ESA share proposal for space-based solar power
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Britain may have been handed a lifeline by Octopus Energy after the firm acquired a renewable energy company that has been planning to develop more than 100 solar projects around the UK, helping to slash bills amid a period of record high prices. With Russia’s war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s gas cuts to Europe exposing the UK’s exposure to volatile gas markets, experts and politicians have repeatedly stressed the importance of boosting Britain’s clean homegrown energy supply to avoid surging costs and gain independence.
With solar energy forming an important part of the future clean energy mix that could do just that, the UK could be set to be one step closer to freedom from Putin after Octopus Energy Group’s generation arm announced the acquisition of UK solar developer and asset manager Zestec Renewable Energy. The firm is planning to build cheap solar power on British businesses’ roofs, which the firm claims will help drive down energy bills.
Zestec has 160 Megawatts of new UK solar energy projects in the pipeline. These will be sold to organisations in need of the cheap energy source via so-called power purchase agreements (PPA).
This will allow SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises), public sector organisations like schools and local councils, and bigger businesses, to benefit from self-generated clean power without footing the cost of the installation of the solar system.
A fund managed by Octopus Energy Generation will see over 100 projects built by 2027, ranging from 100 kW to 7 MW.
The clean energy generated will help also help to slash reliance on expensive gas, as well as helping to slash emissions and help the UK to race to its 2050 net zero target. In fact, the projects are set to take the equivalent of 40,000 petrol cars off the road.
Zoisa North-Bond, CEO of Octopus Energy Generation, said: “There’s a significant untapped opportunity in the UK to generate more cheap green power from businesses’ rooftops. This space is fast-growing and it’ll help bring more energy security and lower energy bills, all while allowing companies to reduce their carbon emissions.”
Simon Booth, COO of Zestec, said: “Having worked with the team at Octopus over the last two years, it has become clear that we have a shared ambition to scale in this exciting sector of the renewable energy market. Most importantly, there is a shared ethos, client focus and attention to quality that delivers the right outcomes for all.”
This comes after concerns were raised over the level of support the Government has been providing to businesses and schools amid the energy crisis, with many still struggling despite certain state subsidies.
For instance, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme has been providing public sector entities, including schools, with energy discounts since October 1.
For six months 31 March 2023, the scheme will reduce energy rates for schools to £211 per MWH for electricity and £75 for gas. It is estimated that this would be less than half the wholesale prices anticipated this winter, effectively capping prices for six months.
But the education sector has warned that the scheme is only available to schools that are currently on fixed price contracts agreed on or after 1 April 2022, in addition to “deemed, variable and flexible tariffs and contracts”.
Back in September, headteachers warned that the price cap introduced by former Prime Minister Liz Truss does not go far enough as schools have continued to struggle with rising prices.
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Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “While it is positive to have more detail on the government’s plans to help schools with spiralling energy costs, we have real concerns that this just doesn’t go far enough.
“Even with this cap, many schools will still find they are left facing much higher bills than budgeted for, which will necessitate extensive cuts to their educational offer. We are also very concerned that schools do not have any certainty on costs beyond six months.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Schools are still paying vastly more for their energy than was expected a year ago, with harmful consequences for education. Unless funding is significantly improved, schools will have little option but to increase class sizes, cut subject choice and reduce additional support.”
However, more solar panels on school rooves could help to provide them with a vital lifeline due to the clean, cheaper source of energy that the innovations provide, helping to drive down costs.
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