Eighty per cent of homes in 2045 will be the homes we live in today and therein lies a dilemma: How do we achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045/50 when most of these homes and some of the of 23,000 new builds typically completed each year still do not feature the essential, integrated, flexible renewable energy technologies which will help us get there affordably?
Our energy future is going to be predominantly electric. Energy generation and storage will be dominated by heat pumps, EV charging, solar PV and batteries. But these must be delivered through their deployment as a smart, flexible, integrated, affordable, renewable resource. Internationally accepted by the IPCC as the cheapest and lowest carbon solution, Solar PV is one of the most flexible and easily integrated sources of power available for homes, with the promise of lower carbon emissions and reduced energy bills. And, although solar installations are increasing, the speed of adoption is just not fast enough.
There are about 130,000 residential solar PV installations in Scotland, around a million in the UK, and although there has been an explosion in the deployment of solar on new builds, trebling year-on-year, it is small beer against the Committee for Climate Change claim that 28 million homes in the UK require retrofitting to meet net zero targets. To put that into a more local context, Scotland has approximately 2.6 million households, and with that level of demand the prospect of comprehensive retrofitting seems light years rather than decades away.
Social housing serves as a good illustration of the enormity of the challenge – in Scotland roughly 24 per cent of housing stock is managed by local authorities and housing associations. These organisations face many of the same issues as owner-occupiers, but the challenges they face in transitioning to net zero are somewhat more complex: they have to balance net zero targets with the delivery of affordable housing, reduce fuel poverty and meet the minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C (band B by 2032), but with homes becoming increasingly electrified, the ever increasing cost of electricity will increasingly headline as the affordability challenge of the future.
And there is the financial cost of building and retrofitting these properties: an Inside Housing survey of housing associations puts the average cost of retrofitting each social home in the UK to zero carbon standards at £20,742 per property, but zero carbon doesn’t mean zero bills.
Pre-pandemic research shows that installation of solar panels typically reduces energy bills by £320 per annum, a saving that continues to grow year-on-year. Over the last ten years, the cost of solar installation has fallen by about 60 per cent, with a typical solar system now costing in the region of £4,000. Furthermore, the period over which the investment is expected to pay for itself – as a result of energy savings and the sale of surplus energy to the national grid through the Export Guarantee scheme, is eght-ten years. But smart, integrated, flexible solutions have the potential to bring even better answers to the affordability challenge of the emerging era of electrification, for owner-occupiers, businesses, landlords and tenants.
Solar and home storage are truly the cornerstone of electrification, delivering benefits now and multiplying those benefits in the future. A true enabler: without it, we can forget about harnessing the financial and environmental benefits of heat pumps and EV charging – other means of generating electricity are just too expensive, in cost and carbon.
Yes, we need investment in net zero retrofits and new builds, but we also need to bring harmony to our carbon reduction and energy efficiency standards so that they help us chart a direct transition to an integrated electric future. One where making energy affordable and flexible is a clear goal.
John Forster is Chair and Founder of Forster Group.
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.”
“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
“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
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
Forster Group quality management system (QMS) was recently certified by Ocean Certification as being compliant with the International Standard EN ISO 9001:2015.
The roofing and solar installation business, who cover one in five of Scotland’s new homes, passed with zero non-conformities. The Ocean Certification assessor, David Robinson was extremely complimentary and highlighted several areas of best practice in his assessment report. “The company demonstrated a strong commitment, led from the top, to continual improvement of the management system, the business and the measures it uses to evaluate performance. This is to be commended,” said David.
“Interviews with senior staff including Chairman, John Forster and Managing Director, Steve Scott confirmed a focus on ensuring that issues and activities regarded as core to the “Forster Approach” were encompassed in their QMS. This emanated from the top, and leadership was clearly demonstrated. There is an excellent understanding of the environment within which the company operates – active involvement with the NHBC, the Scottish House Builder Health & Safety Forum, the CITB and the development of a comprehensive apprenticeship programme demonstrates this. Improvements over a number of years have led to Forster being recognised as a leader in their field”.
