Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Bristol Post and Bath Chronical Environmental Awards 2016


We are very proud to have once more sponsored the Bath and Bristol Post Environmental Awards, celebrating Bath and Bristol's most environmentally minded businesses. 

Our Chairman (and environmental trail blazer), Dave Broadway, gave this speech calling for a radical rethink of energy policy, to mark the occasion.

Photo from last year's awards.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I spoke at these awards last year, I reminded the audience that we live in dangerous times. That climate change is the single biggest threat to the future of our children and grand children, and that many of us are drifting into this danger like a frog in a slowly warming pan of water – not realising our danger until it is too late.

We are now approaching the end of another year of record global temperatures. The ice in the Arctic is at a record low. Greenland is losing 270 Gigatons of ice every year – that’s 110 million Olympic swimming pools of water going into the oceans.

And in spite of the Paris agreement, governments continue to fail us.

However, there is a ray of hope.

Solar power and Electric Vehicles are disruptive technologies, and experts are telling us that they are on the verge of causing massive disruption.

 Since 1970 the cost of solar has decreased by 22% per year. $100 per watt in 1970 is now just 58 cents.

The installed capacity of solar power has been increasing at 43% compound since 2000.

Since 1970, every other source of energy has gone up in cost, oil by thirty five times.

Solar has gone down by 2400 times relative to oil.

The Solar price is still coming down, so the 43% growth rate could still increase.

Solar is reaching the point where the cost of local generation, including the capital cost, is less than the transmission costs alone! Even if you could centrally generate the electricity for zero cost, solar would still be cheaper at the point of delivery. This point could be reached as soon as 2020.

Even the generating companies are beginning to recognise this. E.on in Germany has spun off all of its conventional power plants, and only retained solar and wind.

But what happens when the sun doesn’t shine?

Well, improvements in Lithium ion battery storage are also reaching the point of being disruptive.

Cost per kW stored has been decreasing by 14% per year – and is now driven by three major industries – IT and mobile phones, the car industry and the energy industry.

The electric car company Tesla, is building a new Giga factory that will double world capacity for producing Lithium Ion batteries by 2020 – and their development has resulted in a number of other players announcing similar facilities.

As a result costs are likely to come down by 30%. By 2020 it may even be possible to go ‘off grid’ for as little as £10 per month.

All of the above combined with smart energy saving systems that can reduce energy needs by up to 50%, means that the future could easily move away from fossil fuel power plants towards much more locally generated power.

However, there is still an up front capital cost that can deter new installations – even though the cost of that capital is easily saved. It is in this area that government should provide active encouragement.

It’s not just power generation that is about to see this kind of disruption.

Electric vehicles are also on the cusp of a revolution.

Tesla is now out selling all luxury car brands in the US. All major car manufacturers are frantically working to catch up.

But why do the other manufacturers see electric vehicles as such a threat?

The simple answer is efficiency. In an internal combustion engine car 20% of the energy in the fuel can be turned into usable kinetic energy. The rest is heat, noise, exhaust, and friction. In an electric car, that usable energy figure is 95%.

The electric car is ten times cheaper to fuel.

To emphasise this point – the UK’s 3 biggest oil refineries use 5,600 gigawatt hours per year to produce the fuels we use. It works out at 4.5 kilowatt hours per gallon.

That 4.5 kilowatt hours used just to produce a gallon of fuel would power an electric car for 15 miles in its own right.

The amount of electricity used to refine the UK’s oil would power electric cars for a total of 13 billion miles!

It’s not just power. A normal car has some 2,000 moving parts, and requires regular servicing, oil changes and so on to keep it going. An electric car has as few as 18 (yes 18) moving parts.

There was originally a fear that the batteries would rapidly lose their capability. However, tests on some high mileage batteries are now showing that we can expect the batteries to have 80% capacity after 1 million miles!

In 2017 General Motors will launch their Bolt, with a range of 215 miles for around £30,000.

So we can expect the mass migration to electric vehicles to begin in 2017. It is estimated that by 2030 at the latest, all new cars will be electric. Internal combustion engine cars will not be able to compete.

Disruption is inevitable and imminent, and the companies and countries that lead this disruption will lead the 21st century – and this has nothing to do with, to borrow a phrase, ‘green crap’ – but is just simple economics.

Unfortunately our current government don’t have this vision. If anything they are fighting to keep oil and gas dominant, while having no regard for the dangers of climate change.

In the last few months and years we have seen:

The closure of the Department of Energy and Climate Change

The addition of the climate change levy to renewable energy – so you pay extra for green energy – and then must pay the climate change levy on top – a major disincentive

The removal of all support for on shore wind farms

A 63% reduction in the feed in tariff payments on solar power

The imminent application of business rates to small scale solar PV systems – increasing costs 6 to 8 times and making many installations unviable

The forcing of fracking upon councils and people that don’t want it

The minimisation of taxes for companies involved in fracking

The reduction of taxes on oil and gas companies

The scrapping of Carbon capture schemes for fossil fuelled power stations

And the scrapping of the requirement for builders to make all new builds energy efficient

With the imminent growth of the disruptive technologies of solar power and electric vehicles, it is possible that we can go a long way towards beating climate change without help from government.

Unfortunately what we are seeing is active defence of the fossil fuel economy by the current government – for reasons known only to themselves…

However, when you have Tory MP’s like the neighbouring Jacob Rees-Mogg called in front of the Parliamentary standards watchdog for speaking in favour of the oil and gas industries in parliamentary debates while failing to declare that he is founder and director of a firm with financial investments in such companies to the tune of millions of pounds – well, you can draw your own conclusions. 

I am not anti-tory. I have voted Conservative in the past, and maybe one day will do so again. But I can only judge by what governments do – and what this government is doing is disgraceful.

If this current government continues down this route… well, to quote Ian Johnston in the Independent:

“A future Britain could be a bleak place: lashed by devastating Atlantic storms, sweltering in heatwaves that kill the young and the old in ever-increasing numbers, a countryside left scarred by disused fracking wells as fossil fuel companies go bankrupt.”

Hopefully it won’t turn out like that. With the efforts of people like yourselves, and the wonderful examples set by, not just our winners tonight, but all of the people here, we might just fend this vision off.

Now this was to be where the point where I wind up. But then Donald Trump won the US Presidency.

I have held out the hope above that we could win the battle against climate change.

Trump has stated that he will scrap the Paris agreement, end all climate change legislation, invest in oil and coal.

So the world’s biggest producer of Carbon Dioxide will now scrap all climate change concerns.

Ultimately the economics of solar and electric vehicles would win – but with those technologies being actively opposed in two major economies, I fear it might be too late.

What can we do?

Well, we can make the move to solar for cheaper electricity. Add battery storage to be less dependent on the grid.

Switch to an electric car, even if it’s only your second car. Forget range anxiety, it doesn’t happen. You just save money and will end up driving electric all of the time.

Oh, and one more thing. First chance you get, at least vote out our fracking government!

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