Sunday, 27 December 2009

Chinese hackers linked to 'Warmergate'

The investigation into the so-called Warmergate emails - the leaked data from the University of East Anglia’s climate change department - took a new twist last night when The Mail on Sunday tracked the stolen messages to a suspect computer which provides internet access to China.

Earlier this year, MI5 chief Jonathan Evans warned 300 British businesses that they were under Chinese cyber-attack. The People’s Liberation Army is reputed to hold an annual competition to recruit the country’s best hackers.

full article

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


full list of G RATED BOILERS

boiler scrappage scheme

Householders will be able to claim £400 towards the cost of a new energy-efficient boiler under a scrappage scheme for old boilers announced by the Chancellor in his pre-Budget report.
The £50m scheme, which will benefit only people living in England, is likely to be funded entirely by the taxpayer.

Mr Darling said: "Building on our successful car scrappage scheme, I will help up to 125,000 homes replace the most inefficient boilers with new models." Each inefficient boiler added over £200 to household bills and one tonne of carbon to the atmosphere a year, the Chancellor added.
A Treasury spokesman said: "Households in England will be able to claim up to £400 if they replace an inefficient boiler – rated G or worse – with an energy-efficient one or with another renewable technology."

He added that the detail of how the process would work had not been worked out, although consultations were taking place with the boiler industry. "But if the scheme is based on the car scrappage scheme, we hope claiming the incentive would be handled by the retailer."
full article

Monday, 30 November 2009

Solar panel costs 'set to fall'

The cost of installing and owning solar panels will fall even faster than expected according to new research.

Their tests show that 90% of existing solar panels last for 30 years, instead of the predicted 20 years.

According to the independent EU Energy Institute, this brings down the lifetime cost.

The institute says the panels are such a good long-term investment that banks should offer mortgages on them like they do on homes.

At a conference, the institute forecast that solar panels would be cost-competitive with energy from the grid for half the homes in Europe by 2020 - without a subsidy.
Incentive programmes for solar panels in Germany, Italy and Spain have created manufacturing volume that's bringing down costs. Solar panel prices dropped 30% last year alone due to an increase in output and a drop in orders because of the recession.
full article

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Home Dislays For Smart Meters

British energy suppliers announced on November 23 that they are committed to offering every household an in-home energy display device. Homeowners will be offered the option of having the display device installed along with a smart meter so they can see how much energy they are using and how much it costs.

“Smart meters will help customers to save money by providing accurate information on how much energy is being used at any given time,” said Garry Felgate, chief executive of the Energy Retail Association (ERA) – the industry trade body.
“With this new commitment on display devices, customers will also benefit by being able to choose how they view this information so that it suits their personal preferences and needs,” Felgate continued.

The commitment from energy suppliers to provide in-home displays comes before a widely anticipated announcement from the government on smart metering that is expected to come any day now. The energy industry is depending on the government to provide a legislative framework that will allow for a nationwide smart meter rollout.

British Gas, one of the Big Six energy suppliers, announced last week that it will offer customers a free energy display in the home, along with an online energy management service, as part of its new EnergySmart program.

EnergySmart is the first program offered by a British energy company that does away with an estimated quarterly bill in favor of an accurate bill as determined by a smart meter. Customers that enroll in EnergySmart get the in-home energy display for free.

full article

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

leaf log

Leaf Log, manufactured in the UK from naturally fallen tree leaves has already contributed to reducing dependency on fossil fuels and reducing carbon dioxide and methane being released into the atmosphere since its inception 2 years ago. Making use of the one millions tonnes of leaves falling from UK trees every year enables Leaf Log to become a realistic, sustainable and renewable energy source for households and industry across the globe.

With a burn time of up to 3 hours, Leaf Logcan be used in stoves, chimineas, multi-fuel burners and open fires - in fact anywhere one would usually use coal or wood (except BBQ cooking) . Stored indoors (dry), you can simply return home after a long day, place a Leaf Log in the grate, light the bag (wrapper) and settle down in front of a cosy fire in a matter of seconds. No firelighters, kindling or hassle involved.

Typically, each broad based British tree sheds up to 50,000 leaves each autumn which are dumped in landfill – with a small percentage redirected for composting Significantly, these leaves release methane (23 times more hazardous than CO2) into the atmosphere when decomposing.

In contrast, when leaves are burnt they only give off the carbon they absorbed during the summer months on the tree - they add nothing extra to the environment making them carbon neutral.

In order to reduce our own carbon emissions as a manufacturing plant, Leaf Log is used to heat our offices and research is taking place in order to utilise the product to produce itself ie converting the energy into electricity.

BioFuels International Limited is a local business working with local authorities, residents and private/community organisations to reduce leaf litter from our streets by turning it into energy which can be burnt in the home and industry.

full article

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Who says it's green to burn woodchips?

One of the most cherished articles of faith of the green movement – that wood-fuelled power stations can help save the planet – is being increasingly challenged by campaigners and conservationists around the world.

Electricity generated by burning woodchips is on the verge of a global boom. America is planning 102 power stations fuelled by woodchips in the next few years. Europe is reported to be planning a similar, if yet unquantified, expansion. And in Britain, the next three years will see wood-fuelled power station capacity increase sevenfold, requiring, according to the campaign group Biofuelwatch, so much timber that it would need an area 12 times the size of Liechtenstein to grow it.

The power companies say the source will be "sustainable forests", but campaigners and ecologists claim that untold damage will be caused by the burgeoning market for wood. They say that, although traders in the developing world are being tempted to grub up and sell native forests, the chief danger is in the creation of monoculture plantations, where single species of trees are grown in straight rows and little wildlife can establish a home for itself.

They also challenge the "green" assumptions behind woodchip power, claiming that, far from fighting climate change, transporting large amounts of bulk wood across oceans and then burning it will increase carbon discharges by 50 per cent more than would have been caused by burning a fossil fuel like coal.
full article

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The light bulb that lasts 25

It could be the breakthrough that finally has consumers warming to the energy-saving light bulb.

A version that brightens up instantly, costs just 88p a year to run and lasts up to 25 years has gone on sale in Britain for the first time.

The only catch is that the new LED bulb will cost £30.

Manufacturers claim the Pharox is the first low-energy bulb to give off the same light quality and brightness as a conventional 60-watt traditional bulb.

They say that, despite its initial cost, each bulb will pay for itself in just three years.

After that, each one used could shave around £9 a year off a typical household electricity bill.

Unlike most of the current energy-saving bulbs, which are compact fluorescent, the Pharox can be used with dimmer switches, reaches full brightness the moment it is turned on and contains no toxic mercury.

It also looks similar to a traditional bulb, works well in freezing conditions outside and stays cool when switched on, making it ideal for children's bedside lights.

The bulb's launch comes ahead of a European ban on conventional 60-watt incandescent bulbs, due to be introduced in 2011.

James Shortridge, owner of the Ryness lighting chain, said: 'The original bulb was a 1901 design, while the compact fluorescent is a design from the 1980s that has never been perfected.

'Many people just don't like the compact fluorescents and they don't like the old bulbs being banned before a good replacement is available. But we are finally starting to get decent low energy bulbs that have the same light quality as the old variety.

'My main problem as a retailer, however, is that it lasts for more than 25 years.'

LED bulbs that produce as much light as 100-watt ones are due to go on sale at the end of next year.

full article

Save energy - just look away now

The 21st Century home is packed to the rafters with electrical devices, from labour-saving kit in the kitchen to widescreen TVs and computers.

Even the simple act of illuminating our homes requires power.

Some of the major manufacturers at the Japanese technology fair Ceatec suggest that alternative energy sources like wind and solar power could become commonplace as wind turbines and solar panels become cheaper.
But short of pulling the plug and switching off our creature comforts, reducing the amount of energy we use seems to be the goal of the big players.

Pretty much all of the consumer kit is making claims to be more energy efficient, but manufacturers are coming up with more ingenious solutions.

One particular TV set is fitted with a small camera and equipped with facial recognition software.

It is looking for a viewer's full face looking at the screen.
If the viewer looks away from the screen for a couple of seconds the image slowly fades out but the audio continues to play.

