Energy blog

Blog for posts that are specifically about the Energy Group activities
Published by Sam Page on 15 December 2016

Image The government is about to attack solar power yet again. Unbelievably, ministers are planning to hit schools and businesses that invest in solar power with a huge tax hike.

This week marks exactly a year since the Paris climate deal was agreed by world leaders. So twelve months on from that historic moment for our planet, let's urgently tell the government it should be doubling down on investment in UK solar power -- not slamming the industry with colossal, unmanageable tax hikes. 

Recent government cuts to the solar industry have already triggered an estimated 12,000 job losses. But now it’s been revealed the government is on the cusp of inflicting a huge new tax hike, one that could leave businesses and schools that install solar panels with a 6-8 times higher tax bill.

Industry experts are raising the alarm that such a sudden and huge tax rise would prove catastrophic for swathes of UK solar firms. That’s why it’s vital we speak up now, before the changes are approved in early 2017.

For lots of people, choosing solar power isn't just about cutting emissions -- it's also about saving money. And up until now, businesses and schools that rolled out panels on their rooftops could stand to benefit from saving cash on their electricity bills. But the government's new tax plan is so severe that any savings could be diminished or even wiped out.

If installing panels no longer helps schools and businesses to save cash, solar firms fear the UK will see another catastrophic drop in the number of people choosing to put panels on their rooftops.

If you agree ministers should go back to the drawing board and rethink government plans for such severe tax hikes on solar, please click below to sign the petition. It'll only take 30 seconds to add your name to the Greenpeace petition:

Greenpeace Petition 

Published by Sam Page on 28 January 2016

An Open Letter to Claire Perry MP from Transition Marlborough

Dear Claire

Re: The Future of Community-Owned Solar PV in Devizes

As your constituents, we are aware that you are a passionate believer in localism and strongly back the need to develop local business opportunities for people like us. We were very surprised and dismayed, therefore, that you added your support to the latest assault on the renewable industry, which was showing so much promise in the Devizes constituency and the South-West. This seems to be a contradiction and we are keen to know why.

The massive reduction to the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) and the sudden abolition of tax relief for small investors, has now effectively killed our community energy company, Kennet Community Energy Ltd (KCEL). Following the 65% cut in the FIT, it was hoped that new projects could be sought once the price of solar PV came down, but the unexpected changes to the EIS tax benefits for small investors has now made the KCEL business model unviable.

As you know, KCEL is a not-for-profit Social Enterprise that grew out of Transition Marlborough (TM) in order to cut carbon emissions through the installation of renewable energy systems. In the longer term, surplus funds would have been used to alleviate fuel poverty in our town. KCEL is staffed by volunteers who are committed to a cleaner environment and together with other community energy companies in Wiltshire, provided regular work for several local solar PV fitters. KCEL's installations are currently saving at least 62 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

We note that in November 2014, you were delighted to officially open the £60,000 KCEL project, entirely funded by local people, that had installed 200 solar panels on the roof of Devizes School and were impressed by the educational role that it was playing for the students.

We had, therefore, assumed that these small-scale, renewable energy projects had your full support. This was why so many of us wrote to you, as soon as the proposed cut to the FIT was announced, warning of the threat to community energy companies and subsequent job losses. Last October, TH White Ltd., along with 30 Community Energy Groups lobbied you and your colleagues who represent constituencies in the South-West, against cuts to renewable energy subsidies because they would lead to the loss of jobs and local investment. Alex Lockton, general manager at T H White Energy, said “With people like the governor of the Bank of England and the director general of the CBI calling for increased effort around climate change, it makes no sense for the Government to remove support from the solar industry which enjoys support from 80% of the public. Community energy schemes are a fantastic way for people to take action themselves to help secure a cleaner energy future for our country.”

When we wrote to you, in September 2015, expressing our concerns, you justified this action by saying that, “because the extra costs associated with providing the FIT are ultimately paid by customers through their energy bills, it was only right for the government to ensure that these costs are kept affordable”.

However, official emails from early in 2015, recently obtained by Carbon Brief, clearly show that the Government had known that future consumer bills would actually fall, regardless of a cut in the FIT: an average household energy bill would be £1,222 in 2020, some 7% (£97) lower than the £1,319 projection made the previous year. This reduction is largely down to falling fossil fuel prices. With fossil fuels responsible for about half of the UK’s power generation in 2015, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) now expects wholesale electricity to cost less than 5p per unit in 2020, around 10% lower than it was projecting a year earlier.

As a result of these revelations, Sir Ed Davey, the previous Minister at DECC, has said: “The scandalous lack of openness and transparency on that crucial calculation means the Conservatives are decimating a whole industry, with no convincing hard evidence to justify their decisions.”

