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Updated regularly, our new blog contains all the latest news and activities relating to the environment so come back frequently!
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Tuesday 24th April 2007

Alex Good
HES Advisor


When I was first told about the greenhouse effect one of the first things I thought was: never mind, technology is advancing so quickly that in the next couple of years we will be a hydrogen economy relying on mostly renewable energy. So far that hasn’t happened, although car manufacturers are sinking huge amounts of money into hydrogen fuel cells and every couple of weeks new advances in solar or hydrogen technology are announced.

I have recently been wondering what form these technologies will take in the future and one possibility that occurred to me was the collapse of the ‘national grid’. What if, instead of power being produced in central power stations by large corporations and piped out to the country, power was produced by individuals for their own and their communities use.

What technologies would be needed? There are two sides to the idea, become more energy efficient and develop small scale renewable energy. For example, there’s mundane things like well insulated loft and walls and energy saving lightbulbs. The other side is more exciting, home grown renewable energy such as solar panels, or fuel cell powered CHP plants, biomass powered boilers etc.

The advantage of all this over the current system is that CHP for example is near 90% efficient. The national grid, on the other hand is only around 40% efficient, a cost people bear in their utility prices. On top of this, the CHP plant would also generate your heat so you would save on heating bills, the predicted cost savings are good although the technology is not quite there yet.

Maybe in ten years time a power cut will just mean you have to go and give the CHP a kick.

Monday 23rd April 2007

Alex Good
HES Advisor


When talking to people about energy efficiency improvements for the home one of the most commonly heard phrases is: “I’d love to but I don’t have the cash”. Well, if that’s you the lib-dems are on your side. They’ve just announced calls for what they have named an ‘energy mortgage’.

This article from the BBC explains a little more but the basic concept is a long term loan secured against your property for the purpose of buying energy efficiency measures.
The idea is that this loan effectively pays itself off in energy savings, which sounds reasonable considering the annual savings are estimated to be £385 for the average household.

Personally I think the idea is a good one, if the energy savings really do pay for themselves over a relatively short period then the main obstacle people face is cash flow, this should deal with that so it should be a no lose situation. If the scheme realizes its full potential then it should make a sizeable dent in the 27% of UK emissions from Home Energy, hopefully saving around 31 million tons of Carbon Dioxide a year.

This sort of innovative, individually based approach is what is needed. Rather than half-hearted blanket measures, such as raising airport tax, we need ways to make ‘going green’ a viable and attractive option.

Friday 20th April 2007

Tom Collins
HES Advisor


For a long time now solar energy in the home has been something reserved for the most stalwart of energy savers because the return on investment is far longer than that seen with say the more widely used energy savers of insulating your walls and loft. Also the efficiency of solar energy has come into question due to the lack of sunlight the lovely island of Britain receives.

But while searching the web this morning I had found that researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the US Department of Energy have discovered a way of making solar energy almost 100% efficient. They say that it’s all down to quantum mechanics and using the same system as plants do for photosynthesis.

Also completely separately at Massey University in New Zealand their researchers have found a way to harness solar energy at a tenth of the cost of silicon based photovoltaic solar cells that are generally used today.

If these two technologies were able to be fused into one then this could spell the start of a solar revolution!

Thursday 19th April 2007

Alex Good
HES Advisor


I was just browsing through a few of the more prominent papers environment sections today and discovered this article about a carbon neutral village in Herefordshire. They’ve done some exciting things, such as installing solar panels and a wind turbine on the school but the real change is in small practical things like turning off lights when they aren’t needed and buying energy saving light bulbs.

The interesting thing about the initiative is that it is community led, we may laugh at the ‘Carbon Neutral Quiz’, but what it represents is a community that has raised awareness and action about climate change; something the government has so far failed to do on a national scale.

Despite the governments lack of definitive action there are many of these community movements such as The Wasteless Society or FreeCycle which are trying to tackle climate change at the community level. To me this is very encouraging, it means that peoples mindsets are changing, something also reflected in the wide exposure given to climate change in the media. People are becoming more and more conscious of the issue, I think we’re still in with a chance to save the planet.

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