Using Recent UK Renewable Developments as an Irish Solar Case Study

Using the UK as a Case Study for Irish Renewables

Although we may not agree with everything that is done across the Irish Sea, we have to admire the UK's commitment to renewable energy production. Through our sister company, Solar NI, we have been able to play a small part in the recently released figures that showed renewable energy accounting for more energy production than coal, for the first time in history.

The UK are no different to ourselves, in relation to clean energy production targets in 2020 and follow up targets in 2030 arising from the COP21 agreement in Paris of last year. What is different, is the highly incentivised subsidy support in the UK driving technologies such as solar into the mainstream in the past 10 years through numerous government driven schemes. Combine these subsidies with the reduced cost of solar pv and you have an astoundingly competitive electricity and energy production option, in your own home. For free!

With renewables playing such an important role in 2015, out-performing coal in the process, recent news surrounding the future cost of solar and wind in comparison to nuclear has had a direct impact on the development of the Hinkley Plant in the UK. A recent delay on its go ahead has shown that the predictions for renewables combined with their present efficiency has really started to impact the decision making processes at the very top. An unpublished government report in the UK has calculated how large-scale solar pv and wind power will be considerably cheaper to produce than nuclear by the time the aforementioned Hinkley plant is up and running. Figures revealed in a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) in the UK are forecasting large-scale solar power to cost between £50 and £75/MWh by 2025. Nuclear power on the other hand is expected to cost between £85 and £125/MWh by the same date. The UK government has already agreed a guaranteed purchase price of £92.50/MWh with developers of the Hinkley plant for the nuclear power produced.

This is an important development for us here in Ireland, as we look to our counterparts here in Europe for evidence of successful energy strategies. It is also important because of the electricity we import from the UK through the East West Interconnector that ultimately comes from these exact energy sources we have already discussed. In an ideal world, we would become self-sufficient through our own renewable energy infrastructure here in Ireland. The scope for which, with large-scale solar pv cheapening over time, is hopefully starting to prick a few ears at the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resourcesin Dublin. We can at least take confidence from the success of solar farms in the UK, with the proliferation of such starting to gather pace here in Ireland, a small push from the government in relation to this could really give our own national grid a real shot in the arm. But we wait and see.

On a smaller scale, Part L regulations and the renewable energy aspect of such, has seen a lot of new housing developments take advantage of solar pv to bolster their green credentials while adding value to each property also.

All solar developments in the UK should be closely watched by the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources as it provides us with a solid case study in relation to how we should really start to engage with large-scale renewable energy projects with a view to both our 2020 and 2030 targets. We here at Activ8 Solar Energies can speak from experience when we say that the Irish people have been pushing it on a smaller scale for well over a decade. Our 7,000 installations to date prove such.


What ISO 9001 Actually Means for Customers

We spoke recently at our delight in attaining ISO 9001 accreditation, something that most people recognise. When people see the ISO stamp, they know they are dealing with a well oiled organisation rather than a one-man band. The ISO 9001 is an accolade that directly reflects our commitment to our "Quality Management Systems". When we set out with our blog, we wanted it to become a source of information rather than a sales tool. With over 10 years' worth of experience in the solar industry, we feel that we can bring that experience to the public and we can help educate those who are interested in the renewable power of solar. In this regard, we wanted to share the journey towards ISO accreditation, what it really means to get it and help you understand what it means for our customers and those of you interested in what we offer.

As I've already alluded to, ISO 9001 was a direct reflection of our "Quality Management Systems". This means that every single process within the company was scrutinised for best practice; from how we process orders, contact customers, our reporting, right down to how we file everything! But it was a process that allowed us to really focus on one of our strengths; customer service. With stringent processes, it meant we became even more confident that we could strengthen what we call "Our Promise".

Testament to this, was a recent customer review we received regarding our service. This isn't so much about the review itself, but it reflects the work that went into securing our ISO 9001 accreditation and definitely makes it worth it.....

