Friday, 4 September 2015

Slashing household solar subsides will kill off industry

The government wants to slash by 87% subsidies for householders who install solar panels on their rooftops, in a move that renewable energy experts warn could kill off a promising industry.
The potential reductions in the level of feed-in tariff (FIT), contained in a long-awaited consultation document released by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (Decc), and are far larger than expected.
The assault on solar power comes after ministerial decisions to remove financial aid from new onshore wind farms and slash home energy efficiency measures. There is even speculation that Decc could be wound up as a standalone department.
From 1 January, ministers are proposing reducing the feed-in tariff for smaller scale solar installations from 12.47p per kilowatt hour to 1.63p with large standalone units eligible for subsidies of 1.03p per kWh, compared with 4.28p today.
The government has blamed concerns that the £7.6bn budget for renewables will be drastically overspent, and argues that solar and onshore wind should be able to largely support themselves.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Solar PV Still Cost Effective

A 4kWp system can generate around 3,800 kilowatt hours of electricity a year in the south of England – roughly equivalent to a typical household's electricity needs. It will save nearly two tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. A 4kWp system in Scotland can generate about 3,200 kilowatt hours of electricity a year – more than three quarters of a typical household's electricity needs. It will save more than a tonne and a half of carbon dioxide every year.
System size
Feed-in-Tariff generation payment (£/year)
Feed-in-Tariff export payment (£/year)
Electricity bill savings (£/year)
Carbon dioxide savings (kgCO2/year)
Valid between 1st April - 30th June 2015Valid between 1st July - 30th September 2015
London, South England4kWp£510£495£90£1351,870 kg
Aberystwyth, Wales4kWp£480£460£85£1251,750 kg
Manchester, North England4kWp£450£435£80£1201,650 kg
Stirling, Scotland4kWp£425£410£75£1101,560 kg
The average domestic solar PV system is 4kWp and costs £5,000 - 8,000 (including VAT at 5 per cent). 
When Fits (Feed-in Tariff ) were first launched in 2010, a typical large domestic photovoltaic system cost £15,000-£18,000 to install. Early adopters were promised 41.3p per kilowatt hour (kWh) generated for 25 years, plus generous savings on their electricity bills worth up to £160 a year. Incomes and savings of more than £30,000 were promised for a £15,000 investment.

Price falls in PV panels over the past five years mean that the same system can now be installed for £5,000-£6,000 – and the government has responded by cutting the income paid accordingly. Those installing a system before 30 September this year now receive 12.92p per kWh if they live in a home that is energy performance certificate band D or above.
You still need a south facing, unshaded roof, ideally at a 45-degree pitch. Those who live in the south will get the highest income. Someone installing a £6,000 panel system on such a roof in Hertfordshire can expect an income and electricity bill savings of around £600 a year. Payments are index linked and are guaranteed for the next 20 years.
For an accurate calculation of how much your roof will generate use the EnergySavingsTrust calculator.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Apple's HomeKit

The first products to take advantage of Apple’s smart home technology were unveiled today, just days before the start of the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference.

Five device makers announced products that dim the lights or adjust room temperature with a spoken command or control fans and other home appliances from the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Two products are available now, with others reaching stores in the coming weeks.
IHome, a maker of iPhone- and iPod-compatible clock radios and audio accessories, said its first HomeKit product would begin reaching stores in late June. Its SmartPlug allows consumers to use Siri to control their lighting, fans and other home devices.
Lutron Electronics’ Cas├ęta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit provides wireless plugs, remote control dimmer switches and a smart bridge, which allows homeowners to adjust their lights (and, in some cases, the window shades and thermostats) without leaving their couches. Its software will even send a notification if the homeowner has left without turning off the lights. It is available now.

Toronto-based Ecobee announced that its wireless thermostat now works with HomeKit, allowing users to adjust their heating or cooling using Siri on their iPhone or iPad, while Insteon’s HomeKit-compatible hub lets consumers control a range of home gadgets, from door locks and garage door openers to lightbulbs. HomeKit is on sale today online.
HomeKit is a system for connecting smart home devices through iOS.
Apple allows for either WiFi or Bluetooth low energy (LE)-enabled devices to get certified as a HomeKit accessory. Apple is requiring device makers using both WiFi and Bluetooth LE to use complicated encryption with 3072-bit keys, as well as the super secure Curve25519, which is an elliptic curve used for digital signatures and exchanging encrypted keys.
“These security protocols are bleeding edge,” said Diogo Monica, a security lead at Docker and an IEEE security expert.
WiFi-enabled devices can handle these security requirements, but it seems devices running over Bluetooth LE are having some issues. The intensive processing demands for generating and sending these security keys is what’s likely causing these lag times.

