Wednesday, 31 October 2007

You may be eligible for free insulation

HOMES in parts of the area could soon benefit from free home insulation.
PECT Consultancy Limited, the consultancy arm of environmental charity Peterborough Environment City Trust, is working with Fenland District Council to offer residents in Chatteris, March, Whittlesey and Wisbech free and subsidised loft insulation.

This will help residents save money on household bills, as well as cutting carbon emissions from homes, helping to save the environment.

Project manager of the scheme Mark Randall said: “Insulating your home could significantly shrink your heating bills, as well as helping to protect the environment by reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere.

“All local residents are eligible for subsidised loft insulation, and those on means-tested benefits may be entitled to a full grant, allowing them free insulation.”

The free loft insulation scheme is subject to qualifying criteria and is on a first come first served basis due to a limited fund.

The qualifying criteria for the free loft insulation scheme are:

n Properties must be owner occupied or privately rented.

n Households must be in receipt of a means-tested benefit such as working families tax credit or pensions credit.

Those who do not qualify for the 100 per cent grant could still qualify for assistance towards the cost of insulating their home. It could cost as little as £199 for cavity wall insulation or £249 for loft insulation for a three-bed semi-detached house.

n For more information, to find out whether you are eligible for a grant, and to register for a grant while funds last, call PECT’s Energy Services Team on 0800 7834761.
full article

Barcode on your bin - and a £100 fine if you put too much rubbish in it

Millions of families are to be given barcoded wheelie bins in a computerised system to spy on people's rubbish.

It will be used to send automatic £100 fines to people who put out too much refuse or break strict rules on when they leave their bins out.

The barcodes, to be brought in by a group of 27 councils, can also be used to enforce pay-as-you-throw taxes.

Binmen will carry handheld barcode readers on which they can record details of any rulebreaking by the bin's users.
At the end of their round, theywill return the scanners to a docking station which downloads the information to a central computer.

The computer can then send out tax bills or "education leaflets" and warnings to first-time rulebreakers. Those who offend several times will automatically be sent £100 fines.

If the pilot schemes are a success, other councils are likely to bring in barcodes to exploit the new powers to levy pay-as-you-throw taxes which were revealed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Monday.

News of the barcode trials provoked an angry response from opposition politicians.

Tory spokesman Eric Pickles said: "The numbering of every bin in Britain is a necessary step before they stop emptying them for free.

"I am very concerned that this is the first step in creating a national central database of every bin.

"This is yet more intrusive monitoring of family homes by state bureaucrats, going hand in hand with identity cards and the national property database for council tax revaluation."

Disclosure of the scheme to put barcodes on bins comes after a week of chaos and interdepartmental warfare in Whitehall over pay-as-you-throw taxes on people who put out too much nonrecycled refuse.

Last week an official announcement of rubbish taxes by Defra was blocked by Gordon Brown at the last moment.

Downing Street ordered Defra minister Joan Ruddock to scrap a planned statement, pointing out that Mr Brown told the Daily Mail as long ago as April that he intended to kill off the idea.

Defra officials then said the plans "needed work" and were being "refined".

But on Monday the legal powers to levy taxes on bins were included in the department's Climate Change Bill - details of which will not be made public until next month.

Ministers said there will now be "pilot" projects to try out pay-asyou-throw taxes.

The Government calls the taxes "incentives" and ministers have suggested they will amount to no more than £30 a year.

But town halls and a think-tank close to Mr Brown believe this is far too low and that the taxes should be at least £10 a month.

Around 30 councils have already fitted wheelie bins with microchips which can identify the house or flat they belong to so bills can be sent to the right place after dustcarts weigh the bin's contents.

Mr Pickles said: "It is clear detailed planning is now under way to introduce next-generation technology and hit families with bin taxes on top of council tax.

"Whitehall will start off small with pilots before rolling out the scheme nationwide, as happened with the axing of weekly collections."

Some 170 councils have introduced fortnightly rubbish collections in an effort to make people recycle more waste.

The system has proved hugely unpopular and been blamed for smells and infestations of vermin.

Councils argue that they face £3billion extra costs in taxes and EU fines over the next few years if they do not cut the amount of rubbish they send to landfill.

The Local Government Association said last night the barcode system was meant to bring environmental improvements and not to spy on families.

A spokesman said: "Councils have no interest whatsoever in snooping on people.

"The use of new technology is one way a local authority can improve its collection service, combat fly-tipping and ensure residents are recycling as much waste as possible."
full article

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Bin tax muddle leaves green policy in disarray

Gordon Brown's green policies were thrown into confusion yesterday after ministers confirmed that they would be pushing ahead with pilot schemes for controversial new "pay-as-you-throw" bin taxes.
The Prime Minister had been anxious to distance himself from what he saw as unpopular "waste taxes" – which could cost typical households £250 a year – and No 10 claimed last night that plans for new schemes would not be rolled out across the country.

But Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, announced that powers to set up pilot schemes for charging households who put out more waste would be included in the Climate Change Bill, sparking allegations of Cabinet disarray on the issue.

The confusion began last week when the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which had intended to push ahead with national bin taxes, was over-ruled by Downing Street, which is unenthusiastic about the plans before forthcoming local elections.

The U-turn was the latest sign of Mr Brown's fear of introducing new green taxes that are seen as disastrous electorally but are being heavily promoted within Whitehall as essential to any programme to avert climate change.
Last night, the Conservatives attacked the confusion within the Government.

Eric Pickles, the local government spokesman, said: "This just shows how Gordon Brown cannot be trusted – one week briefing that he opposes bin taxes, the next introducing this new tax on family homes by stealth. This isn't a green tax but a green fig leaf to hike local taxes on top of council tax. No one should believe a word that Mr Brown says."

Yesterday Defra published a document setting out plans to allow all councils to charge bin taxes in the new Climate Change Bill to be introduced next month. However, the document was withdrawn later and replaced with a proposal to introduce only a handful of pilot schemes.

Downing Street sources said the entire scheme, which involved households being charged either for each sack or bin of non-recyclable rubbish or by the weight of rubbish they put out, had "gone back to the drawing board".

The confusion within the Government's "green" policy emerged with Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, due to set out plans for an environmentally sustainable transport policy. In a statement to MPs today, she will announce plans for households to get "personal travel plans" aimed at cutting the amount of carbon dioxide they produced.

The Department for Transport has run pilot schemes in which families have cut their car use by an average of 20 per cent after working with government advisers to see where they could use alternatives.

Ms Kelly said yesterday that the plans were about "creating the incentives to make responsible choices".

She will again make clear that a national toll scheme remains far off the agenda but will announce congestion-charging schemes in cities that could lead to national motorways being brought into a tolling system.
By Robert Winnett, Charles Clover and James Kirkup
full article

Monday, 29 October 2007

Benn sets out new Climate Change Bill

Publishing the government's response to the public consultation on the Climate Change Bill, Hilary Benn has said the UK must "step up" its efforts in tackling global warming.

The environment secretary unveiled the government's amendments to the proposed legislation, which include a system of "carbon budgets" and the creation of an independent climate change committee to advise on how to reach the targets.

In its original form, the draft bill imposed a legal duty on the government to cut carbon emissions by at least 60 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050, and by between 26 and 32 per cent by 2020.

However, environmentalists groups have called for this target to be as high as 80 per cent.

The command paper published on Monday said that the responsibilities of the climate change committee would be increased to require the government to seek advice before amending the targets and that it would report on whether these need to be strengthened.

Under the legislation, five-year carbon budgets would be set by the committee of experts and published to improve clarity on how Britain will meet the targets.

And the amendments also include measures to boost ministerial accountability by requiring the government to explain to Parliament if it fails to meet a carbon target or does not accept advice on the budget.

The government will also regularly assess the risks of climate change to the UK and will be required to report to Parliament annually on how it is cutting aviation and shipping emissions.

Benn said: "We need to step up the fight against climate change and we need to do it fast.

"The draft bill we set out earlier this year, and have now refined, is a groundbreaking blueprint for moving the UK towards a low carbon economy. It will bind us to legally enforceable emissions reduction targets at home, while giving us greater clout at the international negotiating table."

He said the "invaluable input" from three parliamentary committees on the draft bill, and from industry and the public, had helped create "stronger, more effective and more transparent" legislation.

"In short, they have helped make a good bill better," the environment secretary said.

He added that the bill would introduce a cap and trade system for large organisations and would give local authorities the power to pilot schemes to reduce levels of household waste and increase recycling rates.
full article

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Amps Off

Planet Rock is going acoustic in support of Energy Saving Week from 22nd October.

The "times they are a changin" and like Woodstock and the free love movement, a new call to action is upon us; the energy saving movement.

The Energy Saving Trust is dedicated to the cause and aims to get us all involved in being more energy efficient and commiting to save 20% of all the energy we use every day. Planet Rock wants to do its bit to help fight climate change and to kick things off, all this week we will be bringing you some fine slices of classic rock unplugged.

From Monday (22nd) we'll be playing an "Amps Off" acoustic track in every show with dedicated unplugged weekend special. Join Liz Barnes on Saturday & Sunday (5pm) as we play out a host of great music with plugs out, amps off, from Led Zeppelin "unleaded" to all those other wonderful examples of the quieter side of classic rock.


The average home can save up to £250 a year by being energy efficient and reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by up to 2 tonnes. So a few simple changes can cut your bills and make your home cosier in the winter with these simple steps.

1. Only boil as much water as I need
Rock alt: Switch off amp, go acoustic

2. Turn my thermostat down by 1 degree
Rock alt: Turn amp down to 10

3. Turn appliances off standby
Rock alt: Burn wife's Westlife CD's to generate heat

4. Install cavity wall insulation
Rock alt: Wear many band T-shirts to keep warm

5. Top up my loft insulation to 270mm (about 10.5 inches)
Rock alt: Wave lighter in time to Scorpions 'Wind Of Change'

6. Replace three lightbulbs with Energy Saving Recommended ones
Rock alt: On/Off wastes electricity, keep Planet Rock on all the time!

