The budget wasn’t all bad (see below), but it is quite depressing that the two industries that got the big bucks were CCS and nuclear. It suggests that the Treasury really don’t understand the priorities of the energy transition, and got swayed by the best funded lobby groups. A missed opportunity.


Dunelm launches homeware donation initiative
The retailer explained that the scheme, developed in partnership with environmental charity Hubbub, involves 18 Dunelm stores in the North West. The stores will accept usable homeware items from any retailer including kitchenware and home décor items such clocks, vases, throws, curtains, cushions and small storage items, Dunelm said.
Following donation, items will be sorted and given to local charity partners, Dunelm noted. These include Depaul, Stepping Stones and The Wallich. If successful, the scheme is set to be rolled out nationwide across all 178 stores.
Dunelm outlined that according to a study by Hammonds Furniture, an estimated 69.9 million homeware items are thrown away in the UK annually. Additionally, WRAP’s research on the role of reuse has found that reusing items that are currently discarded could save UK households between £2 and £8 billion per year. (letsrecycle)


Contracts for Different budget for upcoming auction set at £205 million
CfDs are already in place for 27GW of low carbon capacity. The fifth round includes £170 million for established technologies – the first time offshore wind and remote island wind has been in the ‘established’ pot (pot 1). Pot 2 will have £35 million for emerging technologies such as geothermal and floating offshore wind, as well as a £10 million ring-fenced budget for tidal stream technologies.
The CfD round is scheduled to open to applications on 30 March with results to be announced in late summer/early autumn 2023. (newpower)

Solar PV projects could be ‘derailed’ due to rising cost of capital
Solar PV developments could be in jeopardy due to the rising cost of capital, which threatens to derail renewable energy projects in the UK, Cornwall Insight has said.
With the rising costs of capital, the consultancy believes that already commissioned projects are now becoming financially unviable, meaning many potential projects could well be put on hold until financing is acquired. This delay could have severe consequences on the nation’s net zero ambitions.
Inflation and interest rates, which have both risen sharply amid to cost-of-living crisis, supply chain problems and labour shortages have culminated in the amount of obstacles plaguing the renewable generation sector.
This could have a major implication on the successful Contract for Difference (CfD) scheme, which will soon launch its fifth allocation round (AR5). As a result of these growing costs, developers are becoming increasingly concerned about bidding for projects in the next CfD auction with fears they may not get a return on any investments they make. (solarpowerportal)

TfL unveils first Climate Action Plan
Transport for London (TfL) has this week published its first Climate Change Action Plan as it looks to respond to the escalating impact of extreme weather events on the capital’s transport network.
The transport operator warned climate change is ow an “urgent issue”, highlighting how in the last few years alone it has faced severe disruption to its network from heavy rainfall and flooding in July 2021, high winds and storms in February 2022, and the impact of the record-breaking heatwave last summer.
TfL, which operates London’s Tube, buses, as well as connecting transport links with Network Rail throughout the city, said these adverse weather conditions affected its entire network, causing safety issues, lost revenue, and increased costs through emergency responses to get operations back up and running and the cost of repaired damaged assets. (businessgreen)

photo: Joel de Vriend/Unsplash

Treasury announces review of battery storage VAT anomaly
This week’s Budget may have left much of the green economy underwhelmed, but the solar and energy storage sector found some cause for celebration after the Treasury launched a call for evidence on proposals extending zero VAT rating for solar panels, heat pumps, and insulation to cover battery storage systems.
The new review is seeking views on whether to zero rate VAT on projects to either retrofit a solar photovoltaic system with an energy storage system or installed as a standalone unit, marking a victory for the solar industry, which had been calling for the move.
According to the trade body, Solar Energy UK, adding a battery system to an existing solar array helps reduce emissions and energy bills, while also bolstering energy security, by allowing households to access clean power during periods of peak demand, easing pressure on the grid.
However, under current rules, an exemption from VAT is only available when solar panels and energy storage systems are both fitted simultaneously.
Solar Energy UK added that discouraging energy storage upgrades makes existing solar homes and commercial premises more reliant on the grid, resulting in higher emissions and costs. (businessgreen)

