John Forster: What needs to happen in 2023

As we enter a new year, the energy crisis continues to dominate our lives. The transition from traditional energy sources to renewables remains crucially important if we are to support consumers to achieve a more energy-efficient and affordable future.

Our chair, John Forster, looks ahead to 2023 and outlines what he believe needs to happen.

“The transition to Net Zero will increasingly be seen in 2023 as the biggest challenge for the Built Environment in living memory. We’re looking for the joined-up thinking that’s been lacking to date, that will give clear direction to education, industry, investors, innovators and stakeholders.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to transform our industry which we cannot afford to miss, for the benefit of everyone.

“Throughout the 2010s we saw mixed messaging and confusion which contributed to a loss of confidence within the industry on how it can innovate and have control of its own energy future. Investment has been wasted and this, in turn, has stalled innovation and led to an increasingly unaffordable transition.

“In 2023, we must see joined-up policy making. We also need to set clear, consistent and integrated standards that drive innovation and investment from industry and the public sector alike.”

Statement from John Forster on proposed Scottish Government energy cuts

“With many households and businesses across Scotland struggling with energy bills and the rising cost of living, now is the time where support is needed most.

“The ongoing energy crisis has only made consumers even more aware of the need to transition away from traditional carbon-based fuels and embrace a more renewable future.

“The news that the Scottish Government is planning on cutting millions of pounds from vital schemes designed to support a transition towards a net-zero future is worrying.

“Increased and affordable Retrofitting of existing buildings, to help make them more energy efficient, is essential to our net-zero transition. However, this wave of cuts, particularly the £45m from the Heat in Buildings capital grants scheme, can only have a detrimental impact on Scotland achieving its net-zero targets.

“Just a few weeks ago I praised the Scottish Government following an announcement that it is to consult on reforming planning regulations for solar installations on non-domestic buildings. It’s regrettable that this may now be in jeopardy.

“With knowledge and awareness of renewable energy among consumers at an all-time high, it is crucial that we harness this and increase the support on offer – not take it away.

“By removing much needed support, we run the very real risk of going backwards and creating even more of a backlog of houses and buildings which may never be adequately adapted to make them warmer and more efficient.

“As industry shows leadership and investment in the essential skills of the future, through initiatives like the Forster Skills Academy, we need matching commitment from government to provide certainty for that investment.

“As Scotland’s largest integrated solar and roofing business we have worked hard with the Scottish Government to ensure solar has a seat at the table and is part of the discussion for the country’s renewable energy future.

“Now is a time for us all to tighten our belts but we shouldn’t be cutting off the supply to vital schemes which will help us out of this crisis, otherwise it will only deepen.”

John Forster, chair, Forster Group

Statement from John Forster on proposed reforming of planning regulations for non-domestic solar

“The announcement that the Scottish Government intends to consult on reforming planning regulations for non-domestic solar installations is very welcome news against an increasingly bleak economic picture.

“It’s clear that current planning rules are no longer fit for purpose and will do very little to help commercial businesses take more control of their own energy generation and usage. If consumers wish to install solar panels to support their own energy generation then we should make it as easy as possible.

“It’s reassuring to learn that the Scottish Government is listening to the solar energy industry and taking our concerns and recommendations seriously.

“The ongoing energy crisis has made consumers, both domestic and commercial, more aware that carbon-based fuels need to be phased out faster and that our increasingly electric energy future should come from renewable sources.

“While overall awareness of alternative energy sources is growing, more work needs to be done to educate consumers on how they can have greater control of their own energy affordability, using different sources of renewable energy, flexibly. Solar energy has a crucial role to play.

“As Scotland’s largest integrated solar and roofing business we look forward to working closely with the Scottish Government and policy makers to implement viable solutions to ensure a more balanced and sustainable energy future.”

John Forster, chair, Forster Group

Commentary: Energy crisis will only worsen unless we offer a balanced smart transition

Energy prices skyrocketing, rising inflation rates and a potential year-long recession, the immediate economic picture for the UK looks bleak.

With more bad

news appearing on our TV screens and front pages every day, consumers and business owners are desperately trying to plan for a difficult few years ahead.

It’s undeniable that the energy we have used for most of the last century is changing. More consumers understand that carbon-based fuels need to be phased out faster and that our increasingly electric energy future should come from renewable sources.

While overall awareness of alternative energy sources is growing, a fundamental issue remains and it’s contributing to the spreading unrest and panic. We haven’t done enough to educate consumers on how they can have greater control of their own energy affordability, using different sources of renewable energy, flexibly.

Established by myself over 30 years ago, Forster Group has grown to become Scotland’s largest integrated solar and roofing business. Not only do we design, supply and install solar panels to thousands of new build homes across the country, we work closely with the farming and commercial sectors to provide tailored renewable energy solutions.

As we enter our fourth decade, we are busier than ever and this continued growth has equipped us with the necessary tools to help deliver a smart energy future and the expertise to work with government, policy makers and energy providers to develop viable solutions.

Sadly there is simply not enough engagement or clarity from government on how we can use different types of renewable energy to achieve a net zero transition and crucially make it affordable at every level of society. Nor is there a clear willingness to offer solar a seat at the table.

The current trajectory that we are on doesn’t represent a smart transition or an affordable energy future.

Obsessive windfarm infrastructure installation on large scale sites is simply not generating the electricity required at the right time or the right place when they are situated miles off the coast. Therefore, we need to look at adopting a more balanced approach, combining energy generation, consumption and storage to help spread the load, and drive down costs.

As a country we joke about the lack of sunshine, but modern solar panels work even in cloudy weather and, believe it or not, rain can even help keep them clean.

Unfortunately, so far, the consumers benefiting most from the transition to renewables are those who have already invested in solar panels. From the time of installation, these people knew how much energy was going to be generated and how much it was going to cost. This cost is even lower for new installations today, and consumers could be paying a fraction of what they are from energy suppliers.

Solar, and its effectiveness as an energy source, needs to be much more visible so that consumers can make an informed decision on whether to invest in their own flexible energy future.

With prices for traditional carbon-based energy soaring, consumers are quickly realising that this continued increase simply isn’t sustainable and they are looking to the government and policy makers for help.

If we don’t crack the affordability challenge, then fuel poverty will stretch much further across society and have a significant impact for all. There can be no certainty for those consumers who are reliant on policy makers to show what an affordable energy future looks like. We are simply getting a flavour of how difficult the situation could be for decades to come.

John Forster, Chair, Forster Group

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