7. Install a condensing boiler
Rock alt: Power your home using Pete Townshend's right arm

8. Buy Energy Saving Recommended appliances
Rock alt: Grow hair to Bon Jovi barnet circa 1980's to keep warm

9. Wash my laundry at 30 degrees
Rock alt: Burn you guitar Hendrix style to generate heat

10. Not use the car for short journeys
Rock alt: Recreate festival lifestyle and tent it in the garden

full article

House warmers

Sort your insulation
Boring but important since, according to the Energy Saving Trust, a staggering 50 per cent of all household heat disappears through the roof and walls, while a further 20 per cent is lost to drafts. Fortunately, stopping this leakage is easy. We asked the EST for their top tips:

Lag your loft If you only do one thing, do this - it's cheap, reaps you instant rewards, and you don't need to call in a professional. The most common form of insulation is mineral wool, available by the roll at DIY stores. All you have to do is kit yourself out in a mask and gloves (it's itchy stuff) and fit it between the joists along the loft floor. Obviously the thicker the lagging, the warmer the house: current building regulations stipulate a minimum thickness of 170mm, but aim for 250mm for maximum benefits.

Fill those cavity walls Cavity-wall insulation involves filling the gap between the two skins of brickwork on an external house wall with some sort of insulation material. It's expensive, but it can reduce heat loss through the walls by up to 60 per cent, so you will save money in the long run. Contact the Energy Saving Trust (0800 512 012; for a registered installer in your area.
Insulate the hot-water pipes and buy your hot-water tank a jacket This will not only keep your water hot but will also reduce energy wastage by around three-quarters.

Fit draft excluders To doors, windows and letterboxes and stop your precious warm air from escaping outside.

Double-glaze your windows An extra layer of glass not only cuts heat loss but also reduces noise and condensation. Contact the Glass and Glazing Federation on 0870 042 4255 ( for a recommended glazier in your area.

2 Reinstate your fireplace

You may not be able to see it, but if your house is more than 40 years old the chances are that it has a fireplace lurking somewhere behind a false wall. Opening it up is messy but straightforward. We asked Peter Healy, secretary of the National Fireplace Association (0845 643 1901;, how it's done.

Knock your knuckle on the area where the fireplace should be If it sounds hollow, then the fireplace is probably concealed behind a hardboard cover mounted on wooden battens. If it sounds solid, then your fireplace has probably been bricked up.

Conduct a smoke test This will tell you whether or not your chimney is in working condition. Hold a lit taper or snuffed-out match near the opening and look to see whether or not the smoke is drawn up through the chimney. If it isn't, then it may well need re-lining. Contact the National Association of Chimney Engineers (01526 322 555; to track down a specialist in your area.

Check for a hearth Most fires need a hearth, and solid-fuel fires also require a concrete sub-hearth. Traditional open fires also need a fireback to reflect heat out into the room and protect the brickwork.

3 Fit a stove

Pretty as an open fire is, if you're after a really effective way of heating the house then you can't beat a solid-fuel stove - a pound of fuel provides three times more heat when burned in a stove than it would on an open fire.

There are three main types of stove on the market: wood-only; multi-fuel, which are designed to burn coal as well as wood, and pellet. A newish arrival in Britain, pellet stoves burn small pieces of compressed sawdust which are automatically fed into the fire from a hopper at the top. Efficiency-wise they're comparable to standard wood versions, but thanks to hi-tech additions such as thermostats and timers, they're much easier to control.

Wood is the cheapest and greenest fuel - burning wood is carbon neutral, since the tree will have absorbed at least as much C02 during its life as it gives off when it's burned. But if you're really concerned about your carbon footprint, look for stoves featuring a smoke-less CleanBurn system in which the gases created when fuel is burnt are circulated back into the stove and burnt off. Check out Morso's 6100 series (01788 554 410;

Style-wise the choice is endless, but this year's hottest stoves are freestanding and come with big glass windows. Before you get carried away, however, you need to check the following:

Is your flue the right size for the stove? Stoves with heat outputs of up to 30kW, for example, need flues measuring at least 150mm in diameter. Ask your supplier for advice.

What heat output do you need? This will depend on the size of the room you want to heat and will determine both the size of stove you buy and the type of fuel you burn. Again, your supplier should be able to advise.

Which way does the prevailing wind blow? Wind direction will affect a stove's efficiency. If the wind blows in the same direction, then the smoke is pulled out of the chimney and the fire will burn more efficiently, whereas if the wind blows back down the chimney you'll get a poor fire and a smoky room. These problems can be solved by extending the height of the chimney or by fitting a vent to the top of the chimney. Do you live in a smoke-control area? To find out, go to

Three stoves we recommend

1 Morso 6140 Woodburning Stove, from £1,206 (01788 554 410;
2 Solution 400 Woodburning Stove, from £1,330, Clearview Stoves (01588 650 123;
3 Nestor Martin FH33 wood/multi-fuel stove, from £2,093.85, Euroheat (01885 491 112;

4 Warm up your floors...

With a wool carpet According to Lorna Haigh from Alternative Flooring, wool is the best option for people looking for maximum warmth and practicality since it insulates, feels soft underfoot and is easy to clean. Carpet folk talk of pile heights - basically, the higher the pile, the thicker and cosier the carpet. You can have high pile in heavy traffic areas, but in that case go for knobbly wool types rather than long, shaggy styles. We particularly like the Wool Tierra carpet, £37.95 per m/sq, from the Alternative Flooring Company (01264 335 111;

Three companies we recommend

1 Wool Classics (020 7349 0090)
2 Craigie Stockwell (020 7224 8380;
3 Crucial Trading (01562 743 747;

With some wooden floorboards 'It's a myth that wooden floors are drafty,' says Steve Maltby, technical services manager at wooden-floor specialists Junckers. 'These days floorboards are all tongue and grooved so you don't get problems with air flow from below.' However, he does advise people living in old houses to put a layer of insulation below floating floors to prevent heat escaping down through the boards.

Colour-wise, avoid those blond, Scandinavian-style woods and go for something dark and brooding such as these beechwood boards in Spicy Pepper finish from Junckers' new Soul Collection (01376 534 700;

Three companies we recommend

1 Element 7 (020 7736 2366;
2 Listone Giordano (0808 234 6866;
3 Ebony and Co (020 7259 0000;

With a room-sized rug If you can't bear the idea of a fitted carpet, then go for a rug. 'Area rugs on a hard floor will give you islands of softness,' says flooring guru Roger Oates. He recommends creating a cocooning effect using textured rugs in rich colours. Fabulous, coloured rugs are available this season- for example, the Butterfly hand-tufted acrylic rug from Woven Ground, above (90x160cm), £125 (020 7033 3731;

5 Sort your lighting

The right lighting can turn a cold room into a cosy haven. We asked Elizabeth Wilhide, author of Lighting, how to get it right.

Avoid central overhead lights, which cause glare and make a room feel chilly.

Increase the number of lights in a space and decrease the wattage in each one - the idea is to set up several warm pools of light rather than uniformly light the room.

Fit a dimmer switch.

Soften energy-efficient bulbs by teaming them with tinted lampshades. Karen Howes, of interior-design practice Taylor Howes Design, recommends gold-lined shades for maximum warmth.

High-street buys we recommend

1 Grande shade (D51xH36cm) with copper lining, £65, Habitat (08444 991 111;
2 Glass Ball Table Lamp (H60xD30cm), £39.50, Marks & Spencer (0845 603 1603;
3 Sven Floor Lamp (H162xD40cm), £100, John Lewis (08456 049 049;

6 Light some candles

This season, think forests of single candles (we love Toast's English beeswax numbers, from £5.95 for a pair of dinner candles, 0844 557 5200; in chicly mismatched sticks - often to be found if you scour the junk shops.

Three ranges we recommend

1 Graham & Green (0845 130 6622;
2 Sia (0118 922 7800;
3 House of Fraser (020 7963 2000;

7 Be creative with fabric

'Upholster sofas and armchairs in flat wool or velvet,' advises interior designer John Stefanidis, 'and consider covering doors in fabric, too.' If you don't want to re-upholster (and it is only worth doing if the piece of furniture is in good condition), just buy some fabric, hem the edges and use it as a throw. Opt for luxurious materials such as cashmere, mohair or this season's must-have fabric, velvet. We love Zoffany's new Arundel Velvet collection, particularly in teal and chocolate, at £80 p/m (08708 300 350;

8 Warm up your windows

'I layer silk and printed fabrics at the window for a sense of depth and texture,' says Tricia Guild of Designers Guild. And she's not alone. Jemima Locke, marketing manager of curtain and blind specialists Eclectics, says that combining roller or roman blinds with some sumptuous curtains (interlined, of course) is a growing trend. This season calls for textural fabrics, such as velvet, suede or flock, and curtains that just scrape the floor rather than form a pool on the ground.

Two curtains we recommend

1 Roller blind in Fioravanti flock fabric, from £137 for a blind measuring 60x80cm, Eclectics (01843 608 789;
2Chandelier-print fully lined curtains, from £70 for a pair measuring 168x137cm, Hobbs Home (0800 121 8259)

9 Invest in some warm-toned accessories

Painting the room red would obviously warm things up, but unless you have a room you don't use in summer (or you're prepared to re-decorate every season), then you're better off buying some hot-toned cushions and throws. Berry shades are strong for this winter and look great mixed with teal, coral and midnight blue.

