Friday, 28 December 2007

Energy-saving light bulb used in mobile phones could replace all household bulbs within three years

Scientists are developing a new generation of super efficient household light bulbs which could spell the end of regular bulbs within three years.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are already used in electrical gadgets like mobile phones and computers.

Until now they have been unsuitable for use in the home because they are not bright enough to light whole rooms.

Now researchers believe they have found a way of introducing LEDs into households that are brighter and use even less power than current energy efficient light bulbs.

Dr Faiz Rahman, who is leading the project at the University of Glasgow, said: "By making microscopic holes on the surface of the LEDs it is possible to extract more light, thus increasing the brightness of the lights without increasing the energy consumption.

"As yet, LEDs have not been introduced as the standard lighting in homes because the process of making the holes is very time consuming and expensive.

"However, we believe we have found a way of imprinting the holes into billions of LEDs at a far greater speed, but at a much lower cost."

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Sunday, 23 December 2007

Britons seek greener Christmas and a planet-friendly new year

Britain is embarking on its greenest Christmas, according to an astonishing series of studies.

Four separate surveys show that most people are promising to make their celebrations more environmentally friendly to reduce the impact of what are traditionally the most polluting three days of the year – and to make green resolutions for the new year.

Three-quarters say that they are actively trying to reduce the amount of waste they generate over the holiday, four in five mean to dispose of their Christmas tree in an environmentally responsible way, and nine out of 10 intend to recycle their Christmas cards and wrapping paper. More than 80 per cent say they have decided to live greener lives in 2008.

The festive season has a vast impact. Research at York University estimates that the days from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day can generate a carbon footprint as great as almost three weeks of normal life.

The study, by researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute based at the university, concludes: "Our total consumption and spending on food, travel, lighting and gifts over the three days of festivities could result in as much as 650kg of emissions of carbon dioxide per person – equivalent to the weight of 1,000 Christmas puddings"

It adds that this amounts to "5.5 per cent of the UK's average carbon footprint of 11.87 tons per person a year" – equivalent to 20 days of normal consumption.

Britons send some 750 million Christmas cards a year, spend an average of £435 each on Christmas presents and encase them in enough brightly coloured paper to gift wrap the entire island of Guernsey. Eight million real trees are temporarily installed in people's homes and 10 million turkeys are consumed, along with 20 million parsnips, 30 million carrots, 105 million potatoes, 175 million mince pies and 240 million Brussels sprouts.

All this produces an extra 750,000 tons of waste – or an average of five extra sackfuls a household – which, the Government calculates, is the equivalent of emitting an extra 1.4 million tons of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming.
By Geoffrey Lean

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Hackney City Farm strawbale house

About Hackney City Farm's strawbale building:

* The strawbales came from a nearby farm and have only clogged up 37 'strawbale-miles'

* The roof insulation is wool and comes from the farm's sheep

* Much of the wood used comes from a salvaged 1930s teak boat, the cross-beam was once part of the Norfolk sea defences and the rest is coppiced wood from the farm manager's own farm in Kent

* All waste straw from the building was reused for bedding on the farm

Project Manager, Emma Appleton, told SmartPlanet that although the idea of building the farm's education and research centre out of straw and reclaimed materials has been under way for a long time, it has only taken about six months to actually build it. This is pretty good considering all the work has been done by around a 100 volunteers -- including unemployed people, asylum seekers, refugees and people from the probation service.

Appleton says: "The biggest challenges were working with a 100 people, who haven't got any building experience -- and not using conventional materials. But it's been a fantastic experience!"

Rikke Bruntse-Dahl

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Sunday, 16 December 2007

Energy Savings Ignored By Consumers found that even though more than 80 per cent of people compare energy prices at least once a year, 21.5 per cent say that they have never switched energy supplier, despite potential savings of over £200.

Switching energy supplier is one of the easiest ways to free up spare cash, and according to Ofgem, the energy regulator, 2.8 million households made the switch in the first seven months of this year alone.

