Climate for Change
“Have you seen how many electricity bills are in today?” shouts the accounts
There is a tsunami of paper invoices on his desk, each perfectly designed
to attract maximum attention. The theory of evolution isn’t lost on
One of the most important jobs that a property factor performs for his
customers is to keep the lights on – literally. Our customers have hundreds
of electricity supplies, some small, some enormous.
When, in 2018 Newton were considering their environmental strategy for the
future, something quickly became obvious very quickly. Being one of the
country’s largest property factors in terms of our customer base, we were
helping our clients pay invoices to energy suppliers totalling millions of
pounds per annum.
Converting this monetary volume into an accurate measure of CO2 emissions
isn’t easy and we don’t claim to be experts but a simple calculator told us
that collectively, by obtaining electricity from “brown” sources, our
customers were generating several thousand tonnes of CO2 per year just to
keep their close lights on.
Taking this thought to its logical conclusion, we started scouring the
market for competitive Green Energy suppliers, specifically from suppliers
who can certificate 100% renewable energy guarantees of origin.
Derek MacDonald is joint managing director of Newton Property
Suppliers who can meet this test typically buy energy from the wholesale
market which is generated from wind, solar, hydro schemes or renewable gas
Interestingly, when you pick at the surface of the “green” energy claims`,
not all is as it seems. ScottishPower for example, both a supplier and a
generator of electricity has been rightly lauded recently, for taking the
bold step of selling on their carbon generating plants to Drax Power.
According to its website, ScottishPower now generates 100% of its
electricity from wind power, 100% renewable. All good then?
Look closer at the data however, and you’ll see that ScottishPower
customers receive a mix of green and brown energy from the supplier as the
company has to buy in electricity from other generators in the wholesale
market in order to meet its nationwide customer demands. So technically
speaking, “brown energy” isn’t its fault; it simply cannot generate and
store enough green energy to meet demand.
What wind power generators really need is massive investment in energy
storage facilities, to store excess capacity and to release it when demand
peaks, not just when the wind blows. South Australia’s battery storage
schemes though modest in size look like being a success. Imagine then if
Scotland’s renewables generators could to take a lead in this and show the
world how to do it? Imagine no more: the good news is ScottishPower has
just announced a 50 megawatt battery storage project at Whitelee on
What we would really like to see is a concerted effort from other private
property management firms, housing associations and local authorities to
steer customers towards communal electricity supplies from truly “green”
This is a large market to be picked up by suppliers who will find it
relatively straightforward to negotiate on price with these organisations
and collective demand could equal more truly green energy supply.
Interestingly, and very peculiarly, early on in our research we established
that one “100% Green Supplier”, which has really taken the market by storm
refused to accept volume transfers of multiple supplies from us.
Could this infer that currently due to lack of latent green energy storage,
green suppliers cannot be too successful – otherwise they cannot deliver on
their guarantee? A somewhat ironic paradox which might be about to be
solved with lots of big batteries.
Derek MacDonald is joint managing director of Newton Property.
This article appeared in The Herald on the 14th March as part of The
Heralds weekely Climate for Change editorial.
The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by
the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners.
Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online
at herald.scotland.com and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and
significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.