The transition to renewable energy sources is becoming increasingly crucial in today’s world, not only for the sake of environmental sustainability but also for the economic benefits can bring. In the “Strategic Energy Decision Making in Historic Country Houses” seminar we delved into the potential, challenges, and policy implications associated with embracing renewable energy in country houses.
Bean Beanland, Founding Member at Heat Pump Federation (HPF)
As a founding member of Heat Pump Federation (HPF), Bean was well placed to lead the discussion on the government legislations over the last 24 months and future predictions of likely changes in relation to policy, power and potential.
Policy, Power, and Potential
There is current shift from the age of combustion to a future powered by alternative energy sources. Government policies are aligning with this vision, emphasising the electrification of various sectors while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. According to Bean, there is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change and there is no energy security without investing in renewables. The government’s focus on electrification and ambition to have fully decarbonised electricity by 2035, indicates a significant move toward greener energy solutions.
Renewable energy sources, such as solar power and wind energy, play a crucial role in this transition. Beanland underscores the potential for a fivefold increase in solar energy production and encourages the use of onshore wind turbines. While public opinion on wind turbines might be divided, when presented in the context of reducing electricity bills and combating climate change, the benefits become more apparent. Onshore wind is an efficient, cheap and widely supported technology.
Bean explained how we are currently in a complex period of history as we fundamentally move away from the age of combustion to something else. The removal of fossil fuels in energy is gradually happening, and Bean commented that the really big, looming question now is what will we replace them with? He went on to ask:
- Can biofuel meet the demand that we need?
- Will there be something else?
- Are we increasingly moving to a phase of electrification of everything?
Bean concluded that we appear to very much be moving towards electrification of just about everything that doesn’t require very high temperatures. Looking at some interesting statements from the Prime Minister (see below):
Bean commented that the last statement was of particular interest as it gives hope for a greener planet for our children and a more prosperous future, but change needs to start happening now.
But months of government policy and rafts of documents combined with longer and longer consultation periods are leaving sceptics with the view that the government will bottle these decisions and further kick them into the long grass.
There was also a strong focus on the immediate issue of fuel pricing, with Bean commenting on the below graphs that the two interesting segments we’re looking at are the green segments. These are the environmental and social levies that are currently applied to primary fuels. Bean explained how this effectively provided a tax incentive to burn fossil fuels which goes against government policy.
Looking at the big release of the Powering Up Britain policy, Bean commented that there is clearly a shift towards the electrification of energy systems.
Challenges and Skepticism
Despite the positive outlook, challenges remain with skepticism regarding the feasibility of certain renewable energy options. For instance, the use of hydrogen for domestic heat is deemed limited and unlikely to be a widespread solution due to other pressing demands in industries like steelmaking and ceramics. Moreover, the consultation process on government policies has drawn criticism, with some perceiving it as a way to delay decisions rather than taking immediate action.
Combine this with the calls from big industries for green hydrogen and the prospect of using it to heat people’s homes gets pushed even further down the queue explained Bean.
Biomass is primarily being seen as a generation product rather than one that burns in situ and the abundance of reports into hydrogen’s role in heat, the general consensus is that it is not advocated for use in domestic heat.
Looking at the headlines in Powering Up Britain, Bean made the following observations:
- 5-fold increases in solar. We’ve got to work out how we do the peripheral provision of energy to the most significant buildings.
- No changes to the way that agriculture now will be designated, so no intent to make it more difficult to put ground-mounted solar and every intention to improve the ability to put roof-mounted solar on commercial and agricultural buildings.
- Unprecedented grid expansion, with £28 billion worth of investment over the next five years in grid development.
- The government says onshore wind is efficient, it’s cheap and widely supported.
- A change to the way that electricity is priced and the migration of the levees should see by 2030 a significant reduction in the price of grid electricity.
- National Grid think we will have fully decarbonised electricity by 2035.
- There’s a huge amount of change coming and recovering waste heat will be an enormous part of the change.
Finally, Bean shared a diagram that explains why electrification is more energy efficient than hydrogen.
He went on to explain that “this is just a simple representation which gives you the conversions from green electricity wind farms essentially into hydrogen piping, hydrogen burning it in the home six times the requirement. This is why hydrogen is going to be expensive, and also a valuable asset we won’t want to burn.”
Bean concluded by saying: “I think you can see the era of change is here now and we’ve all got to understand how we make the best of it. Energy is becoming very complicated and it’s only through huge amounts of collaboration between us as the consumers, the government and various other agencies that we are going to get anything close to NET ZERO by 2050.”
Arguments for Renewable Energy in Country Houses
- Environmental Sustainability: The use of renewable energy sources significantly reduces carbon emissions, contributing to a greener planet and a more prosperous future for future generations. As Beanland suggests, “We’ve got to recognise what our ancestors knew, that all of our energy can come from the sun.”
- Cost Savings: Transitioning to renewable energy can lead to long-term cost savings. As the price of grid electricity is expected to decrease over the next decade, reliance on traditional energy sources may become more expensive by comparison.
- Energy Independence: By generating their own energy through solar panels or wind turbines, country house owners can reduce their dependence on external energy suppliers and have greater control over their energy consumption.
- Rural Development: Embracing renewable energy in country houses can stimulate rural development, encouraging the installation of solar panels and wind turbines. This, in turn, creates jobs and opportunities for local communities.
- Enhanced Property Value: Incorporating renewable energy systems into country houses can increase their market value and attractiveness to potential buyers who value sustainable living.
The benefits of using renewable energy in country houses are multifaceted. Not only does it contribute to a greener planet and a more sustainable future, but it also brings cost savings, energy independence, and opportunities for rural development. While challenges and skepticism persist, the trajectory toward renewable energy is becoming increasingly apparent. As Beanland emphasises, climate and energy security go hand-in-hand, and collaboration among consumers, the government, and various agencies is crucial to achieving a sustainable energy future.
As individuals and communities, embracing renewable energy and investing in sustainable solutions can play a significant role in mitigating climate change and ensuring a brighter future for generations to come. There really is room for hope, we can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future but the time for action is now, and the potential benefits make it a worthwhile endeavour for country house owners to explore renewable energy options and contribute to the global energy transition.
Mouldings have developed relationships with specialist consultants and contractors alike to ensure that our projects benefit from a well-considered strategy and installation. The use of an alternative energy sources is becoming prevalent in many of our projects with the common aim of reducing the demand and cost of fossil fuels. Heat pumps, ground loops, bore holes, solar and PV cells are becoming familiar additions to the service installations of a new or refurbished property. So too are the use of grey water recycling and green roof coverings.
If you are considering your next steps for renewable energy solutions and would like to discuss the options for your Country House, please contact us and we can introduce you to a relevant expert.