A few weeks ago, my wife called to me from the kitchen. She was alarmed at the sight of a steady drip of water splashing on the tiled floor. Directly above the spot there is a Velux skylight and we immediately assumed that this must be the source of the leak. We threw down some cloths to soften the impact of the drips and contain the splashes. By next morning, when the rain had stopped during the night, the leak had stopped and the floor was dry.

A period of dry weather followed and we put the matter out of our minds. Inevitably, when rain returned the leak came with it. What should we do? Let’s have a word with Dave, the man who fitted the Velux nearly ten years ago.

The rain stopped again and we forgot about contacting Dave. Then the penny dropped! It was only five weeks since we had our brand new solar panels fitted by Activ8 Solar Energies of Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. They had been all over our roof installing the panels and it was too much of a coincidence, we thought, for the leak to be unconnected with that work, even though it was falling from the opposite side of the roof.

On the Monday, I phoned Tara at Activ8 and she arranged for Eugene to get back to me. Eugene phoned that afternoon and by Wednesday his men were on the roof looking for the leak. They found a cracked tile near the Velux, which clearly was in that condition long before the solar panels were fitted; there was moss growing in the crack. Before they reported their find to me they had replaced the offending tile with one left over from the installation of the panels.

I was so impressed that I sent this e-mail to Activ8: –

“Many thanks for following up on my request for inspection of my roof for possible damage arising from your installation work.

As the lads discovered the leak was caused by an old break in a tile not affected by your work; but they were good enough to replace it with one of the redundant tiles.

Please let me know if there is any payment required,

Once again, thank you all.”

Next day I received the following e-mail from Activ8:-

“Thanks for your email, we appreciate the offer for payment but this is part of our service we promised to you. Thanks again and if you have any questions in relation to your system in the future please feel free to email me back or give us a call.

Kind regards
Aidan”

Now that’s what I call customer service!

"Customer service". It should be pretty obvious what it entails when you read those two words. Unfortunately, it isn't guaranteed everywhere you go. Be careful what you read, and be wary of what you're offered. We base our customer service on 'Our Promise' and we back it up with our awards. Now when you see our ISO mark, you know what it means and how we got it.


2015: The Warmest Year on Record - How Solar Can Help

It has emerged, in line with the yearly trends, that 2015 was the hottest year that the planet Earth as a whole has experienced since the creation of reliable records in 1880. As a company positioned in the renewable energy business, this brings up a number of questions, issues and general discussion points about how statistics like this effect what we at Activ8 Solar Energies do as a company.

First and foremost, our products help offset climate change, be it through the installation of domestic solar panels or commercial solar PV systems. Either way, we’re helping people generate their own electricity in a renewable, affordable and sustainable fashion.

Coming back to the emerging climate statistics of 2015, the Earth as a whole is getting warmer - that much we know is a fact. Ten of 2015’s 12 months set new all time temperature records. And the 21st Century in particular has been scorching: 15 of the 16 warmest years ever to be recorded have occurred since 2001. The evidence indicates that this warming is primarily created by our activity as a species - that is another uncomfortable fact. We do however, have the natural resources and technological know how available to us to replace our existing and armful practices of energy creation, therefore offsetting our use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions - this again is a fact.

Why opt for Solar Power Now?

Well the Earth is getting warmer and that in itself is a problem. Temperatures are increasing and you are in a  position where you can do something about it whilst generating your own energy and cutting down on the cost of your energy bills. Contrary to popular belief, solar panels do not need direct sunlight to generate energy - they work off both direct sunlight and diffused radiation, meaning it doesn’t need to be a cloudless day to see substantial solar energy production.

The idealistic solution to this global problem is already here. We have an opportunity to use one of the biggest natural resources of energy known to man, the sun, and bend it to our will. By generating renewable and sustainable energy this way, we are using the sun to offset our consumption of fossil fuels and reduce our own carbon emissions.

Now that we have discussed some of the more exemplary reasons as to why going solar is a great move for the environment around us, let us mention another, perhaps even more enticing reason to make the switch over to solar energy: finances.

The sun will continue to produce energy long after we are gone. With that in mind, we are never going to run out of sunlight so the price of it can never rise as the near infinite supply can never be outweighed by demand - simple economics! All you have to do to take advantage of this gigantic source of energy is put yourself in a position where you can harness it and installing solar panels is the way to do this.

