Friday, December 22, 2006

Green Bollocks Award for 2006 goes to Windsave

The Low Carbon Kid's Green Bollocks Award for 2006 goes to Windsave, David Cameron's and B&Q's friends who make wind turbines. They are pants.

The Low Carbon Kid has watched this company from the start. They are total crap.

They started off making physically impossible claims (due to the conservation of energy principle).

Then, when I questioned this, for two years wouldn't publish any specs.

Yet at the same time won over politically advantageous friends such as Brian Wilson, former energy minister and others close to the Scottish Executive to win backing.

Their sales literature only included photocollages of turbines on roofs.

I have questioned them at several NEMEX trade shows. Last time - when I pointed out how poorly sited a turbine was - I got some bullshit about things off frame I couldn't see compensating for it.

None of the reps ever seems to know how the things really perform - because they haven't been properly independently tested at BRE (to my knowledge).

I'm impressed by Mark Brinkley's blog on Windsave, which contains some good facts on how poorly they perform - there's so much misunderstanding and therefore misinformation about smallscale windpower.

This is going to cause a public backlash in the future when they find the reality doesn't match the hype.

(The same thing happened in the nineties when Greenpeace overhyped solar electric panels).

You want a proper and honest small scale windpower assessment, probably cheaper than rip-off Windsave? Talk to the master - Hugh Piggott at Scoraig.

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McDonalds Biofuel Madness!

A German company is going to collect and import to Germany used cooking fat from French McDonalds burger bars, turn it into biofuel and send it to fuel British cars.

By the time the carbon cost of all that transport and processing is taken into account, just how low carbon is that fuel going to be?

Wouldn't it be better if people didn't use their cars to go to McDonalds and eat overpackaged crap food grown on trashed Amazon rainforest land in the first place and save all that trouble?

>> Read the Reuters report.

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Shell booted out

As the Low Carbon Kid predicted on December 12 Gazprom has bought Shell out of the Sakhalin Energy group to snatch for Putin a controlling interest in oil and gas exploitation in that environmentally sensitive nature reserve.

It used as an excuse that Shell was breaching environmental law around the Pacific island of Sakhalin.

Now that the environment has been used as a political football for Putin's strategic games, let's see how many fresh abuses of green law the the World Conservation Union finds in the future, and their tactic will be exposed for the sham it is.

Yet another example of Russia's actual disdain for nature is exposed this week as Greenpeace International takes the government to court to prevent them destroying thousands of hectares of virigin forest as part of their bid for the Winter Olympics.

The least bad loser around Sakhalin - if we're lucky - is the environment in that area. But for how long?

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How green are 'green' electricity tariffs?

How green are 'green' electricity tariffs - and how honest are energy suppliers about what you get for your money and and what the environmental benefits really are?

We're often told that switching to a green tarriff is on of the simplest ways to cut carbon emissions from houses and workplaces.

But a study by the National Consumer Council shows that most green tariffs don't live up to the environmental benefits claimed.

The best ones are Good Energy and RSPB Energy from Scottish and Southern. Go there and switch now to reduce your carbon load on the planet!

But so only 1% of households have signed up to the renewable energy tarriffs - despite it being simple to do so - anybody can do it - reflecting the complex and confusing publicity and information from the utility companies.

So why don't they want you to join their schemes?

For instance, no supplier, whether 'green' or otherwise, makes it clear that every GB household is already supporting renewable electricity to the tune of £7 a year through their normal electricity bills (via the Renewables Obligation).

Also the complex rules that encourage all energy suppliers to source renewably can mean the electricity's 'greenness' is oversold (sold more than once). Even choosing a green tariff that offers to plant a tree would not contribute anywhere near enough to offset a household's carbon emissions.

Furthermore, good practice 'green supply' guidelines issued by the energy regulator Ofgem in 2002 are being patchily enforced.
The end result is that not enough NEW renewable energy is being installed.

Green Tarriffs examined

There are three distinct types of green tariff:

  • a green electricity supply tariff, where the supplier guarantees that the electricity it sells to customers is covered by the electricity it buys from renewable sources, backed by the necessary contractual evidence; <>
  • a green energy fund tariff, where the supplier invests the premium consumers pay into new renewable energy, or other environemental projects
  • a carbon offset tariff, where suppliers offer to offset the CO2 emitted by the consumers' electricity and gas supply – by planting trees or by investing in other CO2-reducing projects in the UK or in developing countries. These are becoming more common.

