In a post-truth world, facts are confusing. Let's clear some things up:
By increasing clean renewable energy and decreasing wasted energy around London we can ‘do our bit’ to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions causing damage across the globe.
The Paris Agreement has been signed by every country in the world – with the EU countries signing collectively. Although the USA has announced that it would “cease all participation” their earliest possible effective withdrawal date is 4th Nov 2020 – the day after the next Presidential election! Essentially it binds governments into reducing greenhouse gases, and community energy people want this to be as effective and as accelerated as possible.
Biggest source of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions is Energy
Tackling Energy, as the largest source of GHG – and CO2 in particular – is urgent. It can be seen here that some of the other sources also pose considerable risks from their emissions, but Londoners have less influence on Agriculture and Industry.
The IPCC AR5 Synthesis report for 2010 (p7)
The Ongoing Decline in the Planet’s Health
The Nasa Climate Time Machine tracks the changes over time of Global Temperature, Carbon Dioxide, Sea Levels and Sea Ice and shows the steady and frightening decline underway that is spurring people into action.
But despite the promises countries have signed up to more money continues to subsidise fossil fuel business than low carbon businesses. According to Bloomberg Markets in July 2017 “Financing for oil, gas and coal projects from G20 public finance institutions and multilateral development banks averaged $71.8 billion per year between 2013 and 2015, according to a report released by Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth U.S., the Sierra Club and WWF European Policy Office. That compares with $18.7 billion annually provided to support clean energy.
By being aware of the damage that is being done to the planet, Londoners are better placed to lobby for action and to step up the contribution that London can make to minimise greenhouse gases.
While the Government has frequently changed strategies and policies, Community Energy Groups have been trying to accelerate carbon reduction and to do all they can to increase renewables and to combat local fuel poverty. Community Energy England reports on their success in ‘State of the Sector’ July 2017. For instance: “ 222 community energy organisations throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland…..•.. organisations own 121 MW of energy capacity, which has generated 265 GWh of energy since 2002. A further 74 organisations are actively providing energy efficiency interventions in their communities. • …. organisations have leveraged over £190m in project finance from £1.9m of project development funding. • ….. £680,000 income for community benefit funds has been generated in the last 12 months for local economic, social and environmental benefit.”
The UK’s part in the international agreements
At the UK level, the Government says that it fully supports the Paris Agreement. Although the UK ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’(NDC) lodged at the UN is the combined submission for all the 28 EU countries, the UK is a ‘Party’ in its own right, so should be ready to lodge its own NDC before it leaves the EU. The combined EU contribution commits the EU to an:
“At least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from a 1990 base year.”
UK Legislation and Progress
To achieve its Greenhouse Gas emissions reductions the UK is committed under the Climate Change Act 2008 that
“commits the UK to reducing emissions by at least 80% in 2050 from 1990 levels“.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is the independent, statutory body that advises the UK Government on abiding by the Climate Change Act by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the effects of climate change. The CCC prepares ‘budgets’ – targets of reductions of GHG and adaptations to a more tumultuous Climate. These budgets are approved by Parliament but the Government decides on the policies they think will be effective and appropriate.
Progress towards meeting the CCC targets
The Committee on Climate Change in ‘Reducing Emissions and Preparing for Climate Change’ ( June 2017) reported that UK policies were heading for a shortfall and that we won’t meet the budgets without more ambitious actions.
The CCC report includes: “The plan must……….. cover each sector of the economy including plans to bring forward about 80-100 TWh more low-carbon generation by 2030, accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, provide a path for the uptake of low-carbon heat alongside energy efficiency….” (p14)
Low-carbon generation baseline up to July 2017
MyGrid tracks the amount of each source of electricity and publishes summaries, including the chart below where electricity from Solar was just 3.5%. (click on the mygridgb dashboard to see the fuel mix at this moment)
Low carbon sources in this report come to 106.8TWh, and excluding low carbon non renewable nuclear, and including biomass there were 84.1TWh of renewables by end July 2017.