An investment in solar is an investment in the future, your future.


Activ8 Solar Energies Feature in Irish Examiner

Activ8 Solar Energies National Coverage

We were recently featured in the Irish Examiner with the newspaper highlighting poor representation at the COP 21 in Paris, but more importantly, showcasing Irish consumers willingness to go green.

We here at Activ8 Solar Energies, can testify to this after a successful 2015 and big plans for 2016. There are a number of things showing how willing Irish consumers are in terms of adopting solar energy on a domestic level, with growing adoption within the commercial market also growing steadily. In line with this commercial growth, it is rumoured that incentives are coming down the line to help support the enticing farm and commercial solar developments that have been seen support by many of our European counterparts.

The main reason that Irish consumers are investing in the solar thermal market, apart from the green approach of supporting the environment, is that ultimately, it is an investment that is good for the pocket!

HRI Scheme Success

One of the major successes of the current government and in turn a success for the Irish people and their adoption of renewable energies, has has been the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme. It was launched with a successful setup allowing people to claim back tax for work that was carried out on their home. In our case, one popular approach that fits the criteria perfectly, is the installation of solar panels.

Despite the HRI scheme being a well-known initiative in Ireland, its suitability for helping people make the switch to renewable energy sources is not widely publicised, although through our brand awareness and national coverage through our multiple office sites, we have successfully helped consumers make this switch under the criteria within this scheme.

Going forward, the government need to highlight the pledge Irish people are already making to tackle carbon emissions. As more people make the switch to solar and other renewables, Ireland increases the chances of hitting its emissions targets, thus helping to address the ongoing global climate crisis in line with new targets set in Paris.

Read the piece, in full on the Irish Examiner website by clicking here.

Happy New Year to all of our current customers and we look forward to hearing from those who want to bring solar technology to their homes in 2016.


Ireland's Commitment to Change at COP21 Summit Challenged

Could Ireland Have Committed to More Change at COP21 Paris?

On Monday of this week, as we got ready for another week of work in the world of renewable energy, our Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny, addressed many of the world's leading nations' leaders in Paris at the COP 21 global summit on climate change.

It was a moment in which Enda could have made all of us in the renewable energy industry in Ireland proud. That includes all of our customers and everyone making genuine efforts to source and use energy from renewable and sustainable means. It includes everyone who takes pride in simple things like recycling. It includes a lot of people in Ireland. But he failed to declare Ireland's strong intentions for climate change into the future.

Instead of standing and proclaiming Ireland's willingness to do everything possible so that Ireland would reach its renewable energy targets, he simply didn’t deliver. He cited Ireland's current targets for 2020 as being “unrealistic” and “unreachable”. Although he mainly referred to the difficulties facing the agricultural section in Ireland with regards to carbon emissions, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that incentives have worked in other industries.

You only have to look at the current solar energy grants scheme that has worked very well for our targets, our businesses and most of all, the Irish public who have been able to avail of renewable energy technologies in their home. Looking to agriculture, there is the opportunity to install medium-scale solar PV systems on farm buildings through the TAMS II scheme, but measures such as this should be more heavily supported if Ireland are to be seen as being serious about offsetting the emissions caused by our ever-increasing agricultural production.

The Irish Economy and Climate Change

Getting back to the topic at hand, Ireland is in a strong position currently thanks to our growing economy. Evidence of this was seen in the generous nature of the most recent budget. It would have been possible for the government to increase incentives and really push an agenda of change in relation to climate change and our 2020 targets, with a view to reaching our 2030 targets also.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and we, like many others, were left disappointed. But with this week's COP 21 global summit on climate change unfolding, we felt that it was the time for Enda Kenny and his party to show the Irish public its future plans in relation to climate change and a chance for them to showcase to the world how Ireland could once again be a leader of change as it has done in the past.

The only real commitment to come from Mr. Kenny was The €175 million promised over the next five years, which is no more than existing Irish Aid spending repeated into the future.

