Renewables can significantly cut energy costs

  • Business’s facing high energy costs, despite the recent Energy Bill Relief Scheme announced by the government, where the price has been fixed for no-domestic energy users at £211 per megawatt-hour (MWh) for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas, are being encouraged optimise renewable energy assets as a way of cutting costs

Experts speaking at the Low Carbon Agriculture show next February say that smart use of renewable electricity and gas can save farmers money.

“By removing the reliance on grid-derived electricity and gas, self-generated energy from renewable resources can provide an opportunity to keep control of a user’s costs of energy and, in the case of solar PV, provide energy at a lower cost than traditional alternatives with a reasonable return on capital investment,” says Jon Swain, technical director at NFU Energy.

“Some sources of renewable energy are effectively free at source once the capital has been paid for. Other sources such as biomass or Anaerobic Digestion (AD) require feedstocks that have a cost, however these costs for these can often be less, and are certainly less volatile, than wholesale energy markets,” says Jon.

Jon says energy efficiency is often overlooked. “It’s a poor relation to renewable energy, however it provides a more immediate means of reducing energy cost and in the long term, can ensure renewable energy installations are better sized.

“Simple turn-down or turn-off measures are highly effective at reducing energy consumption but may not always allow the necessary job to get done, therefore creative solutions for energy waste including re-using heat and other energies that will be needed,” adds Jon.

And farmers are still playing a key part in the transition to clean energy, according to Mark Sommerfeld, head of power and flexibility at the REA, also speaking at Low Carbon Agriculture show in February. “There are huge opportunities open to the agricultural sector for both taking part in and benefiting from the energy transition. This ranges from building solar PV or energy storage sites on lower-quality agricultural land, utilising agricultural wastes to produce biogas, or getting involved in the development of innovative biomass feedstocks to produce energy.

“Agriculture has a fundamental role to play in delivering net zero and one that must be appropriately rewarded,” he says.

Mark believes the government target of decarbonising our power system by 2035 is achievable, but there are significant barriers to be addressed. “A range of national scenarios demonstrate that if the UK was to prioritise the deployment of a decentralised and flexible energy system, making the most of all forms low carbon generation and storage technologies, it would certainly be possible to deliver an affordable, secure, and net zero aligned power system by 2035.

“However, achieving such a target requires a step change in the government’s approach. significant barriers need to be addressed, especially those concerning grid capacity constraints delaying the connection of clean energy systems,” explains Mark.

Jon Swain and Mark Sommerfeld are speaking at Low Carbon Agriculture Show, taking place on 7 – 8 February 2023. Mark Sommerfeld is chairing the session on ‘decarbonising our power’ and Jon Swain will present in the same session on ‘combatting rising energy costs with clean energy solutions.’

Held in partnership with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), Low Carbon Agriculture show incorporates four expos including: ‘Environmental Business Expo’, ‘Farm Technology Expo’, ‘Energy Now Expo’ and ‘Low Emission Vehicles Expo.’

The event is free to attend and features new conference sessions, including biodiversity, transitioning to regenerative farming systems, niche crops, managing energy use and costs, separate sessions on the decarbonisation of UK heat and power, and maximising returns from existing clean energy assets. A policy workshop, giving farmers and landowners the chance to quiz experts on agricultural, energy and environmental policy has also been added. The new topics have been introduced alongside already popular sessions, such as carbon farming, soil health, each renewable energy type and an open debate on reaching net zero in agriculture.

The show also features an exhibition full of businesses supporting farmers in the agricultural transition, as well as a test track for low emission vehicles.