Five accessories we recommend

1 Emperor's Garden jewelled cushion, £25, Bhs (0845 196 000;
2 Fredensborg cyan flock-velvet cushion, £60, Designers Guild (020 7893 7400;
3 Wave Velvet Design Cushion, £13, Next (0844 844 8000;
4 Mega Dot quilt, from £81, by Hay Denmark, from SCP (020 7739 1869;
5 Two-toned cashmere throws (140x190cm), £525 to order from Suzy Hoodless (020 7221 8844;

10 Wear a jumper

T-shirts are for summer - put them away and dress for the season. According to Friends of the Earth, turning your central heating down by one degree can cut your heating bills by £30 a year.

By Charlotte Abrahams
full article

Britons tired of green issues news

Many Britons are suffering from "eco-fatigue", with more than a quarter tired of the attention green issues are receiving, according to a new survey.

An ICM report for the Ideal Home Show also found nearly a quarter of people (23%) admitted they were bored of "eco news" and nearly a fifth (18%) exaggerated their environmental behaviour because it is fashionable.

While more than half (57%) believed a difference could be made to the environment if everyone did their bit, nearly four fifths of those questioned (78%) think not everybody is making the effort.

But people rated their own green performance quite highly, with 83% saying they acted in an environmentally friendly way, the research found.

Men are more cynical about the difference they can make, with nearly a fifth (19%) believing small changes won't have any effect, compared to 11% of women, the survey of 2,000 UK adults revealed.

As a result, women were more likely to make the changes round the house to be more green - except for eco-friendly detergents which slightly more men than women use.

Overall, 80% of respondents said they used energy-saving light bulbs, 90% filled the kettle with the right amount of water, 83% recycled paper, glass and plastic and 82% took old clothes to charity shops.

But three quarters did not use eco-friendly detergents, 81% did not check wooden items were from sustainable sources, nearly half (44%) tended to turn up the heating instead of putting on more clothes, 22% left mobile phone chargers plugged in and 32% left the TV on standby.

There was also cynicism about green energy suppliers and almost half (48%) of those questioned did not know what the energy performance certificate for homes was.

Oliver Heath, of the Ideal Home Show, said: "People should have more confidence in the measures we're all making."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2007, All Rights Reserved.
full article


GORDON Brown is planning to penalise eco-friendly homes and businesses, the Tories claimed last night.
Teams of valuation “spies” are already assessing properties with solar panels and wind turbines, which may put them into higher council-tax bands.
A family that converts its home into a “zero carbon” property could save between £114 and £359 a year on energy bills.
But, warned Eric Pickles, Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government last night, green improvements will push a property into a higher council tax band, forcing owners to pay yet another stealth tax.

“Moving from Band D to Band E would add £293 a year to the average council tax
bill, potentially wiping out the savings,” said Mr Pickles.

“Gordon Brown is more interested in picking money from people’s pockets than tackling the challenge of climate change and protecting the environment,” he added.

full article

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Who's really going green?

Despite all the hot air being emitted by the Government and the house builders, there is still a dearth of new environmentally-sensitive housing in London.

In February, the building industry grandly launched the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), to promote green homes in the UK. A month later, Gordon Brown trumpeted the birth of eco-villages, and declared that all new homes would be carbon neutral by 2016.

Yet there are still only a handful of developers building green homes. A spokesman for the UKGBC says: "There aren't that many 'deep green' new homes being built in volume yet. There are a few small-scale projects, but no big ones."

While many developers are keen to flag up gimmicky add-ons such as bird boxes or low flush loos, most new homes are still struggling to meet minimum energy efficiency standards. Green architect Bill Dunster blames the poor standards of new homes on the building industry's need to make vast profits to pay for the land they have bought.

Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, says that not only are minimum standards too low, but that the Government is refusing to let local authorities insist on higher standards because of their drive to build huge quantities of new homes.

"You either get cheap, quick and dirty, or you go slower and get it right. At the moment the need for volume is taking precedence over energy efficiency."

In solar power, too, we are lagging way behind our European counterparts. In many European countries, people who generate their own electricity via solar panels and feed it back into the national grid are remunerated at four times the market rate.

In Britain micro-generators only get the standard rate, meaning that the payback time for installing panels is about 25-30 years here compared with less than 10 in countries such as Germany.

full article

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The hydrogen-powered motorbike

High-powered motorbikes, or the bikers who ride them, are hardly known for their green credentials.

But a new, and unlikely, partnership between Japanese superbike firm Suzuki and a British technology company has produced the world's first serious "green" motorbike.

The Crosscage concept bike, due to be unveiled at the Tokyo Motorshow later this week, runs in complete silence and is powered by fuel cells developed by Loughborough-based technology firm Intelligent Energy.
Intelligent Energy has provided the battery and electric propulsion system for the new motorbike, and the small hydrogen tank is located where the engine would normally be, underneath the rider.

While details of the new concept bike have been kept strictly under wraps by Suzuki, the fact that the firm has chosen Intelligent Energy to develop its fuel cell engine gives some clues as to how the bike may work.

In 2005 Intelligent Energy unveiled the world's first fuel-cell powered motorbike, the so-called ENV (Emissions Neutral Vehicle) bike.

The bike was powered by a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) type fuel cell – one of five different fuel cell types, all of which have different attributes in terms of size, robustness and ability to work at high temperatures.

Each fuel cell is a multi-layered sandwich of plates and electrodes which use a chemical reaction to produce water and electricity from hydrogen and oxygen.

Tokyo Motor Show is expected to be packed with concepts like the Crosscage which combine styling and performance with green credentials.
full article

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Leave spiralling energy bills out in the cold

Energy Saving Week runs from October 22-28 and this year it is challenging people to adopt energy-saving measures to reduce their C02 emissions.

We all want to cut our fuel bills – and we can help save the planet in the process, thanks to the Energy Saving Trust.

The organisation has again organised Energy Saving Week to encourage households to become more energy efficient.

The aim is to address the damaging effects of climate change and cut carbon dioxide emissions and the main greenhouse gases.

And there's several schemes and grants available to help you cut the initial cost of installing hi-tech equipment or insulation, which puts many homeowners off.

In the last year, the Government has given almost £7million in energy efficiency grants to homeowners via the Low Carbon Buildings grant scheme.

The programme provides grants for installation of microgeneration technologies to homes, community organisations and schools.

This means solar panels, wind turbines, solar thermal hot water, ground source heat pumps and wood-fuelled boiler systems can be within our budgets.

Homeowners who are keen to become more energy efficient will benefit from the introduction of Home Information Packs (HIP), which includes a home energy rating and an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), containing advice on how to cut carbon emissions and fuel bills.

As our homes account for 27 per cent of the UK's CO2 emissions, it's vital that energy efficiency in the home is encouraged.

However, accessing energy efficiency grants is never easy and finding out what is available can be a complicated process.

Sunderland City Council offers two different schemes for residents.
The Sunderland Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) offers free cavity wall insulation and loft insulation to residents over the age of 60, regardless of income.

Those under 60 and able to pay can get loft insulation for £150 and cavity wall insulation for £150. This is subject to funding availability.

It is very important to use the correct installers and contractors.

Some are able to offer significant discounts on installing products because of the Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC) – a promise that energy supply companies with more than 50,000 customers have made.

They have pledged to meet an energy-saving target in the domestic sector.

Things that are often discounted are cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, condensing boilers, low-energy lighting and energy efficient appliances.

For more information, call 0800 174756 and quote SCC or the Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre in the North East on 0800 512 012 to arrange a no-obligation survey, to establish if your home is suitable for cavity wall insulation.

How efficient is your home?

Here are 10 top tips to reducing the amount of energy you waste in your household.

By applying some or all of them, not only will you save cash, but you will be doing your bit towards reducing emissions that contribute to global warming.

1: Identify where the main energy outgoings are in your home. The average three-bedroomed home uses 44 per cent of its energy on heating, 33 per cent on cooking, lighting and other appliances such as televisions and stereos, 14 per cent on heating water and nine per cent on keeping the fridge cool.

2: Make sure that you have enough attic insulation. There should be seven inches or more glass fibre/rock wool or six inches of cellulose in your loft. If you have none, make this your first energy-saving measure.

3: You can save as much as 10 per cent a year on your heating bills if you lower the temperature of your thermostat by one degree.
Most people won't even feel a change but your bank account will.

4: Heat loss through your windows accounts for up to 25 per cent of your heating bill. New windows must be double glazed by law, but older panes can let heat through. So make sure that the window edges are draught-proof, it's cheap and easy.

5: Hot water tank and connecting pipes should be adequately insulated (but don't cover the thermostat). You'll know if they are not insulated enough if you can feel the heat through any insulating covering.

6: As tempting as a hot bubble bath is, you use 15-25 gallons of hot water when you have one, but less than 10 gallons during a five-minute shower.

7: Repair any leaking taps straight away – gallons of water are wasted like this.

8: Fluorescent lamps are much more energy efficient than traditional filament lamps and last six to 10 times longer. Use common sense, such as turning off lights in rooms which are empty.

9: When buying new appliances, particularly white goods such as fridges, washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers, check out the energy efficiency ratings and look for the Energy Efficiency Recommended logo.

10: For washing machines, 80 to 85 per cent of the energy used is spent heating up the water.

Use lower temperature cycles, such as the 40C cycle, to save energy.

Grant help to take next step

THE Low Carbon Buildings Grant scheme offers homeowners a maximum of £2,500 towards energy-saving measures.

You must have already undertaken a number of energy-efficient measures before you are eligible to apply for a Low Carbon Buildings Grant.

Before applying you are required to have:

* Insulated the whole of the loft to meet current building regulations, eg, 270mm of mineral wool loft insulation or suitable alternative.l Installed cavity wall insulation (if you have cavity walls).

* Fitted low-energy light bulbs in all appropriate light fittings.

* Installed basic controls for your heating system to include a room thermostat and a programmer or timer.Once these measures have been installed, homeowners need to decide which microgeneration product they are interested in and then obtain a quote from an accredited installer.

