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£2.3 billion micro-generation industry by 2016 is possible 22.11.07

Solarcentury’s C21 PV roof tile

Zero Carbon homes could create a £2.3 billion renewable energy supply market by 2016 argues a report by the Renewable Advisory Board. The report looks at the key role played by onsite micro-generation as opposed to relying on large scale offsite generation such as offshore wind farms.

Generating the energy requirement for domestic properties on site is undeniably more expensive than buying in power from large scale off site generators. However it has a number of advantages. A decentralised system where energy is generated as close to use avoids wastage through transport, it is also a much more robust system relying as it does on hundreds of thousands of micro-generators rather than a small group of mega generators. The full advantages of Combined Heating and Power systems can be realised on at a micro-level with short distances reducing heat loss.

Equally importantly a fully decentralised system does not require the huge infrastructure projects necessary for off site wind farms. It is an oft quoted fact that the UK has the largest wind potential in Europe, however much of this useful wind is off shore, or in Scotland. This means that the development of large scale wind farms requires two massive construction projects, firstly the wind farms them selves and secondly the extension of the power lines to connect the farms to the grid. The planning permission alone for both projects can take years, although the new planning bill has the power to force through planning permission for key projects over the wishes of local residents and authorities. The second hurdle is the time taken by the power companies to hook up remote installations to the national grid.

Aside from the dubious politics of imposing planning permission on local communities by central government diktat, wind farm technology and production is under enormous pressure. World wide demand is far outstripping supply for the German and Chinese manufacturer machinery. On the other hand the UK could develop its own cutting edge photovoltaic and biomas Combined Heating and Power technology, Solarcentury’s revolutionary C21 PV tiles, developed in the UK and now manufacturer in Wales in a tie up with the Sony Technology Centre have shown how UK companies can take a leading position in this emerging market.

The Governments objective is to make all new homes carbon neutral by 2016. In a series of gradually increasing thresholds building developer will be pushed towards making homes more energy efficient. However at the moment the present legislation means that the effective biomas CHP systems would have difficulty meeting the requirements, equally developers have the option of using remote renewable energy.

In the "The Role of Onsite Energy Generation in Delivering Zero Carbon Homes." Report the Renewables Advisory Board argue that small changes in the Sustainable Building Code could boost the development of a domestic micro-generation industry, which they estimate could build an industry worth £2.3 billion from 2016.

The report says that:

- 9 out of 10 new build homes can achieve zero carbon status through the use of proven onsite renewable energy technologies. The remainder (mainly small urban flat developments) can achieve near zero carbon status through the use of onsite renewable energy
- Solar PV could be installed on 70% of new homes (ie 200,000 per year) from 2016

- Zero carbon standards will require high uptake for solar PV because it requires no added space and can be integrated into the fabric of the building

- Over 2 million solar PV systems could be installed on new build housing by 2025

- The contribution from "offsite" renewable energy generation to the delivery of zero carbon homes should be kept to a minimum

- The average cost of delivering a zero carbon home through onsite renewable energy is £6,000 per dwelling. Most of this additional cost will be absorbed by lower land costs

The Renewable Energy Association says “The report is timely and provides useful proposals which will help the government move towards their commitment to the 20% renewable energy target by 2020 as well as its ambitions for Zero Carbon homes by 2016. The development of the onsite renewables industry will not only help with new build developments but also help produce the volumes and economies of scale necessary to make renewable technologies a more attractive option for existing housing. "

"There is a clear need for early action and the REA proposes a number of policies which will provide the leverage and incentives to make early progress towards achieving government objectives. “

To assist this process the Renewable Energy Associstaion is demanding the Government take positive action to aid the development of the micro-generation industry:

- make the optional support that Energy Suppliers could give to microgeneration in the forthcoming Carbon Emissions Reduction Target proposals an obligation. The REA also proposes a doubling of that proposed support for microgeneration under CERT.

- introduce a generous feed in tariff for on-site renewable electricity along the lines of the scheme which has been successful in Germany.

- provide financial incentives to reward users of renewable heat technologies such as biomass, solar thermal and heat pumps.

- ensure all local planning authorities will be able to adopt targets for on-site renewable energy technologies in their Local Development Frameworks along the same lines as those successfully adopted and implemented by Councils such as the London Boroughs of Merton and Croydon.

- Provide support to householders to cover the capital cost of the installation of renewable energy technology through mechanisms such as using a second charge on a property. Such a scheme, Called RE-Charge is being developed by Kirklees Council and will be launched in April.

Jeremy Leggett, Solarcentury Chief Executive, said "At last, here is a serious, independent piece of work which confirms what I and others in this industry have been saying for many years. The onsite renewable technologies are out there, they work, they’re practical, and they’re reliable. The sheer weight of evidence presented will surely encourage the Government that incorporating renewables on site is a completely viable option in delivering its zero carbon homes target. Surely now, we will hear no more about how remote "offsite" renewables such as wind farms might need to be included in the definition of zero carbon buildings. We really can go zero, and our ailing planet needs us to. "

Peter Shield

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Related links

Renewable Advisory Board Report "The Role of Onsite Energy Generation in Delivering Zero Carbon Homes."

Renewable Energy Association

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