have been cited as other barriers according to the report.

The largest sector in terms of energy consumption was offices, which consumed 27,620 GWh/year, equating to 17 per cent of the total energy usage for non-domestic buildings. Retail, industrial, health and hospitality sectors accounted for 17, 16 and 11 per cent of non-domestic energy consumption respectively.

Out of the places studied, 56 per cent of energy was used in premises where respondents indicated that they “actively seek new ways to reduce energy use,” 34 per cent was used in locations where people “try to reduce energy use where possible, but it’s not a priority” and the remainder was used in premises where respondents “have not considered ways to reduce energy use.”

Colin Lawson, Head of Sales, Marketing and Product Development at Tamlite Lighting, believes that by publishing the report, BEIS is tacitly signaling potential for future policy.

“We can’t be sure, but when Government invests in research, it is often as a precursor to policy interventions to enable necessary change. So it’s likely that further measures to encourage UK firms to deliver energy efficiency, similar to the ESOS scheme, are on the way,” he said.

“That means it’s in your interests to futureproof your lighting estate now, and then you’ll be well placed to benefit from tomorrow’s policy and today’s cash savings from cheaper energy bills too. Plus, of course, the advantages of modern, wonderfully lit buildings.”

The price of gas for non-domestic customers fell slightly between Q2 and Q3 last year, while electricity experienced an increase. The average cost per kW/h for electricity was 10.39 pence while gas was 2.37 pence.

Gary Stoddart, technical sales director at Remeha CHP, emphasises how energy costs are often one of the main overheads for any business, large or small, while also explaining the benefits of Combined Heat and Power (CHP).

“According to the Carbon Trust, firms are wasting on average 20 per cent of their annual spend through energy inefficient equipment3, so it’s no surprise businesses are concerned about recent price rises,” he said.

“By using a CHP system, businesses can produce electricity at gas prices, which is cheaper than buying it directly from the grid as electricity is approximately 8 pence more expensive per kW/h. Also, in comparison to purchasing from the grid, CHP electricity doesn’t suffer losses resulting from moving power over large distances, resulting in a more efficient process.”

“By generating heat and power simultaneously CHP can reduce carbon emissions by up to 30 per cent compared to conventional methods. At the same time, where the ‘waste’ heat from the generation process is lost at gas power stations, the heat generated by CHP can be reused in the heating/hot water systems. This is especially effective when CHP is designated as the lead heat source.

“The advantages of CHP are clear, particularly for energy-intensive buildings such as hospitals. Indeed, a recent report by the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) found that implementing CHP could save the NHS around £26.4m per year. And if the spark gap continues to widen as it has in recent years, this case will only grow stronger.”

Source: energyzine

Global efficiency investment tops $220bn a year

Global investment in energy efficiency is now worth $221bn annually. This is two-thirds greater than investment levels in conventional power generation, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2016 annual market report on energy efficiency.

In an upbeat summary of worldwide trends, the Paris-based agency records a very positive picture for energy saving, even at a time when international fuel prices-driven by oil- have been falling dramatically. “Energy efficiency is the only energy resource possessed by all countries,” it says.

In his foreword, IEA director, Fatih Birol, stresses “all of the core imperatives of energy policy -reducing bills, decarbonisation, air pollution, energy security, and access to fuel- are made more attainable if led by strong energy efficiency policy

The IEA states that “public policy has been the key driver of efficiency improvements.” In particular, the Agency stresses the progress made via the adoption of purposeful codes and standards, whether for buildings or for products. Even so, universal adoption of even average standards could up efficiency levels by 30 per cent. Following best practice could increase effectiveness by between 50 and 60 per cent.

Birol adds: “Despite lower energy prices, progress is being made, but not fast enough.” He stresses that ”strong, well-designed policy can mitigate the threat” of limited price signals.

Total oil consumption from national minimum vehicle fuel economy standards on light-duty vehicles is 2.3m barrels per day -equivalent to 2.5 per cent of global oil supply – or the entire oil production of Brazil. There are no such minimum standards operational in the UK.

In Europe as a whole, the IEA estimate that every person is saving around $600 each year as a result of regulations designed to save energy. These include national building regulations, as well as the A to G eco-design directive standards for products agreed within the European Union, but likely to come to an end in the UK post-Brexit.

The market for energy services is currently worth $24bn. This market is dominated by China and the USA. In contrast Europe’s market share is only 11 per cent, worth just $2.7bn, and has not increased for several years.

Birol concludes: “There is no realistic, or affordable, energy development strategy that is not led by energy efficiency. For the IEA, it is the first fuel.”

Source: energyzine

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