Government policy: Renewable heat, carbon and all that …

Our quarterly rant: Government policy, renewable heat, carbon and all that…

Future generations won’t thank us for the current lack of technical understanding within our senior political ranks. It was, to say the least, a little disappointing that no party in the snap-election bothered to mention renewables policy. At the same time, the climate-change denying dinosaur Trump promotes the use of coal and oil in the face of accelerating increase of global temperature and atmospheric CO2.

Despite all of this, we can report that GSHP, renewables and water resource works are all busy. We believe there have been so many false starts, U-turns and instances of good old-fashioned government mess-ups over the last seven years with regard to the RHI and renewables policy that people and investors have decided that we may as well just get on with it! In a similar fashion, it is clear that the world will get on with implementing the Paris climate accord despite the USA’s brainless stance.

As regards the RHI; we have a degree of continuity. Despite some tabled amendments to RHI policy (delayed by the election and summer recess), Carbon Zero Consulting are confident the RHI will remain open to applications until March 31st 2021. Work is now in progress at the department of BEIS to develop strategies for the ‘post-RHI’ environment. This is likely to take the form of planning requirements for renewable energy provision – rather than payment of tariffs.

UK renewable energy has managed to get column inches this summer with the significant contribution of solar and wind power to the UK power mix – at times providing up to 50% of our energy on a sunny/windy day. Just a few years ago, the ‘carbon intensity’ of grid electricity was in excess of 500g of CO2 (this is the measure of how ‘dirty’ or how much CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere for every unit of power we all consume). This figure now averages less than 300g with some instances, of less than 100g.

This is real progress – based on investments made some years ago. We need to keep our focus on the importance of renewables in the face of huge cost increases of nuclear power. The latter is of huge importance to our future zero-carbon power mix, but we are ‘over a barrel’ due to shameful policy to allow the Chinese and French to name their nuclear power price and take control of our future energy security.

Despite the many problems and shortcomings of our government’s approach, the significant reduction of CO2 emissions means the use of heat pumps for heating and cooling has never been more attractive as they become an increasingly low-carbon technology.

Hottest April on record globally

Global temperature records show that April was the hottest on record – this follows March breaking the same record. Furthermore, it is the seventh month in a row to break global temperature records, this all but guarantees that 2016 will be the hottest year on record.

April’s temperature smashed the previous record by 0.24°C and was 0.87°C above the average baseline. Scientists are now becoming worried that it may be impossible to meet the 1.5°C temperature cap agreed at the Paris summit with doubt even being raised on a 2°C cap. This worrying trend of smashing temperature records shows the need for immediate action to reduce our carbon emissions.

UK national grid uses no coal for first time in over 100 years

The UK’s national grid has been producing electricity without any assistance from coal fired power plants for the first time since 1882. This historic event occurred late Monday 10th May and spanned into the early hours of Tuesday morning. This was again repeated over the weekend.

The government has stated its plans to phase out coal power by 2025 as it is has a significantly higher ‘carbon intensity’ compared to gas (and of course energy from renewables and nuclear has zero carbon intensity). The reduced reliance on coal is excellent news for heat pump owners as reduced grid carbon intensity will see the carbon efficiency of heat pumps improve even further.

UK Grid Carbon Intensity on 14/05/2016

UK’s Solar Power Generation

The UK’s solar panels generated more electricity than coal for the first time. On Saturday 9 April, solar generated 29 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity, 4% of the total power used that day and more than the 21GWh output from coal (3% of demand). This pattern was repeated on Sunday, with solar (6%) outpacing coal (3%). In reality, the coal consumption was unusually low – but this does demonstrate some of the major changes and improvements being made to the UK’s power supply.

Feasibility assessment of a large water-source heat pump for Nottinghamshire County Council

Carbon Zero Consulting completed the Stage 1 feasibility and options assessment for a potential renewable heating system to replace gas boilers at Nottingham County Hall on the river Trent.

An assessment of river flow and temperature confirms the Trent is certainly capable of providing sufficient water for an open-loop water source heat pump (WSHP) to replace the majority of heat currently provided by gas boilers.

Our detailed report on the viability of this system covered initial aspects of the existing heating and heat distribution system, water intake and discharge works in the river and regulatory issues.

Our findings were presented and well received by Councillors and the engineering team. We have now been asked to make proposals for the 2 Stage feasibility assessment.

UK Renewable Power Generation and Grid Carbon Intensity

Since 2nd June 2015 we have been monitoring the contribution of renewable power generation and carbon intensity of the UK National Grid. A ‘spot’ reading is taken at midday each day.