Such lag times render many of these devices useless. For example, a smartlock that makes its user wait 40 seconds before it opens is clearly inferior to a traditional lock. One of HomeKit’s selling point is that it provides a more reliable user experience, so these kinds of lag times will need to be sorted out before Apple can become a major platform for the smart home.

People with an August smart lock fitted to their front door can now use an Apple Watch to lock and unlock their home with 'just a swipe and a tap'.
The watch app also tells users who has recently come and gone as well as receiving a notification when someone enters of leaves their house.
The August lock is made of 'durable anodized aluminium' and can be managed using the app which works on a smartphone and Apple Watch, as well as online.
Owners of the lock, created by technology entrepreneur Jason Johnson and industrial designer Yves Behar, can already lock and unlock their door with their iPhone, but the watch will make the process more convenient, because the 'digital key' is already on their wrist.
The battery-operated lock, which launched last year, costs $249 (£160) and its makers claim, takes just 10 minutes to install.
It includes deadbolt adapters and faceplates that work with around 90 per cent of locks on the market in the US.
The encrypted locking technology issues registered devices such as smartphones or the Apple Watch, or invited devices, with unique codes that can't be copied.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Obama's clean energy plan expected to boost renewables

After a year of consultations and over 4 million public comments, President Obama's Clean Power Plan will be finalised early next week.

The strategy will outline restrictions on CO2 from electricity that individual states will have to implement.

The EPA said that emissions from electricity generation need to be reduced by 30% of the 2005 level by 2030.

At that time the EPA said that individual states need to get their plans in place by 2016 and they were to become operational by 2020.

But after consultations with industry, states and 4.3 million comments from the public, the EPA is likely to extend the deadline for the start of carbon cutting until 2022.

The thinking appears to be that a shorter deadline makes it more likely that states will switch from coal to natural gas, as they have been doing in recent years.
It's expected that there will be increased support for solar, wind and other renewable sources

A longer timeframe supports the view that energy efficiency, renewables and emissions trading between states could all play a greater role, and result in bigger carbon savings over time.

Experts believe that the delay will come with some sweeteners to encourage the take-up of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

International observers are keenly awaiting details of the plan, to see how it might affect UN-sponsored talks on climate change, that are due to agree a new global treaty later this year.

The US has put forward a proposal to cut its overall emissions by 26-28% of their 2005 levels by 2025. The widespread acceptance and implementation of the electricity plan is vital to achieving this target.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathbbc.

Most Green Fuel Efficient Car

Today the selection of efficient, lower-pollution cars includes a bewildering array of technologies and models — hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electrics, diesels and hydrogen fuel cells. Conventional gasoline cars, meanwhile, have made great strides in going farther on less fuel.

Battery electric cars — those that run solely on electricity — are the cleanest and least expensive to operate. But they typically get only about 80 miles of driving range on a full charge (Tesla's Model S is the exception, traveling more than 250 miles on a charge, but it typically sells for about $100,000.)

"Electric vehicles are the greenest choice for California drivers," said Dave Reichmuth, senior engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But even switching to a more efficient gasoline vehicle can lead to significant emissions reductions and lower petroleum use."

Battery electric

For the true environmentalist, nothing beats an electric car charged by renewable energy sources. Homeowners with rooftop solar panels can literally drive on sunshine. Electric car buyers also get generous state  subsidies.

But even electric cars powered by the grid produce less carbon emissions than other vehicles. More surprising, the efficiency doesn't necessarily exact a penalty in performance.

"A lot of people don't realize that the electric motor has a lot more torque from a stop, which means the cars can be fun to drive," Reichmuth said.

But there are drawbacks. All but the Tesla have ranges under 100 miles. They can take hours to charge. They are generally more expensive than a similar gasoline vehicle.

Hydrogen fuel cell

Hydrogen powered cars are finally entering the U.S. auto market after years of anticipation. Hyundai is leasing its Tucson fuel cell vehicle to consumers who live near the handful of hydrogen stations in California. 
Like electric cars, fuel cells are expensive but come with generous government subsidies to buyers. The bigger obstacle for buyers will be fueling infrastructure — just 20 stations are expected to be in operation in California by the end of this year.

Because natural gas is used to make most hydrogen, fuel cell cars are also not as clean as battery electrics. On the plus side, they can be fueled up as quickly as gasoline vehicles and have a range of about 300 miles between refills.


