Local solar given boost as government pledges £10 million clean energy fund


A £10 million fund has been launched to support community renewable projects, including solar.

It comes as part of the government’s established Rural Community Energy Fund and will support new community solar projects, as well as other technologies such as wind, hydro and battery storage.

Applications for feasibility grants of up to £40,000 are open, with viable proposals to also be considered for additional grants of up to £100,000 for business development and planning application.

The funding comes in an effort to increase energy self-sufficiency in rural communities and is designed to help sports clubs, churches and schools to save money and reduce emissions, as well as to make money through selling back excess generation to the grid.

There has been 152 community energy projects to previously receive funding, including solar installed on Salisbury cathedral and Frome Town FC. Collectively, all projects to receive funding have generated around 105,00kW.

Chris Skidmore, stand-in energy minister, said: “It will take all corners of the country and sections of society to help us to tackle climate change on our path to becoming a net zero emissions economy and communities are at the heart of our mission for a greener planet.”

The funding, and any applications, are to be managed by five local energy hubs and hosted by a local authority in each area. The five hubs are the North East Yorkshire and Humber, North West, Midlands, South East and South West.

Tesco pens PPA deal for 5MW of rooftop solar

Tesco is to install around 5MW of rooftop solar PV across its UK site portfolio after penning a PPA agreement.

The supermarket giant has signed an agreement with SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust (SEEIT), which will provide financing for the sites.

It’s the second major solar announcement from Tesco this year. In January Solar Power Portal revealed that Tesco had turned to PV developer Push Energy and financier Macquarie to plot a major solar rollout programmethat took in at least five sites across the UK.

Under the SEEIT deal, an initial tranche of 1MW is intended to be the first phase of around 5MW of rooftop solar, all of which fall under the framework agreement.

The deal will see Tesco enter into power purchase agreements with SEEIT for each individual site, and SEEIT will be responsible for the installation, operation and maintenance of each project.

Kingspan Energy is to provide a complete design, build, finance, operation and maintenance solution for the supermarket as both the EPC and O&M contractor for the installations.

SEEIT said the deal complied with its investment thesis by bringing competitively priced clean energy to the point of use.

Jonathan Maxwell, chief executive at SDCL, said that the deal was evidence of the firm continuing to deliver on the pipeline it identified at the time of its initial public offering.

“With all the revenues being generated from the PPAs and costs being largely fixed, this is a positive, stable investment for SEEIT and one we are delighted to add to our growing portfolio,” he said.

Engie powers up EV offering with ChargePoint Services acquisition

Image: ChargePoint Services/GeniePoint

Image: ChargePoint Services/GeniePoint

Engie has acquired UK electric vehicle (EV) public charging provider ChargePoint Services (CPS) as it strives to expand its EV portfolio.

The acquisition of CPS, which owns and operates charging network GeniePoint, is aimed to enhance Engie’s end-to-end EV charging solution and help the company tackle air quality.

It feeds into Engie’s EV focus, with the French energy major having provided over 75,000 charging stations worldwide as well as owning EV manufacturer EVBox. This new acquisition will create a combined UK public rapid charging network of over 400 stations and a fast network of over 500 by the end of 2019.

The deal will provide Engie with the EV charging capabilities required for local authorities, business and home-owners, with CPS bringing GeniePoint’s 20,000 network customers and its cloud-based data and control platform.

This is not the only company Engie has set its sights on recently, having acquired a majority stake in energy and flexibility aggregator KiWi Power last year.

With CPS being the latest addition to its portfolio, Engie seems to be following in the footsteps of other energy majors such as Shell, which recently invested in domestic battery storage firm sonnen and bought out aggregator Limejump.

Nicola Lovett, CEO of Engie UK & Ireland, said the ChargePoint Services deal is an important step towards scaling up Engie’s EV ambitions.

“It also enables us to work closely with our many business customers to support their ambitions to decarbonise their own fleets and support their employee’s adoption of low and zero carbon vehicles,” Lovett continued.

Alex Bamberg, Managing Director of ChargePoint Services, said: “With the demand for EV charging across the UK increasing rapidly as vehicles with longer range and reduced charging times are launched by the motor industry, we will together be well placed to support the transition to EV in the UK and the drive for cleaner air quality.”

CATL’s massive pivot to e-bike batteries could lower prices

CATL is the world’s largest battery manufacturer for electric vehicles. While they’ve traditionally focused on battery packs for full-size electric cars and large EVs, the company is now adding electric bicycle packs to its list of products.