Thinking of the financial savings you can make by switching appliances off at the wall rather than leaving them on standby, using energy saving light bulbs, and even switching to a money-saving online tariff, should make it easier to change your routine
But it's not just by energy switching that people can cut the cost of their bills. While the vast majority are aware of the benefits of loft insulation, double glazing and cavity wall insulation, with 90.1 per cent, 93.9 per cent and 54.1 per cent installing them respectively, other cheaper methods are often ignored.

Very simple ways of saving, such as using energy saving light bulbs -- which last 12 times longer than traditional bulbs -- or fitting a water meter in homes which are under-occupied -- which 27 per cent are, are being overlooked.

Although the average person uses between 11 and 15 light bulbs throughout their home, 32 per cent of people only had 1 to 5 energy efficient bulbs fitted and nearly 10 per cent didn't use any at all.

According to Green Peace, £9 a year could be saved on every traditional bulb that's replaced - so by making up that shortfall of 10 bulbs, the average person could instantly shave £90 a year off their electricity bill.

Michael Phillips, product director, says: "We all know that we need to reduce our energy consumption to help the environment but it can be difficult to change long-standing practices."

"Thinking of the financial savings you can make by switching appliances off at the wall rather than leaving them on standby, using energy saving light bulbs, and even switching to a money-saving online tariff, should make it easier to change your routine," he advises.

"As well as the smaller steps everyone can take to save -- such as turning your thermostat down just one degree, which saves up to £49 a year -- there are also some very big savings to be made," adds Phillips. "Anyone whose boiler is more than 10 years should start to think about having it replaced with a new energy efficient condensing boiler. These can be up to 96 per cent efficient and will cut your energy bill by up to 40 per cent straight away.

"However, 32 per cent of people have a boiler older than 10 years, and 50 per cent of which still aren't using condensing boilers, despite some older models being little more than 55 per cent efficient - wasting more than £200 a year," concludes Phillips.

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Saturday, 15 December 2007

The Tesla Roadster

What makes Tesla—named for the inventor of alternating current—any different? For starters, Tesla's timing may be perfect. Ever since Al Gore let us in on the inconvenient truth, the idea of an electric vehicle has emerged as the purest play against global warming, since cars spit out 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that heat the planet. Plus, Tesla's founders and financiers created a compelling car that blends Silicon Valley smarts with the kind of pulse-pounding performance that earnest, eat-your-peas electric cars always lacked. They're powering their car with a 950-pound bundle of 6,831 lithium-ion cells, each about the size of a AA battery, which come from a device these Valley boys know something about—a laptop computer. Lithium ion is the new battery of choice for electric cars—Toyota and GM are looking at it—because it goes farther on a charge (Tesla claims well over 200 miles) and doesn't take as long to juice up (about 3.5 hours with a special garage charger, or seven hours with a conventional plug). And all this technology is wrapped in a curvaceous car based on the exotic Elise by boutique British carmaker Lotus, which is building the Roadster for Tesla in Hethel, England. The first year's production of 600 cars is sold out.

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Friday, 14 December 2007

Barratt contracted to build UK's first eco-village

The village is expected to be built in three years' time, ahead of the government's 2016 target, when it wants all new homes to be zero carbon. The onsite biomass combined heat and power (CHP) plant will deliver energy to all 200 homes.

The village also aims to create eco-friendly lifestyles. It will capture rainwater and include sustainable drainage, farmers' shops, a car club and bicycle storage.

Hanham Hall will be the first site to be built under the under the Carbon Challenge initiative, run by English Partnerships as part of the government's commitment to tackle climate change.

Cooper said: "We have set a world-beating target that all new homes must be zero carbon by 2016. People said this couldn't be done, but, in fact, this first carbon challenge site shows that developers are already preparing to build the first major development of zero carbon homes.

The government is proposing to build 10 eco towns that will house up to 20,000 new homeowners. Cooper said the smaller eco-villages would aid the towns' development.

"These Carbon Challenge eco-villages are now leading the way, showing what can be done. This marks a revolution in the way we design and build homes," she said.