Many tariffs are a hybrid of two or more of these types.

There is a cost to suppliers for providing consumers with 'additional' environmental benefits. To reflect this, suppliers will usually charge a premium for their green tariffs over the standard credit tariff. Consumers may also forego certain discounts that other customers enjoy.

Some suppliers will guarantee to match any premium consumers are paying.

In general, green tariffs with premiums can be expected to offer greater environmental benefits than those without.

The table below shows whether tariffs are based on green supply, a green fund or carbon offset, or a combination of these. It also shows whether or not each tariff attracts a premium over and above the standard credit tariff. It sets out the contractual evidence suppliers use to back up the tariff. This evidence is in the form of certificates issued under the various government instruments explained on page four.

Green supplyGreen FundCarbon OffsetPremium rate?Backed by Renewable Electricity Guarantee of Origin?Backed by retired Levy Exemption Certificates?Backed by Renewables Obligation Certificates? (Ie, over the regulatory minimum?
British Gas – Climate Aware xxn/a
British Gas – Green Electricityx x x
EBICo - Equiclimate xxn/a
Ecotricity – New Energyxx x
Ecotricity – Old Energyx xxx
EDF Energy – Climate Balancex xxn/a
EDF Energy – Green Tariffxx xxx
Good Energyxxxxx
Green Energy – UK 100x xxx
Green Energy – UK 10x xx
Npower – Juicexx xx
Powergen – GreenPlanxx xxx
Scottish and Southern Energy – Power 2xx x
Scottish and Southern Energy – RSPB Energyxx xxxx
Scottish Power – Green Energy Fund x xx
Scottish Power – Green Energy H20x x

>> NCC's report 'Reality or rhetoric? green tariffs for domestic consumers' is here

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Who is the greenest of us all?

Who would you think? The old? The young?? Sun readers? Independent readers?

The answer is not what you'd expect. Below i examine three separate polls which give differing answers, but all agree on one thing - we don't do enough.

The Electricity Policy Research Group (EPRG) at the University of Cambridge commissioned YouGov to survey 1000 UK residents on issues ranging from the future of the electricity supply to their current purchasing decisions.

While climate change concerns are voiced most strongly among the young, Liberal Democrat voters and Guardian/Independent readers, these attitudes are not translated into personal action.

The poll showed, for example, that Guardian/Independent readers are no more likely to have taken any specific energy saving actions than tabloid readers, and are actually less likely to have insulated their homes.

Older people who are least concerned with climate change are also far more likely to have taken concrete action to save energy, including buying energy efficient light bulbs, insulating their homes and lowering their thermostats.

I think this is due to the fact that the old, and the poorer, are more likely to insulate due to the need to cut bills.

The survey revealed that while half of the respondents had changed electric or gas suppliers in the past five years, 90% cited reasons of price and just 4% claimed greener energy as the reason they switched.

The EPRG report ranked environment and fuel prices among the top ten issues facing the UK and placed climate change as the top environmental concern.

But another poll, conducted by YouGov two months ago of 2,455 adults, found those living in the West Midlands were the least likely to be green, whereas people in Yorkshire were most likely to engage in eco-friendly activities. The Green Net Apitude (GNA) scale was conceived by npower and Adrian White, a psychologist from the University of Leicester.

"People who are able to delay gratification - to invest in their future - are much more likely to make green choices," said White. "For example teachers have a high GNA score compared to estate agents who may be working in a culture of short-term commission."

This one found that, "perhaps surprisingly", drivers of gas-guzzling Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) were more inclined to recycle or use energy-efficient light bulbs than drivers of small "greener" cars.

The poll discovered significant support for investing in renewable energy, with over two-thirds of respondents saying they would support wind farms even if situated in their own locality.

Roughly half of the people surveyed by Cambridge supported the building of new nuclear power stations, provided they were based on existing sites. Surprisingly, one-third supported the establishment of new sites around the country.

Coal-power was considered the least popular energy option, although opinions improved when those surveyed learnt more about developments in carbon dioxide capture and storage technologies.

But yet another poll, an 'old Europe'-wide Harris poll published by the Financial Times last month, found 85% in favour of their governments spending more on renewable energy. In France and Spain, more than 90% backed increased investment in renewables.

In Europe, the debate on global warming is over. Even in the UK, the most sceptical country, 77% believe human activity is contributing to climate change, and in the other four countries polled the proportion is close to 90%.

