Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Predicting energy price increases over the next 20 years
These Council figures are open to question:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: energy and consultancy figures: Auditors' reports to go to joint committees 5th March
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: energy and consultancy figures: "possible errors in the Council’s facts and figures"
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: saving energy costs - and challenging the justification to move
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project ... the Committee on Climate Change predicts an increase in energy bills over the next 15 years of 30-45% ... the District Council predicts an increase of 400%
And this is all within the context of the collapse in oil prices:
Futures Forum: Climate change: and lower oil prices.
This is not necessarily a 'good thing':
Futures Forum: Squaring the circle: low oil prices, high renewable prices ... and high carbon emissions
Futures Forum: Climate change: 'stranded assets' and 'unburnable oil' ...... or the pressures to leave oil and gas in the ground
And low oil prices are not necessarily a 'good thing' for the District Council - not simply because it questions the veracity and validity of its relocation figures - but because this might distract from dealing with the longer-term issues around energy prices.
If the District Council is nevertheless convinced that it faces annual energy bill increases of 10%, then what should it do about it?
One 'solution' with regard to rising energy bills at its Knowle headquarters would be to move to a 'more efficient' building or two:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "If Knowle is not fit for purpose, do they really think that Exmouth Town Hall is?"
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: comparing the Sidmouth and Honiton/Exmouth options
Another would be to install solar panels - or PV panels. For example:
Futures Forum: Solar photovoltaic system at Escot ... and at Knowle?
Such technologies can be expensive, however.
This is a recent advert from a solar panel company:
Solar PV Systems for Local Authority Buildings
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels are seen as one of the solutions to our current energy crisis. Solar PV systems create renewable, green energy and as a result we are continually encouraged by environmentalists and governments alike to use the technology. However, in today's economic climate it remains to be seen whether this is a viable option for businesses, in particular local authorities who are constantly facing drastic cuts to their budgets.
Why use solar panels?
Solar panels are expensive to install but will substantially reduce utility bills and as local authority buildings are extremely expensive to power solar panels would save potentially save them thousands a year. In 2010 a Hampshire council installed solar panels on its various buildings including town halls, civic centres and leisure centres and claimed to save Â£11,000 a year in electricity bills. This would result in significant budget savings, vital at a time when local authorities are faced with tough cuts. The use of renewable energy will also generate a certain amount of positive publicity for a local authority and may even result in additional funding as it would help meet government environmentalist targets.
Feed-In Tariff Scheme
The incentive for local authorities to install solar PV systems increases when we include the financial reward offered under the Feed-In Tariff scheme. Under this scheme the government pays solar panel owners 41.3 pence per unit of electricity produced even if it is used within the building. Any excess electricity is returned to the national grid but is further rewarded with bonus 3.1 pence per unit. It is estimated a local authority could receive in excess of £20,000 a year under this system. Indeed, the Hampshire council who installed such a system claim they will receive £25,000 a year and be able to pay for the installation costs of all their solar PV systems in 10 years.
Are there any Disadvantages?
The initial cost of installing solar panels to one building, let alone several is quite considerable and local authorities would on average be looking at having to spend over £300,000 to install solar panels on its buildings. While a profit can be made it will take at least a decade for some local authorities initial outlay for the cost of solar panels simply too much. Not every building will be suitable for solar PV systems as each building is unique and there is no guarantee solar panels can be fitted.
There is no denying solar PV systems for local authority buildings are expensive but the long term financial rewards are great. Local authorities stand to make profits of over £20,000 thanks to the Feed-In Tariff scheme. This will hopefully mean the vast initial investment in solar panel installation will be paid off in a relatively short amount of time seemingly making solar PV systems a viable option.
Solar PV Systems for Local Authority Buildings | The Eco Experts
Nevertheless, there are ways to finance the initial outlay.
This is a funding project announced last year to help such projects get off the ground:
£60 million community solar pipeline announced | Solar Power Portal
Centrica plc - News and views - News - British Gas teams up with social enterprises to build a £60m pipeline of solar energy projects to benefit local communities (9 July 2014)
And, indeed, more and more local authorities are 'investing in the future':
Solarsense install UKs largest Local Authority rooftop PV system
Largest local authority rooftop solar array goes live
... with forward-looking Bristol already having invested some time ago:
Council use of renewable energy | Bristol City Council
The point is, however, that whilst we might well be enjoying low energy prices today, this bonanza will not last - as several oil producing states are recognising:
Dubai Doubling Size of Power Plant to Make Cheapest Solar Energy
Dubai Doubling Size of Power Plant to Make Cheapest Solar Energy - Bloomberg
And, as pointed out in today's Independent, we need to look forward a little:
Eat shale, Iran! Frack off, Putin! It’s the era of cheap oil, but will it last? - Comment - Voices - The Independent
So, what is the East Devon District Council doing in terms of long-term planning for sustainable energy sources?
There are policies aplenty - from District and County Councils:
The Conservation of Devon’s Environment and Resources - DEVON STRUCTURE PLAN 2001
This is from the draft Local Plan:
The New East Devon Local Plan 2006–26 - Proposed Submission (Publication) - November 2012
Futures Forum: Public Examination of the New East Devon Local Plan ..... session on Climate Change - Thurs 27th February
And yet the planning is very short on specific commitments:
"Policies S38, S39, S40, and S41 specifically address the issue of climate change and renewable energy, promoting reduction of carbon and increased energy efficiency.
The Policies do not identify specific areas of the District suitable for renewable and low carbon energy sources: rather they promote it right across the District."
East Devon District Council – The New East Devon Local Plan 2006-26 - Soundness Self Assessment Accompanying Submission Local Plan – July 2013
It is clear, however, that local authorities have a responsibility and a leadership role - as well as opportunities ahead:
Futures Forum: "Local governments are the key actors in the fight against climate change"
Futures Forum: Local authority and community energy projects are going to pose “a big challenge" to the Big Six providers
Futures Forum: Local energy can be very profitable: "Seizing the opportunity of decentralised energy generation can provide new income streams for communities and councils."
To return to Knowle.
Several years ago, the Energy Assessor made several concrete recommendations - very few of which have been considered:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "How efficiently is this building being used?"
One wonders how sincere the District Council's stated policy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels is:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: reducing carbon emissions
Futures Forum: "A truly green alternative to EDDC's proposal"