Entries in PV (8)

Friday
May282010

Jeremy Leggett: caught between low carbon and high-voltage rows

Former scientific director at Greenpeace is at the leading edge of a green energy revolution, and under fire from environmentalists

Jeremy Leggett, founder and chairman of Solarcentury and SolarAid, and the former scientific director of Greenpeace. Photograph: Martin Godwin

 

A tiny doorway next to a BetFair shop in south London is the unassuming headquarters of Solarcentury, a company that arguably stands to gain most on 1 April when the feed-in tariff – or "great green rip-off" as some call it – comes into force.

The company, or at least its founder, is at the heart of the next phase of Britain's low-carbon revolution by encouraging homeowners to fix panels on their roofs to generate renewable energy.

But while executive chairman Jeremy Leggett should have been devoting 24 hours a day preparing for the busiest period of his commercial life, he has been forced to spend some of his time fighting off an unexpected assault by environmentalists in the Guardian blogosphere. The irony is that Leggett is an ex-Greenpeace employee and, as a former Imperial College geologist, a powerful and knowledgeable ally to the environment campaigners on a range of issues, including "peak oil" – the point when global demand outstrips supply.

The debate over whether the feed-in tariff costs too much for the expected carbon reductions rumbles on but even this "social entrepreneur", who has always enjoyed a good tussle with more traditional foes, admits he has had enough of swapping increasingly fraught online words with George Monbiot, Chris Goodall and other notable greens.

"It certainly perplexed me," he said. "If I did not know the individuals involved, I'd have presumed that this is the nuclear industry pushing back at a time of imminent possible success for the renewables industries. They [atomic power firms] have declared a form of war, with EDF and E.ON having this line to government that says 'You can have nuclear or you can have renewables, but you can't have both', when previously they argued you could have both.

"But I know the actors [environmentalists] so I know it is not possible [for them to be nuclear lackeys], but George and Chris must know how damaging it is at this time. At the very minimum it is annoying that George has come out with this heady rhetoric, yet as far as I know did not actively engage in the government's long consultation on the issue."

A third career


The bruising public blog encounters and equally robust private email exchanges have taken the gloss off what should have been an exciting time for a company such as Solarcentury, which has a 50% share of the domestic market.

Has public confidence been eroded by the argument? "No, the phone lines have been ringing constantly and although the government has tailored the tariff for the domestic sector we are also getting interest from the commercial sector. The tariffs just about work for commercial companies so we can expect growth in that market as well, I think. So it's very encouraging."

This is in many ways what Leggett has been waiting for since 1999, when he set up Solarcentury wanting to do something very practical about climate change after six years of campaigning on it for Greenpeace. He likes to think of it as his third "career" following a period of academia at Imperial College.

From next week homeowners installing typical 2.5 kilowatt solar panels could earn up to £1,000 through selling clean power back to their electricity companies or reducing their own electricity bills, government claims.

Leggett disputes Monbiot's assertions that the whole cost of the scheme to the public will be in the region of £8.6bn and represents a tax on the poor, who will end up paying for the tariff in higher bills. But he gives some ground to critics who worry that the feed-in tariff will become some kind of magnet to unscrupulous businessmen trying to sell poor-quality products to poorly advised homeowners trying to go green.

"We are really careful about who we do business with, and all the products have to be checked through the government's micro-power certification scheme, as it does elsewhere and which costs us £250,000 annually worldwide.

"We are very well aware of what can happen and that the industry is only as strong as its weakest link. I am optimistic that industry and government can work together to shut out the cowboys in a way that the double-glazing and solar thermal sectors have singularly failed to do historically. I say that with fingers crossed."

But he also expects an influx of larger companies from the US and elsewhere that could push down prices for users and give Solarcentury – now partly owned by a large utility, Scottish & Southern Energy – a run for its money.

So how much of the public cash being injected into this new initiative will stay in Britain? Solarcentury, which provides builders and others with panels but also undertakes its own projects, says it sources materials all over the world but half the products it uses are assembled at a Sony-owned plant in south Wales.

Leggett has also crossed swords with Monbiot over the latter's claim that it is an "impossible dream" to build up a proper British renewables products industry given the competition from low-cost areas such as China: "I say that is needless defeatism because the global market is pitifully small. Seven gigawatts of solar was installed last year, the equivalent of seven nuclear power plants, and to think we cannot catch up and have a fully integrated national industry is needless defeatism."

And this is an area where Leggett's scary view about the world running out of oil much faster than anyone expects neatly gels with the need to promote a self-standing renewables sector.

