Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Green Deal energy efficiency scheme

The Green Deal is a new government initiative designed to help households cut energy bills and carbon emissions by providing loans for energy efficiency improvements to homes.

To sign up, you will need to book an assessment for your home, typically at a cost of £80-£150 – although some firms are offering them for free.

You will then be visited by a Green Deal Assessor who will recommend improvements to your property and indicate if they will ‘pay for themselves’ through reductions in your energy bills. You can accept as many or few of these measures as you wish.

The scheme allows householders can take out 10 to 25 year loans to pay for the improvements. The repayments are added to energy bills with the intention that the improvements will lead to lower energy consumption, offsetting the extra cost.

Suppliers can also pass on a further setup cost of £63 for the loan, and annual operating costs of £20, to customers.

If you choose to switch energy companies then the loan will move to the new provider.
The loan is tied to the house, not the person, so if you were to move home the loan would be passed on to the new owners.

If you’re a landlord, you must get your tenant’s permission before you sign up, and if you’re a tenant you must get your landlord’s permission to sign up - this also applies to social housing.

The first people to take up the scheme can apply for cash back from a government pot, with sums varying from £10 to £1,000 available depending on the improvements being installed.

full article

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Energy Saving Nest Smart Thermostat

Nest Thermostat is a programmable thermostat which allows you to maintain the right temperature in your home and simultaneously help you to save on your energy bills.
The thermostat, which has always worked in conjunction with Nest’s free iPhone, iPad and Android smartphone apps, now works with Android tablets.

A properly programmed smart thermostat can save 20% to 40% of your energy bills. A small and barely discernable 1 degree change can bring about more than 5% less bills.

The Nest connects to your wireless network, so once you've performed the initial setup you can open a free Nest account and manage everything over the Web or from your Android or iOS phone or tablet.

The Nest may be tiny but it's jam-packed with cool technology, including activity sensors, a Wi-Fi radio, three temperature sensors, and a humidity sensor.

The activity sensors are used to activate the Auto Away feature, which shuts down heating and cooling after an hour or two of inactivity to conserve energy.

The Nest learns your heating and cooling habits over the first week of use. You can change the schedule at any time using the Nest's ring, but it is much easier to do online. If you can't be bothered to take the time to let the Nest learn, you can always create your own schedule with the Web app.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Thousands of insulation industry jobs lost in new year

More than 1,700 jobs have been lost in the insulation industry since December because of the government's flagship energy efficiency policy, according to insulation companies.

The green deal, under which householders will be able to take out loans for work on their properties such as loft and cavity wall insulation to improve their energy efficiency, will be launched on 28 January. But the government's old support mechanisms that made insulation cheap or free for households were cancelled in December, so few people have been insulating their houses.

According to the Insulation Industry Forum (IIF), orders from more than 34,000 households wanting insulation were cancelled because the funding was cut, and a further 27,000 inquiries from householders put on hold. That spells higher costs and unnecessarily freezing homes at the coldest time of year.

Ten major companies and five energy efficiency organisations have written to Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, urging him to work with them on a transition scheme that would ensure households, particularly poorer ones, have access to insulation during the current cold snap and the next two months of winter.
There are also concerns that people will be put off by some aspects of the green deal. For instance, many companies currently offer an initial assessment to householders, to see what form of energy efficiency improvements may be most suitable for their homes, for free, outside of the green deal. But research by the Guardian has shown that most green deal assessments will have to be paid for upfront, for about £95 to £150, although in some cases it will be refunded if households go ahead with the work.

Many experts are also worried that the green deal, where households that have taken out loans for improvements are paid back through additions to their electricity bills, will prove difficult for consumers to understand. Although people should make a net saving, because they should be able to use less energy to heat their homes, this might not be apparent. Some experts suspect that many British homes are underheated at present, so insulation may not result in a net energy saving because people will use the same amount of energy but have a warmer and more comfortable home.

As an incentive to people to sign up, the government is giving away £125m in "cashback" to people when they take up a green deal offer, which could be worth hundreds of pounds per household. Davey said: "The green deal will be a great offer for people to insulate their homes from the cold, and their wallets from rising energy prices. With cashback too, energy saving has never been so attractive. Our cashback scheme is a generous offer but it's first-come, first-served so householders need to be quick off the mark. Get an assessment, be ready to have home improvements done with a green deal when it launches on 28 January and then get your cash back."

He added: "This also sends a clear message to the industry that the green geal is coming. Green deal providers and businesses in the supply chain need to start gearing up to take full advantage of what promises to be an exciting new market."

Fiona Harvey

full article

Climate change: Soot's role underestimated

Black carbon, or soot, is making a much larger contribution to global warming than previously recognised, according to research.

Scientists say that particles from diesel engines and wood burning could be having twice as much warming effect as assessed in past estimates.

They say it ranks second only to carbon dioxide as the most important climate-warming agent.

The research is in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

Black carbon aerosols have been known to warm the atmosphere for many years by absorbing sunlight. They also speed the melting of ice and snow.
Half a degree

This new study concludes the dark particles are having a warming effect approximately two thirds that of carbon dioxide, and greater than methane.

