On the 15th May, we’ll be at the Low Carbon Scotland Strategy Projects Conference in Edinburgh. At the conference, we will get our first glimpse of the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Bill, which commits Scotland to reduce its co2 emissions by a world-leading 66% by 2032.
The Climate Change Bill sets out a framework of energy efficiency schemes from sustainable and renewable technologies, energy storage, housing, smart city plans and will make key decision makers accountable for the environmental performance of their assets, estates and facilities.
The strategy sets two new targets for the Scottish energy system by 2030: The equivalent of 50% of the energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption to be supplied from renewable sources and an increase by 30% in the productivity of energy use across the Scottish economy.
With this front of mind, the Scottish Government has committed over £60 million to deliver innovative low carbon energy infrastructure solutions across Scotland, such as electric battery storage, sustainable heating systems, smart homes and electric vehicle charging.
As a supplier of Integrated Solar Photovoltaic Solutions, we are particularly interested in how the Government will approach energy efficiency and how technology such as ours will be used to improve the use and management of energy in Scotland’s homes, buildings, industrial processes and manufacturing. The strategy places a sharp emphasis on the energy sector’s economic role, benefits and potential from both established technologies and those that are still emerging – supporting new technologies is key for the UK to successfully meet ambitious C02 targets and tackle fuel poverty.
Scotland’s housing strategy represents a massive opportunity for BIPVco to position itself as a premium supplier of integrated solar solutions for Scotland’s new energy efficient smart homes. The Scottish Government plans to build over 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, part of the 295,000 houses that will need to be built in the UK every year until 2037 to meet targets. Scottish renewable activity is beginning to increase, particularly in the new build housing sector, where planning conditions often mean house-builders automatically include renewable technologies for heat and electricity in new developments.
The Scottish Government will also use a forthcoming review of energy standards within Building Regulations and the next National Planning Framework is to look at the role of solar and other renewable technologies. One of the ongoing renewable energy targets is for at least 100,000 homes to have adopted some form of individual or community renewable heat or electricity technology for space and or water heating by 2020.
The Scottish Government’s ‘Warm Homes Bill’ will also commit to tackling the thorny issue of fuel poverty, by improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s buildings. As part of the Government’s long-term Fuel Poverty Strategy, the Warm Homes Bill will set a new statutory fuel poverty target to help ensure that progress is made on these issues, and that support is given to those who are most in need of help to heat their homes.
With renewable solutions now reaching the top of the energy agenda, the market opportunity is undoubtedly there for energy innovators and suppliers such as ourselves. With suitable investment and a robust framework set by the Government, the path is clear for technology to realise the change. BIPVco is already investing in, developing and supplying the best technology that will help deliver our low-cost energy future.
BIPVco recently spent a few productive days in Dubai attending and speaking at the BIG 5 Solar Conference and Exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Here are some highlights from the first day of the show http://bit.ly/2AfIQIt. The trip included a visit to a local construction company to talk about a new carport structure that requires an integrated solar solution. More will be revealed about this project in due course.
BIG 5 run a portfolio of construction industry events across the Middle East, India and South East Asia, visited by over 300,000 suppliers and buyers from over 120 countries worldwide. More than anything, attending these events gives us the chance to meet prospective clients and stakeholders and catch up on the latest industry trends and updates.
It was interesting to discover how far the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has come in recent years. Investment in renewable generating technologies has never been higher, particularly solar. It is perhaps not surprising as up to 60% of GCC’s surface area has excellent suitability for PV system installation and the cost of solar power in regions such as UAE has declined to a record low of USD0.06 per KWh, cheaper than power produced from many other sources.
It is ironic as the global centre of fossil fuel production that the GCC has become a leading light in renewable energy generation. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone is projected to spend USD100 billion on renewable energy over next 20 years. GCC countries anticipate a cumulative carbon emission reduction of 1 GT through clean energy power generation by 2030.
Given the falling cost of solar and rising energy demand, like many other regionals across the world, GCC has little choice but to find new, cleaner ways to generate electricity. The demand for electricity consumption in GCC has been growing at an average rate of 7-8% per annum. This means the GCC will require an additional 100 GW power over next 10 years to cope. The Government will have to double their electricity generating capacity every year to meet this demand.
Moreover, the decline in oil revenue has compelled respective governments across the GCC regions to revoke subsidies on electricity prices, thereby deeming it costly. The rising cost competitiveness of solar equipment will enhance their integration in commercial as well as residential buildings during the forecast period.
The total market size for GCC Building Integrated Photovoltaic Modules corresponds to USD13.5 million in 2016. The market is largely dominated by import modules and major exporting countries in GCC nations include China and Malaysia, constituting more than 83% of total export from GCC nations. Clearly, the BIPV market remains largely untapped, but the combination of cost-competitive solar solutions, favourable climate, declining oil revenues and rising electricity prices, will encourage GCC regions to look at all forms of solar technology to meet demand, including BIPV.
On the 12th of October 2017, the UK Government released an updated version of its Clean Growth Strategy, setting out a framework for low-cost energy and the reduction of carbon emissions. In addition to supporting the burgeoning renewable energy sector, investing in green technologies and reducing the carbon footprint of the industry, the report highlights the importance of creating a generation of affordable, energy-efficient homes fit for the evolving energy landscape of the 21st century.