There is "significant resistance" to the idea of building more nuclear power stations across old Europe. Only 30% "strongly or somewhat" support building new nuclear plants, while 46% oppose it.

However, when asked about costs, just 5% say they would pay over a week's wages to fight global warming, and 33% wouldn't pay anything.

Dr David Reiner, Course Director of the MPhil in Technology Policy at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and author of the Cambridge report, said: “There is a real engagement among the British public on questions of energy and environment, particularly over climate change. There is a willingness to support government policies, but even those groups that are the strongest supporters of policy action do not translate this support into their personal energy saving behaviour. They show a clear divergence between their views as citizens and their actions as consumers.”

So although all three polls disagree on exactly what we do, they all agree that we care, but we don't do enough.

My conclusion? The government should just make it harder and harder for us to conduct wasteful and polluting activities by removing that element of choice.

Ban wasteful and inefficient goods, and tax heavily climate-harming actions like air flights.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tools for Tanzania

Wanted: Tools for Tanzania
We've just had a flying visit from Joseph Sekiku, who runs Fadeco, a grassroots development project in NW Tanzania. This remote area of Tanzania is informally twinned with the Dyfi Valley where i live.

I'm chair of Friends of Fadeco, which i and some friends started eight years ago after I visited the region and met Joseph.

Joseph is a beautiful man after my own heart, a total inspiration, modest and visionary, and supremely resourceful as Africans have to be.

He is one of three people in an area the size of Wales with a population of 500,000 that have a degree. Most are illiterate and subsistence growers.

I am fully aware of the dangers and ambiguities of much so-called 'development', but we support Joseph's work because it is appropriate, sensitive, and necessary.

In particular we are now supporting the building and fitting out of a training centre - The Eden Centre for Sustainability. They need equipment to train people so they can become self-reliant, and gain an income.

Tools for Self-Reliance is making a delivery to the area in January 2007. We want to get as many tools as possible on this trip. The tools they need are:

Sewing machines: treadles, hand or even electric; carpentry sets: saws, planes, etc; mechanics tools: spanners, car jacks, ladders, wielding tools, soldering tools; masonry tools: brick making machines, trowels, squares, tape measures. etc. A 4X4 motor cycle which can pull a small trailer.

Please donate anything you can.

If you're local perhaps you can leave them at in Machynlleth: Peter Harper/Andy Rowland's houses (21 Heol Pentrahedyn, Machynlleth) or Taliesin: Flic and Richard's /Temperance House or Corris: mine (Glanydon, by the bridge). Or we can pick them up. Someone can then take them all down to TFSR Crickhowell (Is anyone going that way in January?).

If you're not local, TFSR has many local branches. Or go to the FoF web site - link above - and join/make a donation.

We're also supporting a radio station - Joseph has just got a licence from the govt. If anyone has a transmitter, or can donate £1000 to buy one. This would allow the broadcasting of vital health and ecological information to an illiterate and rural population otherwise unreachable.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Shell in deep water

Gazprom is now saying it could land a $30bn damages claim at Shell's door.

The deputy head of Russia's energy agency, Gazprom, Oleg Mitvol, has repeatedly accused Shell of breaching environmental law on the Pacific island of Sakhalin where it's exploiting a massive oil field in a highly environmentally sensitive area.

Accusations include illegal forest clearance, dumping soil in rivers and polluting one of the island's bays.

It won't be the first time Shell has made a mess of a beautiful place - cf Nigeria.

The Royal Dutch Shell-led Sakhalin Energy group also includes Japan's Mitsui and Mitsubishi.

But I believe the environment is a convenient football here, and the real goal of the Kremlin is to make billions and take better control of its energy assets for the sake of a higher profile on the global political stage.

When it flogged off its energy assets in the early '90s the deals weren't what it now thinks it can get. Russia does not receive the full benefit until Strategic International investors receive the cost of their investments back in full.

Shell was claiming a large increase in costs, thereby deferring further the profit Russia wants, even though the costs were probably at least partly justified.

Investors in Russia must align themselves with the government. The Kremlin sees the future for Russia's global dominance very largely in energy terms.

Elsewhere in Russia, for example in the selling off of millions of hectares of virgin forest to China, we can tell that Russia dosn't give a damn for the environment.
In this battle royal between two giants, we can only hope that the environment - and with it the Western Pacific gray whales that use the seas around Sakhalin for mating - is, even if incidentally, a winner.