In the light of this new information on falling energy costs, do you still standby your Government's decision to cut the FIT by 65% and abolish the EIS? Furthermore, is there any action that you could suggest, which would value the local engagement needed to revive our community energy company and enable it to fund the new installations required to meet the rising demand for clean electricity?

Yours sincerely,

Image The Transition Marlborough Team:

Sam Page

Rich Pitts

Cllr Nick Fogg

Bridget Strong

Sam Aukland

John Yates

Shirley Pryor

Ann Yates

Nick Stedman

Alexandra Wax

Kerry Mazhindu-Page

Gerald Payne

Peter Ridal

Emma Dawnay

Jo Ripley

Milly Carmichael

Gina Cooke 

Published by Sam Page on 24 September 2015


On 27th August DECC announced a proposed cut of the Solar Feed In Tariff by 87% by January 2016 for all new projects.

This sudden and very steep cut in the tariff will not only cause significant disruption in the supply side of the industry but may mean that Kennet Community Energy (KCEL) will not be able to economically deploy any new solar PV projects.  This will be a massive blow.  So far KCEL has funded three solar installations using investments from local people:

  • Wadworth Brewery Devizes
  • Devizes School
  • Trowbridge Civic Centre

Find out more here...

These installations have already saved hundreds of tonnes of carbon emissions and several more are at the planning stage.

You can add your name to the petition that has been raised for the Government to review this decision by going to:


38 Degrees has also started a Keep Fits Campaign - After a series of devastating policy changes, this could be the final nail in the coffin for clean energy in the UK. Just as the global race is really heating up! With thousands of jobs, community projects, and the UK’s carbon targets at risk - we need to step in. Can you add your voice and stand up for the clean energy in the UK? Just click this link to fill out the survey now:


Here is the response that I recently recieved from Claire Perry MP:

Thank you very much for your email regarding your concerns about the recently proposed changes to Feed-in Tariffs (FITs).

Please let me assure you that this Government remains committed to supporting the investment and innovation needed to achieve a cost-effective transition to a low-carbon economy, while ensuring security of energy supply and avoiding unnecessary burdens on businesses and households.

As such, we are aiming to meet 15 per cent of the UK's energy demands from renewable resources by 2020, and FITs have led to levels of renewable energy deployment that have surpassed all expectations. I know, for example, that by the end of the year deployment under the FIT scheme will have already exceeded the Government's 2012 projections for wind, hydro and anaerobic digestion in 2020-21, and is expected to be within the predicted range for solar before then too.

It is, of course, good news for the environment that renewable energy has been rolled out sooner than anticipated, but the extra costs associated with providing FITs are ultimately paid by customers through their energy bills. I do think it is therefore only right that the Government ensures that these costs are kept affordable, and that is why it is currently consulting on proposals designed to relieve the pressure on energy customers from rising costs, improve value for their money and keep the costs of renewable energy policies sustainable.

As you will know, the consultation raises questions about a set of proposed new tariff rates, based on the latest information about how much these schemes really cost. It also suggests capping spending on new FITs at £75-100 million by 2018-19, in order to avoid the need to stop providing tariffs for new generation projects entirely. I have established that existing facilities would not be affected by these changes.

Published by Sam Page on 03 September 2015

Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance fears fracking will not be subject to normal planning process:

Image The Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance has expressed concern that Wiltshire fracking sites will not be subject to normal planning rules.  New planning guidance forces local authorities to decide on whether to allow controversial fracking operations within 16 weeks.  If they fail to approve them, government ministers have the right to intervene.

Last week the government announced that four large blocks in Wiltshire are to be licenced for fracking.  ST84 - near Warminster, ST85 - in and around Trowbridge, ST94 - Salisbury Plain, and ST95 - south of Devizes.

Lesley Bennett, spokesperson for the WCEA said, ‘These changes dangerously undermine UK planning rules.  The government has torn up its commitment to local democracy.  Local councils can no longer adequately protect community health or the environment in this bizarre rush to impose fracking on the British people.  Fracking has been banned in Germany and France, but in Britain we are to have fracking forced upon us.’

Fracking is common in the United States, but has proved difficult to safely regulate.  It has now been banned in New York State because of the threat to public health.  Underground pollution from methane, and from the carcinogenic chemicals used in the fracking process, is common.  Methane leaks are also routinely recorded at the well head.  Leaks typically pollute water sources and soil, affecting drinking water and farm land.  An increase in cancer rates has also been reported in many areas identified with fracking.

The UK planning system has traditionally been independent and evidence-based.  Clear, consistent rules help protect community health and landscape, and give a voice to local people.  The new planning rules give fracking special treatment; a green light to frack regardless of local concerns.  At the same time other rules have changed, making it much harder to put up wind turbines and create new solar energy projects.

