Affordable African Solar Could Power UK Homes by 2018
Renewable energy has found quite the foothold in Africa as of late. Now, one project that could see African energy exported to the UK is looking for funding from the UK’s government.
If the project is successful, 2.5 million UK homes could be powered by Tunisian sunlight by 2018. Called the TunUr project, it aims to bring 2 GW of solar to the UK if the company wins a contract for difference (CfD) from the UK’s government. Under the government’s new rules for energy investing, projects that are based outside of the UK are eligible for subsidies.
The project, which is a partnership between British renewables investor Low Carbon, developer Nur Energy, and Tunisian Investors, has already €10 million spent on developing the site in the southern Tunisian desert. The investments haven’t just come on a whim, though, as three years of solar data has been collected at the site, ensuring it’s the right place for the project.
The Tunisian parliament has also passed legislation to help streamline the export of energy, which included an agreement with an Italian network operator to connect an undersea cable to a substation near Rome that would be dedicated to the projected.
"This is not a back-of-the-envelope fantasy," Kevin Sara, chief executive of TuNur, told BBC News. “We are working with some of the largest engineering firms in the world. This is a serious project. Yes, it is risky like any big energy project is risky. But there is nothing new about moving energy from North Africa to Europe."
The companies involved claim the energy produced will be 20 percent cheaper than sources generated in the UK.
Similar projects have been attempted before, but have been unsuccessful for several reasons, be it lack of support or funding. Sara said that this project is different, since it has a singular focus rather than a broader scope. Still, there’s a little red tape the project needs to clear before it gets the funding needed.
"In order to reduce costs for British consumers, any future non-UK project would need to compete on cost effectiveness with projects in the UK before being allocated a contract for difference," a Decc spokesperson told BBC News. "This means that British consumers get the best deal, no matter where the electricity is generated."
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.