CATL to build e-bike batteries

CATL has declared that it is beginning to diversify its sales model in the face of increasing competition.

The company announced that it is partnering with the fintech firm Ant Financial Services and the Alibaba-backed electric bike sharing company Hellobike. CATL plans to invest around USD $140 million in a joint venture to produce electric bicycle battery packs.

In the immediate future, CATL’s plans include building battery storage and swapping units for Hellobike riders to swap depleted battery packs. Ultimately though, the increased supply of electric bicycle batteries in the market could lead to a drop in prices for e-bike OEMs. Those savings would then likely be passed along to consumers.

A common electric bicycle battery pack

As it stands now, the electric bicycle market is highly competitive. With a number of sub $500 e-bikes, companies will do anything they can to compete on price. And with lithium-ion batteries often comprising the single most expensive component of an e-bike, lowering prices on batteries can have a big impact on consumer e-bike prices.

While inexpensive electric batteries often (and legitimately) raise fears over quality, CATL has been around the block a few times. They manufacture batteries for large automakers including Nissan and Renault. Honda is also sourcing batteries from CATL. And it isn’t just legacy automakers either. Tesla is reportedly in talks to partner with CATL in China as well.

Electrek’s Take

Bring it on! The world needs more affordable e-bikes, and batteries are a great place to start.

To be honest, I’m already impressed with the prices of many good quality, affordable e-bikes as it is. For under $1,000 you can get some great e-bikes. But wouldn’t it be great if those same e-bikes were $800 instead?

And for DIY e-bike builders, purchasing batteries has always been a bit painful on the wallet. CATL’s massive production capacity could help populate Amazon with even more e-bike battery options.And that’d be great for everyone!

I’ve written a few articles already on how to build your own electric bicycle, including one on making a 40 mph (64 km/h) e-bike. Heck, I technically wrote the book on DIY e-bikes. And I’m counting the days until a large electric car battery manufacturer gets into the e-bike battery game, because this will be huge for our niche industry.

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‘Standing by is not an option’: Landmark moment as UK confirms intent to legislate for net zero

Image: 10 Downing Street.

The UK government will legislate for a net zero economy by 2050 Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed, in one of her last acts in office.

Yesterday evening the PM revealed that a statutory instrument will be laid in parliament today (12 June 2019), amending Climate Change Act of 2008 to establish the new target.

The SI will require parliamentary approval but, if it succeeds, the UK would essentially become among the first global major economies to legislate for net zero emissions with other economies set to follow suit in the coming months.

However the government has moved to confirm that a review will be conducted within five years of the target being set to confirm that other nations are taking similarly ambitious actions in a bid to ensure UK industries do not face “unfair competition”.

“As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change. We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions.

“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth.

“Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations,” the Prime Minister said.

Having recommended the government to legislate for such a target – with the crucial requirement that the target is taken seriously and met with sufficient policy action – Lord Deben, chairman at the Committee on Climate Change, said the committee was delighted the government had agreed to put the target to a parliamentary vote.

“Our report concluded that Net Zero is necessary, feasible and cost effective. This is a major commitment for the coming decades, but we have highlighted the significant benefits of action. This step will send a strong signal to other countries to follow suit – and will help to drive the global effort to tackle climate change required by the Paris Agreement.”

However Lord Deben was again quick to stress the CCC’s view that legislating for a net zero target was “just a first step”.

“The target must now be reinforced by credible UK policies, across government, inspiring a strong response from business, industry and society as a whole. The government has not yet moved formally to include international aviation and shipping within the target, but they have acknowledged that these sectors must be part of the whole economy strategy for net zero. We will assist by providing further analysis of how emissions reductions can be delivered in these sectors through domestic and international frameworks,” he said.

The CCC’s next step is to now build its statutory advice to government for the sixth carbon budget, legislating for the period 2032 – 2037, due to be published next year.

The energy sector meanwhile welcomed the news, with Energy UK chief executive Lawrence Slade lauding the “exciting development”.

“The power sector has led the way in helping reduce the UK’s carbon emissions. Half of our electricity generation now comes from low carbon sources and the recent coal-free fortnight is testimony to a rate of progress, at a lower cost, than anyone could have foreseen a few years ago.

“Net-zero can be achieved but only if the ambition is supported by the right policies. As our recent Future of Energy report highlighted, we need to go further and faster in areas like decarbonising transport and heating and improving the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses. This can only happen with consistent and bold policy-making from across all government departments to support the target and we look forward to working with the Government to achieve our shared ambition.”