Barratt, which is best known for its anonymous suburban "Barratt boxes", last year opened an eco-smart show-village in Lancashire to test small-scale renewable technologies including rooftop wind turbines, solar thermal panels and CHP boilers.

Mark Clare, Barratt Developments' chief executive, said: "We are delighted to be asked to deliver this ground-breaking project, which will be the first large-scale zero-carbon community in the country. It will enable a family occupying one of these homes to reduce their entire carbon footprint by 60%."

The housing minister also unveiled six shortlisted bidders for the second Carbon Challenge site in Peterborough, and two new sites in Wigan and Doncaster.

She said: "The challenge will deliver zero carbon homes and communities and help the housebuilding sector demonstrate that the targets are feasible and can be commercially viable."
Alison Benjamin
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Sunday, 9 December 2007

Britain's wind power revolution

Hutton's dramatic policy shift signals less reliance on nuclear energy
Offshore farms could provide all UK homes with electricity within 13 years
Britain is to embark on a wind power revolution that will produce enough electricity to power every home in the country, ministers will reveal tomorrow.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that, in an astonishing U-turn, the Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton, will announce that he is opening up the seas around Britain to wind farms in the biggest ever renewable energy initiative. Only weeks ago he was resisting a major expansion of renewable sources, on the grounds that it would interfere with plans to build new nuclear power stations.

The revelation rounds off an unprecedented week in the battle against global warming in Britain and the United States. On Wednesday and Thursday measures to boost US use of renewable energy for electricity and motor fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions were approved in Congress. The move comes as 190 nations meet in Bali, Indonesia, to negotiate what is seen as the world's "last chance" of avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
By Geoffrey Lean

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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Tories see 1m households selling electricity

At least 1m households and businesses in Britain could be generating large amounts of electricity for the grid within a decade, but it will need an overhaul of the electricity supply industry, the Conservative party said yesterday.

The party would create a mass market for decentralised "micro-energy" by encouraging everyone to invest in their own solar power and other renewable electricity generating schemes. A guaranteed price for the electricity generated in homes would be paid, with a further guarantee to run the scheme for at least 20 years.

The "feed-in tariff" scheme proposed by the Conservatives would bring Britain into line with Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries where householders and businesses generate electricity from rooftops, gardens and buildings.

In Germany more than 300,000 solar systems have been installed in three years and micro-generation provides nearly 12% of all the country's electricity. Householders can earn 8% to 10% returns on investing in their own home systems and in some cases pay their mortgages with the income earned.

Take-up of micro-power has been very slow in Britain, where no incentives are paid to small scale electricity generators. "We need to move from a top down, old world, centralised electricity system to a bottom up, new world decentralised system," said David Cameron. The party leader has applied to instal a small wind turbine on his roof but it is not yet working.

By John Vidal

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Friday, 7 December 2007

Micro-CHP can deliver significant carbon savings

Findings from the most in-depth field trial to date on Micro-CHP (combined heat and power) were released today by the Carbon Trust, showing that Micro-CHP technology has significant potential to deliver CO2 savings in small commercial environments and certain types of homes.

For small businesses, the trial has demonstrated that Micro-CHP systems can cut overall site CO2 emissions by 15 to 20 per cent when installed as the lead boiler in appropriate applications, such as care homes, community housing schemes and leisure centres. These types of Micro-CHP installations can also reduce energy bills by thousands of pounds each year due to the reduced demand for grid electricity.

For domestic users, the results show that the current generation of Micro-CHP systems is best suited to larger homes with three or more bedrooms, or older houses where it is not currently cost effective to improve insulation, such as housing with solid brick walls. In such homes, Micro-CHP can potentially deliver carbon savings of between five and ten per cent – with typical reductions between 200kg and 800kg of CO2 each year. However, the currently available systems appear to offer limited benefits for smaller and newer houses.