"Security of energy supply is going to be a real issue so should we not be deliberately building a vertically integrated renewables industry on the British Isles? I think the world is going to change dramatically and globalisation, of necessity, is going to be massively set back by the unaffordability of oil, so trade routes are going to shrink and there is going to be an incredible explosion of independent thinking.

"Companies and governments are going to think much more than they do now about this. We need to be making much more stuff at home. We can't be dependent on markets far overseas."

Leggett has pushed the peak oil debate on to the political agenda by getting an increasingly broad church of industrialists – such as Sir Richard Branson, Brian Souter of Stagecoach, and Philip Dilley of Arup – to come on board. The bandwagon seems finally to have made its impact on the UK government, which is softening its former position that peak oil was being over-hyped.

He still enjoys campaigning. He was in Copenhagen for the climate change talks (boasting about travelling there by boat, not plane) and even at the Oxford Literary Festival, arguing the toss on nuclear power. He has written three books about energy and climate change and you have to wonder if, in his mid-fifties, he has yet another "last career" left in him. and retreats to the executive chairmanship of the company he founded.Understandably, if this son of a science teacher from Hastings who now lives off Holland Park in central London has thought about it, he is not going to muse on that to the media. Leggett admits the only other job he really wanted was a professional golfer – but that was at the age of 17 and today it's hard to imagine this green on the green.
 

The CV

Born 16 March 1954 in Hastings

Education 1965-70 Hastings grammar school; 1970-72 Hastings college; 1972-75 University of Wales, BSc; 1975–78 Oxford University, DPhil earth sciences

Career 1978–89 Imperial College: earth sciences lecturer; 1989–96 Greenpeace: scientific director; 1997– Solarcentury: executive chairman; SolarAid: founder of SolarAid charity and private equity fund for renewables New Energies Invest; author of The Carbon War; Half Gone and editor of The Solar Century

Interests Running, books and films

 

This article was written by Terry Macalister, journalist for The Guardian, and was published on The Guardian's website:www.guardian.co.uk

Tuesday
May182010

UK solar expert identifies solar business opportunities with new FITs

London, UK, 12 May 2010 – Independent solar expert Michael Pitcher from BFC Solutions has identified potential hot spots for PV investment as the UK gets ready to reap the rewards of feed-in tariffs (FITs). In April, the UK Government introduced FITs to stimulate growth in the UK renewable energy market. The scheme promises cash rewards to homeowners, businesses and communities who install technologies for renewable energy.

“Countries like Germany and Belgium have embraced PV and are already reaping the rewards, but solar panels perform very well in the British climate so there‟s no reason why the UK shouldn‟t also harness the benefits of solar energy,” says Michael Pitcher, Managing Director BFC Solutions. “We are already seeing figures from consultants like IMS Research, predicting that by 2011, the UK market will see new installations reach 250MW, compared to just 22MW in 2009.”

“Whilst the benefits of solar PV are well-documented, the opportunity extends far beyond the market for household systems. Our experience tells us that PV entrepreneurs will take advantage of the new FITs by focusing on establishing solar parks, satisfying the fast growing market for domestic installations, and selling or leasing roof space. The FITs also provide opportunities for integrating PV into buildings, as a way for building owners to generate their own power, utility companies to meet their „Renewable Obligation‟, and for not-for-profit organisations to help cut fuel poverty. However, to boost solar PV in the UK it‟s essential to create new „green‟ jobs along the supply chain and build the infrastructure to support the growing low carbon economy.”

Solar parks

The FITs will see utility companies pay 29.3p for every unit of electricity produced between 100kWp to 5MW. Investors, entrepreneurs and landowners can earn guaranteed returns by creating solar parks that generate up to 5MW of electricity. The tariffs are state assured by law and the PV panels have a guaranteed operating life of 25 years, but in practice will last up to 40 years, possibly longer.
Fast growing market for domestic installations

In the UK a typical retro-fit residential 2.5 kWp system installation will cost around £12.5k, generating £900 in the first year with an additional £140 in electricity savings. The FIT will be paid tax free for 25 years together with RPI increases, leading to a significant return on capital for the owner and realistic paybacks in addition to the vital carbon savings. Further installed cost reductions and increases in system efficiency can be expected in the medium term to reduce the payback period.