If they turn back to the screen, the image immediately returns.

TV sets require an awful lot more electricity to create pictures than they do sound, so when turned away from the screen, energy is being saved.

This TV and face recognition software are the brainchild of engineers at Hitachi and so far it remains at prototype stage but has been trumped by Sony - which already has similar technology fitted to a production TV.

You might think that features like this are no more than a gimmick, but it does help highlight the more serious green credentials of televisions.

New LCD screens are benefiting from a more efficient back lighting which uses half of the electricity of rival LCD TVs.
full article

Sunday, 11 October 2009

'Scary' climate message from past

Researchers used ocean sediments to plot CO2 levels back 20 million years.
Levels similar to those now commonly regarded as adequate to tackle climate change were associated with sea levels 25-40m (80-130 ft) higher than today.
The new research was able to look back to the Miocene period, which began a little over 20 million years ago.

At the start of the period, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere stood at about 400 parts per million (ppm) before beginning to decline about 14 million years ago - a trend that eventually led to formation of the Antarctic icecap and perennial sea ice cover in the Arctic.

If anyone still doubts the link between CO2 and climate, they should read this paper
Jonathan Overpeck
University of Arizona

The high concentrations were probably sustained by prolonged volcanic activity in what is now the Columbia River basin of North America, where rock formations called flood basalts relate a history of molten rock flowing routinely onto the planet's surface.

In the intervening millennia, CO2 concentrations have been much lower; in the last few million years they cycled between 180ppm and 280ppm in rhythm with the sequence of ice ages and warmer interglacial periods.

Now, humanity's emissions of greenhouse gases are pushing towards the 400ppm range, which will very likely be reached within a decade.
"At CO2 levels that are sustained at or near modern day values, you don't need to have a major change in CO2 levels to get major changes in ice sheets," she told BBC News.

The elevated CO2 and sea levels were associated with temperatures about 3-6C (5-11F) higher than today.
full article

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Britain's greenest house unveiled

The special green house is set to become the most energy-efficient home in Britain, and will leave them with fuel bills of just £70 a year.

Their cosy new home in Huddersfield, West Yorks., will be finished in February next year and will be the first Anglicised version of the famous German Passivhaus.
Instead of complicated design and expensive bolt-on renewables like wind turbines and ground source heat pumps, Passivhaus creates a simple "tea cosy" effect.

It relies on simple design, orientation towards the sun, careful construction and insulation 15 times greater than required by Government building regulations. This ensures almost complete air and wind tightness.
No draughts can get in the building and no heat can leak out, but the air is never stale, thanks to a mechanical heat recovery ventilation system that brings in fresh air from outside, which is warmed used 99 per cent of the heat from the outgoing air.

The Green Building Store in Huddersfield suggested the unique design and is managing the build that uses a German computer software package to measure air tightness and energy efficiency.

full article

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Central Heating Day

The first of October is "central heating day", when many people switch on their radiators for the winter. Central heating is just another mod-con of contemporary living, but it's done much more than warm us up.
Up and down the country, radiators clank their way back to life after a summer of hibernation.
1970 West Ham United footballer Peter Grotier at home - with central heating
A radiator - a rare sight in 1970

With energy bills soaring in recent years, and more people aware of energy consumption, many make it a point of principle that their heating stays off until the start of October, which means any nippy late September mornings just have to be endured.

But given how mild the autumn has been so far, others may wait a couple more weeks before the big switch-on.

Only a small fraction of UK homes are without central heating today. In the last comprehensive survey, in 2004, it was 7% of households, and that has probably dropped further since.

Far from being a modern invention, there were forms of central heating systems in ancient Greece, and later the Romans perfected what were called hypocausts to heat public baths and private houses.

In late Victorian Britain, well-to-do houses had a form of central heating. Cragside in Northumberland, the family home of engineer Lord Armstrong, was a famous example, with ducts built into the floors to carry warm air around the building.

But it was a long time before central heating became widespread and affordable, and fired by a gas boiler.


In 1970, Martyn Jarvis, 55, was a gas fitter, installing central heating systems in the Slough area.
A terrace house without central heating
Victorian house builders kept rooms small for warmth

"Central heating was just taking off then and there was a sense of excitement. It was like getting the first colour television - 'Ooooh, I've got central heating!'

"Unless you were really well off, you didn't have any radiators. There was an awful lot of solid fuel around then, an open fire in the living room normally, which heated the water as well.

"Other houses just had a three-bar electric fire, so you needed plenty of blankets at night. I remember the 1963 winter was particularly horrendous."

By the end of that decade, and into the early 1980s, having central heating was regarded as a basic requirement, he says.

I started in 1974 and central heating was just taking off. It was quite expensive then because it was a big job.
We had to take out a lot of old-style coal fires with a back boiler to heat the hot water and an open grate at the front. But people loved it, after being cold for all those years
Michael Martindale, Peterborough

There were obvious health benefits - warmer homes helped to address winter mortality rates - but the impact was wider than that.

The design of a home changed because its inhabitants started behaving differently, says architect Harry Charrington. Today the average temperature in a home is 22C, compared with 18C in the 1950s, he says, yet people 50 years ago felt just as warm as we do today.

"People don't wear clothing to keep warm any more. One of the social norms is that people can go around in shirt sleeves at home or in the office. So central heating has changed the way people think about clothing.

"Rather than put extra clothes on, they put the heating on. It used to be that if it got cold, you put a jersey on and if it got warm you opened a window. People don't have an expectation that they will have to change the way they behave in cold weather."
full article

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Fridge Scrappage Scheme

It is an idea which has revitalised the motor industry.

Now retailers are copying the cash-for-bangers scheme by offering financial incentives to replace your old fridge, freezer or washing machine.

Up to £200 will be available for used appliances and white goods.
Comet has signed a deal with manufacturer BSH Home Appliances to offer a 20 per cent price cut on leading brands such as Bosch, Siemens and Neff.

The move follows calls from the British Retail Consortium for the Government to offer a white goods scrappage scheme to encourage a switch to energy-efficient devices.

In August, Sony launched its own scheme for TVs.

Retailers and manufacturers also want VAT to be removed from new appliances to encourage consumers to switch to greener models.

The Comet scheme would seek to emulate the car scrappage scheme, which has encouraged motorists to buy fuel-efficient cars.

It would also include free collection and recycling of the old appliances. The 20 per cent discount will be offered on any one of 340 appliances from Bosch, Siemens or Neff.

Deals include a scrappage saving of £74.80 on a Bosch WAA24270GB washing machine, bringing the price down to £299.20.

A Siemens SN26M290GB dishwasher will be reduced from £619.90 to £495.90, a saving of £124.

full article

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Boiler Scrappage Scheme

The idea is to persuade the government to work with boiler manufacturers to create a scrappage scheme similar to the recently introduced car scrappage scheme, but this time for old central heating boilers.


Inside the 'zero carbon' future home


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Spotlight and downlighter bulbs next to be banned by EU

Traditional spotlights and some kinds of halogen downlighters used in kitchens and bathrooms are expected to fall foul of the regulations being drawn up by the European Commission.

The new ban, due to come in next year, is being pushed through despite an increasingly bitter consumer backlash against existing rules which outlaw the selling of "non-directional" incandescent light bulbs of the kind used in living rooms and bedrooms.
Energy saving experts are currently drawing up recommendations for the new rules on so-called "directional" light bulbs, which focus and reflect light in a single direction, but the ban is expected to include incandescent spotlights and mains voltage halogen reflector bulbs.
The regulations are also expected to encourage the use of new technology such as LED lamps, but currently these cost up to £40 for a single LED light bulb.

Peter Hunt, chief executive of the British Lighting Association which represents the lighting industry, said: "We expect the least efficient bulbs will be banned and there are now energy efficient halogen lamps that save around 30 per cent of energy used.

full article

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


A New Zealand team is behind a radical new electric bike which is being officially launched on Wednesday in Germany.

The Yikebike Mini-Farthing is touted as the world's smallest electric bike, weighing less than 10kgs.