We, like many others, will continue to drive the renewable energy industry in Ireland and are hopeful that Mr. Kenny scraps the notions that our recession restricted us in this regard. Plenty of poorer nations than Ireland, such as India, have been admirably powering themselves forward through the heavy backing and support of solar power. In fact, Ireland are the 8th highest polluter amongst developed countries in the entire world and we are 4th in Europe [1].

It is time for change, climate change!

[1] "World carbon dioxide emissions data by country: China speeds ahead of the rest" - The Guardian.


HRI Scheme - Everything you need to know | Activ8 Solar Energies

Activ8 Solar Energies' Definitive Guide to the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme

In 2013, the Irish Government launched the Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) scheme which gives a Tax Credit of 13.5% off the price of home improvement works carried out on your home. And with Activ8 Solar Energies as a Qualifying Contractor, solar panel installations meet the home improvement criteria perfectly, making now the right time to take advantage of the scheme and save some money.

The Home Renovation Incentive Scheme allows for a VAT clawback of up to €4,050 on the 13.5% VAT rate applied to home renovation work costing between €5,000 and €30,000 so long as it was/is carried out between October 2013 and 2016, with the Irish government having extended the scheme twice now, due to its popularity and success.

Why has the HRI Scheme been so successful?

The Home Renovation Incentive Scheme has proven to be a huge success as it offers consumers an excellent opportunity to improve their homes while making savings on their tax liabilities, with the amount being given back to them in tax credits over a two-year period.

It only makes sense that this tax credit from the HRI Scheme further helps with long-term savings as customers then save money on their energy bills after they’ve installed solar panels in their home. To this end, customers are essentially making a double saving and in reducing expenditure in a steady and sustainable way.

Eligibility

Owner / occupiers of a main home or landlords of rental properties who pay Income Tax under PAYE or self-assessment and whose Local Property Tax and Household Charge obligations are up to date, are eligible. The homeowner or landlord must be on Revenue's Local Property Tax Register as an owner or joint-owner of the main home or rental property.

How Activ8 Solar Energies Help:

In order for Activ8 Solar Energies to register the customer's work details to HRI online, we need the local property tax (LPT) number of the property where the work is being carried out. Activ8 Solar Energies register the details of works to HRI online. After the work is completed and payments are made, we then enter payment details to HRI online.

What the Homeowner must Do:

After the work has been carried out and paid for the customer then needs to go onto the revenue site - www.revenue.ie

  • Within the "my account" section: You will see - Home Renovation Incentive (HRI)
  • Click on this link, where you will be brought to homeowners login for HRI.
  • Here you put in the following personal details:
    - Tax reference number (PPS number)
    - Unique property ID (Local property tax number)
    - Secure pin (Pin from your local property tax) This pin should be on a letter of some sort from the revenue in regards to payment of your local property tax.
  • Then you just simply log in.
  • Once logged in, you should see the works we have completed for you in term the price of the system and the date of payment.
  • Once you are happy with these details there should be a button to press stating "CLAIM" or "CLAIM NOW" and you just simply press it and that is your claim completed.

 

Further Information on the HRI Scheme & SEAI grant:

www.activ8energies.com
www.revenue.ie
www.seai.ie


Ireland's Renewables Cut Carbon Emissions to record low in 2014

SEAI Release 2014 Data on Carbon Emissions

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) recently released new data revealing the extent to which the production of renewable energy in Ireland has helped cut the carbon content of electricity production. The exact figure revealed amounts to a total of 2.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions were avoided in 2014 as a direct result of the embracing of renewable and sustainable electricity.

 

Ireland's Renewable Growth

The figures released show just how far Ireland has come in the last 25 years as far as the renewable energy sector is concerned. Here at Activ8 Solar Energies, we and all of our customers can be proud of our contribution to the changing face of Ireland's renewable energy landscape and culture of sustainable power. This change in how we consume our energy saw the carbon intensity of electricity generation fall to a record low of 457 grams of CO2 per kWh of electrical output, only half the level that was measured in 1990. When you consider the growth of the Irish economy since then and the increased need for electricity and energy on our island due to a growing population and new businesses setting up shop, these statistics becomes even more impressive when taken into context.

