By Vikki Slade
As we shiver in our homes, looking out at snow covered gardens and cancelling yet another round of Christmas parties – this time courtesy of train strikes not Covid – I am thinking about Christmas Wishes and considering what the New Year’s Resolutions should be for the Government.
I recently visited a Dorset renewable energy company, H2Eco, a company I first became familiar with a decade ago when they launched their solar carport. They are now an award-winning leader in solar and heat pump technology and I was keen to see their latest innovations and hear more about the issues affecting the uptake of renewable energy in homes and businesses.
The cost of living and energy crisis are generating increased demand for solar PV, heat pumps and battery storage but the supply chain issues have seen dramatic increases in the price and reductions in availability of equipment. On top of this, retrofitting homes and businesses attracts VAT increasing prices still further – so there’s my first Wish for Christmas. The Government could increase the efficiency of our homes, lower demand for energy and reduce the strain on the network by zero-rating insulation and a range of low carbon technologies.
Grid connection requires permission of the District Network Operator (DNO). These are regional organisations that function as a go-between end users or generators of power and the National Grid.
Typically, a small domestic array can be approved without issue, but there is an agreed output limit of 3.68kwh above which permission needs to be granted. Although many solar schemes on their own will fall under this threshold, if households also install a battery storage system this increases the potential for adding power to the grid, taking it beyond 3.68kwh.
There is a further quirk. If two or three neighbours have their solar PV installed on the same day by two or more separate companies, each registering the microgeneration with the DNO, there is effective auto-approval. If those neighbours use the same contractor – to share costs or take advantage of a special offer made by the installer, this is considered a single installation which would exceed 3.68kwh and require permission before connections can be made.
As a board member of the Local Government Association we flagged this with one of the DNOs last month who advised that their organisation is looking at revising the generation limit, but could only speak for themselves and not the other DNOs.
If we are going to see wholesale uptake of microgeneration of every suitable roof this anomaly needs to be fixed, and that is my second Christmas Wish.
This brings me to my suggested New Year’s Resolution for the Government. Theresa May’s 2050 pledge was a fantastic stake in the ground – the first major industrialized nation to put this into law. The Net Zero Strategy 2021 built on the detail and demonstrated how we can develop the green skill base to deliver on the promises.
Now its time to really consider how regulations can enable that ambition.
Traditionally the power network was quite a straightforward arrangement – centrally generated using fossil fuels that could be controlled to match demand and remain consistently available. Now, energy can be generated by the user and sent back to the centre and can vary according to the availability of sunlight and wind.
By 2050 the demand for electricity will be at four times where we are now, as we move away from gas power and heat and rely on electricity for vehicle charging too.
The speed at which the infrastructure is upgrading needs to increase dramatically or there is a real risk that the opportunity to reach Net Zero by 2050 will vanish. District Network Operators are preventing councils from building solar farms which can power local hospitals, and delaying connection of larger domestic arrays and this needs to change fast so that new homes can be build net zero ready and people can make a positive choice to go green.
The New Year’s Resolution is to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. The cost of not acting is so much greater than the investment to transform so let’s make 2023 the year of action.
If you would like to find out about Cratus Climate Emergency service, contact Vikki Slade.