A promotional video on the Christchurch company's website shows it is hoping to catch the city commuter market.

The bike is designed for short trips, and has a top speed of 20km/h.

It can also be folded up and taken on buses and trains.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

'Artificial trees' to cut carbon

Engineers say a forest of 100,000 "artificial trees" could be deployed within 10 to 20 years to help soak up the world's carbon emissions.
The trees are among three geo-engineering ideas highlighted as practical in a new report.
The authors from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers say that without geo-engineering it will be impossible to avoid dangerous climate change.
The report includes a 100-year roadmap to "decarbonise" the global economy.

Launching the report, lead author Dr Tim Fox said geo-engineering should not be viewed as a "silver bullet" that could combat climate change in isolation.
He told BBC News it should be used in conjunction with efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Many climate scientists calculate that the world has only a few decades to reduce emissions before there is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that a dangerous rise in global temperature is inevitable.
full article

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Energy suppliers overcharge customers by £100

Customers are being overcharged by £100 a year to heat and light their homes as suppliers fail to pass on price cuts, research by the Government's consumer watchdog suggests.Britain’s energy companies are paying much less for the power they supply, as prices on the wholesale market have halved in the past 12 months to reach the lowest levels in almost three years.
But despite the reductions, household electricity and gas bills are still higher than they were last summer, averaging more than £1,200 a year.
Consumer experts say the high prices charged to British families mean there is still room for further cuts, of as much as 10 per cent on gas bills and 3.5 per cent on electricity bills, bringing annual savings of £96.40.
Energy firms are estimated to be making an extra £2.2billion by failing to pass on the discounts to every household.
Pressure on suppliers is being increased by Ofgem, the industry regulator, which has given them until next week to explain why they have not passed on wholesale savings to their customers.
full article

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Filtration system that lets you drink your own SHOWER water

Eco-thinkers have come up with an amazing new way to create drinking water - by putting plants in the bottom of a shower.
Designers Jun Yasumoto, Vincent Vandenbrouk, Olivier Pigasse, and Alban Le Henry came up with the concept when looking for new ways to recycle precious H2O.
After you have washed in the special eco-shower the water passes down into a series of physical filters and is treated by plants such as reeds and rushes growing around your feet.
'Using a natural filtering principle called phyto-purification, the bathroom becomes a mini-eco-system by recycling and regenerating the wastewater.
''With this project, we tried to combine the pleasure of taking a shower with the satisfaction of recycling water. We wanted the recycling process to actually interact with the use of shower.'

The waste water passes into a chamber below the shower floor where it goes through a maze of filters.
Included in the network is sand, reeds, rushes, a mesh filter, water hyacinths and lemnas, and finally a carbon filter.
full article

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

High-tech Mini-allotment

A 'mini allotment' designed by Nasa scientists to grow fruit and vegetables in space goes on sale today.
The gadget will allow residents of the smallest flats to grow their own food without a garden - or even soil.
The Power Plant Growing Machine uses hundreds of tiny jets to constantly spray nutrients on to the roots of plants. Scientists say this leads to far quicker growth than normal. It is suitable for fruit, vegetables and herbs.
The growing technique, aeroponics, was designed by the American space agency’s scientists to help astronauts get their five-a-day while on missions.
Oakthrift, supplier of the £34 device, claims it makes a bigger and stronger crop than if the plants were grown outside.
Guy Barter, head of horticultural advice at the Royal Horticultural Society, said: 'Some people don’t like the thought of dirt and insects in the home. This could be a way of overcoming that.'
The system is already used on a larger scale by commercial growers.
Power Plant is installed with a nifty internal microjet system with super-oxygenated, nutrient rich water to make the crops grow bigger and stronger.
full article

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Rainwater Harvesting kits.

With unpredictable weather patterns wreaking havoc on the country’s water supply and utility companies ramping up costs, it’s no wonder rainwater harvesting systems are becoming increasingly popular. Marley Plumbing & Drainage sets out an overview for installing its kits.

The Marley rainwater systems are available in two versions:
USW100: Garden irrigation. The controls and hose tap are wall mounted and can be situated up to 17 metres from the installation. Pipework and power connections are made to the pump via a service duct to the inlet chamber, which provides access to the tank.

USW200: Garden use and domestic back-up. This kit is constructed in the same way as above, but is additionally connected to a storage tank, situated in the loft, to provide a supplementary water supply for non-potable applications (i.e. toilet flushing). A mains water supply back-up is required in case of power failure or the depletion of the recycled water.

The kits are provided with or without an infiltration (soakaway) facility. If the version with a built in soakaway is installed, it must be located a minimum distance of 5m from any building boundary in accordance with Building Regulations.
full article

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Stormsaver Rainwater Harvesting System

The Stormsaver domestic system is suitable for use in private family homes and can be installed individually or on a large scale.

Rainwater harvesting in domestic properties

Option 1: garden irrigation and outside use only

Rainwater is collected from the roof area of the building. This is channelled through a filter integrated in the underground storage tank to remove large debris, leaves etc. Rainwater then enters the storage tank through an inlet calmer, which prevents the rainwater from disturbing the sediment that settles on the base of the tank. Excess rainwater can flow out of an overflow to the storm drain or to our soakaway or attenuation system. Inside the tank is a small submersible pump, which takes water through a floating suction filter.

On demand, rainwater is pumped to the Stormsaver control panel which is installed under the sink or in the garage area and houses all the electrics. During periods of low rainfall and if the tank is empty, the pump will be disabled to prevent a run dry situation
full article

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Fuel-Cell Power

Richard Hollingham reports from California on how technology that took man to the Moon could soon take shoppers regularly to the mall.

It looks like an ordinary SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle), the sort of chunky 4X4 you'll find jamming American roads.

It's only when you take a drive that you realise that this is something very different.

I'm no motoring correspondent but, as we pull out of the parking lot, it's difficult not to be impressed by this car's smooth acceleration.

What's even more disconcerting is that the vehicle is almost totally silent - the only noise comes from the wind buffeting the windows and the squeal of the tyres as we bomb down the freeway.

"The car drives with electricity but - unlike a battery-electric car that you need to plug in to charge - the fuel cell vehicle makes electricity on-board from the hydrogen stored in a tank," explained Catherine Dunwoody, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

"The fuel cell is a fuel conversion device that converts hydrogen to electricity," she told the BBC World Service's One Planet programme.

The only byproduct is water - the ultimate 'zero-emission' vehicle.
Like a battery, a fuel cell uses a chemical process to generate electricity. Inside the fuel cell, a catalyst strips hydrogen into positively charged hydrogen ions and electrons. The positive ions pass across a special membrane and react with oxygen (from the air) to form water. The electrons have to take the long way round and flow through a circuit to generate electricity.

full article

Friday, 17 July 2009

Sorption-Enhanced Steam Reforming

Could the cars and laptops of the future be fuelled by old chip fat? Engineers at the University of Leeds believe so, and are developing an energy efficient, environmentally-friendly hydrogen production system. The system enables hydrogen to be extracted from waste materials, such as vegetable oil and the glycerol by-product of bio-diesel. The aim is to create the high purity hydrogen-based fuel necessary not only for large-scale power production, but also for smaller portable fuel cells.
The system being developed at Leeds – known as Unmixed and Sorption-Enhanced Steam Reforming - mixes waste products with steam to release hydrogen and is potentially cheaper, cleaner and more energy efficient.

A hydrocarbon-based fuel from plant or waste sources is mixed with steam in a catalytic reactor, generating hydrogen and carbon dioxide along with excess water. The water is then easily condensed by cooling and the carbon dioxide is removed in-situ by a solid sorbent material.
full article

Thursday, 16 July 2009

World's largest wave farm

South-West England will become the world's largest wave farm under government plans to create a new leading centre in wave and tidal technologies.

The Wave Hub project will see a giant national grid-connected socket built on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall in a pioneering energy project.

Announcing an investment of £9.5 million for the scheme, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said it would create up to 1,800 new jobs.

The project will see infrastructure built including a sub-station building and an adjacent connection point to the distribution network.