Sell roof space

According to the UK Photovoltaic Manufacturers Association, there are 4,000 sq km of available roofs and building facades in the UK. By installing solar cells onto these surfaces, we could generate 460
TWh of electricity – 116% of the UK‟s current electricity consumption. This is a significant opportunity for owners of commercial buildings with large, flat roof areas. By leasing their roof spaces to third-party solar operators, building owners have the opportunity to generate guaranteed incomes as a result of the FITs.

Building-integrated PV (BIPV)

With the introduction of FITs, the use of PV as part of a building's fabric is set for substantial growth. Tightening building regulations and the Department of Energy and Climate Change‟s ambition to have all new homes be carbon neutral by 2016 are creating a market pull for on-site energy generation. UK architects and property developers have an opportunity to take advantage of this growing market by becoming specialists in using PV as part of the fabric of buildings.

Meeting the Renewable Obligation (RO)

Under the RO, UK utility companies must source a proportion of their electricity from renewable sources. According to Ofgem, From April 2009, utility companies must present 0.097 ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates) per MWh of electricity supplied. Failure to do so will result in substantial fines. However, by embracing the FITs and actively promoting the benefits, utility companies can fulfil their ROs whilst acquiring new customers and generating additional revenue streams by forming partnerships with PV installers.

Cut fuel poverty

According to Consumer Focus, fuel poverty predominantly affects older people, disabled people and low-income families. In 2009, over five million UK households struggled to heat and power their homes and over 20,000 people died due to cold-related illnesses. By taking advantage of PV and the FITs, housing associations, social landlords and local authorities can in some cases, reduce their tenants‟ heating bills and help them to stay warmer for longer.

“Having seen the solar market prevail across Europe, we‟re confident that the UK will be successful in its widespread adoption of solar PV, and present a range of compelling business opportunities,” says Edwin Koot, CEO, Solarplaza. “That‟s why on 22 June we are hosting a major PV conference in London to help entrepreneurs, investors, utilities operators and electrical contractors better understand the UK PV market and all of its business potential. Presentations will be given by UK law makers, regulators, industry experts, financiers and other major solar stakeholders.”

 

UK PV Conference www.ukpvconference.com
The conference will take place on 22 June 2010 at Central Hall, Westminster, London. A full conference programme will examine solar market potential, investment opportunities, regulatory issues and technology developments. The conference aims to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, financiers, property developers, utilities operators and electrical contractors to learn, discuss and network. The event is being organised by Solarplaza.

Monday
Mar292010

UK solar market awaits major boost

Hermann Scheer and Jeremy Leggett speak at UK solar energy conference

LONDON/ROTTERDAM – The solar industry and market in the UK is about to explode and increase over 100 percent for many years following the introduction of government incentive on solar energy in April. ,,We’ve seen market boost and successful kick-starting in other countries like Italy, Belgium and Germany. Within three years the UK could be one of the major solar energy markets in Europe,’’ CEO Edwin Koot of the leading global PV industry portal www.solarplaza.com predicts.

On the UK PV Conference on solar energy, to be held on June 22nd in London, international solar experts Hermann Scheer and Jeremy Leggett will focus on possibilities and developments in this field in their keynote speeches. The conference will bring together more than 150 industry experts from the business sector, the government and regulatory authorities

De-carbonizing our economy and changing the way we use and produce energy is the name of the game in the new decade. The government incentives for solar energy in the UK come in the form of guaranteed sales prices for electricity produced from solar energy. These incentives, also called feed-in tariffs, have been successful in Germany, the first country which introduced them, and later on in Spain, France and Italy, thus becoming leading solar markets in the world. ,,A growing solar industry can also lead to and enormous increase of jobs,” Koot states.

Hermann Scheer is considered to be the brains behind the first and most successful feed-in tariff support scheme, and therefore one of the world's leading experts. He is a long-standing prominent figure in the world of renewable energy and received the Alternative Nobel Prize in Stockholm for his worldwide commitment to renewable energy in 1999. He has been a member of the German parliament for nearly three decades and is also president of Eurosolar and general chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE).

Jeremy Leggett is a former director of Greenpeace and adviser to the UK government on renewable energies. Leggett, who started his career as a researcher in the oil industry, has set up the London-based solar energy company Solarcentury. Since 1999, Leggett and Solarcentury have initiated numerous solar energy projects around the country and have helped to change public opinion on solar energy in the UK and beyond. Leggett, like Scheer, has authored numerous books on the subject of solar energy.

,,Hermann Scheer and Jeremy Leggett are two of the most internationally recognized experts on solar energy. They understand the conditions required for this exciting industry to grow in the UK. We are delighted to have them both at our conference,” says Koot. The conference is scheduled for 22 June 2010 at Central Hall Westminster.