Lesley Bennett said, ‘We are deeply worried that fracking is being imposed on Wiltshire’s beautiful and fragile countryside and its densely-populated towns and villages.  Fracking is divisive and public support has slumped to just 32%.  Renewables on the other hand are popular with over three quarters of the British public.  Wiltshire is already a leading solar county, and is equally suitable for wind farms and biomass.’

Fracking also contributes to climate change.  While natural gas produces lower carbon emissions than dirty coal, its methane emissions are high.  Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.  Evidence suggests that the overall climate impact of fracking is as just as bad as coal.

Lesley Bennett said, ‘The Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance believes energy security is best delivered through a commitment to home-grown renewables, community-owned renewables, and investment in electricity storage.  Fracking unnecessarily extends our reliance on fossil fuels, and diverts financial and political efforts to develop clean, renewable energy infrastructure in Britain.’

You can download the complete map of planned UK fracking sites here...

Published by Sam Page on 27 August 2015


Onshore wind, solar, green homes ... here are the measures that went under the knife just a few weeks ago, in what some are calling the worst period for UK environmental policy in 30 years:

1. Scrapping support for onshore wind power

2. Solar power and biomass subsidies to be axed too

3. Killing the flagship 'Green Deal' for insulating our homes

4. Selling off the green investment bank that was supposed to support pioneering green projects

5. Watering down the incentive to buy a low emissions car

6. Giving up on zero carbon (new) homes

7. Giving the go-ahead to fracking under our homes and in Britain’s most important nature sites

8. Goodbye green tax target

What’s left – and safe?

Nuclear power certainly. The government – seems willing to provide up to £17 billion in subsidies for the new Hinkley Point power station, making it the most expensive power station in the world.

Offshore wind, much more expensive than onshore farms, has so far escaped the axe although there are plenty of Tory critics willing to decry the cost and claim it is a blot on the seascape.

Some people are even talking about abolishing the Department for Energy and Climate Change all together...

Published by Sam Page on 29 July 2015

Image More than 4,000 households are living in fuel poverty in the Devizes Constituency, according to the Energy Bill Revolution.

Residents in Wiltshire now have the opportunity to insulate their home for free thanks to a scheme which could help save them hundreds of pounds a year.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy’s Home Energy Team, working with Wiltshire Council, has secured grant funding which means any homeowner, or privately-renting tenant in Wiltshire, will be able to have cavity wall insulation installed in their home, free of charge. Loft insulation can also be installed at no extra cost if the cavity is being insulated.

Not only will this help save money but will keep homes warmer and make sure people are prepared for winter when the colder weather arrives.

The available funding is for cavity wall and loft insulation which tackle the problem of cold homes and excessive expenditure on fuel bills for residents in Wiltshire. Those who live in an average semi-detached house could save £295 a year on their fuel bills.

Keith Humphries, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for public protection, said: “We may be in the middle of summer now but it won’t be long until the colder weather comes along again so I would urge residents to look into this offer and see what it can do for them."

Maggie Rae, Wiltshire Council corporate director said: “Having a well-insulated home clearly has financial benefits but more importantly than that,  it will make a big difference to people’s health and wellbeing if their home is warm and cosy when it gets cold outside.

“I would recommend people get in touch and see what support is available.”

Natalie Spollin manages the Home Energy Team and she said: “This is a fantastic offer which will not only improve your home, making it more comfortable, but will also reduce your fuel bills. Having your home insulated can save you hundreds of pounds, and we know people have been waiting for this offer.”

The Home Energy Team can also help residents find out about various other ways to lower their heating and electricity bills with free and impartial energy saving advice.

For further information and to arrange a survey, people should call the Home Energy Team on: 0800 082 2234 or email home.energy@cse.org.uk.

Published by Sam Page on 28 March 2015

Image A reader offer and competition to win a freshly published book about domestic renewable energy, The Renewable Energy Home Handbook is here...

The book is a step-by-step guide to choosing and installing renewable energy projects - insulation and energy saving, biomass heating, wind turbines, solar electric PV generation, solar water heating, heat pumps - everything a home needs from wind, sun, water - and wood. 

There is even advice on living ‘off-grid’ for complete energy self-sufficiency.

The book is geared to those comfortable with a spanner but not to do it themselves. Rather it aims to help the clever customer, those who want to thoughtfully plan eco-domestic installations rather than leap into it with the vague idea that it is a 'good thing'. Just like finding any good tradesman, it is important to use companies skilled in this field - there is nothing worse than duff advice where your life's most expensive purchase (and investment) is concerned. 

The book has been written with meticulous research from experts in domestic renewable energy, most of whom are found in the UK.

For the reader offer (£15.99 plus P&P instead of £24.99 plus P&P) and competition to win the book, visit www.marlboroughnewsonline.co.uk or click here...

Written by Louisa Davison.

