Week in Energy

Monday 05/06

The GMB union urges the next government to develop new nuclear and gas capacity, while questioning the reliability of solar power. Data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders confirms low emission vehicle sales made up a new record market share in May.

Tuesday 06/06

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomes figures that show oil and gas innovation spend in Scotland almost trebled in 2016-17, reaching £43mn. Crown Estate research demonstrates progress of offshore wind during 2016, finding 1,463 turbines operational on the UK seabed by the end of year while predicting a bright future for the industry. A group of NGOs – including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace – write to all the political parties, asking for stronger leadership on climate following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

Wednesday 07/06

The UK hits a new renewables peak power record of 19.3GW. According to new research by the International Energy Agency, the number of battery-powered vehicle sales increased by 60% in 2016, clearing the 2mn mark. A new poll carried out by YouGov on behalf of npower Business Solutions finds that over a third (34%) of UK businesses said decreasing business energy costs should be a priority for the incoming government.

Thursday 08/06

The country goes to the polls for the general election, with the exit poll predicting a hung parliament with the Conservatives still the largest party but sustaining losses to Labour.

Friday 09/06

Theresa May pledges to form a new minority government with the support of the DUP, after the general election created a hung parliament. Renewable UK urges the new government and the opposition to put renewables “at the heart of energy policy”.

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Policy 1 | UK emissions fall the most, though total EU emissions rise


The UK had the largest decrease of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union during 2015, according to new figures published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Released on 1 June, the data revealed that UK emissions decreased by more than 19,400kt of CO2 equivalent – a 3.7% decrease – equating to more than the combined reductions of the other eight countries that saw their emissions fall in 2015.

For the UK, the fall in emissions was attributed to “liberalising of energy markets” and the switch from oil and coal to gas in electricity production. The UK’s electricity and heat production represented the biggest fall in emissions across the EU – accounting for 7.5%% of overall reductions.

Total EU greenhouse gas emissions increased by 0.5% in 2015 following a 4% decrease the year before. Despite recording the strongest annual economic growth in the EU since 2007 (+2.2%), 2015 saw the first increase in emissions in five years.

Since 1990, total EU greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 23.7%, excluding emissions from international aviation. If included, this figure is 22.1% - surpassing the EU’s 2020 target of reducing emissions by 20%.

During the same period, the EU economy has grown by around 50%. The EEA said that this shows long-term economic growth is possible while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The EEA said one of the main causes behind the emissions reductions since 1990 were the effects of EU and national policies. These policies have led to the growing use of renewable energy, less use of carbon intensive fuels and improvements in energy efficiency.

Other reasons given were structural change towards a more “service-oriented economy”, the effects of economic recession and milder winters. These winters have led to reduced energy demand for heating.

For the emissions rise between 2014 and 2015, the report explained the increase was because of increasing road transport – both passenger and freight. It was also down to “slightly” colder winter conditions in Europe, when compared to 2014, which had led to a higher demand for heating.

The EEA said gains made in the fuel efficiency of both new vehicles and aircrafts had not been enough to deal with additional emissions sparked by a higher demand in passenger and goods transport. Emissions from road transport, accounting for 20% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, increased for the second year in a row – by 1.6%.

Elsewhere, it was found greenhouse gas emissions under the EU’s carbon trading scheme (EU ETS) decreased by 0.7%, when excluding aviation. Emissions from non-trading sectors increased by 1.4%.

According to the data, total energy consumption and energy-related emissions increased during 2015. This was because of increased use of natural gas and crude oil.

However, due to reduced use of solid fuels for the third consecutive year alongside sustained increase in renewables – particularly biomass, wind and solar – what would have been higher emissions were offset.

It was also found that despite the increase in emissions in 2015, the carbon intensity of the EU energy system actually declined. This was because of higher shares of both renewables and gas relative to coal in the overall fuel mix.

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Policy 2 | Businesses call for stable government support for low-carbon transition


A coalition of major businesses has called on the UK to make the most of the opportunity presented by the “rapidly growing” global low-carbon market.

The open letter was published by the Guardian on 4 June, with the group including leaders from SSE and the Aldersgate Group. The letter outlined how the low-carbon economy could grow to 13% of UK GDP by 2050.

It further said that, spurred in particular by major investments in low-carbon technologies by countries such as China, India, Mexico and South Africa, the Paris Agreement could open up £18tn of opportunities for low-carbon investments in emerging markets between by 2030.

The group said the UK was well placed to benefit. Its low-carbon sector produced over £77bn in turnover for 2015. Strengths of the sector include offshore wind turbines, piloting innovative ideas in energy, water and resource efficiency and providing financial and legal services for clean energy projects worldwide.

The group added the focus on developing low-cost, low-carbon infrastructure is growing across all key economic sectors. However, in order to take advantage of this, the coalition called for “stable policies”, labelling them “essential” in turning potential into reality. It would also mean the UK economy is able to remain competitive on the global stage.

It called on the next government to place ambitious, long-term policies which tackle climate change at the heart of its industrial strategy and vision for the UK.

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Policy 3 | UK urged to lead energy transition after Trump Paris exit


The CBI has called on the UK and other countries to lead the energy transition, following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.

On 2 June, CBI Head of Energy and Infrastructure Michelle Hubert said the UK was in need of a “level playing field” for carbon costs to ensure energy intensive industries can compete competitively in a global, low-carbon marketplace.