The news was always cautiously welcomed by environmental groups who, much like the CCC, stressed the need for government to now put its money – and legislative efforts – where its mouth is, making references to recent news that the government is to examine the use of flexibilities to meet future emissions reduction targets.

“This is a big moment for everyone in the climate movement and particularly to the youth climate strikers, who rightly should advise on future climate and environmental policy.

“Judging by the headline, this is a legacy Theresa May can be proud of. Judging by the small print, this is a net zero target with a backstop. As the birthplace of the industrial revolution, it is right that the UK is the world’s first major economy to commit to completely end its contribution to climate change, but trying to shift the burden to developing nations through International Carbon Credits undermines that commitment. This type of offsetting has a history of failure and is not, according the government’s climate advisors, cost efficient.

“While the loopholes being woven into the legislation by the Treasury will need to be unpicked, and the date moved forward, this decision fires the starting gun for a fundamental transformation of our economy. The government must immediately upgrade our electricity, construction, heating, agriculture and transport systems,” Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said.

His sentiments were echoed by Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett, who said: “In the dying days of a premiership characterised by chronic inaction on climate breakdown, this sends a powerful message to industry and investors that the age of fossil fuels is over.

“But it is disappointing that the government has ignored its climate advisors recommendation to exclude carbon offsets – as well as caving into Treasury pressure to review the target in five years’ time.

“Fiddling the figures would put a huge dent in our ability to avoid catastrophic climate change – and the government’s credibility for taking this issue seriously. Having declared a climate emergency, parliament must act to close these loopholes.”

Smart Export Guarantee: Date set as home solar policy details emerge

The policy gap between the feed-in tariff (FiT) and the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) is set to close by the end of 2019, guaranteeing payment for excess domestic solar generation.

Details of the SEG have been much-awaited since the closure of the FiT at the end of March 2019, with concerns over a significant policy gap being raised by many in the industry.

Today, the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed that suppliers must implement the SEG before 1 January 2020.

The SEG requires any licensed supplier with over 150,000 domestic customers to provide at least one export tariff, a difference to the original proposal of suppliers with over 250,000 domestic customers. Smaller suppliers can take part on a voluntary basis but will be held to the same operational requirements as larger suppliers.

The design of the tariff is being left up to the individual supplier, which BEIS says is to allow for innovation and quick implementation. However, it is expected that over time tariffs will become increasingly smart.

Already suppliers E.On and Octopus have provided export tariffs, although E.On’s offering is limited to the first 500 customers and lasts only for a year. Octopus is offering two tariffs; a flat rate offering 5.5p per kWh of exported electricity and a variable rate dubbed Agile Octopus.

Under the SEG, generators up to 5MW will be guaranteed payment from suppliers. However, there is no required minimum floor price, simply the requisite that tariffs must be above zero. This is despite campaigning from the Solar Trade Association, among others, including both Labour and Conservative MPs, for a minimum floor price.

The specifics of the Smart Export Guarantee

When the SEG was first announced, it was uncertain whether or not storage would be eligible. BEIS has now confirmed that storage will be able to take part, provided it is co-located with an SEG-qualified small-scale renewable generator.

To guarantee safety, suppliers will be required to source evidence that all installs are certified through the Microgeneration Certification Scheme or a suitable equivalent. However, there are no plans for a central registration of installations.

All exports will have to be metered, with a meter capable of reporting exports on a half-hourly basis, meaning only households fitted with a smart meter will be eligible for the SEG. Meters must also be registered for settlement under the Balancing and Settlement Code.

An annual report on the Smart Export Guarantee will be provided by Ofgem, which will include the range, nature and uptake of tariffs. The government will use the report to monitor whether the market is delivering an effective range of options for small exporters.

It is also expected that Ofgem will offer guidance to suppliers in the run-up to implementation.

Chris Skidmore, stand-in energy minister, said: “We want the energy market to innovate and it’s encouraging to see some suppliers already offering competitive export tariffs to reduce bills.

“We want more to follow suit, encouraging small-scale generation without adding to consumer bills, as we move towards a subsidy-free energy system and a net zero emissions economy.”

However, Léonie Greene, director of advocacy and new markets at the Solar Trade Association, said the STA will be watching the market “like a hawk” to see if the offers coming forward properly value the power that smart solar homes can contribute to the decarbonisation of the grid.