Published by Sam Page on 25 February 2015

Image The good news is that the UK is on track to meet its renewable energy goals, with wind power substituting for gas and coal use and driving down greenhouse gas emissions, according to new government analyses. However, the actions of the next government are likely to be crucial in deciding whether the legally binding targets can be met. Emissions from transport remain high, while the shift to renewables has led to a reduction of 70 millions tonnes of CO2 equivalent since 1990.  This puts the UK about halfway towards its commitments, because the overall energy target includes transport and heating, as well as electricity generation. For the UK to meet its EU goals, electricity generation from renewable sources is likely to have to increase to above 30% by 2020.

You can read the full Guardian report here...

The same emissions target could be reached by drastically cutting demand for domestic energy.  Unfortunately, the failure of the Coalition Government's 'Green Deal' retrofitting progamme that was supposed to lift thousands of families out of fuel poverty and reduce domestic/ residential carbon emissions, is clearly evident in the graph below:







The Energy Company Obligation that was supposed to fund retrofitting of solid wall insulation in 'hard-to-treat' homes, was cut in 2013, after David Cameron described it as 'green crap'...


Download the Department for Energy and Climate Change's UK Energy in Brief 2014 to read the full report.


Published by Sam Page on 19 November 2014

Image A recent report by Overseas Development Institute (ODI) scientists, entitled 'Fossil Fuel Bailout: G20 subsidises for oil, gas and coal exploration', says that G20 countries are spending $88 billion per year supporting companies that are exploring for fossil fuels. This is more than double the global spending on exploration by the top 20 private oil and gas companies – which suggests that their exploration is highly dependent on public finance.

Five years ago, leaders of the G20 countries pledged to phase out ‘inefficient’ fossil-fuel subsidies – yet evidence presented in ODI's report points to a large gap between G20 commitment and action...

These are their key findings:

  • The US provided some $5.1 billion in national subsidies to fossil fuel exploration in 2013 – almost double the level in 2009. Congress has failed to pass subsidy cuts proposed by the President in a series of budgets.
  • Australia is providing $3.5 billion for the development of offshore and inland fossil-fuel resources.
  • Russia provides $2.4 billion in national subsidies for fossil fuel exploration.
  • The UK has introduced national subsidies for fossil fuel exploration valued up to $1.2 billion a year, including for promoting offshore and unconventional gas/oil exploration. In between 2009 and 2014 these were worth $838 million to Total (headquartered in France), $407 million to Statoil (Norway), $229 million to Centrica (UK) and $72 million to Chevron (US).

ODI calls for the subsidies from exploration and other fossil-fuel subsidies to be used to support for the transition to low-carbon development and universal energy access.

At the recent G20 Summit in Australia, Tony Abbott said that he would be "standing up for coal". He later reluctantly accepted a call for contributions to the international green climate fund and a repetition of the previous committment to “phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.

You can download the ODI reports and video here...

Published by Sam Page on 13 May 2014

Households carrying out energy efficiency improvements on their home can now get more money back to offset the cost of having the work done.

From June, people in England and Wales will be able to get up to £7,600 back through a new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund so they can take control of their bills and have warmer, greener homes.

The scheme helps people to install energy efficiency measures such as solid wall insulation and new heating systems by providing them with money back on the contributions they make towards improvements.

It opens up the market for smaller businesses in the energy efficiency sector, competing in new and innovative ways and providing further opportunities for jobs and growth.

Green Deal Installers and Providers should register with the scheme now.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

“The best way for households to take control of their energy bills is to use less energy.

“Faulty boilers, draughty windows and insufficient insulation all cause properties to leak hundreds of pounds every year. But advice and support through the Green Deal can help put a stop to this.

“By installing energy saving improvements, families across the country can enjoy the benefits of warmer, more energy efficient homes and lower bills.”

The average annual bill saving from installing major measures such as solid wall insulation in a three-bed semi-detached house is £270, while savings from other measures such as upgrading a boiler can knock around £100 off a customer’s bill.

Under the new incentive scheme, which is available from June, domestic energy customers can get:

  • up to £1000 for installing two measures from an approved list; and/or
  • up to £6000 for installing solid wall insulation; and
  • up to £100 refunded for their Green Deal Assessment.

The scheme also entitles those who have bought a property in the 12 months prior to application to qualify for up to an additional £500 if they carry out energy efficiency improvements.

In December the government announced a £540 million three year energy efficiency package to make Britain’s homes and public buildings more energy efficient.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said:

“The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is another way the Government is making it simpler and cheaper for people to stay warm and improve their homes.

“I want households across the country to benefit from more energy efficient homes and reduced bills through the Green Deal, and that is what the new home incentive fund will do.”

The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund also applies to private or social landlords, who can benefit if they undertake to improve the property and are paying the costs themselves.

Find out more from the Guide to the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.

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