Grants can then be applied for online and typically, the grants cover between 20 per cent and 50 per cent of the eligible costs, depending on the type of product you wish to install in your home.

For further information on the grant scheme and if you are eligible, log on to

Putting up a warm front

If you are over 60 or receive benefits, consider the Warm Front Scheme.

These grants are Government funded and provide a package of insulation and heating improvements up to the value of £2,700 (rising to £4,000 if oil central heating is recommended).

The types of benefit which are eligable include Child Tax Credit, Income Support, Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance or Pension Credit.

If you want to find out if you are eligible, ring 0800 072 9006.

To apply, ring 0800 316 2805 or log on to
Help on the net

Helpful websites:

* Energy Efficiency: Thermographic Images
IRT surveys can identify energy loss from your home and calculate the associated CO2 emissions and energy savings, all from a thermal image. UK coverage,

* Switch with Which: move to a cheaper energy supplier, average saving of £245,

* could save you up to £200 on your energy bills,

On hand to help

The North of England's Homebuilding and Renovating Show will be at the Harrogate International Centre from November 9-11.

Exhibitors will be on hand to advise you on environmentally-friendly products.

There will be a free seminar every day on creating an environmentally-friendly home and a full day of 12 free eco homes masterclasses on Friday, November 9.

For more information and tickets, visit or call 0870 906 2002.
full article

A home made of straw?

YOU can huff and you can puff, but you won’t blow Carol Atkinson’s house down, even though it is made of straw. It doesn’t have a thatched roof, but it does have walls made from straw: 90 bales and 33 half-bales. “You wouldn’t think it was made of straw, would you?” asks Carol, slapping the plastered walls with the flat of her hand. “It feels pretty solid.” And warm, too, as a result of the sheep fleeces used as underfloor insulation.

This is a home that is home-grown: being a farmer’s wife, Carol, pictured right, had lots of straw in her fields. And the insulating properties of straw are, she says, excellent. “In America, Canada, France, Germany, Denmark and Austria it’s very popular,” Carol says. “We’re just slow to catch on.”

There was another motivating factor. Carol, from Eastrington, near Howden, East Yorkshire, says that the foot-and-mouth and BSE crises took their toll on the family’s beef farm. “It’s a fact of life in farming today that you’ve got to diversify to bring money in. And we wanted to do something a bit different.”

Two years ago she began studying for an MSc in environmentally aware architecture and decided to create a mobile home from straw. The one-bed-room house, overlooking a lake on her farm, has a dual function: Carol rents it out to holidaymakers, while a study of its thermal properties will form part of her final architectural thesis: the straw walls make it 10C (50F) warmer than a conventional mobile home.

The straw house is an idea that just might find favour with Gordon Brown, who last month doubled the number of proposed eco-towns to ten. The developer of England’s first eco-town, at Hanham Hall, near Bristol, will shortly be revealed by English Partnerships. The second will be in Peterborough; the developer will be announced in the spring.

Initially Carol spent two weeks designing a model of the basic structure using Lego blocks. The property was to be constructed on a chassis (so it could be transported easily) and the external dimensions were set at 4m by 10m. “We could have made it bigger,” says Carol, “but then, by law, if we did ever want to move it down the road, we’d have to be escorted.” Work began in June 2006, when the straw was cut.

To help with the work, Carol found volunteers through Amazonails, a West Yorkshire consultancy that runs straw-bale building courses. It took 14 people five days to build the house inside a wooden framework (which was then removed), stacking the bales on spikes to form load-bearing walls. The walls were trimmed, and then plastered with lime render straight on to the straw. The exposed beams in the sitting room came from a barn door on her farm, and all the internal doors are reclaimed. There’s a solar hot-water panel, and a wind turbine powers the fridge and the lights (which are 12V). The cooker and immersion heater run off the mains.

The home’s internal walls are made of wood-fibre board rather than plasterboard; the former may be eco-friendly but it’s a pain to use. “After it’s in place, you have to rub clay into it and then put a coat of plaster on top,” says Carol. “Then you put a mesh on top of that to stop it cracking, add another coat of plaster and then a topcoat. As you’re doing all this, you begin to realise why builders prefer plasterboard.” There is an upside, though, besides the environmental benefit: because the clay absorbs moisture, the internal humidity of the house is regulated at all times.

The house took eight months to build and cost about £30,000. “But this was our first try,” says Carol. “I’m sure we could do it for less.” The only straw now visible is through the “truth window” that Carol’s son, Sam, made on the inside gable end “to remind us of the fabric of the building”.

Now Carol is gearing up to build a permanent straw cottage on her land. “The idea was to create a home that wouldn’t cost the Earth. I think we’ve achieved that.” The house is available for rent

Tony Greenway
full article

Monday, 22 October 2007

How green is your home?

ECO-CONSCIOUS GILL WILLIAMS decided that it was time get more environmentally friendly by finding out if her home matched her green credentials. She was in for a big surprise...

HAVING a home energy check is a bit like a game of snakes and ladders. The points you gain on recycling are snuffed out by what the inspector finds in your attic.

We have a water butt, nourish our veggie patch with kitchen compost and have more double glazing than an Anglian showroom.

Yet an energy check on our three-bed detached house by David Thorogood, environmental chief of East Herts District Council, reveals energy is seeping from every cranny.

Not only are we pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, but our energy bills are unnecessarily high. And we’d scored a D on a scale of A to G if we were to apply for an Energy Performance Certificate as part of a HIPS report.

Homes lose up to 50 per cent of their heat through the roof and walls so this is where we can make big savings, says David as he climbs the ladder into my loft. We have about two inches of

insulation and boarding, installed 15 years ago when standards were lower. Today you need about 10.5 inches to keep the warmth trapped in your living space. Loft insulation will cost us about £150 and pay for itself in about a year.

We can make our home even more efficient with a cheap loft hatch pillow (available from B&Q) so heat doesn’t escape into the attic.

David also recommends we install cavity wall insulation – just contact your local council for a list of affordable suppliers. In a Thirties house like ours, insulation costs about £180 and you’ll get your money back within the first year – and cut 1.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Our seven-year-old combi will just about do but should be replaced when we’ve had it 15 years with a more efficient condensing boiler. These work better as they’re not constantly heating up a whole tank of water. That upgrade would save us £94 (0.8 tonnes CO2) every year.

If you do have a water tank then make sure it’s well wrapped up. Replacing a thin jacket with a thicker wrap is cheap and will save you loads. The tank thermostat should be set at 16C, warm enough to kill any bugs but not wastefully hot.

We only heat our house to about 15C in winter. You save about 10 per cent on your bills for every degree you turn the thermostat down.

But we’re wasting money by not having individual thermostats controlling the heat in individual rooms. Thermostats cost £15 each but they will cut your heating bills by about 15 per cent.

We lose some heat through our fireplace but at least don’t have a fuel-guzzling gas-effect fire. If you do have one make sure it has a glass front, otherwise the heat goes straight up the chimney. And there are now 100 per cent energy-efficient gas fires if you do want that “real-fire effect”. With these you don’t even need a flue so you can block that chimney up and stop heat escaping.

David beams when he sees all our energy-saving light bulbs. If every household installed just three compact fluorescent bulbs we’d save enough power to light all the streets in Britain.

Turning off our TV also gets full marks and we save about £37 a year by not leaving it on standby. And if you fancy a flat screen, be aware an LCD one uses less electricity than a plasma set.

Our A-rated fridge also meets with David’s approval until he takes a peek into the freezing compartment. Uh-oh, frost and half-empty. Unless you pack tight and defrost regularly, you’ll be wasting energy.

Outside I score brownie points for having a water butt. Not only does it stop water from the roof going down the drain but the overflow travels through pipes into our wildlife pond. The pipes are easy to connect (it took my husband a day), the birds and frogs have fresh, chlorine-free water and we don’t need to top up the pond from the tap.

However, I was surprised to find that my pot plants were an ecological no-no. Those tubs of geraniums and mumms use up an unnecessary amount of water so next spring I’ll be planting them out in beds where the roots will be less thirsty.

full article

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Green Living: Shout it from the rooftops: you're powering the country

Micro generation" is the new environmental buzz phrase. From the wind turbine perched atop Tory leader David Cameron's house to the solar panels starting to adorn the homes of the middle class – generating your own power from renewable sources is in vogue. And if people can "green the grid" by selling this energy into the national grid, then, it seems, all the better. But how do you go about it? And is it cost effective?

The first thing to note is that you will not be selling to National Grid, the company, but a utility such as British Gas, in the form of "renewable obligation certificates". One ROC represents one megawatt hour of energy and is worth around £40.

Before you can sell ROCs, you must register with industry regulator Ofgem ( as a renewable supplier. Power companies have given an undertaking to source 10 per cent of their energy from renewable sources.

There are, however, strong reservations about generating energy and then selling it on. "Installing solar panels will cost between £5,000 and £10,000; exporting energy will bring in about £30 per year. We do it as a gesture but in practice it's a red herring," says Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, a green energy provider. There are other costs too, such as a £1,500 export meter, and the average rooftop turbine only produces 1,500 units of energy – some 1,800 short of the average household's needs. "The whole thing is a nonsense, to be honest," adds Mr Vince.

But renewables firm Good Energy has come up with an alternative: it is offering to pay customers for the energy they produce, without them having to sell it to the grid. It also doubled the pay recently – from 4.5p per kw/h to 9p. The firm said this would translate into savings for an average household on their energy bills of £262.50 a year.

However, customers on this scheme will still need to buy the bulk of their energy in the standard way from the grid – and through Good Energy, whose tariffs it openly admits are around 14 per cent more than the average for the sector. Throwing such a cost into the equation, the return, in terms of discounted bills, is unlikely to justify a £5,000 to £10,000 initial investment on solar panels or turbines.