So the CCC is effectively asking for low carbon to not quite double between 2017 and 2030, leaving it to the Government to plan for enough capacity and reduced carbon intensity. The Government also publishes regular data as to the fuel mix for electricity (p8).
Solar PV has a lead role in combatting Climate Change because it only emits 54g/CO2kWh compared with Gas at 369g/CO2kWh and a whopping 837g/ CO2kWh from Coal. (figures are carbon intensity from Ecotricity.) The good news is that the carbon intensity of UK electricity is steadily reducing, largely by using coal as a last resort, and also due to a big increase in ‘renewables’ (note including biomass).
Upgrading the Grid for more renewables
The National Grid balances the supply minute by minute from all fuel sources against demand and District Network Operators (DNOs) handle the local end. As more and more electricity is generated from consumers the local and national grid will need to adapt to the two way flow. And increases will be needed to storage to handle the different patterns of the low carbon solar and wind.
Smart power: A National Infrastructure Commission Report in March 2016 (p6) shows the expectation of the Grid evolving to be two way.
The central finding was that “smart power – principally built around three innovations, interconnection, storage, and demand flexibility – could save consumers up to £8 billion a year by 2030, help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets, and secure the UK’s energy supply for generations.”
The National Grid published its Future Energy Scenarios in July 2017, investigating the changes to the grid discussed above.
The National Grid models 4 scenarios, ranging from one where everyone does all they can to minimise carbon emissions to one where everyone consumes regardless of the cost or environmental impact of purchases and high home heat use.
Effect of move from petrol/diesel to Electric Cars
The Committee on Climate Change (p21) recommends: “Policies to deliver a high uptake of electric vehicles, of around 60% of new car and van sales by 2030, including: time-limited financial support, preferential tax rates and effective roll-out of charging infrastructure.”
As vehicles transition from petrol and diesel to electric fuel, to combat Air Pollution, electricity demand could rise by 40-45 TWh per year (Carbon Brief July 2017). To avoid delaying the retirement of coal stations and old Nuclear power stations it is crucial that it comes from additional low carbon (renewable) sources.
And Greenpeace (Feb 2017) is confident that only a small percentage of roof/land coverage would be needed to power every home with Solar PV to provide this “we’d need to devote about 0.34% (or 0.3%, if rounded to one decimal place) of total UK land to match the power used by homes in a single year.” See the Greenpeace video demonstrating this https://www.facebook.com/greenpeaceuk/videos/10153687631229229/
Fortunately this increase in electric vehicles will bring the significant added benefit that the vehicle batteries can store surplus locally generated electricity cheaply and use it (or sell it to the grid) later.
Funding Sources include Community Fund Raising
Changes in energy policies and schemes over the last few years are often accompanied by reference to the cost of providing new capacity and infrastructure.
All the while we are missing our Climate Change Act targets, yet there are mixed messages, particularly as to who will pay for the new sources of energy and grid upgrades. The narrative has been that ‘green taxes’ are the cause of high electricity bills for hard working families and provide no value. Some other sources of fuel are costing UK people much more and little mention is made of the imperitive to upgrade the Grid, or that once renewable energy systems are installed, they have very stable, low costs, with less need to hike prices. Investment in new capacity has to be funded by:
- The Tax Payer pays to subsidise oil and nuclear. ” The Overseas Development Agency and Oil Change International report lists the ways in which the UK subsidises exploration, production, decommissioning and clear up of fossil fuel industries through tax breaks and favourable financing. And the Independent reported on 11th Aug 2017 that the UK subsidises fossil fuels overseas by £2.9bn compared with only £1.3bn on renewables.
Nuclear News confirmed in July 2017 that the UK Government is guaranteeing that the plant will get £92.50 per MWh for for its first 35 years of operation. (ie the tax payer pays the difference if wholesale prices are less)The Keep FITS orgcompares Nuclear subsidies against Solar subsidies. “The cost to get Nuclear to subsidy free status per bill payer is £14 a year more for 35years and for Solar £1 a year more for 20 years.”