Renewables & nuke yield over 60 % of UK power during winter
Wind, hydro, nuclear and solar together generated over 60% of Britain’s electricity over five months of the winter, new figures out from RenewableUK state.
Splits across the total 56.13 Terawatt hours spanning five months from full November to the end of February show that offshore & onshore wind gave 31.34 TWh, followed by nuclear’s 14.34 TWh.
The trade body says the winter performance of low carbon sources increased the nation’s energy security, avoiding 9.7 billion cubic meters of imported gas, at a saving to consumers it calculates at £15.7 billion, at prevailing market prices. (theenergyst)


VW shows ID 2All
It has been promised for a while but won’t be on sale for a coupe of years, but VW showed off its affordable EV. By that it means it will sell for around €25,000. The platform is the same as that of the ID3 & ID4, but the car is shaped much more like a Polo or Golf. It is about the size of the former outside and the latter inside. VW are working hard to drive costs out of the production process, and hope that economies of scale help them out. By 2025 there will be quite a few competitors in this space, and the Chinese are coming (see next post)

Photo: VW

BYD launches the Atto 3 in the UK
This may or may not turn out to be a significant moment for the auto industry here in the UK. BYD the giant Chinese automotive company, famously backed by Warren Buffet, who are rapidly establishing themselves as the global number one in electric transport, be it cars, vans, busses, launch their first passenger EV in the UK this week. The car is called the Atto 3, which we covered HERE last September. It is a mid-size SUV that looks conservative on the outside, but quirky on the inside with themes taken from the gymnasium, or so they say. It drives well, is well made, is very well specced, has the BYD LFP “blade” battery plus a heat pump which means it is safer and better in cold weather and has a decent range of up to 260 miles on a charge. It will be sold through dealers, Pendragon and Arnold Clark. Octopus cars will be offering a lease package and have ordered 5,000 over three years. The Atto 3 has sold well in markets where it has launched, such as India and Australia. I am quite sure that the incumbent car industry in Europe will be watching its progress closely.

Photo: BYD

Less good news for the UK from BYD
BYD also announced that they are looking for a factory to build electric cars in Europe. They are targeting 800,000 sales annually by 2030 and have shortlisted the following countries: Germany, France, Spain, Poland and Hungary. What about the UK? Here’s Michael Shu, BYD’s European president speaking to the FT: “To open a factory is a decision for decades. Without Brexit, maybe. But after Brexit, we don’t understand what happened.”


Europe’s first wild river national park announced in Albania
One of the last wild rivers in Europe, home to more than 1,000 animal and plant species, has been declared a national park by the Albanian government, making the Vjosa the first of its kind on the continent.
The Vjosa River flows 168 miles from the Pindus mountains in Greece through narrow canyons, plains and forests in Albania to the Adriatic coast. Free from dams or other artificial barriers, it is rich in aquatic species and supports myriad wildlife, including otters, the endangered Egyptian vulture and the critically endangered Balkan lynx, of which only 15 are estimated to remain in Albania.
For years, the Vjosa’s fragile ecosystem has been under threat: at one point as many as 45 hydropower plants were planned across the region.
But on Wednesday, after an almost decade-long campaign by environmental NGOs, Vjosa was declared the first wild river national park in Europe. Environmentalists described it as a historic decision that has placed the tiny Balkan nation at the forefront of river protection. (guardian)

photo: Unsplash


Jura Distillery trials ‘self-repairing’, CO2 absorbing building materials
In a UK first, the whisky-maker has partnered with University of Hertfordshire to deploy a building coating at its island distillery that can soak up CO2
Single malt whisky maker Jura is to trial a “self-repairing”, CO2 absorbent limewash at its beachside distillery in the Inner Hebrides that could turn the site into one of the world’s unlikeliest carbon removal projects.
The distillery is to become the first building in the UK to sample the new bio-based blend developed by the University of Hertfordshire and construction firm UK Hempcrete.
Made using absorbent hemp plants that can sequester between 110 and 160kg of CO2 per square metre for the lifetime of a building, the coating is also described as self-repairing and as such is expected to reduce the frequency of maintenance, thereby further cutting annual carbon emissions from the distillery. (businessgreen)