A spokesman at EnergyWatch, the gas and electricity watchdog, advises consumers: "Do all the energy- efficiency measures first, which have a far bigger impact than micro generation." These include changing your boiler and insulating your loft and cavity walls.

Those dead set on generating their own power and selling it on can get help with the initial investment: a government grant is available via the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (www. To qualify, you must have already "installed the basic level of energy-efficiency measures".

After getting a quote from a certified micro generation installer, you can apply for a grant of up to £2,500.

Those with a green conscience may be heartened that green technology is improving. "The current crop of wind turbines are technically unable to do their job," says Mr Vince. "But the next 12 months will see the advent of the second generation –with fundamentally different designs."

'It's a nice feeling when you produce your own energy'

Alan and Margaret Pinder live in Thornbury, north of Bristol, in a 200-year-old country cottage, which they describe as "not particularly energy efficient".

The Pinders have, though, taken steps to cut their carbon footprint as they strive to become more self-sufficient. They have installed nine solar panels, about a square metre, each on their roof. "We are both worried about global warming and the environment and we don't have loads of money, so cutting energy bills is a bonus," says Alan.

"At the time, the Government was offering 50 per cent grants and we were lucky enough to get a windfall, which was just enough to take care of the expense. The whole thing cost £11,000.

"In the summer it covers about two-thirds of the electricity we use, but over the year the solar panels produce about one-fifth of our total electricity. As part of the deal we buy the remaining energy from Good Energy. You need to have the normal grid supply as well.

"It's a nice feeling to produce your own energy and people are always asking us about it."
Tom McTague
full article

Friday, 19 October 2007

Free carbon calculator for builders

As house builders prepare for the 2016 target of zero carbon homes, The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management(ECCM) has developed a free and easy-to-use Building Materials Carbon Calculator, which will analyse the embodied CO2 in the materials used in a building. The tool is the first of its kind and will help decision makers select the best material to minimise a building’s carbon footprint.

Richard Tipper, Director at ECCM explained: “This simple to use and understand tool is designed to clear the haze surrounding calculating a building’s materials footprint. We receive lots of enquiries from the construction industry, all wanting to understand and analyse the CO2. The calculator allows users to type in the quantities for the materials used in each element of a building and then assess the associated CO2 using scientifically backed emissions data.”

The calculator will help clients, architects, builders and developers gain a clearer understanding of the environmental impact of their projects at the concept stage. It also encourages comparison with alternative materials to lower the total CO2 emissions of a building’s materials’ footprint.

Architects White Design used the tool recently when working on the recently unveiled Re-Thinking School at Offsite07, The project aimed to produce a low carbon, sustainable learning environment for pupils.

Craig White, Director at White Design said: “A low embodied CO2 footprint was one of the main drivers for the project. The carbon calculator indicated that the project was actually carbon negative – unheard of in most modern school building – thanks to careful materials selection and design. We’re very proud of the 40.9 tonnes of CO2 saved.”

The free tool can be downloaded from:

The building elements compared within the tool are: foundations, external walls, roof, cladding, floors, insulation, internal walls, windows and doors.

A two-bedroom semi-detached house might use concrete in its foundations, along with hardcore, concrete slab, screed and extruded polystyrene in its flooring and wooden joists in the roof. The Carbon Calculator will provide a reading of the embodied CO 2 in each of the building elements.

In this example, the foundations and floor would be responsible for releasing 2.9 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere during production, delivery and installation. On the other hand, the timber joists actually absorb and so remove 0.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Timber is recognised as being ‘carbon negative’ because it captures and stores more CO2 as it grows than is used in harvesting, processing and delivery.

Once quantities for all the project’s elements have been inputted, an overall indication of the building’s carbon footprint is provided. In this case which uses a combination of timber frame and block work, the materials used to build a two-bed semi-detached house would produce12.2 tonnes of CO 2.

Green Building Press
full article

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Eco friendly homes now for sale in Norwich

Niche property developer Ron Beattie of Roy Williamson Properties is so ahead of the pack with his 22 zero-carbon zero-maintenance townhouses at Ecostessey Park, Costessey, Norwich, that government agency BRE (Building Research Establishment) is calling on him to help modify the sustainable housing code and offer advice to mainstream house builders.

Along with solar power water heating and photovoltaic roof panels, high insulation self-cleaning glass, and heat recovery, the two to five-bedroom houses overlooking private fishing lakes and open countryside have insulated internal partitions and external walls, which exceed current building regulations by 30%.
With the scheme's zero-carbon rating, buyers pay no Stamp Duty and will save money on their heating bills.

Also, Beattie has sourced zero-carbon wind farm electricity from Ecotricity and invented "warm room technology."
'Each room is a totally insulated by independently operated 100% efficient water-filled electric radiators, which means no heat will be wasted,' says Mr Beattie, whose last project in nearby Loddon gave buyers the option to have easy-to-move walls to change their living spaces.

Appreciating homes need to be aesthetically pleasing as well as green, Beattie uses his own dedicated building team to create light and roomy spaces. Three-storey homes at Ecostessey Park have their own garages, large balconies and floor-to-ceiling folding doors leading onto private gardens.

Prices range from £360,0000 to £470,000 and the scheme will be completed in January 2009.
full article

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Hull tops energy efficiency poll

Hull's homes are the most energy-efficient in Britain, according to a survey released today.

The survey by British Gas ranks 25 cities according to how energy efficient their households are. It found London residents are the least energy efficient, with households in the London borough of Kingston-upon-Thames wasting the most energy.

Homes in Glasgow, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Portsmouth ranked highly, while Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham came alongside London at the bottom.

Figures from the Department for Food, Rural Affairs and the Environment show that households alone account for 28% of total UK CO2 emissions. And while new homes are built according to energy-efficient regulations, British Gas says that simple measures such as cavity-wall and loft insulation could cut CO2 emissions from the UK's estimated 25m homes by 52%.

Managing director of British Gas, Phil Bentley, said: "For every £3 we spend heating our homes £1 is wasted because of poor insulation.

"While strict standards on new builds are needed, most of the energy being consumed is in the ageing homes we live in today. Making changes in these properties will give us the biggest carbon-emission reductions."

The results of the survey were compiled from British Gas's free energy-audit. Around 1.5m households took part in the nationwide Energy Savers exercise earlier this year.

Households were given an energy-efficiency rating from A to F, with A being the most efficient.

The rating was determined by the property's location, construction and heating characteristics, and takes into account energy-efficient measures already installed in the property.

Last year, the same survey found most (65%) homes rated D or worse while the average grade in the audit was also D.

This year's grade remained the same, but a British Gas spokeswoman said the survey had revealed a behavioural change: "We've definitely seen a change in people's attitudes. Far more people are taking action, and it's not necessarily with more insulation or new boilers."

She added: "More people say they are turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby, and turning down their themostat. There is a 10% increase in people who are doing these things."

full article

Building work begins this week on a new generation of zero-carbon homes.

The prototype of the "green house" has been designed to produce the smallest carbon footprint.

Solar panels will heat the water, pumps will extract heat from the air to warm the house and lavatories will use rainwater to flush.

The floors and walls will be insulated with concrete to keep the building's temperature stable.

The family house is being built by Barratt Homes and will be scientifically tested to ensure it meets the strict credentials set out by the Government to make it zero carbon. If it is given the allclear, a range of properties will be introduced on to the mainstream market by 2010.

The house, developed at the BRE Innovation Park in Hertfordshire, comes two weeks after the exemption from stamp duty of zero-carbon homes worth less than £500,000.

The prototype was designed by London architects Gaunt Francis; and the National Centre for Excellence in Housing, based at the BRE complex, is collaborating on the project.

Mark Clare, chief executive of Barratt Developments, said: "The most exciting aspect of the 'green house' is it's not designed as a one-off - we will take what works and apply it to house building across the country
full article

Monday, 15 October 2007

Calls for ‘Three Planets’ action

HUGE lifestyle changes affecting everyone in Wales are necessary if we are to leave behind our shameful “Three Planets” status, according to a major report published today.

The report, commissioned by environmental campaign group WWF Cymru, says that if everyone on Earth consumed resources at the rate Wales currently does, the world’s population would need three planets to survive.

Produced by researcher Joe Ravetz of the University of Manchester’s Centre for Urban Regional Ecology, the One Planet Wales report sets out a vision for a radically different Wales, with a 75% cut in the nation’s ecological footprint by 2050.

It identifies seven key areas where it says change must occur:

Food – At present 75% of all food eaten in Wales comes through supermarkets where consumers are faced with 20,000 products, each with sophisticated packaging and advertising. The One Planet Food agenda sees a transformation of the food system at each stage of the supply chain, with an agricultural-environmental agenda on the producer side, and a healthy diet agenda on the consumer side;

Buildings – Many towns and cities in Wales are composed of buildings which are inefficient and unsuited for the 21st Century. While policies for new buildings are much needed, it is the existing building stock which is the bigger challenge. One Planet Buildings in Wales sees a future of low carbon sustainable buildings responsive to the sun and the elements, surrounded by townscapes which are green, clean and human scale;

Transport – The terrain and geography of Wales is certainly a challenge for sustainable transport. The One Planet Transport vision sees a future of low-impact, high-quality, IT-enabled, responsive public transport; a car fleet which has raised its efficiency by several times; and on the demand side, a total coordination of activities and locations to reduce travel needs to a minimum;

Products – In a One Planet Wales economy, the average product will last longer and be adaptable, designed for re-use and reconditioning, built from lower-impact materials with higher efficiency, sourced locally or with low-impact distribution. While most manufacturing in Wales is an integral part of the UK and EU economies, there is great potential for a unique and competitive marketing edge in the One Planet Wales label. In a tough business climate, this needs kick starting by the public sector through procurement and innovation partnerships, followed by extensions of carbon trading industrial markets;

Services – Now that services form the majority of Gross Value Added and employment in Wales, the One Planet agenda needs to focus on these more complex and wide-ranging activities. The vision of One Planet Services in Wales would be led by public sector procurement and based on corporate social responsibility, integrated environmental management, ethical trading and investment, life-cycle carbon trading, IT-enabled distribution and local community ownership;

Energy – The One Planet Energy vision sees a future where Wales’ energy demand is tapered down and local renewable energy sources are accelerated up. Behind this is a wide-ranging transformation of the energy infrastructure and distribution system, from global resources to individual homes and products;

Resources – A One Planet Resource economy is based on re-circulation: recycled, re-manufactured and re-used materials and products would become the norm, and virgin products and imports reduced to a minimum. The challenge is how to fit this to supply chain innovation, retail logistics and packaging, economic value added, consumer lifestyle habits, local charging incentives.