The addition of wind, solar and hydro-power to existing power generation (gas, coal and nuclear) is starting to make real inroads into the average carbon intensity of the national grid (the amount of CO2 emitted for each unit of electricity generated).

Coal power stations are to be phased out of the UK by 2023 meaning that it is likely that more gas power stations will have to be constructed (new nuclear power installations will take a minimum of 10 years to come on line). The current UK government has put a stop to further onshore wind installations, but there are likely to be more constructed offshore. Likewise, the rate of installation of solar PV, ground source and biomass systems will slow radically with the planned major reduction of tariff payments.

Wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power do not emit CO2 to the atmosphere, while coal and gas emit CO2 with coal being significantly worse than gas.

Graph of UK Grid Carbon Intensity (Nov 4)

As stated in the last article the Carbon Trust states that in all calculations 500 gCO2/kWh is to be used for computation of carbon emissions for heat pumps. However, the value found over the past 4 months is significantly lower than that with an average closer to 385 gCO2/kWh. The result of this is that Ground Source Heats Pumps provide significantly greater environmental benefit than the data published by the Carbon Trust would suggest.

UK Power Generation Grid Carbon Intensity


The UK is committed to phasing out power generation by coal (and much later gas) and to increase the contribution from nuclear power and renewable technologies (wind, solar, hydroelectric and tidal). The goal is for power generation to become ‘zero carbon’ by 2050 when all power will be generated by renewable and nuclear means.

Since 2nd June 2015 we have recorded (once per day) renewable power production and the ‘carbon intensity’ of the UK National Grid. The graph shows the percentage of total power generation being met by renewable energy (wind plus hydroelectric) and the resulting carbon intensity of energy produced.

It can quickly be seen how renewable energy generation impacts directly and significantly on the Nation’s Grid carbon intensity.

UK Grid Carbon Intensity

We do not include contribution from nuclear power in the ‘Percentage Renewables’, but nuclear power is also a zero-carbon power generator. Currently, nuclear power provides about 20% of total power produced.

Continued reduction of grid carbon intensity will reduce the UK’s impact on the global rise of CO2 and average temperature. The benefit of lower grid carbon is further enhanced when used to heat our homes and businesses via electrically powered heat pump technologies, such as Ground Source Heating.

Currently, the Carbon Trust states that in all calculations of CO2 emissions from heat pumps, a grid intensity of over 500gCO2/kWh is to be used. However, our findings clearly show the average value is closer to 375gCO2/kWh.

We will continue to plot this data to show the beneficial impact of renewable power implementation.

The Winners of the Carbon Zero Consulting Renewable Energy Implementation Award

Our winners for the Carbon Zero Consulting Renewable Energy Implementation Awards, held as part of The Drinks Business‘ 2015 Green Awards at the Ivy in London on the 21st of April.

Green Awards 2015_HEL5309John Findlay of Carbon Zero Consulting with the winner of the 2015 Renewable Energy Implementation prize. Torres witnessed a change in climate, and vine growing patterns, and acted upon it in a very rounded way to install renewable heating and power systems across the business internationally.


Green Awards 2015_HEL5307John Findlay of Carbon Zero Consulting presenting the runner-up prize for Renewable Energy Implementation. Jacksons have put a huge effort into installation of some major solar PV arrays in California including innovative power storage systems to make use of PV power at night time.


Green Awards 2015_HEL5304John Findlay of Carbon Zero Consulting presenting the special commendation prize for Renewable Energy Implementation. Principi di Porcia have shown great foresight in applying an array of renewable energy technologies to their vine growing and farming activities including solar PV, solar thermal, Biomass and hydro-electricity.


Carbon Zero sponsor prestigious International drinks award

Drinks Business 2015Carbon Zero Consulting is delighted to announce that it is sponsoring The Renewable Energy Implementation Award, a newly created category at The Drinks Business Green Awards 2015 taking place on 21st April at The Ivy in London. Furthermore, John Findlay MSc CEng, Managing Director of Carbon Zero Consulting, has agreed to form part of the independent panel of sustainability and drinks industry experts responsible for judging the prestigious awards.

The Drinks Business Green Awards 2015 is the world’s largest programme to raise awareness of green issues in the drinks trade and recognise and reward those who are leading the way in sustainability and environmental performance. This year, The Drinks Business Green Awards encourage companies to decrease their impact on the environment.

