Sunday, 24 July 2011

'Air-conditioned clothes' help Japan beat heat

As jackets go it looks far from fashionable, but its Japanese maker cannot meet sky-rocketing demand for "air conditioned" coats with built-in fans.

Kuchofuku Co. Ltd - whose name literally means "air-conditioned clothing" - has seen orders soar amid power shortages in Japan after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

As parts of the nation sweat out an uncomfortable summer shackled by restrictions on electricity use, demand has grown for goods that provide guilt-free respite from the unrelenting summer heat.

Two electric fans in the jacket can be controlled to draw air in at different speeds, giving the garment a puffed-up look. But this has not deterred those happy to be cool rather than "hot" when it comes to fashion.

full article

Japanese firm perfects fuel cell for homes of the future

A Japanese company has perfected the technology that will store green energy in the homes of the immediate future and control where and when that power is provided to the building.

Other firms are working on similar storage and control systems for individual homes, but Japanese companies have redoubled their efforts in the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast of the country in March and destroyed the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

NEC Corporation has made a breakthrough with the launch of its household energy storage system, which is equipped with lithium-ion batteries and can simultaneously control electrical power throughout the home.

The first 100 units of this industry first will be made available to home construction companies and businesses from July 18, NEC said.

The system automatically controls power to the building by connecting to the distribution panel and enabling interactive coordination with the power supplied by a commercial energy company and the home's electrical devices, its solar power systems and other equipment.

"This interactivity enables the system to store power during nighttime hours, when power consumption is low, then to use the stored power during afternoon hours, when power consumption reaches its peak," NEC said.

"This reduces both the demand on power companies as well as household electricity charges.

"Furthermore, households have become increasingly aware of the importance of access to electricity for essential needs in the event of an emergency or blackout, in addition to the necessity of power conservation," it said.

The model home incorporates solar panels, pipes that carry hot water beneath the floor in the winter and cool water in the summer and reduced-energy lighting.

Until now, however, the largest obstacle to such systems being introduced on a large scale to homes has been the lack of a reliable storage system for the energy that is generated, a problem that NEC appears to have overcome.

full article

Sunday, 10 July 2011

You have the power to slow the ever rising cost of energy

These latest increases will push the average annual household energy bill up to £1,193 from 18 August, taking bills to an all-time high. Incredibly, in just over five years energy bills have rocketed by £472 or 71 per cent.
These price increases have started to make affordability and fuel poverty a real issue. Fuel poverty levels in the UK are spiralling dangerously with 6.3 million or almost a quarter of all households now classed as fuel poor - this is where 10 per cent or more of net household income is being spent on energy.

Unfortunately, consumers are paying the price for an energy policy that is disjointed, incoherent and unaffordable. The problems with the market run deep. Massive investment of £200 billion is needed to keep the lights on and to reach the government's ambitious carbon emission reduction targets. This will see the cost of energy rise even further as cheaper, dirty sources are no longer an option.
t's more than likely that consumers will have to foot the bill, seeing the costs passed on through their energy bills. We already pay £84 a year in "hidden" green taxes or levies on our energy bills, but as the need for investment rises and suppliers struggle to hit green targets these taxes could go up, causing our household energy bills to keep growing.

There are discounts available for taking both gas and electricity (dual fuel) from the one supplier plus further discounts for paying by monthly direct debit.
The other key step for people to take is to reduce the amount of energy they use by being more energy efficient. Just doing simple common- sense things can save you money. Don't keep appliances on standby, don't leave mobile phones charging up all day and switch lights and gadgets off when no longer needed.

Households should also look to invest in longer-term energy efficiency measures such as insulating lofts and cavity walls, which can cut bills by up to 25 per cent.

Those who would struggle to afford this kind of investment in their home should contact their energy supplier to see whether they qualify for any energy efficiency grants or financial support. Suppliers have a pot of money available to help customers in this way.

full article

Solar panels 'save just £70 a year'

The benefits of solar panels have been called into question after the Energy Savings Trust (EST) reduced the estimated saving on electricity bills to just £70 a year.
The EST had previously estimated the savings to households at around £120 annually.

The admission will be a blow to the growing number of "rent-a-roof" schemes, where households receive free solar panels in return for savings on their electricity bill. However, as many of these schemes lock households into a 25-year contract, many householders are expected to be reluctant to take part for such paltry savings.

Under "rent-a-roof" schemes, the company that installs the panels, which typically cost around £14,000, keeps the income generated from selling the surplus energy back to the grid via the Government's feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme – typically earning more than £1,000 each year.