Although popular in Europe, diesel has never caught on in the U.S. You see it stateside in German passenger cars, domestic pickup trucks and in commercial trucking. But modern diesel engines are cleaner, less noisy and more efficient than they have ever been.

They also offer a great driving experience and ranges of more than 500 miles, making them ideal for those with long highway commutes. When it comes to carbon emissions "diesel pencils out about the same as an efficient gasoline car but not quite as efficient as the hybrids," Reichmuth said.

Compressed natural gas

Once thought of as a promising transitional technology on the road to hydrogen and electric cars, compressed natural gas cars have driven into a dead end. Honda is discontinuing its natural gas Civic after the current model year, and no other automaker is stepping in with a passenger car that runs only on CNG.

Natural gas cars are only a little more polluting than a comparable hybrid, and they are less expensive to fuel. But the CNG tanks take up too much space, limiting the size of the cabin and trunk, and their driving range is limited. The CNG Civic travels less than half the distance on one fueling than the gasoline model and only a third of the hybrid.


With the exception of the Toyota Prius, hybrids have never achieved the popularity some environmental groups and auto industry analysts expected. A variety of factors hold back sales. For instance, to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency, automakers have removed sound deadening materials, allowing road and wind noise into the cabin, especially at highway speeds.

Hybrids cost more than regular cars. With the average price of regular gasoline now well under $3 a gallon nationally, the payback period on gas savings can be long.

Still, hybrids are a great choice for those who drive many miles — especially in stop-and-go traffic, when the cars recapture energy during braking to power electric motors that help propel the car and save gas. . A compact hybrid generates about 240 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, or just 55% of the amount generated by a conventional gasoline car that gets 25 mpg.

Some are exceptionally well done. The Honda Accord hybrid is a full-size, family sedan that gets 47 mpg in combined driving and goes more than 550 miles between gas station stops.

Plug-in hybrid

Plug-in hybrids run on electricity until their batteries are drained and then switch to gasoline. They're the Swiss Army knife of green cars.

Diesel engines are cleaner, less noisy and more efficient than ever. Above, a diesel-powered Audi A3. (Tribune News Service)
The Volt has an all-electric range of 38 miles. As a group, Volt owners drive about 60% of their miles on electricity alone. Many drive nearly exclusively on electricity, using the gas mode only for long-distance trips. That's why Volt carbon emissions approach the levels of fuel cell vehicles and battery-only electric cars. It's also one of the least expensive vehicles to operate. Just $6.83 in power and fuel will take you 100 miles. Those numbers are expected to improve for owners of the next generation Volt, which comes out this year with an all-electric range of 50 miles.

But not all plug-in hybrids are equal. The Prius plug-in has an all-electric range of just 11 miles, making it barely useful for running the children back and forth to school. The all-electric mode on the Accord plug-in is just 13 miles.


Don't write off the internal combustion engine as an efficient option, especially until automakers can make alternative drivetrains less expensive and more practical. Automakers have greatly improved gas mileage in recent years and offer a wider range of economical gasoline models.

These vehicles also cost less to buy than those with alternative fuel , although they produce about a third more pollution per mile than a comparably sized hybrid.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Apple Ditches Nest Thermostat

Apple reportedly has pulled the Nest smart thermostat from both its online and brick-and-mortar stores, possibly paving the way for its own line of smart home appliances. The thermostat disappeared from Apple's product offerings earlier this month.

Apple's stores now are selling the Ecobee 3, a thermostat that works with Apple's HomeKit, an Internet of Things platform that's part of iOS. HomeKit allows users to control devices in the home via an iPhone or iPad. The newly launched Ecobee 3 retails for US$249.
This is not the first time Apple has pulled rival products. It stopped selling devices from Jawbone and Nike ahead of its launch of the Apple Watch.
However, it seemed that Apple's partnership with Nest was fairly solid, due largely to the fact that Nest CEO Tony Fadell helped develop Apple's iPod. Nest's staff includes many other former Apple employees, and there once was speculation that Apple might acquire the startup.
However, Nest was snapped up by Google for $3.2 billion early last year. That could have created a crack in the Apple-Nest relationship, which apparently has now fractured. It's not clear how big a rift there might be between the companies, however.
The Nest thermostat is still on sale in Apple retail outlets in the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and the Nest camera and smoke alarm could find their way to Apple stores in the near future.
"Apple is a valued partner to Nest, and our new products will be available in Apple in the coming weeks," Nest Labs spokesperson Ivy Choi told the E-Commerce Times.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Camco Clean Energy

Camco Clean Energy is a business in transition – and unrecognisable from the company that effectively hit the buffers in 2012 when the carbon trading market ground to a halt.
It is on the verge of something pretty significant, according to its broker finnCap, as it aims to become a world leader in large-scale liquid energy storage.
Okay, it is a firm in the early commercial phase; but if the technology takes off then we’ll be hearing a lot more about Camco over the next 18 months.
And in American contract manufacturer Jabil Circuit, which manufactures the iPhone for Apple, it has a partner with enough financial muscle and scale to make some very lofty ambitions a reality.