“The success of the audit is testimony to the work put in across all our teams over many years,” explained Forster Human Resources Director, Maureen Douglas. “ISO 9001 is certainly the standard to have and next year we intend to achieve the equivalent ISO standard in safety and environmental management”.
An overview to our events in March.
Scottish Renewables Annual Conference- Defining the Future of Renewable Energy in Scotland: 1st-2nd March, Edinburgh
We will be attending the Scottish Renewables Annual Conference, to discuss the future of renewable energy in Scotland. Come to see our Chairman John Forster speak as part of a panel on Future for Established Technologies from 11.30am – 12.40pm.
Deployment has accelerated and costs have declined in onshore wind and solar, with talk increasingly of being subsidy-free in the 2020s; but at what scale, where, and who will be building? How can government policy help achieve that, and where does that leave the future for other established technologies, such as hydro?
Visit www.scottishrenewables.com/events/sr-annual-conference-2016/ to find out more.
EcoBuild: 8th – 10th March, London
We will be exhibiting on stand E3180 at EcoBuild, at the UK’s leading exhibition and conference for the construction and energy market, with over 44,000 industry professionals in attendance.
Visit www.ecobuild.co.uk to find out more.
Solar Power Portal Roadshow Event: 17th March, Edinburgh
The Solar Power Portal roadshow events are free, technology agnostic, half day events that provide a concise and educational experience targeting installers, local councils, and commercial energy buyers, with view of enabling networking and knowledge exchange that will ultimately benefit everyone involved. The goal is to bring as many installers, local business and councils together in order to facilitate discussion and help the industry grow.
John Forster will be chairing the Edinburgh event and speaking on the day.
Visit www.ukroadshow.solarenergyevents.com/edinburgh to find out more.
Solar in Scotland: The Future and the opportunity: 15th March, Edinburgh
Chaired by John Forster the Solar Trade Association event will cover the full range of industry sectors, exploring the future and opportunities for expanding solar’s share in the energy mix within Scotland’s 100% renewable target. Importantly, each speaker will focus on one or more of the STA’s key asks of the Scottish Government, and our keynote speaker Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP will present his vision for renewables.
STA Scotland is recommending that Scotland sets a goal of deploying 2GW of solar in Scotland by 2020, a tenfold increase from today. Despite the huge challenges from recent UK policy changes, including reductions to the Feed-in-Tariff and early closure of the Renewables Obligation, this ambitious target can still be achieved. Attend our event, meet the industry and discover the opportunities, and together we can overcome the barriers to growth.
Visit www.solar-trade.org.uk/event/solar-in-scotland/to find out more.
Scotland Food & Drink AGM and Conference: 17th March, Edinburgh
We will be exhibiting at the Scotland Food & Drink conference to discuss benefits of solar to those in the industry. The event will look at the Scottish food and drink industry in 2030, what it could look like by then and what we need to do to achieve success over the next 10-15 years. A top line-up of speakers will look at the latest trends in the sector, how SF&D should support industry growth. A panel of both key retail and foodservice buyers and some leading CEOs from our manufacturing sector.
“Scottish businesses must be motivated by more than the financial bottom line if they are to help build a fairer and greener Scotland.”
This is the conclusion of the report “Better Business” that has been released by Social Value Lab on business practices in Scotland. The research set out to answer the following questions and explore the barriers so many businesses face in changing the corporate behaviour:
The results were very encouraging, showing that there is an appetite from Scottish businesses to play a role in creating a fairer and greener Scotland. Some of the most promising responses include 85% of businesses reporting that community, social and environmental issues as either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ important to them and nine in ten companies (89%) felt they were delivering on their social and environmental responsibilities.
However, it also found barriers that business face, including pressures caused by business size with just 15% of small companies reported to fully support employee volunteering, 22% among mid-sized companies and a huge gap to 51% among large companies. There was also a clear issue with equality for women with, only 13% of all board posts held by women and over half (56%) of the firms with none at all. Just 4% of CEOs are women.
This report is hugely important to us at Forster Group, not only because we try to lead by example in environmental and social responsibility, but we also strive to see this culture extend out into our industry and wider community. We began in the construction industry 26 years ago, and since taking on our first trainee in 1990, we haven’t stopped seeing the value in investing in the workforce of the future.