From there, a cable will be taken through a duct beneath the sand dunes and then across the seabed to an eight square kilometre area within which the devices will be moored.

The European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme also announced it would invest £20 million in Wave Hub, which will be commissioned next summer.

The first equipment orders for the project were placed this week.

full article

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Low carbon way 'to reshape lives'

Ambitious plans to generate one third of UK electricity from renewables by 2020 form the centrepiece of government plans for a low carbon future.

Financial packages for wind and wave energy and changes to planning procedures are among key components of the Low Carbon Transition Plan.

"Smart" meters are to be deployed in 26 million homes by 2020.

The government says the plan will create up to 400,000 "green jobs" without a major hike in energy prices.

"The strategies we are launching today outline the government's vision for achieving a low carbon future for the UK, reshaping the way we live and work in every element of our lives," said Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.
Many observers believe the targets are stretchingly ambitious.

"We need a sixfold increase in renewable energy generation in just 11 years," commented Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust.

"This can be achieved but will require not just a transformation in technology, but in political, economic and industrial thinking."

The government says these measures, when combined with an expansion in home insulation and smart meters, will not raise energy prices up to 2015, though probably will do by 2020.

From 2011, the poorest households will receive mandatory help with fuel bills.
full article

Sunday, 12 July 2009

'Cashback' pledge for green power

Households that contribute electricity to the National Grid are to receive payments under a new government scheme.

Towns and villages will be encouraged to generate their own power with wind, water and solar energies, and then be paid for how much they produce.

Critics warn that small-scale production is expensive and projects may require government subsidy.

But Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said the project will "help create the clean energy of the future".

Similar "clean energy cash back" schemes already operate in 19 European countries including Germany.

'Feed-in tariffs'

At present, anyone in the UK who feeds electricity into the National Grid can get a reduction on their fuel bills through smart meters.

But ministers hope that the promise of cash in people's pockets will encourage them to seek new ways of generating their own power.

In Germany, whole towns have grouped together to buy wind turbines, build biomass plants and erect solar panels on all private houses.

They are then paid a guaranteed fixed price for every kilowatt of energy they produce - a higher sum than for electricity made from fossil fuels in traditional power stations.

Three wind turbines can make £15,000 a year for a single village.

Since so-called "feed-in tariffs" were introduced in Germany, some 400,000 homes, particularly in the sunnier south of the country, have installed solar panels.

But the government has had to subsidise such projects in order to keep them viable.

At present, only about 2% of Britain's energy comes from renewable sources, but the government has pledged to increase that to 15% within the next 12 years.

full article

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Low-carbon strategy will raise household energy bills by £200 a year

Household energy bills will rise by more than £200 a year under the Government’s low-carbon strategy being announced next week.

Meeting Britain’s targets for cutting emissions could push another 1.7 million households into fuel poverty, meaning that seven million homes would be spending more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel.

The Renewable Energy Strategy, to be published on Wednesday, will state that more than £100 billion will have to be invested in renewable energy infrastructure, including 7,000 wind turbines, by 2020.

The Government has bound itself legally to cutting CO2 emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. To achieve this, it must increase the amount of energy generated from renewable sources from 2 per cent at present to 15 per cent by 2020.
The strategy estimates that energy bills will have to rise by about 20 per cent to pay for the investment. The average household currently pays about £1,150 a year for electricity and gas, a small decline on last year but still double the amount paid in 2003.

The cost of converting to renewable energy and modernising Britain’s power supply would add about £230 to annual bills. Costs are likely to ratchet up quickly as the investment is made, with the increase reaching 20 per cent within three years.
full article

G8's climate change targets

Because the leaders of the rich countries, at their meeting in Italy, have just made a great headline-grabbing pledge to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide, in the fight against climate change, by 80 per cent by 2050.
How would we go about an 80 per cent C02 reduction once it was properly agreed?

This will be the greatest common enterprise on which humanity has ever embarked. To bring it about you might instinctively think windfarms, or solar panels, or electric cars, and they're all on the way and important, but the basic tool is really a more abstract one: the price of carbon, as determined by markets such as that of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Why is that so important?

Nicholas Stern, in his groundbreaking report on the economics of climate change, said that global warming represented the greatest market failure in history: the true cost of emitting carbon dioxide was not remotely reflected in its price. As the governments in the ETS (and later, we hope, the US and elsewhere) squeeze the amount of CO2 companies are allowed to emit each year, the rising price of permits will drive the efforts to do without it, throughout society; it will drive the necessary behaviour changes by consumers, from transport, to heating choice, to diet (Oxfam points out, for example, how large is the carbon footprint of a steak compared to the same amount of calories produced from vegetarian sources).

Behaviour change is one of the two ways forward, yet despite the fervent hopes of "deep greens", it will need state or market intervention to make most people change their ways. The ultimate (and fair) way of doing it would be to give everyone the same personal "carbon allowance" which they can use as they wish; this is a long way off in practical terms, but as global warming gets worse, it may yet appear on the agenda.

What's the other way forward?

Technological fixes. Nuclear power and the coming technology of carbon capture and storage may – stress the "may" – mean we can carry on with our electricity-based lifestyle while slashing our emissions, as renewable energy on its own is unlikely to be sufficient. Electric motors and hydrogen fuel cells may allow us to maintain private car mobility, carbon-free, on the roads.

Aviation is a lot more difficult: the aviation industry sees biofuels as its get-out-of-jail card, but their expansion shows every sign of drastically pushing up food prices, never mind wrecking the rainforest. Getting aviation emissions down may ultimately mean restricting people's ability to fly, a very difficult job for any politician to undertake. It is becoming obvious that technological fixes are much preferred by politicians to asking people to change their behaviour; it is dawning on them that no one ever got elected by asking voters to make do with less.

Is an 80 per cent cut in emissions just pie in the sky?

full article

Friday, 10 July 2009

Gas firms fail to pass price cuts

Consumers are being denied the benefits of a sudden collapse in the price of natural gas that is bringing a profits surge to gas utilities.

Margins in the gas industry are reaching record levels, experts claim, because of an emerging glut of fuel in the wholesale markets caused by the recession and new supplies.

But utilities are failing to pass on the benefit of a fall, by two thirds, in the wholesale price. The gap between the retail price and the wholesale cost is expected to boost the profits of the residential business of British Gas by more than 50 per cent this year.

Wholesale prices are tumbling and are expected to fall further, says Niall Trimble, director of The Energy Contract Company, a gas consultancy.
full article

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Find out how much carbon dioxide you create and get a simple, personalised action plan to reduce your carbon footprint.
full article

Sunday, 5 July 2009

the zero-carbon home

This is because its super-insulation (three times as much as a normal house) means that, other than in exceptional circumstances, it will not need heating in January, or air conditioning in August. One small radiator and a tiny cooling system are optional extras for days of extreme weather.

The electricity that it will use, to power its state-of-the-art energy saving domestic appliances, is generated by the house itself from an array of solar panels on the roof. If you are in a suitable site for a roof wind turbine, you may be able to generate enough surplus energy, say the manufacturers, to run an electric car for 10,000 miles.

Water heating will be from other roof panels, backed up in winter by a biomass boiler (fired by wood chips) which can serve half-a-dozen houses at a time. The house itself is based around a very strong timber frame, supplied as a flat-pack kit, "a bit like a sofa from Ikea", according to Bill Dunster, the director of ZEDfactory, the architectural firm behind the project.

The cost for a three-bedroom version, including setting up, which will take about three weeks – and ruralZED will erect it for you – will be about £150,000. Note that this is not the finished house price. It does not include the price of the land, or installation of the surrounding infrastructure.

But to get an idea of comparative costs, the build price of a three-bedroom home put up according to current building regulations – which will soon be out of date – is about £100,000. On the other hand, the build price of the only other Code 6, zero-carbon home so far designed in Britain, the Lighthouse, created by the building materials firm Kingspan Offsite, is about £180,000, Kingspan say – and you have to erect it yourself.

