Sunday, 30 May 2010

Scottish Scrappage Scheme closes to New Applicants

After only three days, new applications to Scotland's Boiler Scrappage Scheme have now closed, with all vouchers allocated. The Scheme opened for applications on Monday 24 May and closed on Thursday, by which time all 5,000 vouchers had been eagerly snapped up by Scottish homeowners and householders.

The Scottish Scheme which followed on from similar initiatives elsewhere in the UK, allowed eligible oil heating consumers to apply for a £400 voucher towards the cost of upgrading to a modern, high efficiency, 'A Rated' condensing oil boiler. According to the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC), those oil heating consumers making the switch could typically expect to reduce their heating costs by about a quarter, saving up to £190 a year on fuel bills.

The Scheme was administered in Scotland by the Energy Saving Trust and vouchers already issued, will be processed. Despite the closure of the Scheme to new applicants, other Energy Saving Schemes remain available or Scottish consumers - such as the Energy Assistance Package.

Following the closure of the Scottish Scheme to new applicants, Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK not to introduce a Boiler Scrappage Scheme. The failure of the Northern Ireland Executive to introduce a Scheme, follws the refusal of the province's Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, to introduce a similar Scheme earlier this year.

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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

challenges for electric cars

A timely report by the Royal Academy of Engineering lays out the reality of turning some of Britain's 30 million cars electric in coming decades. The conclusion? The challenges are do-able but also pretty daunting.
So, getting started in first: can the batteries ever be made cheaply enough to tempt consumers? If they're big enough to get you a reasonable distance, they may add thousands to the price and potential consumers may think twice.

And how long will the batteries last? It depends on the type but typically they should be good for at least 1,000 charges which should give you at least three years' use.
Second gear, charging-up: some 4,000 charging points are due to be installed in pilot schemes in the North-east, Milton Keynes and London this year.
Third gear, charging at your destination: what happens if thousands of electric car drivers descend on one spot - a football match, for example - and all want charging in the car park at the same time? Who pays for that infrastructure and who'll organise it?
Fourth gear, the bills: at the moment, electric car ownership is encouraged with tax breaks. Right now, this doesn't cost the government much in lost revenue. But what if half the country's cars are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty? How would the Treasury react then? The authors say a long-term policy on incentives is essential.

At current prices, a full charge for a typical electric car might cost about £2 - drawing enough power to drive about 161km (100 miles). Not bad compared to conventional fuel.

Finally, fifth gear, the carbon value: plug-in cars will only be as green as the electricity they're using. According to the report, electric cars powered by the current mix of sources are only "marginally greener" than the most economical petrol or diesel cars.

In an earlier report, the Royal Academy of Engineering had mapped out the scale of the task involved in moving to a low-carbon electricity supply - with a mix of energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear and clean coal. This new report adds urgency to the calls for decisions as soon as possible.

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Thursday, 20 May 2010

The house of straw

A team of builders have created a straw house that can withstand any amount of huffing and puffing - and a hurricane.

The environmentally-friendly house was built with straw bale panels and could pave the way for the first housing estate of straw buildings.

Professor Pete Walker said: 'Straw is a very environmentally-friendly building material because it is renewable and uses a co-product of farming.

'The crop used to make the straw locks in carbon dioxide as it grows and can be sourced from local farms, saving on transport and minimising the carbon footprint of the building.

'The recent test result is excellent as it has both confirmed the robustness of BaleHaus and validated the computer model, so avoiding the need for further tests and providing basis for safe and efficient structural design.

'We hope the data we're collecting on the BaleHaus will help strengthen the case for the mainstream building industry switching to using more sustainable building materials such as straw.'

Craig White, director of ModCell, said: 'This is a fantastic result. All too often, we are asked whether building with straw is durable.

'Our research at BaleHaus@Bath shows conclusively that building with straw using the ModCell System is not only safe, secure and durable, it is also fit for the 21st century challenge of reducing our CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

'These tests will offer proof that renewable building materials are a realistic option for building on a large scale.

