Ann Pettifor

My new commercial venture: radical, clean, decentralised energy for UK communities

At a time when Britain and Europe are experiencing a dire energy crisis, and in what is a new direction for me, I have joined A-Deus, an innovative, community- based clean energy company as chair of the board of directors. I have done so for a number of reasons. It is clear that if the UK is to meet its climate change goals, then a change of energy paradigm is urgently needed. The Energy Catapult Analysis of the Energy Saving Trust showed that as of 2017, the average UK household generated 2,745 kg of CO2 emissions from heating and 2,379 Kg of CO2 from transportation (https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/significant-changes-are-coming-uk-heating-market/). Those CO2 emissions must be slashed, urgently.

I have decided to stop talking and writing about the need for this addiction to fossil fuels to be ended, and instead to get involved in making the transition to clean energy happen – not just here in the UK, but also (and this is very personal to me) in Africa, and the rest of the world.

Energy Poverty in the UK

While the A-DEUS model is a global solution, it could provide a low cost and low carbon pathway to achieving UK net zero goals even before 2050.  The UK grid operator, National Grid, predicts that the country will need a further 263GW of installed capacity to reach its 2050 net zero emissions target. With medium term large scale demand set to be met by prohibitively expensive solutions like the Hinkley C nuclear reactor which will double wholesale prices, the UK needs a low carbon transition solution that doesn’t create a new class of the energy-poor.

If collectively adopted across a large number of communities, A-DEUS would construct a washing machine sized, and grid-tied version with an integrated heat solution for community networks. Such a scheme could deliver the same amount of energy as planned for Hinkley C – but at a fraction of the cost, and much sooner.

The ambition

A-Deus is an innovative energy company (based in Edinburgh) that aims to be 100% clean energy, but which recognises that in countries and regions with low levels of sun and wind energy, some use of fossil fuels may be necessary in the transition to total decarbonisation.

In a radical innovation that is not very different from the way we pay for our smartphones, A-Deus moves away from the model of giant, monopolistic energy companies, and bases its activity on energy users: not just as consumers, but as members of a club, village or community. This membership status gives users relative independence from the ‘big six’ in the UK, but also more importantly, in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, an A-Deus unit (the size of a fridge freezer) in their garage or back yard will give users independence from often corrupt and incompetently run energy monoliths. At the same time the company’s business model empowers users to trade and share their energy surplus.

The technology

The A-DEUS system uses existing, and well understood technology. At the heart of the system are hydrogen fuel cell generator units, the distinctive A-DEUS boxes. These come in attractive containers that are similar in size to a fridge freezer. Each is capable of providing energy to meet electricity, heating and EV charging needs. The system is managed in a way similar to that of a mobile phone network. The A-DEUS box is the equivalent of the phone. On the signing of a contract, the user joins the A-Deus community and network and pays a monthly tariff.

When energy users join the A-DEUS network the company will agree a date to install their compact A-DEUS network boxes. These include smart meters and other monitoring and supervisory systems. A team of experienced A-DEUS engineers will do this work quickly and efficiently. There will be no need to replace or move the existing gas and electric meters at the user’s property.

We calculate that on average, subscription to the A-DEUS community in Britain could save members as much as £2000 annually in combined heating, electricity and electric vehicle costs with zero to minimal CO2 (at least 95% less than any alternative non-renewable source).

Every MWH of power generated under this global green village initiative would deliver a reduction in carbon of 6 tons.

How would it work?

With no upfront capital cost or standing charges, and lifetime energy tariffs that are lower than traditional suppliers, A-DEUS will provide members with the hardware, software, network administration, operation and maintenance support required to micro-generate energy and to share and trade energy with other community members, hassle free.

Collectively A-DEUS operates like a Virtual Energy Power Plant, using cloud-based software to aggregate and operate the Distributed Energy Resources (DER) to deliver energy supply on demand while minimising operating cost and maximising revenue and network efficiency. Our system combines these units with the latest solar technology, heat pumps and battery storage technology. When members join the A-DEUS network, we customise and install the infrastructure they need to switch to green energy living, ensuring the package is tailored to their own particular energy requirements and space constraints.