This cost differential makes the ruralZED house a practical proposition, especially for housing associations, the consortium says. The first six homes are being built, 24 more are in the planning stage, and the finance director, Anthony Dickinson, said he expects to sell "thousands" in two to three years – "mainly to self-builders and local authorities, but looking to market them to commercial house builders".

The key to the house is that it has high levels of "thermal mass" – the ability of a material to absorb and release heat slowly. This is provided by the extremely thick insulation around the walls. Further temperature control is provided by a heat exchanger in the ventilation system, which does not require any power.

full article

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Smart meters 'dumb idea'

Smart meters are a mad idea when better power savings could be achieved using the existing "ripple control" for hot water heating, according to power industry consultant Bryan Leyland.

"Everything that could be done with smart metering can be done more effectively and much, much cheaper by taking full advantage of existing ripple-control system," Mr Leyland said.

Putting in smart meters would cost many millions of dollars and would be less effective than ripple control.

Customers would ultimately pay for smart meters, which can cost hundreds of dollars each.

"In the end the consumer always pays [for that]," Mr Leyland said.

But the potential power savings would probably be small because it would rely on people for example doing their washing at 2am to save "20 cents" on a load, he said.

Ripple control allows power companies to send a pulse down the line and turn off storage hot water heaters, which would be a much better way of reducing power use at times of peak demand.

Ripple control can be used to turn off water heating over whole suburbs.

As demand rises, more expensive power stations come into the system to provide electricity, adding tens or hundreds of millions to the cost of power over a year, Mr Leyland said.

"We have been the best in the world in demand-side management," he said. "We invented it."

These days power companies seemed scared to use ripple control, Mr Leyland said, even when they had the right to turn all domestic power off, for example if the Cook Strait cable failed.
full article

Magic Boiler Scheme

The Magic Boiler Scheme offers, high efficiency, 'A' rated gas and oil boilers and heating controls at discounted prices. The boilers have to be purchased from a Plumbing Trades Supplies (PTS) Group store and installed by CORGI (Gas) or OFTEC (Oil) registered installers. There may also be cash back which is subject to funding. Please note that this scheme is only available in certain areas of the UK.

Contact details:
For more information about the availability of the scheme in your area contact your local Energy Saving Trust energy efficiency advice centre on 0800 512 012.
full article

Britain's green shame

Jonathon Porritt steps down from Blair's sustainability commission with UK still second-worst greenhouse gas emitter in Europe
When it comes to environmental sustainability, the prognosis is grim: Britain is "winning battles, but still losing the war".

The UK is failing to hit a raft of key targets on sustainable living, according to a new report to be published this week. In its critical analysis, released on Wednesday, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) warns that progress on a number of green targets has been "undermined by stasis or even reversion". Jonathon Porritt, outgoing SDC chair and one-time "green guru" to Tony Blair, claims sustainability plays second fiddle to the drive for consumption-driven economic growth. "The thing that stands out is the very limited progress we've made on reducing inequity in our society... it's a startling indictment of this Government that more people will be living in fuel poverty at the time of next election than were living in fuel poverty in 1997," he said.
Britain remains well behind most European countries on supplying renewable energy, which accounts for less than 2 per cent of overall energy consumption, according to the report, which also predicts the proportion of energy produced by renewables in 2020 will be just 5 per cent – far short of the EU target of 20 per cent. And while recycling is on the increase, there is a long way to go to meet the 40 per cent target by 2010, with the UK heavily reliant on landfill, says the report.
full article

Friday, 26 June 2009

Round-the-world solar plane

Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard has unveiled a prototype of the solar-powered plane he hopes eventually to fly around the world.

The vehicle, spanning 61m but weighing just 1,500kg, will undergo trials to prove it can fly through the night.

Dr Piccard, who made history in 1999 by circling the globe non-stop in a balloon, says he wants to demonstrate the potential of renewable energies.

The final version of the plane will try first to cross the Atlantic in 2012.

It will be a risky endeavour. Only now is solar and battery technology becoming mature enough to sustain flight through the night - and then only in unmanned planes.

But Dr Piccard's Solar Impulse team has invested tremendous energy - and no little money - in trying to find what they believe is a breakthrough design.

"I love this type of vision where you set the goal and then you try to find a way to reach it, because this is challenging," he told BBC News.
full article

Monday, 22 June 2009

Washing machine that uses one cup of water

An environmentally-friendly washing machine developed in Britain that uses only one cup of water to clean clothes could be on sale next year.The appliance, which could save billions of litres of water a year, has been developed at the University of Leeds.
It uses less than 10 per cent of the water of conventional machines and 30 per cent less energy by replacing most of the water with thousands of tiny reusable plastic beads to attract and absorb dirt under humid conditions.Xeros, the company behind the technology, will start selling the machine to commercial customers such as hotels and dry cleaners before taking the idea to ordinary household consumers
Only a small amount of water and detergent is needed to dampen the clothes, loosen stains and create the water vapour that allows the beads to work. After the cycle is finished, the beads fall through a mesh in the machine’s drum and can be re-used up to a hundred times.
Xeros has signed a deal with GreenEarth Cleaning, an environmentally friendly dry-cleaning business, to sell the technology across North America.
Chief executive Bill Westwater said: “We’ve got an eye on the consumer but it will take time and we hope commercial success could act as a springboard to move into the consumer market.
full article

Energy bills to hit £4,000 a year

Household annual energy bills could rise to more than £4,000 in 10 years' time, almost four times higher than they are today, according to new research.Forecasters from concluded that on current trends, the bills would reach £4,185 by 2020, compared to £1,243 at present.
The research from the price comparison service is based on pricing trends over the last five years, taking into account inflation and the cost of cutting carbon and improving energy efficiency.On top of that, the government's committment to securing the country's longer-term energy supply, allowing them to roll-out smart meters in homes, will cost taxpayers an additional £548 a year, meaning the cost of energy to each household could be as high as £4,733 within a decade.
The analysts also believe that the eventual end of the recession, which they predict will happen in 2011-2012, will see a global increase in energy demand, driven by rising economies such as China and India, which will put upward pressure on prices.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at, said the figure was a "wake-up call" and households would have to adapt accordingly.
"The Government has been banging the drum for energy efficiency for a while now, but consumers have been reluctant to spend money on these measures," she said. "As a result, energy efficiency has been massively underperforming even though it is one of the biggest defences we have against escalating energy costs.
"We also have a competitive energy market, and yet less than 5 per cent of consumers are on the most competitive energy plans – most people are paying far more than they have to for the energy they use.
"This has to change. My advice to consumers is to invest in making your home more energy efficient, reduce the amount of energy you use and make sure you are paying the lowest possible price for it. Big projects such as a new energy efficient boiler or home insulation can be expensive, but the savings you make through cutting the price of your energy could be reinvested into energy efficiency measures so that you reap even greater rewards in the future."
full article

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Free eaga ShowerSmart

Save up to £600 over the product's lifetime.
Save up to £20 per year* on fuel bills.
Save up to £20 per year* if your water is metered.
15 Year manufacturer guarantee.
Easy self-installation.
Suitable for use with non-electric mixer showers or bath/shower mixer taps, provided they run off the mains water pressure.
Works by regulating the water flow, saving you water, energy and money.


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Hydrogen car to be 'open source'

The manufacturer of a hydrogen car unveiled in London on Tuesday will make its designs available online so the cars can be built and improved locally.
The Riversimple car can go 80km/hr (50mph) and travels 322km (200mi) per re-fuelling, with an efficiency equivalent to 300 miles to the gallon.
The cars will be leased with fuel and repair costs included, at an estimated £200 ($315) per month.
The company hopes to have the vehicles in production by 2013.
Next year, it aims to release 10 prototypes in a UK city which as yet to be confirmed.
Riversimple has partnered with gas supply company BOC to install hydrogen stations for the cars in the city where the prototypes are launched.
'Open source' model
The car itself is an amalgam of high-efficiency approaches in automotive design.
Its four motors are powered by a fuel cell rated at just six kilowatts, in contrast to current designs that are all in excess of 85 kilowatts - required because the acceleration from a standing start requires a great deal of power.
Riversimple's solution is to power the car also from so-called "ultracapacitors", which store large amounts of electric charge and, crucially, can release that charge nearly instantly to provide the power needed to accelerate from rest.
The ultracapacitors are charged as the vehicle brakes to a halt, converting the energy of the moving car into stored energy.Without a combustion engine, gearbox, or transmission, and with a shell made of carbon fibre composites, it weighs 350kg.
full article

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Human waste to heat thousands of homes

It gives a whole new meaning to cooking with 'natural' gas.