And by the way full marks to IUCN for keeping watch and alerting us to the damage. And to Greenpeace for forcing Russia to make 74,400 hectares of ancient forest the ‘Kalevalski National Park’.

The creation of this new national park, which plays a vital role in preserving the biodiversity of northern Europe, marks the culmination of an eleven-year-long campaign by Greenpeace and conservation groups in Russia.

The less oil you use, the healthier our planet is.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Llwybr Diogel i Benegoes - Safe Route for Penegoes

We're supporting this campaign to put pedestrians and cyclists first over road vehicles!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Only a slightly greener shade of Brown

The Chancellor's Pre-Budget Report announced a package of environmental measures, but revealed that the greening of Gordon Brown is still a work very much in progress.

It included a doubling of all rates of Air Passenger Duty, an ambition that all new homes to be zero carbon within a decade, with a time-limited stamp duty exemption for the majority of zero-carbon homes, and plans to make the City the hub for a mature global emissions trading market.

But the rise in air passenger duty is unlikely to put enough people off flying, or reverse steeply rising emissions from aviation unless the revenue is reinvested in improving energy efficiency.

The stamp duty waiver will only affect a fraction of the market in new homes.

There was no carrier-bag tax and no VAT relief on carbon-friendly goods and services.

The measures add up to much less than the 1% of GDP on preventive measures advocated by Sir Nicholas Stern.

Gordon has taxed the poor and left the rich alone.

If he really wanted to make his mark as a true socialist, he would have taxed the Chelsea Tractors, multiple car owners, raised the lower threshold for stamp duty and added an extra band at the top.

This would tax the people that could afford it - but he is frightened of upsetting them. Brown as Prime Minister - not something I'm looking forward to.

Why didn't we get lower Council Tax and Stamp Duty for greener houses (apart from new, zero-carbonn ones) and higher ones for wasteful homes, and adjustment of the rates of VAT and Planning Gain Supplement for developers who build homes to high environmental standards, as called for by the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee, led by Tim Yeo?

Levels of R&D expenditure in the UK are among the lowest in Europe for low carbon tech. Much more funding from a revised Renewbales Obligation needs to go into developing and installing renewable technologies, especially in the marine and offshore wind sectors.

APD (aviation tax) is a "blunt instrument" that does not differentiate between the relative carbon-efficiency of different flights.

APD could be levied per flight, rather than per passenger. Differential landing fees could be introduced, which could be used to complement a reformed and increased APD by specifically targeting the fuel efficiency of different models of aircraft.

Part or all of the revenue generated should be put towards investment in improving rail services and to accelerating the development and introduction of more energy efficient aircraft designs.

And why are airport vehicles are allowed to run on [untaxed] "red diesel"? Although it is true that these do not run on public roads, given that airports are major sources of both carbon emissions and air pollution.

Finally, carbon offsetting payments should be a compulsory charge on all airline tickets.

Unbelievably, the Department for Transport does not quantify the carbon emissions resulting from transport as a sector in its PSA.

Yet the Department is able to claim credit for being on course to meet the UK's Kyoto target, even while presiding over the worst performing sector of the economy in terms of trends in emissions.

The existing differentials in VED between different categories of cars should have been widened substantially. Gordon has abandoned the fuel duty escalator even though it has played an important role in helping to reduce the increase in CO2 emissions from road transport.

The Department for Transport does not intend to reinstate the Low Carbon Bus Grant programme. So how is it going to incentivise bus operators to introduce low carbon vehicles on a large scale?

For the record, below is a summary of all the new 'green' initiatives in PBR2006:


From February, air passenger duty on flights to the EU - 75% of all flights - will double from £5 to £10. Duty on long-haul flights for the lowest class of travel will rise from £20 to £40 while business-class trips to destinations outside the EU jump from £40 to £80.

The scope of the European rates of air passenger duty will also be widened to include all of the signatories to the European Common Aviation Area Agreement, from 1 February.

Emissions Trading

In parallel with talks with the French Finance Ministry (on economic instruments around climate change, particularly to improve the EU ETS) and the New Zealand Government (on emissions trading), the Government will bring together leading City and international players to examine the accounting, legal and institutional steps needed to support a mature planet-wide emissions trading market.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

The Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) is to tender for engineers to evaluate the costs of a CCS demonstration plant, and the best development route - for example a challenge fund. Meanwhile the UK and Norway hope to have completed by July a study into the infrastructure, market framework and value chain are needed to transport and store carbon dioxide below the North Sea.


