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.
full article

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.

full article