Within two years, thousands of people will be preparing their dinner and heating their homes using methane gas extracted from human waste.

The energy company behind the scheme say the 'sewage works gas' will be clean, environmentally friendly and indistinguishable from the North Sea variety.The pilot biogas conversion plant will be built at Britain's second biggest sewage works in Manchester and could generate enough power for 5,000 homes by 2011.

Other plants are expected to follow - eventually producing sewage gas for hundreds of thousands of people.

The £4.3 million scheme is the brainchild of United Utilities who yesterday got Government funding for the plant at Davyhulme waste water treatment works.

Caroline Ashton, the company's biofuels manager, said: "Sewage treatment is a 24-hour process so there is an endless supply of biogas.

'It is a very valuable resource and it's completely renewable.

'By harnessing this free energy we can reduce our fuel bills and reduce our carbon footprint.'

Methane is produced when microbes break down sewage sludge in a process known as 'anerobic digestion'.
full article

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The car that runs on thin air

The 'air car' plugs into a wall outlet, allowing an on-board compressor to pressurize the car's air tank to 4,500 pounds per square inch.

It takes about four hours to get the tank to full pressure and the cold air is then released gradually to power the car's pistons. Only fresh air comes out of the almost frozen exhaust pipe at low speeds.However engineering experts are skeptical of the technology, saying it is clouded by the caveat that compressing air is notoriously energy intensive.

'Air compressors are one of the least efficient machines to convert electricity to work,' said Harold Kung, professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University.

'Why not use the electricity directly, as in electric cars? From an energy utilization point of view, the compressed (air) car does not make sense.
full article

Monday, 8 June 2009

Biogas projects awarded £10m

The government has announced five new biogas projects that will receive funding through its £10 million Anaerobic Digestion Demonstration Programme.

The £10 million fund has been under development since last year, when Defra decided more needed to be done to push the technology into the mainstream
Under the AD Demonstration Programme, the five projects will be expected to show how to maximise the cost and environmental benefits of the technology, as well as the potential for anaerobic digestion to reduce the carbon footprints of the food and water industries.

The programme will also see the demonstration of biogas being cleaned up for use as a transport fuel, and to be injected into the national gas pipelines.
Anaerobic digestion involves using of bacteria to break down organic material in huge tanks, which produces a methane-rich biogas suitable as an energy source.
full article

Saturday, 6 June 2009

£300 heating rebate scheme

Since 2001 Warm Front has helped thousands of people receive insulation and heating improvements to make their homes warmer, healthier and more energy-efficient. More funds have now been made available to help some of those who would not otherwise be eligible for Warm Front.

If you do not qualify for a Warm Front Grant because you do not receive a relevant benefit, you may still be eligible for a £300 rebate.

This rebate is available to all householders aged 60 or over who own their home or rent it from a private landlord, who either have no central heating system or one which is inoperable.
full article

Smart meters essential to energy supply

UK energy is facing severe challenges. Security of supply will become precarious as our indigenous gas supplies decline and our aged nuclear and coal plants prepare for shutdown, while replacements are mired in planning and environmental obstacles. Our share of renewables is below almost all our European counterparts. Our prices have increased substantially and moved beyond our leading European neighbours. Into this battlefield rides the white knight of smart metering, with a government consultation aimed at deploying smart meters into every home by 2020. However, within a day of the announcement, it was estimated that the true cost could be at least £13.1 billion, not the suggested £7 billion to £9 billion. This would virtually wipe out the projected benefits. Is smart metering a white knight or a white elephant?

What are the white knight's credentials? Consumers will be able to reduce cost and CO2 emissions by as much as 15 per cent. The energy companies will save money by consigning meter reading to history and dramatically simplifying billing and settlement. Most radically, if smart meters are used to develop a smart grid, energy companies will be able to manage demand in real time, avoiding spikes in usage and reducing the number of power stations that we must build to stave off blackouts.

However, there are several white elephants in the smart meter room. Will this really change long-term consumer behaviour? Will people switch off every standby appliance every night to save £30 a year? Would an energy display on the fridge without the meter achieve the same savings at 5 per cent of the cost? Would the money be better spent on loft insulation and double-glazing subsidies?
full article

Thursday, 4 June 2009

UK domestic fuel cell CHP unit steps forward

UK fuel cell developer Ceres Power says it has completed the design, build and testing of 1 kW grid-connected CHP products that meets all of the deliverables under the 'Alpha' phase of its CHP programme in conjunction with its partner British Gas.

The products were tested on mains natural gas under representative residential operating conditions, meeting most of a typical home's electricity requirements as well as exporting and importing power to and from the grid as required. Ceres says that its CHP product integrates the company's 1 kW fuel cell module with ancillary boiler components into a single unit that will meet all of a home's hot water and central heating requirements, avoiding the need for a separate boiler. The wall-mountable CHP product uses the same natural gas, water and electricity connections as existing boilers.

British Gas has issued an acceptance certificate that triggers a £2 million Alpha milestone payment to be paid to Ceres.

The company has already commenced the design and procurement activities of the Beta phase of the CHP programme ? to produce Beta CHP units for in-field trials. The company says it is on track to achieve market launch of the residential CHP product with British Gas in 2011.
full article

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Flat-screen light bulbs

Researchers have demonstrated white, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) sources with the same efficiency as fluorescent light bulbs.
The result brings closer the prospect that OLEDs will be the flat-screen light sources of choice in the future.
The limited lifetime of the blue-emitting part of the devices means they survive for just hours, but new blue-emitting materials are on the horizon.
The results are published in the journal Nature.
There has been significant work in OLEDs in recent years, so that small displays and even televisions based on the technology are beginning to come to market.
Though much of the technology would be the same for lighting, the key word for light bulbs is efficiency - and OLEDs had not, until now, passed the efficiency benchmark set by fluorescent bulbs.
Two different types of organic polymers can be used in the devices: phosphorescent and fluorescent.
While fluorescent materials - the kind used in OLED displays and televisions - are significantly longer-lived, they are only one-fourth as efficient.
Recent research has therefore focused on optimising the efficiency and lifetime of devices based on phosphorescent materials.
full article

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Smart meters to cost each household £150

Every family in the country could have an energy smart meter within the next decade, the government said today.

Some 26m electricity and 22m gas meters will be fitted at a cost of £7bn, which will be picked up by the energy giants.

Commentators said it was inevitable this cost would be passed on to consumers, however, with industry sources saying it was the equivalent of £15 per household per year between 2010 and 2020 – or £150 in total.

After the initial cost, a typical family could save up to 15 per cent a year, or £187 off their annual bill, according to figures from, the comparison site.Smart meters monitor your household’s energy consumption and send the information back to your energy supplier, so it dispenses with the need for meter readings.

The meters also have a small screen allowing households to monitor their own usage, and cut back if their consumption is too high.

Tom Lyon, energy expert at said: “Today’s announcement from the government to equip every home in the UK with a smart meter by 2020 marks a great news day for all energy users. It may seem like a long deadline, but this is a huge programme and it’s important that it’s completed as effectively as possible, with minimum disruption to consumers.

“At last, it will also mark the end of meter readings and estimated bills. Our research has shown that almost 11 million consumers have unexpectedly owed money to their supplier following a discrepancy between an estimated and actual meter reading.”

Uswitch said that, on average, customers owed £142 as a result of estimated readings, with a fifth owing between £101-£200.
full article

Monday, 11 May 2009

The rewards of solar panels

The initial cost is high, but don't let that put you off. Two key developments in recent months have made it worth considering solar PV panels.