Today, Sustainability Minister Jane Davidson will respond to the report during a conference at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

Morgan Parry, head of WWF Cymru said, “Our very future depends on our ability to live within the limits of the Earth’s natural resources, yet since the 1980s human demand has been exceeding the Earth’s ability to replenish and absorb.

“To meet the unprecedented global challenges we have before us, we need a shared vision and a shared plan. A vision whereby everyone in Wales, by 2050, can enjoy a high quality life, using our fair share of the Earth’s resources.

“The pressure is now on us to make changes in the way we consume, the energy we use and the impact we have on the environment.

“By living sustainably we can find lasting solutions to our problems both today and tomorrow – and we all have a role to play.

“A shift towards a One Planet Wales economy will place Wales at the leading edge of global environmental initiatives through targeting the biggest footprint growth sectors in Wales .

“The One Planet Wales principles are being widely discussed and a chain reaction has been triggered, but some questions remain.

“Are we ready to change our everyday lifestyle choices? More important, are the government and businesses ready to provide services and frameworks for change that will make it easy, attractive and affordable for people to choose more sustainable options?”

full article

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Thatched roof homes are back

Westley Marriott is one of those rare, happy men who loves his job. He spends most of his days up on the roofs of rural England, in the fresh air, employing his centuriesold skills as a thatcher.

It is peaceful, creative and fulfilling work – and recently, increasingly busy. A thatcher for 10 years, Westley started his own business six years ago and has had to employ an extra apprentice a year since then, to keep pace with demand.

It is not that, coincidentally, all the thatched cottages of England need reroofing at once – much of the extra call for Westley's skills comes from developers building new houses with thatched roofs.

"Ten years ago I may have thatched one or two new builds a year, now they make up around 70 per cent of my work," says Westley, who is based in Northamptonshire (

"There is more demand for thatching now than at any time in the last 70 years."

"Better building regulations means fire hazards have been reduced and there are far more competitive insurance premiums. Thatchers are better trained, resulting in higher quality than you might have got in the Seventies. These roofs holds their value today. Thatch is definitely back."

There has been confusion about whether or not, for the purposes of Energy Performance Certificates in the new Home Information Packs, thatch constitutes roof insulation.

The latest advice is that insulation is calculated to be half the thickness of the thatch, so if for example a thatch is two feet thick, the insulation is considered to be one foot thick. This means that virtually all thatched houses should out-perform minimum insulation standards.

The Energy Savings Trust has full details of the calculations on their website ( or ring 0800 512012 for free advice.
full article

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Eco homes: 20 ways to make your home greener

There's no way of escaping it: everywhere you go these days you leave dirty great carbon footprints revealing, for the world to see, just how wasteful and unsustainable your lifestyle is. From the type of car you drive (you do drive, don't you?) to your choice of grocery provider (could we be talking supermarket here?), you wear your green credentials on your sleeve.

But however guilty you feel about your turbocharged SUV and penchant for Peruvian asparagus at Christmas, the likelihood is that your home is your most carbon-rich, energy- burning crime. So, if you're really serious about reducing your impact on the environment, the best place to begin your quest is at home. Eco-friendly homes don't have to be weird-looking and expensive. An award winning five-bedroom eco-home on a brownfield site in Lewes, East Sussex, which cost just £340,000 to build, is selling for £865,000 ( Its environmentally friendly features include solar panels, underfloor heating and English lamb's wool insulation.

It is insulation that is the biggest single contribution you can make to reducing a house's carbon footprint. "We still let a huge proportion of our energy escape through windows, roofs and walls," says environmental campaigner Brigit Strawbridge. "But other options, like solar hot water, are both efficient and surprisingly affordable." Strawbridge is best known as the diminutive but feisty martriarch in the BBC2 series It's Not Easy Being Green, which documented the Strawbridge family (Brigit, husband Dick and grown-up children James and Charlotte) as they struggled to convert a 300-year-old Cornish farmhouse into a comfortable yet environmentally friendly place to live.

Anybody who is serious about reducing their carbon footprint can start making changes immediately, says Brigit. "It's a doddle. What's not easy is making decisions - whether biofuel crops are a better option than using the land to grow food, if investing in solar electricity will save money and the environment - these are all questions that you have to think hard about."

Earlier this month she encouraged home-owners to adopt a whole range of energy efficient measures at a weekend promoting green energy, low carbon, environmentally conscious lifestyle options at Hallsannery Centre near Bideford, North Devon, courtesy of the Torridge Action Group for Sustainability (TAGS for short). Visitors from across the country learnt the virtues of biomass boilers and the need for the thickest possible layers of insulation, and were taken to see dozens of different homes and businesses which have already invested in sustainable energy-saving technology. "My message is that you can switch to a greener lifestyle by making changes gradually, and the best time to start is now," says Brigit.

The Strawbridge family runs courses in greener living and their website provides useful links (

1 Switch to low-energy lightbulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs use up to 80 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 15 times longer.

2 Turning your thermostat down by 1 deg C can save up to 10 per cent on your annual heating bill.

3 Never leave your personal computer or monitor on when not in use - they burn a huge amount of energy.

4 Turn your television off at the wall when not in use. A television on standby is still using 80 per cent of its power.

5 Close your curtains when it starts getting dark to reduce the amount of heat escaping through your windows.

6 Air leakage wastes an enormous amount of thermal energy. Seal all leaky doors and windows.

7 Save water by putting a flush saver, or even a brick, in your loo cistern to reduce the amount of water used with each flush.

8 Replacing an ageing central heating boiler with a new condensing type could cut your heating bills by more than 20 per cent.

9 Your hot water does not need to be boiling, so make sure your cylinder thermostat is set at 60 deg C.

10 Next time you upgrade your fridge or freezer make sure you get an energy-efficient model. An "A++" rating denotes the best energy efficiency.

11 Urban water run-off from paths and patios can be stored in a sustainable drainage system which helps prevent flooding in main sewers and drains.

12 Use water butts to store rainwater for use in the garden. It can even be filtered and used in the house for flushing loos and in your washing machine.

13 'Grey water" from your bath and shower can also be filtered and re-used in the house or garden.

14 Solar hot water heating is one of the most cost-effective technologies available. Once installed, up to 70 per cent of your annual hot water requirement can be met by this technology.

15 Solar photo-voltaic (PV) panels generate electricity from sunlight. Although a whole-house system is an expensive option, small panels can be used efficiently to power certain appliances such as water pumps and lighting circuits.

16 If your windows need replacing, make sure you fit new double- or even triple- glazed units. Double glazing can cut heat loss through windows by up to 50 per cent.

17 A third of all building heat is lost through walls. Cavity wall insulation is easy and cheap and even solid walls can be insulated either indoors or outside.

18 Increasing the depth of your loft insulation to at least 20 cm could reduce heat lost through your roof by 25 per cent.

19 Use a compost bin and reduce the amount of kitchen rubbish you send to landfill.

20 Most metals, glass and plastics can be recycled and most local authorities have a collection scheme. Make sure that you segregate and recycle all these materials.

full article

Saving energy at home could take 200 years to repay its cost

The cost of installing energy-saving measures such as solar panels would take more than 200 years to recoup in reduced bills, according to research published today.

The Energy Performance Certificates which are now required with all Home Information Packs for houses with three or more bedrooms list eight measures to secure a high rating of A or B against a poor rating of F or G.

But the study from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors shows that some of the measures, such as solar panels to heat water, would cost £5,000 to install but reduce average bills by only £24 a year and would take about 208 years to pay back.

The RICS data shows that putting in all eight measures, including insulation, condenser boilers and double glazing, would cost £23,547. This would knock only £486 off fuel bills and would take 48 years to recoup.

Ministers have argued that the energy performance certificates would reduce carbon emissions and shave hundreds of pounds off household bills, making them an attractive selling point. But the cost of double glazing would take 124 years to recoup in lower heating bills while underfloor insulation would take 54 years.

Even loft insulation would take 13 years to produce savings in utility bills. “People on average spend 16 years living in one property, making most of the EPC energy saving measures financially unattractive propositions,” said RICS. Ten per cent stay in their home for less than five years, and about 12 per cent less than three years.

The organisation is now pressing ministers to reduce the 17.5 per cent VAT rate paid on energy saving measurs to 5 per cent or zero. But they also want the Government to provide grants to give householders a financial incentive to reduce carbon emissions.

“The Government needs to do a lot more than just introduce a ‘fridge style’ energy rating system to encourage people to take up energy saving measures,” said Jill Craig, RICS Head of Policy and Public Affairs.

“RICS has been calling on government to reduce the level of VAT applied to all energy saving measures and to provide an attractive grant program to aid real change. If this Government is really serious about combating climate change they have to turn their big talk into even bigger actions.

“Efforts must be focused on the bulk of the housing market, made up of older homes from the 1920s1960s, that produce twice as much CO2 as a homes built after 1995. The EPC should be applied flexibly to all residential property, not just those that are being bought and sold.”A review of the whole of the residential housing sector begins on Monday which will consider the effectiveness of energy saving measures.