Deploying devices in the most appropriate applications is the key to maximising benefits. The common success factor for both domestic and commercial applications is matching the thermal output of Micro-CHP devices to the buildings where they are used, to ensure that they operate for many hours at a time, rather than intermittently. The carbon saving potential of Micro-CHP has therefore been found to be best in buildings which require long and consistent heating periods.

full article

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The eco-washing machine that cleans clothes with NUTS

It is designed to work with soapnuts, natural seeds which have been used in Asia to clean clothes for hundreds of years.

The makers say the nuts are much healthier for the planet than chemical powders, liquids or tablets, once washed away down our pipes.

And soapnuts can be cultivated anywhere, cutting down on the pollution and costs associated with transport.

The machine was chosen from a field of dozens by the appliance company Electrolux for its annual green design awards.

The company says an E-wash could be on the market within a few years. Henrik Otton, head of global design for Electrolux, said: "E-wash is a brilliant connection between ancient knowledge and hi-tech.

"It takes an open-minded person to seek out solutions from one culture and apply them to another."

The machine was invented by Levente Szabo; from Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Hungary.

He came up with the idea while trying to find a way to cut down on the packaging, production and transport costs of ordinary washing powder.

"My inspiration was the polluting effect of both the washing process and the production of the detergent," he said.

"I was looking for a substance that could replace detergent. The soapnut is a natural plant and can be cultivated.

"It does not harm nature but is a part of it."

full article

Monday, 3 December 2007

Gas bills could rocket by 15%

Gas bills are expected to rise by 15% early next year, piling on the misery for families already crippled by soaring household costs.
The price rises, which could come as early as February, would add £85 to a typical family's gas bill, pushing it up to £653 a year.

Consumer groups accused suppliers of 'tacitly colluding' to talk up the price of wholesale gas to justify the 'unnecessary' increases.

Total energy bills for millions of consumers have already risen by 50% since 2004, with many paying more than £1,000 last year.

It meant around one in three local authority households - some 650,000 - struggled to meet fuel bills last year, paying an average of £814 a year compared with £590 in 2004.

Yet just six months ago many big energy firms reported bumper earnings, including record half-year profits for British Gas of £533m.

Last month, it emerged that food prices are also rising at their fastest rate for 14 years, after the price of basic ingredients such as wheat increased by 6%. This could add up to £1,000 to a family's annual grocery bill.

The average price of petrol also surged past £1 a litre last month - meaning the typical driver is £15.33 a month worse off than in 2006.

In March, British Gas slashed its prices after the price of wholesale gas fell by 50%. The reduction saw the average gas bill fall 17% to £568, while electricity bills also fell by 11% to £381. Since September, however, wholesale gas prices have risen by 38%.

This led Catalyst, a leading energy broker, to warn prices could go up by 10% in the new year. The Russian gas giant Gazprom, which supplies a quarter of Europe's gas, went even further, warning of a 20% rise.

But Allan Asher, chief executive of the consumer group Energywatch, claimed gas firms were exaggerating the possibility of supply problems over the winter to prepare the market for the price rises.
Gwyneth Rees, Daily Mail

full article

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Will saving energy at home also save you money?

HOMEOWNERS WHO install energy-saving measures such as loft insulation and solar panels might save the planet, but they will probably not save any money - at least, not in the short term.

A study by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) shows that solar panels to heat water could cost £5000 to install in the typical three-bedroom terraced house. But they would knock only £24 a year off the average energy bill, which means it could take about 208 years to get a return on the investment.

Jill Craig of RICS says: "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 into their homes. RICS has been calling on the government to reduce the level of VAT applied to all energy-saving measures and to provide an attractive grant programme to aid real change. If this government is really serious about combating climate change, it has to turn its big talk into even bigger actions."

RICS looked at eight measures that are recommended for a "greener" home. The cost of all eight, including insulation, condensing boilers and double glazing, would be £23,547. But they would cut the typical fuel bill by only £486 and so would take 48 years to recoup.

It would, for example, take 124 years to earn a return on an investment of more than £9000 in double glazing. If you installed underfloor insulation, you would have to wait 54 years to cover the cost with lower energy bills. Even loft insulation would take 13 years to generate savings in utility bills, according to the study.