Greene continued to say that it is vital that small generators are treated fairly in “a very big system” as the transition towards net zero cannot happen without active engagement of the public, with the STA ranking all tariffs via its online SEG league table.

“It is a requirement under EU law to offer fair, market-rate payment for small-scale solar power exports and government has decided to leave this to a market that it does not trust to supply power at a fair price,” Greene added.

Legislation enacting the SEG will be laid in Parliament today. It will be implemented through the Smart Export Guarantee Order 2019, along with modifications to the Conditions of the Electricity Supply Licence.

The coal-free system: Behind the scenes at National Grid ESO’s fortnight without coal

Image: National Grid.

A silent revolution is currently taking place almost unnoticed in our industry. For consumers, nothing has changed – their lights are still on, their homes are still heated. But for the past 18 days, it’s happened without the assistance of any electricity generated by coal. All our energy needs have been provided by a mix of renewables, gas and nuclear.

This is the longest consecutive period our network has run without coal-fired generation and it’s a clear sign of the fundamental transformation taking place in the world of energy. Driven by the rapid pace of innovation and the move to a low carbon society, a new landscape is emerging that is radically different from what has gone before. Cleaner forms of energy like wind and solar are increasingly replacing traditional fossil fuel generation and energy storage using batteries is becoming mainstream.

As the Electricity System Operator (ESO), we are facilitators of this transformation and it is having a profound impact on us, requiring a radical transformation of the national infrastructure and how we operate it. This change has been taking place over the past decade and will continue into the 2020s. Our target is to be able to operate a zero carbon electricity system by 2025.

Why do we need to change? Our networks were designed to carry bulk loads of electricity from the large fossil fuel plant that are now rapidly disappearing. Their replacements are smaller and decentralised; some, like wind and solar, can only produce power under certain conditions which makes balancing supply and demand a major challenge. Traditionally, large power stations supplied these balancing services and other critical services we rely on to run our networks efficiently and safely. We need to be sure the newer, smaller generators can do the same.

So, working in collaboration with our industry partners, including the transmission system owners, the generators and the regulator, we have invested significantly in providing an electricity network fit for the low carbon energy future.

The changes have been twofold: structural and in the make-up of the markets we run for those critical services we need. The structural changes have been made to give our networks the greater flexibility they need now and in the future. It means we can continue to handle the bulk power transfer needed from the large offshore wind farms at the extremities of our network, as well as the more localised solar and smaller onshore wind generation.

At the same time, we have reshaped our markets to accommodate emerging technologies and worked with new market entrants to help them understand the services we need and how they can bid in to provide them. This is already happening: we recently ran a market for black start services – the ability to re-energise the system following a complete black-out. In the past, we would have expected bids from a relatively small number of large generators. This time we had 31 different bidders, of which 20 were chosen. Among those 20 were 11 different technological solutions that our network can now accommodate.

So the transformation is happening, but we still have a way to go before coal-fired generation will completely disappear from the transmission network. The current run will come to an end at some stage and coal will probably be needed this winter to satisfy demand. Our aim is to be in a position where we, as the ESO, do not need to buy coal purely for network services.

With the changes we are making and with the support of our industry colleagues, we know that what we’re witnessing today will become business as usual. We eagerly anticipate the next ‘first’ – for example, the first week in January without coal-fired generation.

As we move towards our goal of being able to operate a zero carbon system by 2025, it’s only a matter of time.

C&K hits 100th school solar install milestone

Campbell & Kennedy (C&K) has installed its 100th school solar system as it looks to educate schools on renewable energy.

System size of the solar ranges from 10kWp to 150kWp, with arrays having been installed across the UK.

The 100th install was completed at The City of Norwich School. It came as part of a project to install solar at ten schools for the Brooke Weston Trust and Ormiston Academies Trust. Over 2,100 panels have been installed, totalling over 590kWp.

C&K hopes that adding solar to schools will not only reduce energy costs and offset carbon emissions but also educate students, with the company providing renewable energy workshops to pupils.

An additional benefit to school solar is the ability for any revenue made from exporting excess solar to the grid, as well as savings on bills, can be reinvested in the school itself.

The installs came about following a competitive tender process, with the majority being awarded via the ESPO Renewable Energy Solutions framework, YPO Dynamic Purchasing System for Low Carbon Electrical Micro-generation and the Scotland Excel Energy Efficiency Contractors framework.