Camco’s REDT technology can trace its evolution back to NASA in the 1970s. It uses an electrolyte of vanadium and sulphuric acid to hold an electric charge for weeks and sometimes months at a time.
While this liquid energy storage has been around for something like 40 years, Camco is one of only two companies to have developed it to a level where it is commercially viable. The other is Cellstrom, which is now owned by the German green energy specialist Gildermeister.
It can be deployed to garner energy from renewable sources such as wind or solar that can be fed into the grid as and when it is needed and not just when it is blowing a gale or during a heatwave.

It can also be used to replace back-up generators that might be used by hospitals or by the telecommunications industry.
In fact Camco and Jabil are targeting four separate markets – utilities, telecoms, diesel genset replacement and the renewables industry.
The idea is the technology will be cheaper than what’s already out there and in most instances REDT is also likely to be a more efficient method of storing power.
At this point it must be pointed out there is more to Camco than energy storage – although the other two businesses won’t be long-term drivers of equity value.

Its African business, which used to advise on financing renewable energy projects, is now a fund manager that has won one mandate and expects to land more as the year progresses.
In the US it has a renewables arm, which doesn’t appear to be part of Camco’s long term focus.
In fact in recent deals it sold California carbon credits that will bring in up to US$3.9million and will help with its short term cash needs.
And, based on its last market update, it is also looking at potentially selling its American biogas arm, which should bring in funds enough to see it through to break-even.
‘It has to be stressed here the equity story is very definitely the battery,’ Camco chief executive Scott McGregor told Proactive Investors.
So the focus is on REDT and the commercial trials taking place in 12 locations around the world.
The locations of two have already been revealed – they are 1.68-megawatt-hour facility next to a wind farm on the Isle of Gigha in Scotland and 240-kilowatts supplying an eco-hotel in South Africa.
Ten other smaller units will be unveiled as the year progresses. The idea is to show potential customers just how cost effective its product is, rather than simply asking them to take it on trust.
‘Our view is we need to implement these systems and the demand will come,’ said CEO McGregor.
‘We have had plenty of interest from prospective customers. We want to focus on getting the initial 12 systems out there.’

The Jabil tie-up, which is a long term collaboration, is an interesting one in that it provides third party validation of the technology.
It also reveals the ambition of both sides as the US firm will be looking to mass produce units for sale around the world – so obviously believes REDT has legs.
‘Interestingly, they found us,’ said McGregor.
‘Jabil had a team searching storage globally because they wanted to get into the market. They decided they wanted to go into flow batteries.
‘After carrying out due diligence on number of companies they decided to go with us.’
Broker finnCap reckons Camco could be turning over £84million (115million euros) by 2018, which translates to operating profits £8.8million (12million euros) – and that it will break even the year before that.
Certainly this isn’t factored into the share price, which has marked time in the year to date and values the business at less than £15million. And this, for prospective investors at least, provides an opportunity.
In a recent note, finnCap analyst Raymond Greaves made this observation: ‘Camco is on the verge of turning itself into a pure-play on the commercial and utility-scale energy storage market – a market that is expected to grow exponentially at least to the end of the decade.
‘Its REDT energy storage business has developed a game-changing product that has been production and cost-engineered by Jabil Circuit, one of the world’s largest sub-contract manufacturers.’

Monday, 27 July 2015

Hillary Clinton’s Climate Change Plan

Mrs. Clinton, who plans to deliver a climate-focused speech Monday in Des Moines, said in a video released Sunday evening, “it’s hard to believe there are people running for president who still refuse to accept the settled science of climate change.”
Mrs. Clinton’s rollout of a plan to address climate change comes on the heels of billionaire climate-change activist Tom Steyer calling for 2016 candidates to develop concrete plans to increase the share of clean energy in the U.S.’s power generation mix to 50% by 2030.
In a statment, Mr. Steyer praised Mrs. Clinton’s proposal without offering explicit financial support. “Today, Hillary Clinton emerged as a strong leader in solving the climate crisis and ensuring our country’s economic security,” he said.
The Clinton campaign said Sunday that her goal would translate to 33% clean energy by 2027 and that when combined with nuclear energy
 Mrs. Clinton's renewable energy fact sheet sets aggressive goals for solar and renewables as it acknowledges the challenge of climate change.
Clinton announced a goal of boosting U.S. installed solar capacity from its current 20 gigawatts to 140 gigawatts by the end of 2020. 
Clinton also announced a goal of generating renewable energy to "power every home in America" by 2026 from a combination of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and other renewables. 
Clean Power Project "a crucial tool in our national strategy to reduce carbon pollution, level the playing field for and increase the deployment of renewable energy."
Opening up solar power to low-­income households, expanding renewable energy on public lands and federal buildings and increasing public investment in clean energy R&D.  
 "Reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States and around the world, guard against energy supply disruptions, and make our communities, our infrastructure, and our financial markets more resilient to climate-­related risks" while making sure "that fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible."