The inquiry, which will be chaired by Sir Bryan Carsberg, former director general of the Office of Fair Trading, will examine the benefits and drawbacks of Home Information Packs. It will also examine current practices in buying/selling and renting and letting property before drawing up recommendations on the regulation of estate agents and letting agents.

The commission, sponsored by RICS, the National Association of Estate Agents and the Association of Residential Letting Agents, will take evidence in public hearings. Yvette Cooper, the housing minister, will be one of the first witnesses to be invited.
Jill Sherman
full article

Solar heating will pay for itself ... if you wait 208 years

There's good news and bad news if you follow the energy-saving advice in your Home Information Pack.

On the positive side, by installing solar heating you'll be helping the planet and start saving money.

But the bad news is that it will take 208 years to recoup your outlay - meaning at least that your great, great, great, great grandchildren should be laughing.

The research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found payback times for energy-saving projects on an average three-bedroom terraced house range from five years for cavity wall insulation to more than 200 years for solar heating.

Those installing double glazing face a 124-year wait while an energy-efficient condensing boiler could take 38 years.

Even a more basic measure such as loft insulation will take 13 years before energy savings amount to the same initial outlay.

Given that we spend an average of 16 years in one property, RICS says we are unlikely to be spurred into shelling out for some of the schemes.

It highlighted VAT as being a major factor in increasing the length of time before homeowners make savings and called for a grants system to make improvements more attractive.

The study heaps yet further controversy on the Government's troubled HIPs scheme.

Jill Craig, RICS head of policy and public affairs, said: "RICS has been calling on Government to reduce the level of VAT applied to all energy-saving measures and to provide an attractive grant program to aid real change.

"If this Government is really serious about combating climate change they have to turn their big talk into even bigger actions.

"Efforts must be focused on the bulk of the housing market, made up of older

homes from the 1920s-1960s, that produce twice as much CO2 as homes built after 1995.

"The Energy Performance Certificates should be applied flexibly to all residential property, not just those that are being bought and sold."

The certificates are supposed to encourage individuals to make energy- saving changes to properties to help reduce carbon emissions.

However, property owners will have an incredibly lengthy wait to get their money back even on more basic measures.

For example, the payback time for loft insulation is 13 years and 38 years for hot water cylinder and pipework insulation.

At present Energy Performance Certificates are compulsory only for homeowners selling their properties, which is thought to account for 6.9 per cent of homes.

The cost of having a house's energy performance assessed is between £100 and £150.

HIPs have been blamed for a 37 per cent fall in the number of family homes coming on to the market.

The packs became compulsory for homes with three bedrooms a month ago and for those with four or more in August.

Estate agents claim the regime is driving sellers out of the market, creating a property famine.

HIPs appear to be driving away the 20 per cent of sellers who have, in the past, put their home on the market "on spec" to see if they can find a buyer or get a good price.

RICS believes HIPs could cause real damage to the property market, which is fragile at the moment.

The market has also slowed down in the wake of higher borrowing costs, caused by five base rate rises in the past year and the impact of the global credit crunch.

full article

Friday, 12 October 2007

Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize for climate

Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize today for warning the world about the dangers of global warming, and leading the campaign to persuade governments and individuals to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

The former US vice-president will share the £750,000 prize with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations panel which has worked for two decades to establish consensus on the science of man-made warming.

Mr Gore said tonight that climate change is the most “dangerous and urgent challenge” the world faces at the moment and said it is time to “elevate global consciousness” about the challenges of global warming.
full article

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Insulation the 'most important' energy saving step

Landlords in England, Wales and overseas hoping to increase the energy efficiency of their homes in order to reduce costs in the long run have been advised that improving insulation and installing a new boiler are two of the most effective ways in which this can be achieved.

Sam Turnbull, co-founder of, revealed these measures had been found to be both successful and simple.

"Evidence shows that insulating the loft and insulating cavity walls are important and easy steps to take," he explained.

"On top of that there is improving your boiler. It is one of the most important users of energy in the house. These options may not be as trendy as putting a wind turbine on your house but they do have the most impact."

Ensuring a home is properly insulated is also relatively cheap - and even free for those on benefits.

Mr Turnbull also recommended that landlords replace their existing light bulbs with energy-saving alternatives - especially as the latter are coming down in price.

This article was brought to you by, the UK's No.1 holiday home website.
full article

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Energy-saving lightbulbs branded a health hazard

NEW energy-efficient lightbulbs could pose a threat to the elderly and to people with less-than-perfect eyesight, it was claimed yesterday.

The Labour peer Baroness Hollis of Heigham told the House of Lords the bulbs took much longer than standard ones to light up fully and were potentially dangerous on stairs and landings.

Lord Rooker, the environment minister, agreed there was a problem and called on manufacturers to rectify it.

However, he said technology had improved the performance of energy-saving bulbs.

"Things are improving," he said. "If the bulbs carry the energy-saving recommended logo, they will reach at least 60 per cent of their brightness in 60 seconds."

However, he admitted: "There are sometimes rooms that have no windows, such as bathrooms and cupboards, where one needs to have the light on straightaway. This is a matter that has got to be dealt with by the industry."

The minister said the number of energy-efficient lightbulbs in British homes had risen from 26 million in 2000 to 110 million last year.

And he said it was intended that Britain should lead Europe in the usage of more efficient and greener lightbulbs.

"We are working with energy suppliers, the Energy Saving Trust, retailers and manufacturers to phase out inefficient light bulbs in the UK, ahead of our European partners," Lord Rooker said
full article

Shocks kill three fixing insulation

Homeowners considering installing their under floor thermal insulation should heed warnings that they risk electrical shock and electrocution if they don't take appropriate precautions.

Three people have died this year stapling under floor insulation material into power cables.

Their deaths follow a similar fatality in 2005.

The practice of installing under floor insulation has become widespread among homeowners since the Government began promoting ways of making homes more energy-efficient.

And while people may know they must turn the power off while installing the insulation, they can still unwittingly create a death trap when they switch the power back on.

Evidence at a coroner's inquest in Huntly last month showed that entire sheets of newly-installed aluminium foil beneath homes could become electrified once jobs were complete, creating a death trap for anyone who went underneath the house.

Coroner Bob McDermott criticised the Government's lack of warnings over do-it-yourself insulation, asking why safety and awareness campaigns were not launched alongside those to promote energy efficiency.

Since the deaths, Associate Energy Minister Harry Duynhoven has issued a warning advising homeowners of the dangers.

"As with any electrical work being carried out, whether in the home or at work, it is essential that any potential hazards or risks are identified and eliminated," he says.

"A cable that has been damaged by a staple can still make the aluminium foil live when the power is turned on and create the same electric shock hazard.

full article

Low energy LED bulbs to last 100 years

The lighting industry is working on a 'third generation' of energy-efficient light bulbs that are designed to last a lifetime.
Already in use outdoors and in some shops and galleries, the environment friendly light-emitting diode bulbs that can go without replacement for up to 100 years will be in most new homes by 2011.
According to Keven Verdun, chief executive of The Lighting Association, the LEDs will be the ultimate low-energy bulb and will become the norm.

'By 2011, all conventional bulbs will have disappeared,' he said. 'Most people will have energy-efficient bulbs known as compact fluorescent lamps.

'But CFLs are only an interim solution. The ultimate are the LEDs and they will become standard lights for most homes.'

LEDs are used mainly outdoors or in shops, but they are not common in homes because at more than £4 each, they are not economic.

The Queen has become the most public figure to use the high-tech bulbs. Since last October, the front of Buckingham Palace has been lit from dusk with 59 LED fittings. And the paintings in its picture gallery are illuminated by LEDs, which have the advantage over other lights of not emitting heat.

Though LEDs last a lifetime, the industry does not believe it is working itself out of existence. Verdun said: 'You expect a house to last a lifetime, so why not bulbs?'

The good, bad and the LED

1. Incandescent bulb (normal light bulb). Costs from 20p for a 60-watt version, lasts up to a year.
2. Compact fluorescent bulb (low-energy bulb). Costs from £1-68 for a 60-watt bulb. Lasts six to 15 years.
3. LED bulb, already used in shops and outdoors. Costs from £4.55. Lasts from 15 to 100 years.

full article

Monday, 8 October 2007

Zero-carbon homes shock as national grid energy barred

Government says off-site sources ‘not eligible unless directly connected to the development’

In a surprise move this week the government revealed that homes using renewable energy provided through the national grid will not qualify as zero-carbon.

In long-awaited guidance on the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes, published on Monday, the communities department caught the housebuilding industry unawares by decreeing that off-site renewable sources of energy such as windfarms “would not be eligible unless directly connected to the development concerned”.

It was previously expected that developments would be able to purchase green power from some of the large offshore and remote windfarms being constructed in the UK.

Yvette Cooper, the housing minister, said: “The ambition for all new homes to be zero-carbon by 2016 is a challenging one. We need to work closely with housebuilders and the green technology industry.”

Chris Watts, director of sustainable construction and technology at consultant Beyond Green, said: “Does it matter where the energy is produced as long as it is renewable? There are some developers who really want to do the right thing and this just makes it an impossible task.”
By Olivia Boyd

full article

Eco-house is award-winner for family of ten

Architect Duncan Barker-Brown said: "The house is highly insulated and doesn't require a lot of warming up. In the summer the solar panels provide hot water and in the winter warm water which is ideal for underfloor heating.

"There is also an energy efficient condensing gas boiler but it doesn't have to work very hard. The house is a good example of what can be done with a little bit of ingenuity. A lot of our work now is on little bits of land that nobody else wants."

The house was built in structurally insulated panels (SIPS) made offsite so the house could be constructed swiftly and at the same time making the building almost waterproof. The panels are made from recycled polyurethane and chipboard and are highly insulated.

The floors are made from solid oak and the wooden cladding on one side of the house is locally coppiced sweet-chestnut.

