BEIS Guidance on the Future for Small Scale Low Carbon Generation - Blog

3 August 2018

I read with interest in Current the Government’s proposals for the future of small scale low carbon generation. As well as being a consultant to the public sector on climate change and energy, I also have a personal interest in this area.

Having advised for some years on low carbon solutions in social housing and myself living in a thermally inefficient old property, I decided to do something about it. There started a four year process whereby I bought an old derelict cottage just North of Leeds and demolished it to build the first privately funded Passivhaus in the area. The house, which has just been certified, itself merits a separate blog, but for the purposes of this one, the idea was that as well as the highest levels of energy efficiency in the fabric of the property, it would also benefit from an Air Source Heat Pump for heating, solar PV and battery storage.

So I read all the materials about how small scale generators like myself can contribute to and participate in the emerging energy market. Sadly, there was little to reassure me in this paper.

My 5 kW of solar PV is situated in the garden as the planning authority would not let me put it on the roof due to the house being in Green Belt. On a good day (and there have been many good days this summer), it generates five times the electricity use in the house during the day. The solar PV connects to a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery in the garage. The intention of this system was to avoid electricity charges as much as possible, and hopefully to cross subsidise what few there are from FIT and RHI payments. Sadly, Council tax (like death) cannot be avoided, but this would get me as close as possible to a no bills house!

Naturally, I have been following the developments in the electricity market with interest, through my consultancy work. But the question for me as an individual is this: can I benefit from these changes in a personal capacity? Can I sell my excess capacity from the Powerwall 2 during peak hours and at premium rates? Can I be part of a smart energy system that elevates me from an isolated individual with a bit of kit, to a cog in a much larger machine that is delivering decentralised energy? Having read the Government's papers, I am still waiting for the answers.

The system is too complex, too biased in favour of large and well resourced players, insufficiently incentivising and therefore inadequate. I built a Passivhaus because I was convinced that this was the route to low cost and healthy living. I added the renewables to complete the circle – charge the EV, heat the house, keep the lights on in the evening and dare I say even to make some money in the process.

But would I have done this if I was not firstly a renewables consultant and secondly had the private means to do so? The answer is a resounding no and that is the Government's problem.

What the paper does say is that there is a potential place for small scale projects in the wider mix. What it doesn't do is give any certainty about how this can be achieved or what Government support might be forthcoming to help this along. If there are a million homes with solar PV on the roof, then there are a million potential solar + battery systems, like mine, with demand side response capabilities to help along the grid balancing and reinforcement dilemmas. If the Government is to pick this lock, it has to move the agenda on much more quickly and provide concrete proposals of support, 'cos its all 'jam tomorrow' at the current time.

So I call on the Government to up its ante and give more consideration to the small guy and really bring the potential that is available from this sector to life.

Stephen Cirell is an independent consultant on the green agenda specialising in local government and the public sector. He is author of A Guide to Solar PV Projects for Local Government and the Public Sector, the second edition of which was published in 2015.

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