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Final Nail For Green Deal

On Thursday the Department of Energy and Climate Change said it was ceasing financing to the Green Deal Finance Company which issues the loans,and was bailed out by the government last November with a £34m loan.  Today’s move is expected to lead to the company immediately halting the issuing of new loans, although existing ones or loans in progress – known as ‘green deal plans’ – will not be affected.

 The government has no new scheme in place to succeed the green deal, saying simply that it would work with the building industry and consumer groups on energy efficiency policy. Which?, the consumer organisation, said it was right that the government stopped throwing money at a scheme that had not taken off.

 British homes are among some of the least energy efficient in Europe, which can drive up household fuel bills by hundreds of pounds every year.

The government has not yet revealed plans for a replacement scheme to carry out further work to improve household energy efficiency.

 'Zero interest loans to make homes energy efficient would be far more popular and could generate more tax revenue for the Treasury than it costs to subsidise.'

 Greenpeace UK head of energy, said: “The green deal was far from being a success, but coming right after the scrapping of the zero-carbon homes target, this latest move suggests ministers are giving up on efficiency. This would be a false economy. Fixing our heat-leaking homes is a triple-win policy that can bring down bills, cut carbon emissions, and reduce our dependence on energy imports.”

Friday, 1 May 2015

Tesla's home battery pack

The device, which could be in homes by the end of summer, will be able to store electricity when conditions are favorable then discharge it again later in quantities large enough to be useful to homes and businesses.

The Powerwall is around three feet wide and four feet tall, weighs 220lbs, and can be installed either on an outside or inside wall of a home.
The 'daily use' version has a capacity of 7 kilowatt-hours, which is around a quarter of a home's daily usage.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

IFTTT connects your home to the web

Just visit using your iOS device or by using an internet browser to start creating and sharing Recipes with IFTTT.
IFTTT is an amazing new service that puts the internet to work for you. IFTTT lets you create 'Recipes' that connect apps, websites, and devices together to perform all kinds of custom tasks for you.

WeMo Switch
WeMo Switch is one of the basic home automation solutions available today.  It’s a smart plug that allows appliances to be controlled with a mobile device.  Using IFTTT, users can create their own recipes to manage it, or they can choose to use one of the recipes shared by other IFTTT users, such as using the Weather Channel to automatically control the WeMo Switch.
To use this weather-driven recipe, activate both the Weather Channel and the WeMo Switch Channel, then use the recipe created by IFTTT that would turn on the switch at sunset.  Users can plug in their lamp on the WeMo Switch and use this recipe so that lights automatically turn on when the sun sets.  

IFTTT If This Then That

IFTTT is an essential, easy-to-use tool that lets you automate your tech life.
IFTTT is truly one of the best free tools for any user. Hopefully this collection of money and time-saving recipes held something for you.
There are uses for it in home security and automation. The first step is checking to see if your system has a channel. The list is limited right now but growing. Even big players like ADT are taking notice of IFTTT. Currently there are channels for Nest, Philips Hue, Life360, SmartThings, WeMo, Quirky, Wink, Android, and iPhone. While home automation companies have started to open the door for developers to create products that play together, IFTTT takes it a step further by letting you connect stupid with smart things in an extremely easy to use 1+1=2 formula. 
The SmartThings team has created a whole list of popular recipes for those not feeling creative. There is a list of Triggers and a list of possible Alerts. Think switched on, off, open, closed, locked, unlocked, activate siren, motion, presence, temperature, humidity, moisture, or brightness as ingredients you can cook with. There are hundreds of possibilities. These ingredients can be used to make your life safer and easier if you want them to. Here are some recipes made by others that I found innovative:
  • Use FourSquare to unlock your door with a #hashtag.
  • Call your phone is motion is detected.
  • Email you if it is freezing!
  • Log events to your Google Drive.