Energy news round-up: energy bills due to rise, green energy use soars, and more

Here’s the latest news from the energy sector this week...

energy bills
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The Covid-19 situation combined with a warmer spring has greatly increased renewable energy generation. That's good news, but one potentially adverse impact of UK's lockdown is that some households could face surprise bills of up to £94. We cover all this, and more, in our round-up of what's been happening in energy over the last few days... 

Surprise £94 energy bill due at the end of summer

Price comparison site Energy Helpline (opens in new tab) has warned that UK energy customers could be faced with a surprise £94 bill by the end of the summer, as a result of increased  energy consumption during the lockdown. British households have been consuming 30 per cent more energy than normal. However, many direct debits remain calculated on the basis of pre-lockdown usage, which could place customers in a debt-spiral. 

If you're worried about the cost of your bills, the most effective way to bring them down is to run an energy comparison (opens in new tab) to find the best energy deals (opens in new tab) in your area, and switch energy supplier. However, Energy Helpline also advises fitting energy efficient lightbulbs, taking shorter showers and not leaving appliances on standby. 

Green energy generation soars in mainland Britain

A combination of the COVID-19 lockdown and one of the sunniest springs on record has meant that May was one of the greenest months the country’s electricity network has ever seen, enabling the UK to operate throughout the month without any coal-fired generation. 

According to a report in The Guardian (opens in new tab), energy network operation National Grid says there was enough solar power to drive the carbon intensity of the grid to its lowest-ever level. 

Alongside solar, breezy conditions enabled wind power to also make a significant contribution, meaning that green energy (opens in new tab) provided around 28 per cent of Great Britain’s electricity generation in May, following closely behind gas at 30 per cent. The reduction in industry energy demand caused by the lockdown also contributed significantly to a low carbon intensity. 

Solar energy generation could be doubled by tilting dual-sided solar panels

Tilting double-sided solar panels that follow the sun as it moves across the sky could greatly increase the amount of solar energy collected for power generation, reports Donna Lu in The New Scientist (opens in new tab). The increased efficiency of tilting panels has been known about for a while, as has the effect of deploying PV cells on both sides of a panel. However, this is the first time that researchers have combined the two approaches. 

A scientific team at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore led by Carlos Rodríguez-Gallegos has found that such panels could increase the amount of power generated by 35 per cent, while also reducing the average cost by 16 per cent. The advantage of coating both sides of a solar panel with PV cells is that the cells on the reverse side can generate power from solar energy that's reflected by the ground.

Meanwhile, two methods of tilting the panel exist to ensure it tracks the sun’s course across the sky. Single-axis trackers follow the sun east-west, while dual-axis trackers follow the sun over the course of a year, according to the seasons. 

Combined, these two approaches could reduce the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) by 16 per cent right across the globe, which is a good news for consumers.

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Robin is a freelance journalist specialising in renewable energy, environmental issues, climate change and transport. He's written for Renewable Energy Magazine for almost a decade, covering all sub-sectors of the global renewable industry - from onshore and offshore wind, solar PV and solar thermal energy, to biomass, anaerobic digestion (AD), geothermal, energy efficiency and smart technology, electric vehicles and hybrids, and much more.