More specifically, The Renewable Energy Implementation Award, sponsored by Carbon Zero Consulting, will be looking for examples demonstrating a strong reduction in carbon emissions and use of fossil fuels and instead, adoption of renewable technologies to provide alternative sources of heat, power and cooling.

John Findlay, Managing Director, Carbon Zero Consulting says, “We’re thrilled to be involved with this year’s Drinks Business Green Awards and delighted to have our own category. With the evidence for climate change and its potentially devastating consequences continuing to build, there is a growing need to bring renewable technologies, such as Ground Source Heating and Cooling to the table and to recognise companies in the drinks industry that are already addressing these issues.

Mr Findlay continues, “We will be looking for a company able to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to the implementation of viable alternative sources of power, heat and cooling. In short, the panel is looking for innovative implementation, potentially using combinations of technologies to reduce or completely remove the need for fossil fuel derived energy.”

As a Chartered Engineer, with more than 32 years of professional experience working with blue chip companies from oil exploration to manufacturing and food and drink companies, John has played a major role in the development of Ground Source Heating and Cooling (GSHC) technology with close involvement in many of the UK’s larger public and private sector schemes. With an exemplary track record, Mr Findlay is well respected in the sector and can often to be found presenting at technical seminars and conferences. He is also engaged with the development of new standards for GSHC systems as well as having been appointed as a technical advisor to OFGEM. Outside of daily business, John is an active council member of the GSHPA where he offers advice and guidance to members.  Whilst having a wealth of experience and offering his knowledge in an advisory capacity on various committees, John owns and manages a successful consultancy, Carbon Zero Consulting.

Carbon Zero Consulting was founded in 2007 by John and is an independent and specialist renewable energy and water management consultancy offering high quality professional services to a variety of businesses and industry sectors nationwide. The company’s new website,, provides a valuable source of information relating to renewable energy solutions including ground source heating and cooling technologies for which Carbon Zero Consulting is a leading provider throughout the UK.

Please call on 0844 855 0115 or for a comprehensive discussion on how we may be able to meet your needs.


Is the future of Renewable Energy Investment in danger?

The recent major fall in the price of oil, and to a lesser extent gas, has made headlines suggesting that this might spell the end of the need for renewables. However, it was only one year ago that ‘experts’ predicted oil at $200 per barrel. Nobody forecast today’s sub- $50 barrel. It would seem that Saudi has sufficient funds and a stable political landscape that will aim to continue to produce oil at the $50 level in order to put pressure on other producers.

John Findlay, Managing Director of Carbon Zero Consulting, believes this will also greatly impact on the enthusiasm for investment in domestic shale gas.  Mr Findlay says, “This all amply demonstrates the volatility of the fossil fuel market. Although many businesses will welcome a temporary reduction in fuel costs, Carbon Zero Consulting would not recommend building a long term strategy around an endless supply of cheap fossil fuel!

John Findlay continues, “Although heat pumps need electricity to operate, the price of electricity does not suffer from the same degree of volatility as the fossil fuel market. The power generators can use a range of sources, including renewables to hedge their costs. Heat pump technologies maximise the delivery of heat (and cool) for a given amount of input electrical power.”

Although flying in the face of government policy to pursue a massive increase in the electrification of the nation’s heating; installation of biomass technologies has far outstripped heat pump numbers.  The number of projects considering Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) technology is now starting to rise due in part to degression of biomass tariffs, the advent of the domestic RHI and upward correction of the non-domestic RHI (although there remain some anomalies in the provision of RHI for heat pumps compared to biomass).

John Findlay of Carbon Zero Consulting is of the opinion that, “A well-designed low temperature GSHP scheme provides the most efficient means to obtain renewable heating – and cooling. Add to this the benefits of no requirement for fuel delivery or storage, no flue or on-site emissions and the ability to combine with solar technologies; the benefits and returns from GSHP installations look very inviting.”

As we have seen, the price of oil can change radically in a matter of weeks. A Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) is designed to operate for 20 years or more. The major ‘fuel’ source for a GSHP is, of course, the ground. A well-constructed borehole or trenched ground array would still operate in 100 years.

John goes on to question, “What other technology could claim this? In fact, the UK’s first ‘modern’ closed loop borehole GSHP installation has recently turned 20 years of age with heat pump and borehole still going strong. Some systems in Sweden are much older than this. Power stations producing low-carbon electricity to drive heat pumps in every home and business is how we should see the future in the UK – not hopeful gambling on the price of oil!”