Our batteries would ensure that energy generated during peak hours can be used off-peak and when members need it most. Smart meters will monitor consumption and maximise each member’s energy efficiency, keeping prices even lower. Through the A-DEUS app, members supervise, monitor and control all generating and storage systems on the energy network in real time, empowering them to control and tailor their energy consumption, and even trading and sharing.

This will allow A-Deus members to generate electricity cleanly and cheaply in one location, balancing supply and demand in real-time. Our engineers will maintain and service all the hardware, software and provide all the support members need to micro-generate their own energy.

How clean is A-DEUS energy?

The energy A-DEUS uses is clean and highly efficient hydrogen fuel cell and solar technology to produce electricity and heating (or cooling) at the point of demand – which enables the development of a virtual energy network. The amount of Green House Gases (GHG) released by an A-DEUS power production cycle process is on average 50% to 70% less than the GHG released by conventional power stations. When implemented with heat recovery and heat pumps along with EV changing, the solution delivers a carbon footprint that is over 95% less than the combined family footprint for Electricity, Heating and Transportation. Delivering 567Kg reduction in CO2 for every megawatt hour (MWH) of energy generated by A-DEUS.

Furthermore, A-DEUS plans to implement a carbon capture solution based on technology available today that will further reduce this carbon footprint. The exhaust from A-DEUS fuel cells will be vented via a compact filter containing two solid sorbent cartridges that trap the concentrated CO2. Used cartridges are regularly collected and replaced with fresh ones. Once transported back to the A-DEUS process centre, the CO2 is safely released and then used as a carbon source for carbon and nano fibre production and further R&D of graphene production, all of which will be used in the production of the A-DEUS Distributed Energy Resources. Implementing the A-DEUS carbon capture and utilisation strategy will deliver a net CO2 reduction of 6000 KG for every megawatt hour (MWH) of energy generated by A-DEUS.

Solar in the UK: only for the wealthy?

In a recent Daily Telegraph report (24 September 2021) a couple explained that to reduce an annual electricity bill of £1,500, they had installed a 9.5Kwp solar system and battery. The solar system and battery cost £21,000. With this investment they sell “excess” power back to grid and this has reduced their annual electricity bill, they explain, to £50.

Assuming zero cost of capital it would take 14.5 years to recoup the capital cost of this investment and achieve accounting (not economic) breakeven. With peak system performance likely only in the first 10 years and only if the panels are cleaned properly and regularly, their annual total cost of electricity will definitely rise from £50 when maintenance costs and battery degradation effects are included. So, in reality, they would never achieve accounting or economic breakeven.

Considering that over two thirds of personal carbon emissions come from heating homes and transportation and that these two elements actually make up the larger share of personal energy bills, then not much carbon or economic savings has actually been achieved by this £21,000 investment.

The important point is this: only the wealthy have £21,000 spare to invest upfront in going a little more ‘green’.  Adoption of the A-Deus model would not require upfront capital costs, and would therefore be within the reach of millions of energy consumers.

Conclusion

 Thinking globally, we calculate that under the A-DEUS global green village initiative, net negative CO2 of over 54 billion tons could be avoided by 2050. This would be achieved by using blue hydrogen in the transition to displace diesel & petrol for electricity and transportation generation and by using the captured carbon in materials to displace cement and steel in manufacturing and construction. (More on cement and steel in a future blog).

Clean energy can play a critical role in reducing food and water insecurity, increasing access to education and skills, and in lowering health risks and gender inequality. The A-DEUS  technology solution gives hope that millions of people living in poverty will be able to achieve a just transition to a new cleaner, affordable energy system for vital tasks and thereby avoid the threat posed by today’s often corrupt and inadequate energy systems.

For these reasons and more, I have backed this exciting start-up. To find out more visit the A-Deus website. You would be welcome to join in support too.

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