Solarplaza is the provider of the leading global PV industry portal www.solarplaza.com and has previously organized international PV trade missions and PV expert conferences in Spain, Germany, California, China, Germany, Italy, Greece, India and Taiwan.



Friday
Mar192010

Grid access for solar energy projects needs improvement

UK government consulting with industry stakeholders on grid access for renewable energy

Rotterdam and London – March 15, 2010

After announcing details on the incentives for solar energy projects in early February, the UK government is now working with stakeholders on details of grid access for renewable energy projects. Large amounts of solar and other renewable types of generation need to be able to connect to electricity networks if the UK is to meet its carbon reduction targets while ensuring security of supply.

Experience from other countries around Europe has shown that uncertainty around grid access arrangements may seriously delay or even stop completely investments in renewable energy sector. The fact that a second consultation with members of the industry and the wider public is underway seems to indicate that the UK Government has recognized the significance of the subject.

Earlier this month, the Department of Energy and Climate Change published plans to change the way new electricity generation is connected to the UK’s power grid. These plans, called Connect and Manage, aim to clear the way for renewable energy projects such as wind and solar farms to be connected to the grid in time to meet the 2020 renewable energy targets.

In a statement, Energy and Climate Change Minister David Kidney said: “Access to the electricity grid has been one of the key barriers to the generation of renewable energy in this country. There are currently around 78 gigawatts of prospective new generation capacity – some 160 projects – that are waiting to be connected to the grid, including over 19 gigawatts from renewable sources. The new rules will help these projects get hooked up to the grid as soon as they are ready – helping in the shift to low carbon, secure energy supplies.”

Connect and Manage has been drafted to enable new generators to connect to the electricity grid and start generating as soon as the local connection has been built. The accompanying consultation “Improving Grid Access – Technical consultation on the model for improving grid access” has been underway since March 3, 2010 and will close on March 31, 2010.
The results and real-life experience of grid connection for renewable energy systems will be discussed among members of the industry at a conference scheduled for later this year: the UK PV Conference. The event aims to address all issues relevant to the newly emerging solar energy market in the UK, a major one of which is grid connection for system operators.

The UK PV Conference will be held at Central Hall Westminster on June 22, 2010. It will bring together more than 150 industry experts from the business sector, the government, and regulatory authorities. The event is being organized by Solarplaza.


Thursday
Mar042010

Hermann Scheer and Jeremy Leggett speak at UK solar energy conference

Rotterdam and London – 3 March 2010 - De-carbonizing our economy and changing the way we use and produce energy is the name of the game in the new decade. The details of the UK government's incentives were announced in early February, so the UK solar energy industry and market are finally set to grow from April onwards. At a conference to be held in London later this year, two of the major proponents of political change in this field, Hermann Scheer and Jeremy Leggett, will be making keynote speeches.

The government incentives for solar energy in the UK come in the form of guaranteed sales prices for electricity produced from solar energy. These incentives, also called feed-in tariffs, have been highly successful in kick-starting solar energy markets around the world. The first country to introduce feed-in tariffs as a strong market driver for renewable energy was Germany.

Hermann Scheer, considered by many to be the brains behind the first, and to date most successful, feed-in tariff support scheme, and therefore one of the world's leading experts, is coming to London. A long-standing prominent figure in the world of renewable energy, Scheer received the Alternative Nobel Prize in Stockholm for his worldwide commitment to renewable energy in 1999. A member of the German parliament for nearly three decades, he is also president of Eurosolar and General Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE).

The second keynote speech will come from Jeremy Leggett, a former Director of Greenpeace and adviser to the UK government on renewable energies. Leggett, who started his career as a researcher in the oil industry, went on to set up the London-based solar energy company Solarcentury. Since 1999, Leggett and Solarcentury have initiated numerous solar energy projects around the country and have helped to change public opinion on solar energy in the UK and beyond. Leggett, like Scheer, has authored numerous books on the subject of solar energy.

“Hermann Scheer and Jeremy Leggett are two of the most internationally recognized experts on solar energy. They understand the conditions required for this exciting industry to grow in the UK. We are delighted to have them both at our conference,” says Edwin Koot, CEO of SolarPlaza, and organizer of The UK PV Conference. The conference is scheduled for 22 June 2010 at Central Hall Westminster, and will bring together more than 150 industry experts from the business sector, the government and regulatory authorities.