Hubert said it was now the time for governments to affirm their commitment to the agreement by turning global ambition into national reality. Hubert added: “By investing and innovating, British businesses will be at the heart of delivering a low-carbon economy, and will want to see domestic policies that demonstrate commitment to this goal.”

A group of non-profit organisations have also written to all parties in the UK, pressing for stronger leadership on climate. These include Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, E3G, Client Eartha and the Green Alliance.

The group said UK citizens “overwhelmingly” support the agreement. They also drew on the risks associated with not taking climate change seriously – such as a large number of jobs and significant investments of UK businesses at stake, and ignoring the lives of the world’s poorest people who are already paying the price for inaction.

Looking forwards, the group called for the UK to immediately join the High Ambition Coalition of nations in pledging to “fight for the full implementation” of the deal.

The formation of this coalition was a key success of Paris negotiations.

The group added: “The next UK prime minister – whoever that might be – must then use the G20 meeting taking place in less than five weeks, to make it clear that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated and that all major polluters should play their part in reducing the risks from climate change.”

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Industry 1 | Study finds all buildings must be net zero carbon by 2050


A study has warned that the global building industry must prepare for a “seismic shift” towards low-carbon, if global climate targets are to be achieved. The study, published on 31 May by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) warned that, if global climate targets are to be achieved, it is essential that the global construction industry acts quickly and comprehensively to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The report From Thousands to Billions looks at the number of net zero carbon buildings now as well as WGBC’s goal for the future. Terri Willis, CEO of the WGBC, said: “we need nothing short of a dramatic and ambitious transformation from a world of thousands of net zero buildings, to one of billions if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

The organisation defines net zero carbon buildings as “highly energy-efficient…with all remaining operational energy use from renewable energy, preferably on-site… to achieve net zero carbon emissions annually in operation.” By this definition, less than 1% of the current global building stock meets this standard, with the report estimating only around 500 commercial sites, and several thousand residential properties, meet the definition.

WGBC identifies significant potential for the construction sector to assist with global climate targets and has announced two goals that it urges construction stakeholders to adopt. The goals are for:

  • All new buildings to operate at net zero carbon from 2030. This needs to quickly form part of standard business practise to avoid the need for future retro-fitting.
  • 100% of buildings to operate at net zero carbon by 2050. Renovation rates need to be accelerated and completed to net zero carbon standards.

The report states that in order to see these goals achieved, co-ordinated action is required from businesses, governments and NGOs, in order to overcome obstacles currently deterring investment in net zero carbon properties.

For businesses, this takes the form of commitments to invest in, build and occupy net zero carbon sites and the introduction of policies to operate assets at net zero carbon as soon as possible. This would need to be incentivised by carbon disclosure requirements, the report states, and the certification of assets as net zero carbon.  The WGBC argued that aside from the substantial economic and environmental advantages associated with containing global warming, businesses need to be made aware of other potential benefits such as the “future-proofing of investments [and] resilience against energy prices.”

WGBC encouraged governments to commit to developing national or regional building regulations focused on achieving net zero carbon sites. These would need to apply across both new and existing properties. Alongside this, the report advocates governments leading by example, occupying only certified net zero carbon buildings by 2030.

The role of NGOs would then be to develop certification programmes and engage all stakeholders in discussions to create “roadmaps, incentives and tracking systems.” Beyond this, WGBC anticipates NGOs will be required to engage the wider public in the value associated with transitioning to net zero carbon buildings.

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Industry 2 | M&S hails energy efficiency improvements


On 1 June Marks & Spencer (M&S) launched a new sustainability plan, Plan A 2025, to build on the success of the first 10 years of its Plan A initiative. M&S revealed that in the first Plan A programme it had saved over £750mn in costs through various efficiency improvements, including using less energy. The new plan sees M&S commit to a three-pillar pledge which focus on improving the wellbeing of staff and customers, supporting communities, and achieving sustainability.

The sustainability focus will drive the company to improve the proportion of its packaging which can be recycled and to source “all key raw materials…from sustainable sources.” M&S targets a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 80% in its own operations by 2030, compared to 2007 levels. It aims to cut emissions in its supply chain by 13.3m tonnes over the same timeframe.

The business confirmed it will report on its progress every June, with commitments assured by independent auditors and the M&S audit team.

Steve Rowe, Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer’s said: “Plan A 2025 will help us build a sustainable future by helping our customers live healthier lives, supporting the communities they live in and we source from and looking after the planet we all share.”

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Industry 3 | Survey: Firms using energy management to optimise asset management


In 2016, 83% of companies used energy management to optimize asset management, according to a survey from energy research and consultancy company, Verdantix.

Published on Thursday 1 June, the annual survey of energy and facility decision-makers found that 58% of respondents use energy management to inform their asset management. A further 25% answered that they have fully integrated their energy and asset management, with the remaining 17% of firms yet to combine their energy and asset management processes.

The report summary highlighted that “the importance of energy efficiency to the overall life cycle management of equipment is not lost on forward thinking building owners and operators.”

Verdantix found that energy consumption data is being used for asset fault detection and diagnosis, ultimately saving businesses money by allowing them to perform proactive maintenance rather than reactive repairs. Businesses can also identify irregular use patterns, for example, noticing when lighting systems are being left running overnight.

The consultancy anticipates that partnerships between business customers, suppliers and third-party management services providers will increase significantly over the next five years. The focus will be on analysing existing data and expanding the data capture possibilities through smart technology and increased integration.

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