2.Every Electricity Bill Payer pays a sum for Climate Change measures including ‘keeping the lights on’ (with standby fossil fuel sources), assisting low income households with fuel bills and energy efficiency as well as investing in new renewable power sources eg Feed In Tariffs. Carbon Brief Oct 2013 details the elements and The Guardian in Dec 2014 reported that “Consumers will need to stump an extra £1bn a year in 2018 to encourage power stations to stay open and keep the lights on, the government confirmed on Friday…….68% of the capacity is to be provided by existing power stations and only 5% by new build.”.
3 Financial Institutions and Business invest in large scale infrastructure works eg EDF and Chinese Government are investing in Hinkley Point for more Nuclear Electricity.
4. Citizen Investors invest in low carbon projects, by investing in renewable electricity on their own properties, by investing in ‘green financial products’ or as part of crowd funding for community projects.
So Community Energy Groups can have a significant impact on raising (non tax payer) funds to increase the UK’s renewable capacity.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has the statutory duty under the Greater London Authority Act 2007 to contribute towards the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, and each London Borough is charged with including CO2 targets in their plans.
Before he was elected in 2016 Sadiq Khan made election promises in his manifesto ‘A Greener Cleaner London for CO2 reductions. These included:
“My plan to revive London’s clean energy sector includes committing London to an ambitious target of becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050. I will:
– Establish Energy for Londoners, a not-for-profit company providing a comprehensive range of energy services to help Londoners generate more low-carbon energy and increase their energy efficiency, support local and community energy enterprises, and buy clean energy generated across the city, using it to power GLA and TfL facilities.
– Make the most of the city’s roofs, public buildings and land owned by TfL for energy generation by producing a solar energy strategy.”
London Plan Policies
Policies that he took over in April 2016 from the previous administration relating to energy include:
London Plan climate change: Policy 5.1“The Mayor seeks to achieve an overall reduction in London’s carbon dioxide emissions of 60 per cent (below 1990 levels) by 2025. “
London Plan towards ‘Zero Carbon’ Policy 5.2 “These targets are expressed as minimum improvements over the Target Emission Rate (TER) outlined in the national Building Regulations leading to zero carbon residential buildings from 2016 and zero carbon non-domestic buildings from 2019.”
“The carbon dioxide reduction targets should be met on-site. Where it is clearly demonstrated that the specific targets cannot be fully achieved on-site, any shortfall may be provided off-site or through a cash in lieu contribution to the relevant borough to be ring fenced to secure delivery of carbon dioxide savings elsewhere. “
The cash in lieu referred to here are Carbon Offset Funds (COF) and The Review of Carbon Offsetting Approaches in London (NEF June 2016) reported on the progress of Local Authorities in collecting these and what they would do with the money. “22 out of 35 London Planning Authorities (LPAs), i.e. 61%, currently were applying carbon offsetting payments There was wide difference between the amount some LAs collected and the use of the funds. Examples were installing solar on community run buildings, on public buildings, Fuel Poverty, Energy Efficiency and some LAs wish to work with Community Groups to help them deliver the benefits.”
Emerging GLA policies on CO2 reduction and Fuel Poverty
Sadiq Khan is due to follow up on the election promises this by publishing an Environment report in Aug 2017, and the London Assembly Members in the Environment Committee have published a report, Getting Warmer, making recommendations for actions. Actions of particular interest to Community Groups are:
‘Energy for Londoners’
Switched on London campaigns for ‘Clean affordable energy for people not for profit’ and its report ‘Democratic Energy in the Capital’ by the New Economics Foundation suggests to the Mayor how this would work.
If the Mayor adopts these recommendations it will be an ambitious leap forward to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gases and alleviate Fuel Poverty. Community Groups in London will be ready and willing to help him succeed.
London’s collaboration with other Cities
“Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020 through the implementation of a Sustainable Energy Action Plan adopted in Council and report on progress every two years.”