Within several local authorities across England and Wales, we are already seeing a series of projects that offer a glimpse of the housing of the future. On the 24th October, The Welsh Government announced the launch of 22 affordable housing projects that will develop the ‘homes of the future,’ with the support of the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme.
The Innovative Housing Programme was launched back in February 2017 to encourage the creation of a series of ‘demonstrator schemes’ designed to inform the Welsh Government, housing associations and local authorities of the type of homes they should be supporting to meet environmental and housing demands. The scheme provides nearly £20 million per annum to get behind projects that for example, support the development of buildings as power stations, as well as the use of recycled materials and modular techniques which offer major opportunities to increase the speed of construction and the quality of homes.
Back in June, we witnessed the launch if the UK’s largest passive housing scheme developed by EMH Group. The £9 million Heathcott Road project, in the Saffron Lane area of Leicester, comprised of 68 eco-friendly homes for affordable rent, developed to address the priority housing needs in the area. Energy efficient technologies have been built into the houses, which means that each home can be heated for as little as £13 per year.
What is clear, is there are fundamental societal pressures that are fuelling the drive to housing efficiency in all its forms. A mounting demand for housing, the rise of fuel poverty, demographic change the global drive to reduce our carbon footprint, all mean that the future of housing development must be the creation of homes that meet these needs.
The Government is taking steps to create a framework for this evolution in housing production, but this is simply not enough to effect wide-scale change. For clean growth to flourish, organisations at the grassroots of housing innovation, construction and governance need to become key players. The opportunity for growth must be a shared endeavour between government, business, civil society and the British people. It must be driven and facilitated at regional and local level by local authorities and housing associations within a framework of funding support from national government, much like the Innovative Housing Programme.
Support must also be made available to technology enablers who are at the cutting edge of energy efficiency innovation in housing. We ourselves are part of the revolution, developing state of the art integrated solar photovoltaic solutions that are designed to sit within the fabric of a building. It is these integrated energy technologies, transforming buildings into self-sustaining power stations that is the future and it is a bright one.
In August, we published a blog discussing some of the benefits of homes that can generate, store and release their own energy – we call these ‘Homes as Powerstations.’ Independent energy consultant Andris Bankovskis’s report suggested these homes can cut energy consumption by 60%, saving households up to £600 per year. He went on to suggest that building one million of these homes could reduce peak generating capacity by three gigawatts, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 80 million tonnes over 40 years.
So you might be asking yourself – why haven’t more sustainable homes being built? To really reap the benefits of ‘Homes as Powerstations’ we need to scale-up, but here-in lies the problems. We are currently stuck with a housing model which is designed to maximise the profits of housing developers and their investors, rather than the community at large.
At the heart of the issue is the ‘speculative’ house building model – this is the competitive way in which housebuilders acquire the land to build on. Developers compete against one another to offer the highest upfront sum to the landowner, based on assumptions of how many homes they can build, how much they can sell them for, and how much they’ll be expected to contribute to the community in the form of affordable housing and infrastructure. The developer who can offer the highest sum wins.
Because the landowner naturally goes to the highest bidder, the developer is forced to cut affordable housing and community infrastructure as well as slow the build rate to keep house prices artificially high – competitive pressure, therefore, works against the public interest and the end result is, poorly built homes taking no account of total cost of ownership and energy efficiency other than minimal compliance with the codes which in themselves are kept low to appease the major house builders.
Speculative building is a system we have been relying on to construct homes for over a generation, and it is one of the primary reasons the housing crisis runs so deep in the UK. Thankfully, there is another, a community-led model called ‘Civic Housebuilding’ that has already created some of our most iconic housing areas in the UK including; Bath, Edinburgh’s New Town, the Peabody Estates, Letchworth Garden City and Milton Keynes. Housing charity Shelter recently released a report about the new housing model and how it can be harnessed by Government to build the homes we need.
At its heart, Civic Housebuilding is based on the principle that the goal of building homes is to benefit the people who will live in them, and the communities they will be part of. Under the speculative model, the public benefit from housebuilding is generated by whatever value is left in a scheme once profits have been extracted. The Civic Housebuilding model means the opposite: the level of profit in a scheme will be determined by how much value is left once the public interest has been served.
It works like this – the local community decides what they want to see from the development, which is published in a detailed plan. Government steps in to empower local authorities and other public agencies to buy the land for a reduced rate. These agencies then ask developers to bid for the project and the one that best meets the community plan wins. Lower land prices mean the Civic Housebuilding model can afford to build better quality, more affordable homes, as well as invest in community infrastructure and sustainable enterprises.
There is little doubt that incentivising community-led housing development models is the key to building affordable, sustainable homes at scale. The additional money available through these schemes will also enable developers to build energy savings technologies into the infrastructure of housing, reducing the cost of living and delivering long-term environmental benefits.
We are beginning to see these schemes working on a small scale – developments in Nansledan, Cornwall, and Derwenthorpe in North Yorkshire have all demonstrated the success of Civic Housebuilding models with sustainable credentials. In June, the UK’s largest ‘Passive Housing Scheme’ was opened in the Saffron Lane area of Leicester. The scheme has been described as a ‘beacon of sustainable, affordable housing’ and is a classic example of a development that has the community and environment’s interests at its heart.
However, we need to see a fundamental change in the way housing is built in this country before we will witness change at a scale that will truly make a difference in the cost of living and the environment. It is up to Government to support and incentivise new models of housing development that serve the needs of our communities, rather than housing developers and their profit-focused investors.