Renewable energy in a post-subsidy world

The UK government’s own projections expect solar and wind power to be cheaper than nuclear power by the time Hinkley Point C is completed (as reported in an article in

The UK government’s own projections expect solar and wind power to be cheaper than nuclear power by the time Hinkley Point C is completed (as reported in an article in The Guardian).

Renewable energy has been a real success story over the past six years supported through the Renewables obligation, Feed in Tariff and RHI. As the renewables sector matures, the expectation has always been that the support mechanisms would taper away and renewables would stand on its own two feet.

While the removal of support over the past year has been sharper than many would have wanted causing rapid change within renewables, the good news is that opportunities for energy projects remain plentiful for farmers and innovative solutions are being brought forward.

Smart energy, energy storage and ‘behind the meter’ optimisation are the new buzz words for farmers wanting to get the most from renewable energy initiatives post-referendum, say experts.

This is the theme of the multi-streamed Energy Now conference on 8 & 9 February 2017 which farmers and landowners interested in exploring renewables opportunities should not miss. The event will examine the ways that savvy farmers are making renewable energy installations stack up in a reduced subsidy world, by using the latest technology to displace energy consumption, and examining new ways to add value.

“There are still great opportunities in energy for farmers and landowners to invest, but now it’s more about tailoring solutions to meet individual needs,” says Tom Beeley, renewable energy advisor from the CLA. “Understanding energy requirements of a farm or business and how renewables can be best optimised to meet this demand are key to getting good returns. Equally new ways of getting best value for any energy generated are emerging with some innovative business models.

“The future is bright for a maturing sector, with breakthroughs in energy storage technologies perhaps being the most exciting development since last years show. Interest in land rental from developers of large battery storage sites, to store energy and provide grid services has largely replaced interest from solar farm developers in the last six months with National Grids Enhanced Frequency Response auction driving a lot of interest. For any farms with grid access the opportunities have not gone away.

“At the smaller scale a range of technology providers have entered the market to provide ‘behind the meter’ storage at a domestic and commercial level. While it is early days for these types of storage, project costs are falling and genuine opportunities to optimise generation and move towards greater self-sufficiency from renewable energy are not far away for those already invested in renewables,” he says.

“We are also seeing progress towards ‘smart energy’, which is on the cusp of taking off. Energy systems are becoming more interactive with smart meters enabling new tariffs to take advantage of more fluctuating energy markets as well as demand side response through aggregation services which can deliver new income streams. It’s well worth getting up to date with the latest developments in this rapidly changing sector, where farmers are well placed to make good use of technology,” says Tom.

“While energy prices have been relatively low recently there are signs that these are beginning to creep back up. Regulatory pressure is sure to increase in future. Diversifying income remains an important way for many farms to combat market volatility. Established technology is now largely proven with many in the sector able to share their experience to get projects right. It’s also a good time to be coming together to discuss what might be required to deliver more on farm renewables as current subsidy regimes are phased out, ” adds Tom.

According to David Jacobmeyer, director of Energy Now Expo, where Tom Beeley will be speaking next February, the event has developed a number of features to ensure visitors can access the most up to date, innovative opportunities available in the renewable energy sector, and there are plenty to choose from.

“The event will showcase the latest innovations and policy updates that affect farmers. And while we wait for a definite decision from the government on subsidy changes – by the event next February, we hope to have more clarity on financial support, which we will be sharing at the Energy Now Expo 2017,” says David.

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