All the windows are double-glazed to keep in the heat and natural english lamb's wool was used for insulation in the floor and roof voids. Even the breathing paper in the loft is made from recycled plastic.

The house was designed to make maximum use of a small amount of space. Where possible the building materials were locally sourced so the travelling distances and deliveries for materials were cut down to a minimum.
By Paul Eccleston

full article

Sunday, 7 October 2007

How to cut energy bills

RESIDENTS could make huge savings if they cut down on energy use, according to a survey.

Information released following the launch of Energy Performance Certificates and Home Information Packs shows the average four- bedroom home could save hundreds of pounds off heating, lighting, and water bills.

The certificates, which accompany houses being put on the market, use a rating from A to G to show the energy efficiency of a home and also offer advice on how the rating can be improved.

Most homes are receiving an E rating, according to the survey.

The rating could potentially rise to C if residents take action recommended in the certificates, including loft and cavity wall insulation.

A snapshot survey of energy assessors and certificates provided since the August 1 launch of the packs showed homes could typically save £180 on heating, £60 on lighting and £30 on hot water bills every year.

The top five recommendations given by assessors for improving energy efficiency have been cavity wall insulation, changing to low energylighting, putting thermostatic valves on radiators, loft insulation and double glazing.

The certificates and packs were extended to three-bedroom homes on September 10.
full article

Can science really save the world?

Endless treaties to cut carbon emissions and halt global warming have failed to turn the tide of pollution. Now scientists want to intervene on a planetary scale, changing the very nature of our seas and skies. Ahead of a major report on 'geo-engineering' we reveal the six big ideas that could change the face of the Earth

Robin McKie and Juliette Jowit
Sunday October 7, 2007
The Observer

They are the ultimate technological fixes: schemes that will span our planet and involve scientists in reshaping our world to save it from global warming. Yet only a few years ago, such projects - giant space mirrors, flotillas of artificial cloud makers and ocean fertilisation programmes - were dismissed as the stuff of science fiction.

Today many engineers and researchers - fearful of the rate at which our planet is warming - say geo-engineering projects are now mankind's only hope of saving itself from the impact of climate change. A major report and a new exhibition at the Science Museum starting next week will resurrect the debate.

Despite 10 years of international negotiations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide levels by between 60-80 per cent, global emissions are still rising. The only hope, say geo-engineers, is to change the planet, alter its oceans and reshape its cloud cover.

It is a point highlighted by Brian Launder, professor of mechanical engineering at Manchester University, who was once 'neutral' about these great geo-engineering projects but who has come to believethat current attempts to reduce CO2 emissions are doomed to failure.

'As time has gone on I have become increasingly concerned about the lack of progress on climate change and [although] they once seemed a last resort, I have to say we're going to need to do this.'

Launder is now editing a forthcoming issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society which will be devoted to the subject of geo-engineering schemes. 'We're moving, but I think we need to go a lot further.'

An exhibition - Can Algae Save The World? - opening at the Science Museum will also focus on hi-tech projects aimed at saving the planet.

The latest assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published earlier this year, considered three major techniques to reduce sunlight reaching the Earth: orbiting mirrors, sulphur particle schemes and projects for enhancing cloud cover.

The ideas 'could have beneficial consequences' by increasing agricultural productivity and forestry, the panel concluded. Carbon dioxide would be left in the atmosphere, stimulating plant growth, while reductions in sunlight would stop temperatures from rising even as CO2 levels continued to increase.

'Geo-engineering is one of the types of thing that are worth investigating,' says Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. 'If we can generate 100 ideas, and 97 are bad and we land up with three good ones, then the whole thing will have been worthwhile.'

Opponents to such schemes point out that it is technology that got mankind in its current fix. An even bigger dose of technology is therefore the last thing the planet needs. Schemes for fertilising the oceans with iron compounds pose immense risks to marine life, for example. Geo-engineers defend their schemes by pointing out that emissions of greenhouse gases are already bringing huge changes to natural ecosystems.

It is a point stressed by the distinguished ecologist James Lovelock: there are dangers in intervening but the risks posed by doing nothing are worse. 'There may be all sorts of ecological consequences,' he said. 'But then the stakes are terribly high.'

Ocean pumps

Two of Britain's leading environmental thinkers, Chris Rapley, head of the Science Museum, and James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia concept, suggest vertical pipes could pump deep cold water to the sea surface. Cold ocean water is considered to be more 'productive' than warmer water because it contains more lifeforms. And these lifeforms are vital for absorbing CO2.

Using special valves, cold water would be made to flow up floating pipes and out on to the ocean surface, bringing increased numbers of lifeforms into contact with the atmosphere and its carbon dioxide. These lifeforms would absorb CO2, die and then sink to the ocean floor, storing the carbon away for millennia.

Marine biologists point out that the scheme could pose major problems for sea life, in particular for creatures such as whales and porpoises.

Chance of success: 3/5 Impact on marine life could count against the scheme.

Sulphur blanket

During major volcanic eruptions, the Earth often undergoes significant cooling. For example, when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991 the average temperature across the Earth decreased by 0.6C. Scientists pointed the finger of blame at the 10 million tonnes of sulphur that the volcano ejected into the stratosphere. So why not copy Pinatubo? That is the suggestion of Professor Paul Crutzen who won a Nobel prize in 1995 for his work on the ozone layer.

He has proposed creating a 'blanket' of sulphur that would block the Sun's rays from reaching Earth; to do this, he envisages hundreds of rockets filled with sulphur being blasted into the stratosphere. About one million tonnes of sulphur would be enough to create his cooling blanket, he says.

The idea alarms other scientists, who fear such a massive input of sulphur into the upper atmosphere could increase acid rain or damage the ozone layer. Crutzen believes his idea may still be necessary if Earth continues to warm up at its current rate. 'I am prepared to lose some bit of ozone if we can prevent major increases of temperature, say beyond two degrees or three degrees,' he says.

Chance of success: 1/5 Risks of acid rain and ozone depletion will provoke opposition.


Radiation from the Sun heats our planet and sustains life here. But as Earth warms up, scientists want to cut that radiation and one of the most ambitious ideas involves firing giant mirrors into its orbit.

Physicist Lowell Wood, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has put forward the idea of using a mesh of aluminium threads, a millionth of an inch in diameter. 'It would be like a window screen made of exceedingly fine metal wire,' he explains. The screen wouldn't completely block sunlight but would filter infra-red radiation.

However, such mirrors would be expensive to make and put into orbit. To produce a 1 per cent cut in solar radiation would require mirrors with surface areas of 600,000 square miles. But once in space such mirrors would be extremely cheap to operate.

'It's very hi-tech,' said John Shepherd, professor of marine science at the National Oceanographic Centre at Southampton University. 'Who knows whether they can really do it? And it's going to cost a lot of money to find out.'

Chance of success: 1/5 Incredibly expensive.

Cloud shield

John Latham, at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, and Stephen Salter, of Edinburgh University estimate that increasing cloud cover using a seawater spray 'seeding' process could increase cloud cover by 4 per cent - enough to counter a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by shielding Earth from solar radiation.

Their plan is one of the cheaper ideas for countering rising carbon dioxide levels and is relatively low-tech, leading to hopes that, if computer simulations give good results, a field trial could start in five years.

Latham acknowledges there are dangers in changing weather patterns. 'We certainly shouldn't implement [it] in any global sense until we've done our best to examine what implications it might have,' he says.

'But if one felt that there are unlikely to be any implications that are more severe than the damage global warming is causing, then I think we'd begin.'

Chance of success: 2/5 Will need major global commitment to succeed.

Synthetic trees

Planting trees that absorb carbon dioxide has become a major eco-industry. But now scientists are proposing a surprise technological variant: synthetic trees. These trees would not grow or flower or leaf - but they would absorb carbon dioxide.

This startling concept is the brainchild of Klaus Lackner of Columbia University who first outlined his proposal at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He describes his synthetic trees as looking like 'goal posts with Venetian blinds'.

Lackner has calculated that one of his synthetic trees could remove about 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in a year - the output of more than 15,000 cars and a thousandfold improvement on the natural behaviour of a real, living tree.

Lackner's concept is a variant of carbon sequestration technology which involves the seizing of carbon and storing it underground. Already schemes exist for removing carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, gas or oil at power plants before it reaches the atmosphere. Other projects are investigating ways to liquefy this carbon dioxide and store it in old mines or oilfields.

However, the process does not work for all polluters, in particular cars and lorries - hence Lackner's synthetic trees which would act like filters, removing carbon dioxide from that atmosphere. An absorbent coating, such as limewater, on slats would capture carbon dioxide so that it could be removed and then buried. However, critics say the scheme suffers from the fact that engineers could end up expending more energy in capturing carbon dioxide than they would save.

Chance of success: 4/5 Carbon sequestration is likely to play a major role in the world's battle against climate change, though perhaps not in the form of synthetic trees.

Forests of the seas

Blooms of plankton and algae are the grasslands and prairies of the oceans. They absorb carbon dioxide, die and then sink to the seabed carrying the carbon dioxide they absorbed during their lifetimes. Increase such blooms and you could take out more and more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, scientists argue - an idea that formed the core of a recent meeting of experts at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the US.

The favoured method for stimulating plankton growth is to use iron fertilisers. It is known that tiny amounts of iron are critical in stimulating phytoplankton growth in seas. However, in many parts of the world iron in seawater is virtually non-existent and plankton levels correspondingly low.

Several groups of US entrepreneurs have begun experiments aimed at correcting this problem by pumping tonnes of soluble iron compounds into sea areas. Several trial schemes are now under way. But some critics warn that very little carbon dioxide would be removed from the atmosphere this way, while there is a danger such schemes could cause dangerous pollution.

Chance of success: 2/5 Method already in trials, but faces considerable opposition over potential damage to marine life.

full article