London

Keep up to date with specific events going on at GLD London here.

November 28th, 2011

Reincarnating “Skunk Works” approach in Cleantech

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1943, is the year in which the antecedents of Lockheed Martin’s “Skunkworks” can be found. Since those early days the famous division has produced famous planes such as the U2 and the Blackbird. These tremendously innovative projects were all founded upon the idea of small, unconventional teams of engineers and innovators operating in a large corporation.

Greenbird

The ground breaking innovators in the “Skunkworks” were shielded as if working in start-up firm, isolating them from bureaucratic interference. Considering their main customer was the government, this was a huge and extremely effective achievement.

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November 21st, 2011

Update on GLD UK: Trends, blooms, philosophy and crowdsourcing

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I want to give you all a brief update on the Green Light Distirkt over in the UK. Since the founding of GLD in London more than six months ago, things have been going from strength to strength. GLD UK has so far, hosted five fascinating Energy Bars, with speakers each bringing their own unique twist of insight.

May – The start!

May was our inaugural Energy Bar in London; the first small step in building up traction in the UK. Conveniently, Chris Williams happened to be travelling through Europe completing research for the development of the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech. During his stop off in London he dropped by to give a talk on the founding of GLD and his latest projects. The event was a fitting start for GLD UK to host our first Energy Bar with the GLD founder in town. + Continue Reading

November 18th, 2011

Cuts, cuts, cuts! How to Halt a UK Solar Boom

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Back in April 2010, the UK government introduced the feed-in tariff (FIT); a new scheme to incentivise uptake of distributed renewables throughout the country. A set tariff (different for each technology and size) is given to the generator. For example the smallest scale solar pv tariffs were set just above 40 pence per kilowatt. These are planned to gradually decrease over time, in line with a falling cost of technologies. Recent announcements indicate the cost of solar in the UK has fallen by 30% since 2010, in line with a global fall of 70% since 2008.

On an average home installation of 2.5 kW, this translates to around £1,000 untaxed, index linked income guaranteed for 25 years to the home owner. Installations of this type typically cost £10,000, so one would expect the average installations of this type to provide 15 years of income. An interesting proposition, no?

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June 27th, 2011

Unpacking Fuel Poverty

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There are around 3,750,000 households in England alone that are classed as ‘fuel poor’ – spending 10% or more of their total income on energy. It is estimated that 50% of the most severe cases of fuel poverty are located in rural area with 1 in 4 rural households struggling to keep their homes warm. Volatile oil and gas prices, and a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 2050 is leading to rising energy costs; which are forecast to increase by 60% by 2016. The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and imminent Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) policies are anticipated to transform the domestic energy market by enabling a greater number of households the possibility to generate their own heat and power. These also present an opportunity for those in fuel poverty to improve the standards of their homes whilst reducing vulnerability to wider market forces.

The FiT is limited in its ability to tackle fuel poverty, with its key attribute enabling reduced energy prices. On the other hand the RHI tackles household income, building stock upgrades and managing energy prices, and is therefore the more effective of the two policies in improving fuel poverty. Primarily, this is due to it (RHI) addressing heat and rather than electricity. More pressing an issue in low income households is an ability to remain warm, rather than being able to ‘keep the lights on’. In many fuel poor households this is an essential consideration, especially where the more vulnerable, children, elderly and sick are concerned.

The move to incentivise micro-generation via the FiT and RHI is a step in the right direction for tackling not only climate change and energy security, but the ability for individual households to move out of fuel poverty. However, as with many schemes, it is cost that places the most vulnerable at a disadvantage. In the long term the UK’s existing system requires many infrastructures (and other) changes but in the short term, greater assistance is required for those in fuel poverty. With wider circles of advice, government must develop a cohesive and cross-party strategy that sets a path for reducing the number households in fuel poverty.

As part of this strategy there may be an opportunity to create more pronounced links between the FiT, RHI and the Green Deal (GD), which aims to improve fuel efficiency in households and small businesses. Coordination between these policies to develop a clear and decisive strategy could be the key to making real inroads into fuel poverty over coming years. Issues to address are high upfront costs, long payback times, the ‘hassle factor’, and general lack of awareness.

The FiT was intended to provide certainty to the micogen electricity market, however commercial certainty is in danger of being undermined by political uncertainty with the recently announced early review. The RHI will add value to the microgen market by enabling more points to be addressed, over and above energy pricing. Changes to the GD to wrap up energy efficiency through making it more accessible are also a vital factor in dealing with fuel poverty. However, a coordinated strategy between these policies is surely to involve the Green Investment Bank as a way to show support for, and lead to greater uptake of microgen technologies (both heat and electricity) and energy efficiency solutions. Fuel poverty is a multifaceted issue which requires a combined and coordinated solution.

See the National Right to Fuel Campaign for more information.

April 6th, 2011

Geeks and Geysers: How to Maneuver Around UK Clean Energy Policy

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Earlier this month I attended some industry events including the first Cleantech Cluster event outside London (in Bristol); the Economist Sustainable Business Summit; the Future of Utilities conference and a Lord Stern lecture among others. I’d like to give you a brief snapshot of some of the big picture discussions as well as how future UK cleantech prospects were presented at these events.

From Policy and Financing to Engagement and Collaboration

Many of the event speeches  were directed towards recent and imminent policy developments such as the Renewable Heat Incentive, Green Deal, Green Investment Bank, Electricity Market Reform, as well as outspoken, though in my opinion over stated, ‘failure’ of the Feed-in Tariff. Almost all debates made reference to how these policy developments are influencing the financing of innovations and organisational strategy. This really elucidated the fundamental current state of the cleantech industry’s reliance on politics and ensuing effect on the fragility of financing. As politicians are in office for bouts of up to 5 years whereas a typical investment lasts for 5, 10, 15, 20+ years, stakeholders are becoming increasingly frustrated with continual moving goal posts. To the extent that one investor stated to a room full of expectant entrepreneurs ‘early stage [cleantech] funding in the UK is in tatters due to a disincentivised VC community’. I think he most likely ruined their evenings but this is an understandable yet worrying sign.

There was also a surprising amount of discussion on consumer engagement and collaborations / partnerships. Something I was not expecting but theses issues are vital for transferring knowledge, within the industry but more importantly to those external to it, i.e. the public. Of the people I met at these events Siemens (the world’s largest clean tech investors) were championing their role in engaging with the industry very effectively and were also working on many successful partnerships, providing a model others should follow.

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