photo: Rob Farrow/Creative Commons

Hemp production is expanding in the US construction market
Hempitecture, a nonwoven materials manufacturer, announced its new manufacturing plant location and the 33,000-square-feet facility is an example of both sustainable building techniques and eco-minded business practices.
Hemp plants have been part of the material supply chain for generations. They’re commonly used in rope, bags, purses, clothing, beauty products, food, household products and more. Now, Hempitecture is formally introducing it to the construction market.
Hempitecture has already made a name for itself with bio-based, carbon-capturing construction products like Hempcrete and HempWool, an traditional insulation alternative that offers soundproofing, a range of R-values and no toxins. Now the company is doubling down on its dedication to the environment with the first nonwoven manufacturing facility of its kind in the U.S. 
Hempitecture’s manufacturing plant is designed for expansion as the company grows, yet the entire facility is powered by renewable energy sourced from hydroelectric, solar and wind power through Idaho Power’s Green Power Program. It will produce a range of bio-based nonwoven products, mainly composed of hemp fiber. These natural fibers provide the basis for sustainable liners for cold freight delivery to industries such as food delivery services and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the trademark HempWool Thermal Insulation, among other products. (inhabitat)

Industrial hemp processing facility to open in South Australia
An industrial hemp processing facility is set to start operating later this year, which could lead to more South Australians living in homes made from carbon neutral fibre.
Australian plant processing company Vircura is developing the facility as part of a new innovation precinct in Monarto, at the site of a former retail warehouse.
Vircura general manager Adam Djekic said industrial hemp was a versatile material.
While hempcrete is a mixture of the woody component of the plant’s stem and a lime-binding agent, Vircura plans to use hemp fibre to develop new products like precast panels for internal walls. (abc)

Biodiversity and the small house
I spotted this on LinkedIn (thanks @DiGilpin). It was posted by @EdwardPollard and is drawn by a Hungarian artist called Marton Zsoldos. It illustrates, brilliantly how making small changes to your owned landscape can make a big difference to the biodiversity.


IMF approves first batch of climate resilience loans
Jamaica is the latest country to get IMF board approval for loans under the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST), following the acceptance of Costa Rica, Barbados, Rwanda and Bangladesh in the last six months. 
The multi-million-dollar finance packages vary for each country, from $183 million for Barbados to $1.4 billion for Bangladesh, and recipients have different ideas of how they will spend the money.
The RST fund, set up last year, was aimed at redistributing affordable finance from rich to poorer countries, along with policy support to manage macro-economic climate risks. The IMF believes it can also catalyse essential private sector financing to boost climate action and to decarbonise financial markets.
Experts hailed the move as “pivotal” in helping vulnerable nations address the triple crises of debt, Covid and climate change, and said it could fill a gap in climate finance architecture.
Commenting on Jamaica’s $764 million agreement, Bo Li, deputy managing director and acting chair of the IMF board, said the funding would create incentives to “switch to renewables, reduce energy consumption, develop green financial instruments, and require proper management of climate risks in the financial sector”. (climatehomenews)

New Zealand considers investing US$9.8 billion in 5TWh of pumped hydro
The government of New Zealand is considering the viability of pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) among its options to plug energy deficits of between 3TWh and 5TWh.
As the country increases it share of renewable energy on the grid, along with solar PV and wind, hydroelectric power (hydropower) will play a major role in the energy mix.
However, in ‘dry years’, which the government said are hard to predict coming but have occurred roughly twice per decade in the last 20 years, can cause that energy deficit, equivalent to about 10% of New Zealand’s annual energy needs. (energy-storagenews)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


UK innovation can help scale up production of pereskovite solar cells
Researchers at the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Swansea University in the U.K. have developed the world’s first perovskite full printable perovskite photovoltaic solar cells. Made using a slot die coating in a roll-to-roll process, the method will enable the production of solar cells at a low cost, enabling their adoption.
 Perovskite-based solar technologies are the next generation of solar cells that have demonstrated the potential for high energy conversion efficiency and lower production costs. Large-scale production of perovskites has been attempted using printing or coating techniques. However, roll-to-roll production has not been achieved before.
One of the major hurdles the team came across was the gold electrode that was applied to the perovskite solar cell. Not only is this an expensive component of the entire assembly, but it also uses a slow evaporation process after the device is printed, preventing the production from being scaled up.
The researchers were looking for a suitable alternative to the gold electrode and, by using X-ray diffraction analysis, found that carbon electrode ink was the right solvent to achieve drying of the film without dissolving the underlying layer.
The researchers then used the roll-to-roll production method to print 65 feet (20 m) long flexible substrate, demonstrating an energy conversion efficiency of 10.8 percent. Now they want to build something with printed solar cells that resemble a solar panel and then install it on buildings to demonstrate to people how well it works. (interestingengineering)