We invested in our business early, building lasting relationships from the beginning with local schools and colleges, we have collaborated on many initiatives to invest in new skills for young people. In 2014 this eventually led to the creation of our Forster Skills Academy, a custom-designed training centre delivering innovative Modern Apprenticeship qualifications for people looking to learn a trade in roofing. We have so far taken on 12 new apprentices and will continue to take on a further 12 into 2016.
Investing in our people has served us well for the future, ensuring an injection of new ideas and fresh thinking in the business, the development of a pipeline of talent, as well as improved capacity to react to customer demand. Last year we were accredited as one of the first wave of Investors in Young People employers in Scotland and 32% of our workforce are aged under 25 years old.
Our people are our business, so working innovatively, collaboratively and investing in the future of our industry are key to staying one step ahead and the continued success of any business.
This year we have joined The 5% Club, which promotes the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the workforce. Faced with the shortage of skilled workers in the industry we want to support our commitment to developing young people within the industry, alongside our own initiatives with the Forster Skills Academy and our investment in young people in-house.
The club supports the employment of at least 5% young people on a workforce, and we have already excelled employing 11%. This is set to grow over the course of 2016 as we continue to invest in our people ensuring an injection of new ideas and fresh thinking in the business and the development of a pipeline of talent, as well as improved capacity to react to customer demand.
As Forster prepare to celebrate 25-years of roofing Scottish homes, the market leading roofing and solar services provider is also embracing a new modern website, which brings together the company’s core roofing and energy businesses into a single site.
The site provides information for house builders, public sector and community bodies, social housing landlords, farmers and commercial landlords and tenants interested in finding out about the exciting benefits of installing solar. Visitors to the site can browse through case studies, showcasing the companies work for existing clients in these sectors, search and apply for jobs as well as stay up-to-date with the businesses activities and industry news.
“As we prepare to celebrate a significant landmark in our history, it’s a great time to be launching a new, modern website, which reflects our passionate and aspirational approach.. The new site communicates our commitment to delivering excellence in every area of our business” explained Marketing Executive, Peter Barrow. “It is a central tool in communicating the key benefits of solar as well as our core service offerings, particularly our integrated solar roofing service.”
Denvir Marketing, the agency which project managed the development of the site, said it was an exciting time for Forster Group and Denvir Marketing. Charlotte Jordan, Marketing Manager at Denvir Marketing, said:
“This fresh, clean and contemporary website reflects Forster Group’s energy, drive and enthusiasm for solar and roofing. The advances being made in the solar industry are phenomenal and we feel this new website will enable Forster Group to maintain its position as the number one roofing, solar and integrated solar business in Scotland.”
Forster Group HR Director, Maureen Douglas was appointed by Nick Boles, Minister of State for Skills and Equalities on the CITB’s new Board of Trustees. The new UK construction training board works with businesses and employers across the country to address the skills challenges faced within the sector.
Maureen has extensive experience in the construction industry spanning a decade, at the young age of 36. Her role as Forster HR Director comprises of leading the strategy from board level, pioneering the Group’s organisational development, skills and training and health and safety programmes.
“I am delighted to have been invited to join the board and work with the new team to provide effective outcomes for the construction industry during an exciting period of growth,” said Maureen. “Through my experience and passion for skills development, I will strive to provide an invaluable link to the board and the industry”.
During her time with Forster, Maureen has demonstrated considerable ability to create and implement bespoke business strategies and HR solutions providing strong leadership both within the business and the wider industry. This has been key to the business’ wider growth strategy which has seen the Group continue to drive efficiency, perform successfully year on year and move into new markets.
Due to the shortage of skills in the industry, Maureen’s major focus for 2014 was setting up a new roofing Skills Academy for launch in 2015. The academy is a custom designed centre delivering specialist modern apprenticeship qualifications, geared specifically for new-build housing and solar PV. This will help to address the acute skills shortage in the construction industry recruiting new entrants, up skilling and qualifying the existing workforce. It aims to raise current standards whilst enriching and growing the construction talent pool, ensuring best practice and driving innovation.
The new CITB board will meet in London for the first time this month.