Thursday
Feb042010

Solar Gets U.K. Aid; Don't Expect Boom

LONDON (TheStreet) -- The U.K. is going to offer solar feed-in tariffs, it announced today, in a welcome development for the solar industry at a time when the biggest European backers are reducing solar incentives.

The U.K. feed-in tariff scheme, however, has a big focus on the small -- that is, solar projects of 5 megawatts or less. Italy's proposal to reduce its solar-feed-in tariffs also has a focus on stimulating job growth at the smaller solar project end of the market. Italian solar officials have said that the Italian government is trying to find a compromise between solar support and job growth.

Read the full 3-page article at: The Street.com

Friday
Jan292010

United Kingdom joins other major European countries by offering solar incentive scheme

Industry experts to speak at UK PV Conference in London

Rotterdam/London – 28 January 2010

Having delayed for years, the UK government is finally set to implement a financial incentive scheme for solar energy. Under the proposal, which is due to become law in the first quarter of 2010, electricity produced from solar energy will receive a guaranteed price per unit. This guaranteed price, called a feed-in tariff, aims to remove the uncertainty around price that has hampered growth in the industry for many years. By taking this step, Britain is finally following the example of other major European economies like Germany, France and Italy.

At a solar energy conference in London later this year, UK and international experts will talk about the prospects of the solar PV industry in the UK. The conference, scheduled for 22 June 2010, will act as a platform, with networking opportunities for UK and international business executives. Major stakeholders, from regulators to industry experts and financiers, will be discussing their expectations.

While other European solar energy markets have been thriving in the last five years, the UK market for solar electricity (also known as photovoltaics, or simply PV) has remained small and is still in its infancy. But all this is about to change.

The new feed-in tariffs are scheduled to come into effect by 1 April 2010. The photovoltaic industry expects growth to kick in quickly after that date. More than 50 solar companies around the UK are eagerly waiting for the law to be finally passed in the House of Commons in April 2010. “Other countries in Europe have shown how quickly clear framework conditions can translate into growth. We are now ready for growth in the UK as well, and hope that other stakeholders like the financial institutions will also see the opportunity,” says Joachim Gerhard, a London-based solar energy consultant.

“The UK market for solar PV has been lagging behind in terms of growth and size,” says Edwin Koot, CEO of SolarPlaza and organizer of the UK PV conference. “Now, with the new commitment from the government, the UK solar industry will finally get the chance to catch up with its European competitors. This will create new jobs in the UK and help diversify Britain’s energy mix for the future.”

Solarplaza hosts the leading global PV industry portal www.solarplaza.com, and has previously organized international PV trade missions and PV expert conferences in Spain, Germany, California, China, Germany, Italy, Greece, India and Taiwan.

For more information, please contact: E. Koot (e.koot@solarplaza.com; www.ukpvconference.com; +31 (0)10 280 9198).



Friday
Jan292010

Poll backs more ambitious green power

Two thirds of the population think the Government's plans to pay residents and businesses for generating green electricity are 'not ambitious enough' according to a new poll.

Generating renewable energy from solar panels, small hydro and wind turbines is not ambitious enough according to the majority of people polled by YouGov on behalf of Friends of the Earth.
Interestingly, the survey also found 71% of homeowners said they would consider installing green energy systems if they were paid enough cash.

Friends of the Earth say the Government will publish details of its feed-in tariff proposals, or clean energy cash-back, which aim to encourage small-scale renewable energy systems by paying them at a premium rate for all the green electricity they generate in the next few days.
The survey of more than 2,000 people conducted last week strongly supports the call for a more ambitious feed-in tariff.

In the poll 64% of those questioned agreed Government ambitions to supply 2% of British electricity from its feed-in tariff scheme are not ambitious enough.
It also found 70% would be prepared to pay an extra 10p on their electricity bills each month to help the Government introduce a more ambitious scheme from the outset.
As well as 71% of home-owners who said they would consider fitting micro-generation schemes if feed-in tariffs were generous enough.

Friends of the Earth's executive director, Andy Atkins, said: "The public overwhelmingly wants the Government to think big when it comes to small-scale renewable energy.

"Our homes, businesses and communities could become green power stations - but bigger Government incentives are needed to make this a reality.
"Ministers must listen and introduce an ambitious feed-in tariff scheme that will encourage millions of households, companies and communities across the UK to join the green energy revolution."

Solarcentury executive chairman and green jobs campaigner, Jeremy Leggett, praised the poll and called on the government to listen.
He said: "The new government scheme could yet deliver literally hundreds of thousands of jobs in solar and other small-scale renewables."