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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Radio 'scrappage' scheme 'to help listeners move to digital sets'

The part-exchange deal, involving major electronic retailers, is intended to boost the take-up of digital radios ahead of 2015, which is the target date for turning off the analogue signal.

Under the scheme, which will be detailed on Wednesday, customers would be offered up to a 20 per cent discount on their digital set in return for handing in their analogue model.

The scrappage scheme, due to start at the weekend and operated over the coming month, is inspired by the success of Gordon Brown's plan for reviving the British car manufacturing sector.

People trading in their old vehicles for greener models were offered a £2,000 discount, leading to thousands of extra sales.

Digital Radio UK, the body established to push through the switchover, is to announce details of the latest scheme.

“Retailers benefit by getting more sales. There is also a charity element,” a source said.

At present just 20 per cent of radio listening takes place over digital with an estimated 100 million analogue radio sets still in Britain.
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Cornwall's 'Silicon Vineyards' aim to triple solar capacity in UK

Cornwall's reputation for sun, sand and surf could soon be challenged by silicon if a proposed £40m network of solar farms gets the go ahead.

Next week, public consultation will begin for a 15-acre "energy farm" on a green-field site at St Kew, three miles east of Wadebridge, the market town which acts as the gateway to north Cornwall's popular tourist heartlands. A local farmer has raised £4.5m of private investment to construct the first of what could be 10 similar sites across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, which, if all built, would triple the UK's current solar generating capacity.

But such investment doesn't automatically guarantee a hi-tech approach: the solar panels will be tilted towards the sun each day by hand and a roaming gaggle of geese will be used to keep the surrounding grass at a manageable length.

A consortium of local companies calling itself "Silicon Vineyards" says the proposed 2MW facility at Benbole Farm – which would be the first utility-scale solar farm in the UK - would generate enough electricity to power 600 homes. It will also grow biomass crops and house an anaerobic digester as an alternative source of power generation. The consortium, which includes the commercial arm of the University of Exeter and a Penzance-based renewables specialist called Renewable Energy Cooperative (R-ECO), says construction could begin in October if planning is approved. The solar farm could start generating electricity commercially by April 2011.
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Sunday, 16 May 2010

First of its kind Eco-Training Hub Opened Yesterday in Britain

Yesterday, an eco-training hub, which is described as the first of its kind in Britain was formally opened by First Minister, Carwyn Jones.

The British Gas Green Skills Training Centre in Tredegar intends to provide training over 1,300 people in new energy competent technologies.

Engineers obtain the possibility to study how to install tools such as solar panels, hi-tech smart meters, biomass boilers and combined heat and power boilers in purpose built training bungalows.

The centre, which is a part of the British Gas Energy Academy at Tredegar Business Park, cost British Gas £900,000 with the Assembly adding £500,000.

It is hoped that the project will assist the Assembly's program to improvise 40,000 homes in the Heads of the Valley's area.

Gearold Lane, British Gas Managing Director of Communities and New Energy said that the location was the first of its kind in Britain.

This is a society in the Valleys that for a number of years was at the vanguard of the industrial revolution and of power through the production of petroleum.

The challenge that comes up is to develop skills and to make an effort to be at the vanguard of the energy production in the prospective time.
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Monday, 10 May 2010

Boiler scrappage payout revealed by Energy Saving Trust

All vouchers for England's boiler scrappage scheme have been claimed but less than half of the money has been paid out so far.

All of the 125,000 vouchers that take £400 off the cost of replacing an old boiler with a new efficient one were claimed by 26 March.

Some 58,177 people have received the £400 rebate after paying up-front to have the work done.

A scheme is also operating in Wales and one will start in Scotland on 24 May.

The popularity of replacement boilers has been driven by the scrappage scheme, and also by the cold winter weather, according to British Gas owner Centrica.