SEAI chief executive Brian Motherway feels that the results are an “extremely positive” step for the country of Ireland. Speaking about Ireland's reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and embracing of sustainably renewable energy solutions, he said:

“This comes ahead of an international climate change agreement at COP21 that will put the world on track to a low-emission, climate resilient and sustainable future,”

He continued:

“We can see how Ireland is moving to a low-carbon economy, with clean and renewable energy increasingly used to provide electricity in our homes and businesses.”

On the back of the new data, the SEAI says that renewables are now one of the single biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emission reductions in Ireland.

 

Renewables & The Irish Economy

The SEAI has also revealed that the growth in renewables resulted in a substantial €250 million saving on fossil fuel imports in 2014, keeping more money in Ireland and furthering our nation's own economical output as a result.

So, as we already knew, it pays to go green, both as a homeowner and as a country.

 

 


Solar PV - Have The Irish Government Missed The Point?

Solar Energy Generation & Job Creation

We have seen the new budget announced recently, with a plethora of giveaways, incentives and promises of job creation. As a company, we work both north and south of the boarder. Through Activ8 Solar Energies we have created a sustainable business model in the solar thermal industry, with thousands of installs and continued business growth throughout the downturn. We have seen other companies come and go in the tough economical climate of the recession. In Northern Ireland we work as Solar NI, installing solar PV (electric solar) systems, where we have been gaining traction in a new territory while helping to create 16 new jobs in Newry, Co. Down within 1 year of commencing trading.

Our Neighbours in Northern Ireland

Through an incentive which has been in place for a number of years now in Northern Ireland, home owners are incentivised for the units of green energy produced on a yearly basis. Guaranteed for 20 years, this along with a small payment from the electricity companies for any energy sold to the grid, makes PV a very good seller. It pays for itself completely within 5-8 years and is guaranteed for 20, leaving it a no-brainer in terms of a long term sustainability measures for a home owner. An average home owner can expect to save anywhere from €600 to €800 on energy costs. A small grant similar to that of solar thermal could see a considerable growth of the Solar PV industry.

Take Northern Ireland for example, where the current solar industry directly employs 750 people from a population that is only a quarter the size of the Republic of Ireland's. Employment would be created by SMEs and spread widely across the country. The spread of these jobs to match regional demand could serve as a welcome boost to the rural areas of the country. These areas have been the hardest hit by the recession, especially in comparison to urban centres such as Dublin and, to a lesser extent, Cork. Employment and prosperity opportunities in these areas would offer the demographic who are leaving the country in large numbers an incentive and opportunity to stay in their home towns and help rebuild communities which have been decimated by the recent recession. So, in real terms, you could expect to see up on 3,000 jobs directly contributed to the Solar PV trades created by a solar PV incentive or grant, never mind the increased consumer spend and VAT intake for the government's coffers.

The Solar Power of Ireland

When you also tale into consideration that the Republic of Ireland has higher average solar yields than our Northern Irish counterparts, it makes even more sense to invest in Solar PV. Let us compare ourselves to our perceived sunnier continental friends; would it surprise you to know that south of a line from Dublin to Kenmare, Ireland’s potential for solar electricity generation is as good as that of Germany’s?

The Irish Examiner, last year, discussed these compelling statistics. It explained how Germany has installed tens of thousands of megawatts of solar, currently generating over 6% of its electricity with plans to go to 20%, whereas we have yet to install even 1 megawatt. This at a time when we need to increase the amount of renewable electricity we produce, reduce our CO2 emissions and decrease our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

So for now, solar thermal is the only show in town, with a reasonable pick up from the general population due to the current grants which are available. Solar thermal represents a strong return on investment along with a considerably improved standard of living for those who currently use kettles (i.e. virtually every Irish person!) and electric showers for their hot water needs during the 6-8 months in the year where you don’t actually need your central heating. Here at Activ8 Solar Energies, we currently employ approximately 80 staff and have seen our way through the poor economic times on the back of quality product, service and back up that has seen us gather many happy customers.

But we feel we could raise our country wide employment to double that with a simple, cost neutral incentive by the government. In our opinion, they may have missed a trick.