Talked the talk, now walk the walk
Another year rolls by. January is often seen as an opportunity to reflect on what has passed and what is to come. In a quick summary; a lot of talk (COP26), now it’s time to walk…
Before dialling into the hot topics of the past month, at kW Energy Consultants we’ve been as busy as ever, completing Heat Decarbonisation Plans for schools in Essex for the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, establishing Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and our EPC+ service for dozens of London-based retail premises, as well as EPC surveys closer to home at industrial units in Nottingham, sports pavilions in Derby and car showrooms in Leeds. In the middle of this, we’ve been providing our consultancy services to clients of all sizes and sectors, from supporting a big UK (and global) employer in the sustainable construction industry with its energy management systems to a Nottinghamshire college using Dynamic Simulation Modelling to model energy efficiency improvements.
Every day is a school day too; we’re busy prepping for the onset of PAS2038 and TM52 – for more information on either of these topics and to see if we can be of assistance to your commercial retrofit project or overheating check please do get in touch.
We are all going through a period of change; some of it enforced, some brought upon ourselves by mistakes made in the past. The Energy Transition Index (ETI) ranks 115 countries on various areas including energy performance and progress towards cleaner forms of energy; Sweden leads the way, the UK is in 7th (one of only two ‘major global economies’ in the top 10…which says a lot). Of course this is just an arbitrary ranking system and globally the big issue is that fossil fuels are STILL the most dominant source of energy; also, whilst the majority of nations have made progress, it is not consistent, often a quick improvement is made, only for things to slip.
On a national level and focusing on technology to move us away from fossil fuels, the phrase "If you build it, they will come" (RSPB) applies to the low carbon heat install take up through the Green Homes Grant; despite the scheme closing last year the installation of energy saving measures has continued, 25% of which have been low carbon heat installs. So...if the funding and support is provided, the take up is there; the public and businesses alike want to live green, they just need the Government to make it mandatory in new builds and affordable as a retrofit solution. On the same theme, it will be interesting to see how successful a green hydrogen project in Hempstead (Long Island, US) is; many have the diss on this technology, but until it is put into practice it's a bit like saying 'I don't like "that place"' despite never having been there...’ It doesn't necessarily have to be the ONLY energy source, but surely there is room for hydrogen in the energy mix? The UK gas grid is ready to have 20% hydrogen blend from next year, significantly reducing our carbon emissions. The big question is how is the hydrogen sourced? Green hydrogen (sourced from renewable technologies) has a huge role to play. Like with electric vehicles and electric heating, using a carbon intensive source doesn't solve the problem, merely shift it elsewhere. Closer to home and a nation that would surely be doing well on the ETI rankings if it were ‘solo’, Scotland continue to set a model for others to follow and show that renewables are clearly the way forward, having fallen just shy of their 100% renewable target for electricity consumption.
One of the biggest issues with energy consumption, regardless of its source, is how much is wasted along the way. Some of this is unavoidable – offshore wind will naturally see losses along the transmission cables to on-land transformers as an example, but even once the energy has reached its target, whether that is commercial, industrial, transportation or even residential, overall two thirds of all energy is wasted. This lack of energy management and efficiency is where consultants and assessors such as ourselves come in; the old adage of “a car is only as efficient as its driver” applies painfully to building users too – what’s the point in having solar panels on the roof if basics like switching lights off can’t be achieved?
It's not always so simple; at the end of the day, we all have lives to lead, bills to pay, businesses to work for or run – and it is businesses where there is a resource and knowledge gap. The large industries generally have dedicated teams focusing on energy or environment, or can afford to bring in expertise from the outside without breaking the bank, but what of smaller businesses (SMEs)? Often highly skilled in their field but with limited resource, time or expertise to focus purely on energy efficiency. We work closely with SMEs and offer support through programmes such as Smarter Choices and there are pockets of regional funding here and there, but clearly not enough – support networks such as the SME Climate Hub are a great starting point with advice from ‘eco athletes’ (what a brilliant term!) to get you focused and not overwhelmed.
These days the public awareness of climate change is global; we all know the impact we as a species are having on this planet, it is noticeable even in the UK with our relatively ‘steady’ temperate climate – at the extreme ends of the scale, notably the poles and the tropics, the effects are already far more devastating and likely a sign of things to come worldwide. Climate activists have always existed but sadly, largely laughed at or worse, ignored altogether; nature shows now will have a ‘human impact’ segment to them at the very least, whilst entire documentaries and even films with major Hollywood stars are highlighting the issues like never before – in fact ‘Don’t Look Up’ is the second most watched film EVER on Netflix…and it was only released in Christmas Eve 2021.
Increasing this awareness is paramount to tackling climate change; as much as we all like to moan at the Governments of the world for not doing enough (totally justified) we do all have a part to play – after all, it is called ‘global’ warming for a reason. The causes and effects of global warming and climate change are complex and many, often they may not impact us directly, but we are part of the world’s ecosystems still, irrespective of the fact that we have split off from the rest of the animal kingdom hugely. As the ‘busy’ flowchart shows, the causes are largely from us and the effects, whether drop by drop or immediately felt, impact us massively; health, settlements, peace, food – all are being damaged by climate change.
Investment bodies are certainly changing their tune (about time) and trying to become the good guys, which is a bit sickening but acceptable if the right outcome is reached; for decades fossil fuel generations was the sure thing to invest in, however banks and investment groups have recently been pulled up by their customers who are not comfortable with the idea that their saving pots are being filled with ‘dirty’ money; some investors have now gone so far as to remove companies from their portfolios if they are not seen to be prioritising their policies properly on climate, human rights and biodiversity.
This isn’t in the future, we’re all feeling this now, to one extent or another, depending upon where you’re lucky enough to have been born and brought up or your livelihood. The economy, an ambiguous term that doesn’t really mean much without context, would be heavily impacted by global warming; £billions of damage a year would be commonplace by the 2040’s, which isn’t actually all that far off…
And don’t go thinking that ironically the COVID pandemic would slow things down and 'save us' from climate disaster - 2021 saw virgin raw materials use reach record levels; a reactive bounceback, or just the shape of things to come? Finally a bit of myth-busting surrounding the current energy crisis. This has irked everyone involved trying to save the planet (so that should be EVERYBODY ON EARTH) as comments of ‘renewables are to blame’ and ‘net zero will be too expensive for us’ have arisen from the same tabloids that said there was a ‘fuel crisis’, when only a few petrol stations in the ENTIRE country had run out – suffice to say not achieving net zero will cost even more (in terms of economic damage as mentioned and also in deaths), whilst wind and solar farms could reduce households’ energy bills and payback almost £800m by the end of winter – winter, a time when solar generation is at its lowest…just imagine how much more can be achieved in summer! Thankfully the British public see through the lies of the media and back going net zero…So let’s move on and grow up.
kW Energy Consultants provide consultancy support to all sectors and industries to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions within buildings and deliver building energy compliance – Display Energy Certificates, Energy Performance Certificates, Part L Checks, Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme, bespoke energy audits, reporting, projects & much more. To find out more visit www.kwenergyconsultants.com.