Jason Lowey, head of energy at Campbell & Kennedy, said: “We are reading about climate catastrophe on a daily basis. Given that there are over 32,000 schools in the UK, can you imagine if only 10% of these schools installed solar PV or other renewable technologies.

“The amount of carbon offset would be immense, never mind the income that could be reinvested back into the schools be this for school trips, additional equipment or salary increases.”

Yodel adds first EV to fleet as part of £15 million electrification plan

Image: Yodel

UK parcel carrier Yodel has introduced the first EV to its fleet, revealing plans to expand its electrification as part of a £15.2 million investment.

A Mitsubishi FUSO eCanter has been added to Yodel’s fleet as part of the plan, with more EVs to be introduced later this year. The Mitsubishi FUSO eCanter is to be based at a depot in Hayes and used across London.

As well as EVs, Yodel is also investing in Microlise technology, which monitors factors such as speed, location and road traffic levels. The technology will be used to make deliveries more efficient as delivery routes can be adapted to the conditions.

Yodel’s use of bicycles will also be expanded, with plans to introduce them to Birmingham, London and Manchester.

Andrew Peeler, CEO of Yodel, said: “This large-scale investment in our fleet is designed to improve efficiency and minimise the environmental impact of deliveries.

“I’m delighted that we’ve introduced electric to our fleet this spring, and we have plans to expand our use of both pedal and electric power this year.”

It is not the first delivery company to make a move towards EVs, with DPD planning to introduce 500 EVs into its fleet by 2021 and opening its third all-electric micro depot earlier in the year. UPS, too, has introduced EVs into its fleet, taking part in a wireless charging trialwith UKPN.

UK power prices turn negative for nine hours, balancing costs spike during ‘extraordinary’ weekend

Image: BT.

UK power prices turned negative for nine consecutive hours on Sunday in what’s been billed as an “extraordinary turn of events” for the country’s electricity system.

Unusually low demand, some 2GW below forecasts, combined with high wind generation to send prices spiralling, and National Grid was even forced into instructing onshore and offshore wind farms to turn down their generation.

Between the hours of 12:00pm and 9:00pm on Sunday 26 May, the UK endured an extended period of negative pricing, with wholesale power prices falling to as low as -£71.26/MWh.

National Grid Electricity System Operator’s daily balancing report for 26 May 2019 reveals that the SO paid more than £6.6 million on balancing costs, having spent just £300,000 the day before, providing an indication as to the scale of the volatility experienced on the system throughout the day.

At nine hours long, it amounts to the longest consecutive period of negative pricing the UK has encountered and has been described as “unprecedented” by energy tech company Limejump, which acts within the balancing mechanism.

In addition, after a slight recovery, the market dipped back into negative pricing between 11:45pm on Sunday and 1:45am on the morning of Monday 27 May, meaning that negative prices were in action for around 11 hours within a 24 hour period.

The instances of negative pricing left the average system price for power on Sunday 26 May at -£12.16/MWh.

Those prices were essentially created by low demand. The average power demand on Sunday was just 25.4GW, while the minimum demand in that period was 19.8GW, recorded between 3:45am and 4:15am, right towards the lower end of minimum demand forecasts within National Grid’s 2019 Summer Outlook.

The event comes just two months after the previous long run of negative system prices, a period of six hours which occurred on Sunday 24 March that witnessed system prices fall to similar lows.

Limejump said in a trading note issued to customers: “The question traders have been asking themselves earlier this year – ‘Are negative system prices an anomaly or are they here to stay?’ – has now been answered without a doubt by these an a number of other observed similar scenarios.”

Speaking to Current±, a Limejump spokesperson said that those operating battery storage plants over the weekend were obvious winners.

“Smart trading strategies deliver great revenue especially those with accurate forecasting. Batteries that were charging during these negative prices time frame, including Limejump’s, were definitely happy recipient.”

It was also a significant weekend for the carbon intensity of the grid, which at times dipped well below the 100g CO2/kWh threshold required to comply with the Fifth Carbon Budget. Sunday afternoon saw carbon intensity dip to just 69g CO2/kWh on the back of surging wind and solar activity.

Coal meanwhile is in the midst of yet another record breaking absence from the UK’s power mix, having not generated for more than 250 hours, equivalent to almost 11 days. Only earlier this month Britain celebrated its first coal-free month since the Industrial Revolution, and coal has now experienced more than 1,500 hours off the grid in 2019.

Wind meanwhile spent large portions of Sunday afternoon providing more than 11GW of power, equivalent to 37-39% of total demand.