"People on average spend 16 years living in one property, making most of the energy-saving measures financially unattractive propositions," says RICS.

But the Energy Saving Trust (EST) disputes the findings. Keith Marsh of the EST says: "We disagree with many of the installation costs stated by RICS, partly because they make no allowance for grants and offers that are available. There are also many straightforward things that people can do straight away - such as turning down the thermostat and switching to low-energy lightbulbs."

The government has been criticised for recently capping the grants that are available under the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform's Low Carbon Buildings programme. The programme was set up in April 2006 and offers grants to people who want to generate their own power from renewable sources. But the DTI recently cut the grants available for wind turbines and solar photovoltaics (PVs) - another system that generates electricity. The maximum grant you can now get for a wind turbine is £2500, down from £15,000. The grants for PV panels have halved to £2500.

A wind turbine can cost about £12,500 to install; in some cases the price can be as high as £25,000. If you can apply for a maximum grant of only £2500, you are going to be left with a hefty bill.

A typical domestic photovoltaic system costs between £10,000 and £18,000. The panels can also generate up to half the average family's supply of electricity, saving up to £125 on the annual bill. But it would still take years to recoup the costs, even with a possible grant of £2500.

Households in Scotland might be eligible for more help with funding. The Scottish Community and Householder Renewables Initiative can award a grant of 30% of the cost of installing renewable measures up to a limit of £4000. But you cannot apply for a grant under the Scottish initiative if you have already applied for a grant from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

If you decide it's too pricey to generate your own power, you can still do your bit for the environment by cutting the emissions from your home.

The energy we use to heat, light and power our homes is responsible for producing 27% of the UK's CO2 emissions. So we can make a difference if we make sure we use our energy efficiently.

Insulation does not make the headlines in the same way as solar or wind power, but it's just about the best way to cut the emissions from your home. Every household in the UK creates around six tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. If you insulate your loft and walls you could save around two tonnes of CO2 a year, which is a reduction of one third.

Start at the top of your house, with the roof. You should then check your walls. If your house was built between 1930 and 1980, it will probably have cavity walls, and they will probably need to be insulated. This is not as messy as it sounds - an insulating material is simply pumped into the gap between the walls. RICS estimates the cost at £728 but calculates that you would save £145 a year on your bills. So you could recoup your capital in five years.

Double glazing keeps more of the heat in your home, so you could knock about £75 a year off the average bill. But it's expensive. You could fork out £9327 for a three-bedroom house, according to RICS, so don't expect to recoup your money any time soon.

Secondary glazing is cheaper - an extra layer of glass if fitted inside your existing frame.

You could save another tonne of CO2 a year if you fit a condensing boiler. It's not cheap - they cost about £2000 to fit, but they can cut your energy bill by about £52 a year. If a new boiler is a bit pricey, make sure you've lagged your old boiler. A standard jacket costs a mere £10.

If you need to update any other appliances, look out for goods that carry the Energy Saving logo. They don't always cost much more, but they might save you money on your bills.

And don't forget energy saving lightbulbs. They cost about £3.50 each and use up to four times less electricity than a standard 60W bulb. They also last about 12 times longer.

You can get a free energy audit for your home by contacting the Energy Saving Trust at The website also has lots of useful energy-saving tips and information about grants.

by Naomi Caine
full article

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Home wind turbines in UK warming the planet

Many wind turbines mounted on homes in British cities are contributing to global warming, not fighting it, according to a new study.
The study analyzed the likely performance of three of the most common household wind turbines in Manchester and Portsmouth in England and Wick in Scotland.

In many cases -- and across most of Manchester -- more climate-warming carbon dioxide is produced in the manufacture, installation and maintenance of the turbines than they save by generating "green" power over their expected lifetime.

"These studies have shown a large variation in the expected CO2 payback periods from a few months in good locations to situations where they never pay back, in poor locations," the report says.

Only those climate-conscious homeowners in the best locations in the two smaller cities studied can expect to save more carbon dioxide than their turbines are responsible for producing.

(Reporting by Daniel Fineren; editing by James Jukwey)

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