One is that a government incentive for PV doubled on 1 April and the other is that interest rates on many savings accounts have dropped to about 0.1%, meaning it is time your money worked harder.

And don't be deterred by the idea Britain doesn't get enough sunshine. In fact, solar radiation here is remarkably consistent and only around one third less than southern Italy or Spain. I have just come to the end of my second year with a solar PV system on my roof and it has been a great success.

We have a 3kW peak system (about 4m by 3m) on the roof. It produced 2,703kW hours (kWh) in its second full year (to 5 April), only 1% lower than the 2,730 kWh it produced in the first year, and that in spite of a lousy 2008 summer.

That was about 80% of the 3,500 kWh we used, and our usage was up because we had builders do some underpinning, which meant lots of kettles and cement mixers on.

The previous year we – a family of four – used 3,000 kWh, so the solar system produced 92% of our needs, a figure we expect to return to in the coming 12 months.

The panels, made by Kyocera of Japan, come with a 25-year guarantee and should last a lot longer than that. What you effectively do when you buy a solar PV system is pre-buy decades of electricity at today's price, thus shielding you from price rises. One great thing about a PV system is that it is "fit and forget" with little or no maintenance or noise. And they don't have to go on a directly south-facing roof – ours points south-east and works very well.

So how do the figures work out? Well, buying 3,000 kWh of electricity normally would cost around £420, based on 14 pence/kWh with npower, our supplier. We end up saving almost £400 of that by producing nearly all our own.

On top of that, we were getting payments under the government's Renewable Obligation Certification (ROC) scheme of around £35 per megawatt/hour, rounded to the nearest whole one. So that is £105, putting us about £70 in the black for the year.

Since 1 April, that ROC payment has doubled to £210, putting us about £175 in the black. That compares with £420 in the red without the panels – a gain of almost £600 a year.

Indeed, the system means that, with a condensing boiler, we are now down to only about £30 a month to heat and light our property while our carbon emissions are very low. So what about the investment yield? The system cost £17,000, for which we got a 50% grant, making £8,500. With a return of £600, that's around 7%. It's not taxed, so is equivalent of about 9% for a basic-rate taxpayer and 11% for a higher-rate taxpayer. You'd struggle to do better buying junk bonds and this stuff is certainly not junk!
full article

New smart meter

The government has unveiled plans for every home in Britain to be equipped with smart meters by the end of 2020.
Smart meters allow suppliers to remotely record customers' gas and electricity use, and let consumers see how much energy they are using.
Some 26 million electricity and 22 million gas meters will need to be fitted at a cost of £7bn.
Smart meters end the need to dispatch meter readers, meaning huge savings for energy firms who hope bills will fall.
It is also hoped that smart meters will mean an end to estimated bills and call centre staff who deal with related complaints.
British Gas said the move would reduce the UK's energy use, cut carbon emissions and save customers money.
Cost savings
Energy providers will have the responsibility to fit the meters in what amounts to the biggest programme of work since British Gas converted appliances in 17 million homes to natural gas back in the 1970s.
Industry sources say that the £7bn cost amounts to around £15 per household per year between 2010 and 2020.
full article

Sunday, 10 May 2009

4,000 energy tariffs

Which? said seven in 10 people admitted that their sheer scale was confusing and called on energy suppliers to cut them.
Its report said confusing bills and an array of complex tariffs made it very difficult for consumers to understand what gas and electricity schemes they were using and reduce their energy consumption and costs."This is unacceptable at a time when prices are high, there are increasing numbers of people in fuel poverty, we are faced with the potential of future energy shortages and drastic action is needed to combat climate change," said the report.
Which? urged the Government and Ofgem, the regulator, to apply pressure on companies to simplify bills and tariffs.
Fiona Cochrane, an adviser at Which?, said: "With 4,000 energy tariffs available, how is anyone meant to understand which tariff is best? It's time for suppliers, Ofgem and the Government to make bills and tariffs more transparent.
"Helping consumers cut their energy usage will contribute to more affordable bills and lower carbon emissions."
The report added: "Gas and electricity bills are the single most important communication between a consumer and energy suppliers.
"They should provide customers with the facts they need to understand their energy use and costs and make an informed choice about their future consumption and supplier.
"Instead, most energy suppliers provide bills that their customers find complicated and confusing."
full article

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Car scrappage scheme 'unpopular'

There is growing evidence that the government's forthcoming scheme to scrap hundreds of thousands of old cars is not that popular with motorists.
A new survey suggests most people who have studied the scrappage scheme have decided not to take advantage of it.
Researchers from car price guide Parker's questioned 600 people online.
It found that 70% of respondents said the scheme was not generous enough, and overall 81% said they would not be taking advantage of it.
'Massively disappointed'
The scrappage scheme starts on 18 May. If your car is at least 10 years old you can scrap it, in return for a substantial discount on a new car.
The government will provide a £1,000 subsidy for each car purchased, and manufacturers will provide at least a similar amount.
But Kieren Puffet, the editor of Parker's Guide, said many motorists have managed to find much larger discounts under existing deals.
"They're massively disappointed," he said. "They were hoping for a lot more from the government."
Julia Smith, who lives in Basingstoke in Hampshire, is one of those who initially thought the scheme would be useful, but has since decided against it. She was going to scrap her 13-year-old Volvo, and buy a new one instead.
With the scrappage scheme discounts, a brand new Volvo would have cost her in the region of £21,000. But she then found exactly the same model with less than 10,000 miles on the clock for £17,000. A saving of £4,000 proved irresistible.
full article

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Councils accuse power giants of 'free energy-saving lightbulbs dodge'

Power firms have been accused of handing out energy-saving lightbulbs to dodge their obligation to help families cut carbon emissions.

Local councils say the free distribution is part of an 'outrageous' attempt by the businesses to shirk their responsibility to install more meaningful energy saving measures in homes.

They claim the businesses are effectively paying lip service to energy reduction targets by taking the cheap option of dishing out millions of the bulbs.The Local Government Association says, instead, the industry should be funding a programme of mass home insulation, double-glazing and the installation of efficient boilers. Under the Government's

Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, suppliers are set objectives to cut home carbon emissions.

However, the LGA says these targets are too low. Consequently, firms are able to meet their commitment mainly by sending homeowners energy saving light bulbs, which save just £3 of power a year each.

The LGA wants the Government to toughen targets so energy firms have to insulate more lofts and walls.

It says this could help 1.4million households save £220 of power a year each.

Suppliers are expected to give out an astonishing 280million lightbulbs - 11 for every household - by 2011.

Whereas these bulbs will largely be manufactured abroad, the LGA says insulating more homes would help create 4,000 UK jobs, which would be ideal for those in the struggling construction industry.
full article

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

'Anaconda' harnesses wave power

A new wave energy device known as "Anaconda" is the latest idea to harness the power of the seas.

Its inventors claim the key to its success lies in its simplicity: Anaconda is little more than a length of rubber tubing filled with water.

Waves in the water create bulges along the tubing that travel along its length gathering energy.

At the end of the tube, the surge of energy drives a turbine and generates electricity.

full article

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Flying car reaches sky in Holland

What seemed to be yet another fantasy flying vehicle may have moved closer to reality this week when a test version of the three-wheeler PAL-V One took off publicly in Holland.
Accelerating just some 500 feet along the A1 highway near the city of Amersfoort, the three-wheeler took off easily in front of the Dutch Minister of Traffic Safety and Water Affairs, Camiel Eurlings, and a massive group of curious journalists.
full article

smart meters on the way

After months of dithering, the Government is poised to give the go-ahead for the installation of smart meters in every home and business - 45m in total.From next year and during the following ten years, energy companies will replace existing gas and electricity meters with smart meters that can tell homeowners how much energy they are using at any time.

The £7bn smart meter revolution is a vital weapon in the Government's battle to cut energy consumption. Trials have shown that householders reduce their consumption by about 10% - an average of £10 a month - where smart meters are installed.

This is because they can see how much energy is wasted, for example by leaving lights on or keeping TVs on stand-by.

Smart meters will also finally put an end to the scandal of incorrect billing. No longer will energy suppliers be able to force customers to pay huge bills based on incorrect energy estimates.