The researchers say black carbon emissions in Europe and North America have been declining due to restrictions on emissions from diesel engines. But they have been growing steadily in the developing world. However as these type of particles don't last very long in the atmosphere, cutting their number would have an immediate impact on temperatures.
Black carbon is said to be a significant source of rapid warming in the northern United States, Canada, northern Europe and northern Asia. The particles are also said to have an impact on rainfall patterns in the Asian monsoon.

By Matt McGrath

full article

Monday, 14 January 2013

How much does it cost to charge an electric car ?

I am a commuter who drives into London on a daily basis. After reading the story that electric cars may soon be the only vehicles to be exempt from the £10-a-day London congestion charge and being increasingly concerned about my carbon footprint, I have been toying with the idea of buying one.

I currently travel ten miles back and forth from the office, Monday to Friday, and roughly drive a maximum of 30 miles over the weekend.

My question is how much would it add to my electricity bills and how easy is it to find charging points around London? I have been looking at snapping up either the Nissan Leaf or the Renault Twizy.

The main stumbling block for many drivers is the amount of miles these cars can actually do before they need to be re-charged. The Renault Twizy, for instance, can manage 62 miles officially, or just over 50 miles in some review tests, on one charge while the Nissan Leaf can do 109 officially, or just over 100 miles in some review tests.

These make them ideal for short commutes – like the ones mentioned in your question – but not for longer trips, which is unappealing for most drivers.

here are some advantages to electric cars. The fact there is no road tax for one, due to zero emissions and the fact you can charge at home, rather than have to fill up a forecourt.

Also, the Government is offering those who buy an electric car 25 per cent off the price, up to the value of £5,000.

According to a spokesman for Renault, using the Twizy to drive 130 miles a week would equate to roughly £3 per week - or £156 a year - based on three charges a week and domestic electricity at 14p/kwh unit.

It takes three-and-a-half hours to fully charge the battery and can go up to 62 miles on one charge.
It doesn't however qualify for the £5,000 government electric car grant scheme as it's not classified as a car - it's labeled a 'heavy quadricycle.'

full article

Can you afford to turn up the thermostat?

Freezing temperatures could put up energy bills by £7 a experts have warned, adding to the pressure on households as they cope with price hikes to gas and electricity.

It costs £3 a day, on average, to heat a home, but during cold weather this can easily rise by £1 a day as people push up thermostats or leave the heating on for longer, according to figures from price comparison website,

Weather forecasts have said that some parts of the UK could get up to 10cm of snow today with freezing temperatures set to continue for up to three weeks.
All of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers have announced price hikes this winter, with the last of these, from E.ON, coming into effect next Friday.

The price increases have pushed up the average annual household gas and electricity bill by 7.4 per cent, or £94 to a record £1,352 a year.

full article

UK tidal power has huge potential, say scientists

The UK is underestimating the amount of electricity that could be generated from tidal sources, new research says.

The analysis says that estuary barrages and tidal streams could provide more than 20% of the nation's demand for electricity.

Despite high costs, experts say tidal power is more reliable than wind.

The predictable nature of tides makes them an ideal renewable energy source, the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A reports.

Essentially, engineers try to tap tides in two ways: one involves building barrages across tidal estuaries that use the ebb and flow of the waters to turn turbines - a major project of this type had been proposed for the River Severn.

The other method involves planting turbines underwater in fast flowing tidal streams in areas such as in coastal waters around Cornwall and Scotland.
Smaller better

In the Royal Society report, researchers say they are "extremely optimistic" that both types of technology can be realised and relatively soon.
La Rance tidal station (Getty Images) La Rance in Brittany, France, is the site of the world's first tidal power station

"From tidal barrages you can reasonably expect you can get 15% of UK electricity needs, that's a very solid number," co-author Dr Nicholas Yates from the National Oceanography Centre told BBC News.

The massive Severn estuary tidal barrage scheme had been rejected by the coalition government because of its environmental impact, but ministers have indicated they are open to review the idea.

Developing power from offshore tidal streams is fraught with difficulty, as the BBC discovered when reporting on the emerging industry in Scotland last year.
Better than wind

But according to the authors of the latest research, 2013 could see a big breakthrough in tidal stream power. A company called MeyGen is planning to deploy tidal stream technology in the Pentland Firth that will initially generate up to 40MW of electricity, enough to power about 38,000 homes.

"This is a crucial milestone for us, it will be the first array of tidal stream turbines," observed report co-author Professor AbuBakr Bahaj from the University of Southampton.

"It will be a viable proposition for us in energetic areas of the sea - it will be give us another element in the energy mix that's more reliable than wind."

While the report paints a positive future for tidal power, a critical element is money.

In the past month ,the EU has announced funding in the region of £30m for two UK tidal projects.

Investors in tidal technology are currently rewarded with a payment of £40 per megawatt hour for energy generated from renewables, but this scheme will end in 2017.

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

full article