"The number of central heating systems installed was up around 20% on the same period last year, reflecting a more competitively priced product range and benefits from the government's boiler scrappage scheme," the company said in its interim management statement on Monday.

"However, the business experienced additional costs as a result of the higher incidence of boiler breakdown call-outs during the cold weather in the first quarter."

A scheme in Scotland, similar to the English scrappage scheme, will offer £400 vouchers to 5,000 households. It has been unveiled and will be open for applications from 24 May.

In Wales, vouchers worth £500 have been available since 6 April. However, this is only open to those aged 60 and over in order to target those more vulnerable to fuel poverty.
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Saturday, 8 May 2010

Why solar panels are the new double glazing: They don't work much of the time and take 100 YEARS to pay for themselves...

Once upon a time, Lee Comer was a plumber. But he has come a long way since those days. He is now a company director and lives in a beautiful thatched cottage in Dorset complete with its own stables.

How did he make his money? Answer: out of pensioners like Wendy Hammett.

Mrs Hammett, 66, a former secretary, paid Comer's firm, Simplee Solar, more than £10,000 for solar panels at her bungalow outside Bournemouth.

The system, she was promised, would slash her gas and electric bills by 70 per cent. It was a lie.

'It has ended up costing me more,' she said. She is not alone. Other elderly customers of Simplee Solar suffered a similar fate.

In 2006, Comer and his partner Tom Callaghan were fined a total of £40,000 (with £27,000 costs) at Bournemouth Crown Court for supplying and offering goods to which a false trade description applied. That's the legal term for cowboy tactics.

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Sunday, 2 May 2010

How to generate profit and power from home

WHILE many people think the future of the global environment is in the hands of the younger generations, a new breed of “pensioner greens” are demonstrating that all ages can play a part - especially if it makes good financial sense.
Ken and May Brock are among those who are taking advantage of a new Government scheme which provides a long-term, guaranteed income for all the small-scale renewable energy they can generate - regardless of whether it is fed into the grid or used in their own home.

The scheme is aimed at helping to achieve a target of the UK producing 15% of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2020.

It pays homeowners for each kilowatt–hour of electricity produced from renewable sources - about four times the market cost.

The new “feed-in” tariff became effective from April 1 and makes a great deal of economic sense for those willing and able to make the investment in technology such as solar panels, photo-voltaic cells or small wind turbines.
The Clean Energy Cash-back scheme is open householders, businesses, communities, farmers, schools and hospitals - anyone who want to generate “green” electricity from renewable installations up to five mega-watts in size (equivalent to two large commercial wind turbines) although the payments vary by technology and size.

Pensioners on a fixed income but with savings are among those who are often in a position to introduce green technology – not only to save money but to play their part in reducing the national reliance on power stations which burn fossil fuels, producing global warming gases.

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Saturday, 1 May 2010

UK homeowners rush to take advantage of feed-in tariffs

The introduction of feed-in tariffs this month has led to a record number of inquiries about solar panel installation, as homeowners rush to take advantage of the scheme.

The energy company npower has reported an 80% rise in inquiries for solar panel installation and record numbers are having panels installed in response to the introduction of the Clean Energy Cashback scheme on 1 April by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

In one month, npower has installed 55 solar panel systems and responded to 200 requests for information on installation. Louisa Gilchrist, solar expert for npower, said: "It's fantastic to see feed-in tariffs generating so much interest with homeowners, and the scheme should be applauded for energising the solar industry in the UK."

Feed-in tariffs, also known as FITs, pay homeowners and businesses for the generation of their own electricity through low-carbon means. Anyone who is generating their own electricity through accredited solar technology can receive 41.3p for every unit of electricity they generate. Homeowners can choose to use the electricity they produce or feed it back into the national grid. Government figures estimate that a typical household could generate an income of up to £960 a year through the use of solar panels. The increased take-up is likely to stimulate the manufacture and installation of solar panels, but green campaigners have argued that the government subsidy would be more effective at reducing carbon emissions if it was directed at large-scale renewable technologies.

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