The Government will also announce a multi-billion pound contract to create a centralised communication system to gather the data from the smart meters and distribute it to each home's energy supplier.

Energy Minister Mike O'Brien said: 'Smart meters will help consumers save energy and money and cut emissions. We've said we want smart meters in every home in the UK by the end of 2020.

'We will be the first country in the world to have such a huge refurbishment of our energy meters and we need to get it right. That includes making sure we have meters that can do all the things we want them to.'

It will be the responsibility of the energy companies to offer householders a choice of meter. They vary in sophistication, with some capable of pinpointing parts of the house where energy is being used.

It is understood that the Government has insisted that every meter should be capable of handling micro-generation data so that households which generate their own energy via solar panels or wind turbines will be able to sell the surplus back to the National Grid.

Smart meters will also enable suppliers to moderate peak demand through differential pricing throughout the day.
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Saturday, 2 May 2009

What Exactly Is a "Passive House"

Passive home building is about installing features that regulate the building's interior temperature, without requiring active energy systems, such as heaters. Sealing the interior tight is key, features such as triple-thick walls, insulated, tightly-fitting double pane glass with reflective coating, and insulated floors. The orientation of the house itself helps as well, with windows that are shaded from the sun's natural arc during summer months, but more exposed to sunlight during winter months. The "heart," as The Times notes, is the heat exchanger, which sucks outside air into the house, and warms it using inside air. It's incredibly effective: Passive houses require no central heating. Though passive homes are estimated to cost perhaps 15% more to build than regular homes, their energy costs can easily be a whopping 85% lower.

All this sounds simple and irresistible, right? Yet there are only a few thousand passive homes in the world, and almost none of them are in the U.S. But the principles are quickly being disseminated in the building trades--Free Green offers free housing plans which utilize many passive principles.

full article

Four-seater electric car unveiled

The UK's first four-seater electric car which can travel up to 70 miles without recharging has been unveiled.

The 60mph vehicle, called the Citroen C1 ev'ie, will cost £16,850.

The main body of the car, based on the Citroen C1, is being made in the Czech Republic in a joint venture by Toyota, Citroen and Peugeot.

The Electric Car Corporation near Bedford aims to assemble 500 of them this year and hopes to make between 2,000 and 4,000 in 2010.

The Citroen C1 ev'ie can be fully charged in six to seven hours from a domestic 13 amp socket for about 90p, according to the makers, the Electric Car Corporation (ECC).

ECC chief executive David Martell said: "We believe this is the first serious alternative to a petrol or diesel car.

"It drives just like a petrol car and has excellent capacity for use in any town or city in the UK."


The cars are being assembled by a six-person team at Flitwick in Bedfordshire.

The government recently unveiled plans in the budget to boost the industry, with subsidies of up to £5,000 on electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles but it is thought that eligible cars will not be on the market until 2011.

Mr Martell said: "Obviously we are disappointed that it's not sooner."

The electric car market is currently reasonably limited, with models available at anything from £8,000 to more than £80,000 for some of the more high-performance models.

Sales have failed to take off in the past because of a number of reasons, like the length of time it takes to charge an electric car, the fact that only two-seaters have been available and that top speeds are considerably lower than their petrol and diesel counterparts.
full article

Friday, 1 May 2009


Wide-ranging changes in the way we live our lives could dramatically reduce the costs of switching to a low-carbon world, researchers said today.

Measures such as phasing out petrol cars in city centres, lowering the temperatures to which we heat our houses and an increase in internet shopping and tele-conferencing could all help the UK meet its goal to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.

If people are prepared to make lifestyle changes which save energy, it could cut the costs to consumers and businesses by up to £50 billion a year - halving how much is currently spent across the country on heat and electricity.

Tougher energy efficiency measures could also give the UK greater energy security and more time to develop low-carbon energy technology, including trapping carbon emissions from power stations and renewables.

But blocking certain green technologies such as onshore wind farms because of ``nimbyism'' could add to the costs of a move to a low-carbon economy, a report from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) said.

Jim Skea, research director of UKERC, also warned that while renewable power would play a big role in hitting the 2050 goal, meeting EU targets to generate 15% of the UK's total energy from renewables by 2020 would be a ``very, very big struggle''.

He said the current barriers to the development of renewables, such as problems in planning and grid access for offshore wind, and the short timescale, meant the EU aims were more than challenging.
``Putting energy saving and the development of green sources of power at the heart of policy-making would make the UK a world leader in tackling climate change, increase energy security, end fuel poverty and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

``A green energy revolution is desperately needed to meet the challenges we all face.

``Time is running out - Gordon Brown must show that he has the political courage to develop a safer, cleaner future,'' he said.

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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Millions of homes to gain cheap energy through efficiency

A total of seven million UK homes could have access to reduced prices from energy suppliers as the result of government retrofitting over the next ten years.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has sought feedback from the public regarding attitudes towards large-scale retrofitting and the subsequent survey from Ipsos Mori found that homeowners are willing to embrace efficiency.

Homeowners were asked for their views on a range of microgeneration measures, including solid-wall insulation, smart meters and heat pumps.

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, said: "We spoke to citizens around the nation and found that there is a strong desire for government action. People are enthusiastic and positive about the need for better energy efficiency in our homes and communities."

While the target is to retrofit seven million homes by 2020, every UK home is scheduled to be upgraded by 2030 as the government strives to produce a carbon-neutral society within 40 years.

The chancellor, Alistair Darling, is expected to unveil a large investment package for the green sector in this week's Budget.
full article

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Biomass energy 'could be harmful'

Biomass power - such as burning wood for energy - could do more harm than good in the battle to reduce greenhouse gases, the Environment Agency warns.
Ploughing up pasture to plant energy crops could produce more CO2 by 2030 than burning fossil fuels, if not done in a sustainable way, it said.
Its study found waste wood and MDF produced the lowest emissions, unlike willow, poplar and oil seed rape.
The EA wants biomass companies to report all greenhouse gas emissions.
The agency is calling on the government to introduce mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from publicly-subsidised biomass facilities, to help work out if minimum standards need to be introduced.
Wood-burning stoves, boilers and even power stations are seen by many as critical to Britain's renewable energy targets.
Biomass is considered low carbon as long as what is burnt is replaced by new growth, and harvesting and transport do not use too much fuel."Biomass is a limited resource, and we must make sure it is not wasted on inefficient generators that do not take advantage of the emissions savings to be made from combined heat and power," he said.
"By 2030, biomass fuels will need to be produced using good practice simply to keep up with the average carbon intensity of the electricity grid."
He added: "The government should ensure that good practice is rewarded and that biomass production and use that does more harm than good to the environment does not benefit from public support."
full article

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Royal Mail Trial Electric Car

The local postman delivering letters on his bike has been a been a staple of British life for years - but it could be all change thanks to the French.

An egg-shaped vehicle - with a top speed of just 25mph - is being trialled in two areas and could lead to a mass order by Royal Mail.

And in a move which could upset traditionalists but please saddle-sore postmen, the odd-looking buggies could put an end to the use of bicycles within the postal service.Students in Oxford have received their letters from postman Vytenis Baltrusaitis, 32, one of the first to drive the plug-in van.

'There is no power steering and the vehicle is quite slow but I don't usually go on busy roads on my route, so the round doesn't take any longer than it did before,' he said.

'Children wave at me in the street and some people even take pictures.

'The main thing is to remember to charge the vehicle when you get back to the delivery centre - you just plug it straight back in.'

The Matra has a range of 30 to 35 miles once it has been fully charged.

The vehicle is officially classed as a quadracycle, and like a motorbike is not legally required to display a front numberplate.

Mr Lightfoot estimated that the Matra would be about 35 per cent cheaper than a traditional diesel-engined van over the course of its lifetime and its load space of about 80 cubic feet matched the Vauxhall's.

He added that the electric vehicle cost the equivalent of a new hatchback car, compared with the £10,000 pounds cost of the Vauxhall Combo - but this did not take into account modifications including cab doors to cope with winter weather.
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