Launched last year, the FIT scheme means that home owners who install solar panels will receive money for any energy that is generated at home. Payments are index-linked for 25 years and at present generate 43.3p for every kilowatt hour produced by the system, plus an additional 3p per kWh as an "export tariff".

With free solar panel installations, the company that owns the panels will receive the income from the generation and export tariffs from your panels, while the homeowner will benefit from reduced energy bills.
Rosalyn Foreman of the EST said: "We followed trials of other technologies which you'd expect to export much less back to the grid than solar panels, but they showed lower levels of electricity used on site than expected, so we've altered our expectations of solar accordingly.

"While these are typical estimates, it's quite possible that someone could save more than £70 if they were at home in the day or set all their appliances to run in daylight hours."

The news comes after a Which? investigation found that three quarters of solar panel salesmen used "dodgy sales tactics" and misled customers on potential savings. In an undercover investigation, the consumer group found that 75pc of companies overestimated how much energy the solar panels would produce and most of them underestimated how long it would take for the system to pay for itself.

Which? found that the Government's rules to work out energy output did not take into account key factors such as where people live.

More than 28,000 households installed solar panels in the last financial year, with the number growing by 1,000 homes each week.

full article

Friday, 8 July 2011

'The Days of Cheap Energy Are Over'

Consumers last saw a year of double price hikes in 2008 when energy bills rocketed by £334 or 41% as a result of consecutive rounds of price increases.

For most of us though, today’s news tells us something really important – the days of cheap energy are over and it’s time that we all started to understand what this means for our bills and how we use energy.

Once these hikes kick in the average household energy bill will be an eye-watering £1,193 a year.

This is an all-time high and makes it imperative for customers to start thinking about how they can bring this cost down.
There are two key steps to this – pay the lowest possible price for your energy and cut down on the amount of energy you use.

To pay the lowest price you need to be thinking of going onto dual fuel (this means taking both gas and electricity from one supplier and paying by monthly direct debit.

Suppliers offer attractive discounts for customers doing this.

You could also sign up to an online energy plan – these are consistently the most competitive plans in the market.

In fact, the difference between the cheapest online plan and the most expensive standard plan will be £450 a year from August – that is the equivalent of saving around a third off your yearly fuel costs – an amount well worth saving!

That said, in the face of rising prices many of us will prefer the security of a fixed price energy plan.
Switchers are signing up to fixed price energy plans.
Energy deals can disappear swiftly from the market so people need to act quickly to secure the best deals while they can.

Having sorted out your energy tariff the next thing is to look at how much energy you use.

Energy efficiency is a real buzz term at the moment, but it is a powerful weapon in every household’s armoury when it comes to fighting off high energy prices.

The key thing is to start thinking of these things now and not to leave it until your bills have gone through the roof.

full article

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Green energy investment hits record global high

Global investment in renewable energy sources grew by 32% during 2010 to reach a record level of US$211bn (£132bn), a UN study has reported.

The main growth drivers were backing for wind farms in China and rooftop solar panels in Europe, it said.

It also found that developing nations invested more in green power than rich nations for the first time last year.

The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011 report was prepared for the UN by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

"The continuing growth in this core segment of the green economy is not happening by chance," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme.

"The combination of government target-setting, policy support and stimulus funding is underpinning the renewable industry's rise and bringing the much needed transformation of our global energy system within reach."
n 2010, developing economies spent more on "financial new investment", pumping $72bn into renewable projects compared with the $70bn outlay by developed economies.

China topped the table of investors again, spending $48.9bn - up 28% from 2009. There were also sizeable increases in investment from other developing or emerging economies:

South and Central America: up 39% (from 2009 levels) to $13.1bn
Middle East and Africa: up 104% to $5bn
India: up 25% to $3.8bn

However, the report stated, there was not growth in all sectors. There was a 22% decline in the investment in large-scale projects - such as windfarms - within Europe, where the funding fell to $35bn.

But there was a surge in small-scale projects, such as photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, especially within Germany, where investment in a "micro-solar boom" had increased by 132% to $34bn compared with 2009 figures.

As the renewable technologies continued to mature, the report added, the cost per megawatt (MW) continued to fall. It said that the cost of PV modules had fallen on a per-MW basis by 60% since 2008.

The authors forecasted: "Further improvements in the... cost of energy for solar, wind and other technologies lie ahead, posing a bigger and bigger threat to the dominance of fossil-fuel generation sources in the next few years."

full article