The Finance Bill 2007 will excuse from income tax any revenue generated by small scale renewable technologies on homes, in order to support wider uptake.

Climate change levy (CCL)

CCL rates will increase in line with inflation from 1 April to maintain the levy's environmental impact. The new rates will be:
• Electricity 0.441p per KWh
• Gas 0.154p per KWh
• LPG 0.985p per kg
• Solid fuels 1.201p per kg

Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC)

New investment of £7.5 million goes to Warm Front and the Energy Efficiency Commitment to allow 300,000 more households to receive free insulation and central heating.

By the end of 2008, the Chancellor said 2.7m homes would have been insulated through the Warm Front scheme.

The Winter Fuel Allowance for pensioners will also be continued, but not increased. Households with somebody aged over 60 will receive £200 and those aged over 80 will receive £300. But consumer champion energywatch expressed disappointment that there are still many fuel poor who "appear to have been ignored".

Energy efficiency in buildings

The Treasury is still investigating whether an energy services model for delivering greater efficiencies can be achieved. So it is looking into ways of
financing energy audits and other energy-saving measures.

It hopes, via the Code for Sustainable Homes, that by 2016 all new homes will be 'zero-carbon'. Stamp duty will therefore be abolished for most new zero-carbon homes.

For the rented sector, it plans to expand the Landlords Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) to corporate landlords, its sunset clause from 2009 to 2015, and extend its allowance of up to £1,500 for cavity wall and loft insulation to each property rather than each building, including floor insulation in the measures to be compensated for.

In the public sector, higher standards are to be explored for new and refurbished schools to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 60% over existing standards, and in some cases up to carbon neutrality.

Road transport

A 1.25p per litre increase in petrol duty for unleaded fuel, in line with inflation, the first increase since 2003.

Mr Brown ruled out a return to the fuel duty escalator that used to imposed inflation-beating increases each year, much to the dismay of environmentalists and the Environmental Audit Committee. The differential with LPG is reduced by 1p but compressed natural gas (CNG) keeps its differential.

The Treasury is looking at extending the current duty incentive for biogas - equivalent to almost 40p per litre - and will update the position at Budget 2007.

Regulations to ensure the widespread availability of sulphur-free diesel and sulphur-free 'super' grades of petrol will enter into force in late 2007.

The 20p per litre fuel duty differential for biofuels will be extended to enable a pilot involving the use of biomass in conventional fuel production to go ahead. The definition of biofuels will be amended to include biodiesel that is capable of being blended in excess of 5%.

A rate of 7.69p per litre will apply to biofuels used on the railways, as operators are to conduct pilot schemes exploring their use in trains.
On company cars, the government is looking at the case for incentivising the take-up of 'flex-fuel' vehicles, capable of using high-blend bioethanol E85.

Critics complained that the existing differentials in VED between different categories of cars were not widened.

The Environmental Audit Committee pointed out that the Department for Transport does not quantify the carbon emissions resulting from transport as a sector in its PSA.

Yet the Department is able to claim credit for being on course to meet the UK's Kyoto target, even while presiding over the worst performing sector of the economy in terms of trends in emissions.

This was not changed in the PBR, nor was the fact that airport vehicles are allowed to run on [untaxed] "red diesel".

'Chelsea Tractors' escaped the higher tax measures many had expected, in light of falling sales of 4x4 cars, said Mr Brown.


Landfill Tax is to be increased from 1 April by £3 to £24 per tonne, and may increase more steeply from 2008 onwards, or go beyond the £35 per tonne already committed to for the medium to long-term. The Aggregates Levy will be extended for a further year (2007-08).

> Read the Report

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Planning overhaul would an improvement for the environment

The Barker Review, by Bank of England policymaker Kate Barker on planning regulations for England, has put sustainability at the heart of the planning system, identifying planning as playing a vital role in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Kate Barker said rooftop wind turbines to cut carbon dioxide emissions should not be hindered by planning laws, and planning permission should take account of future flooding from climate change.

Planning applications should be approved unless there were strong reasons against them - streamlining the planning process could save businesses and local authorities hundreds of millions of pounds. The Review argues that "Statements of Strategic Objectives" should be drawn up for energy, transport, waste proposals and strategic water proposals (such as new reservoirs).

These should be given locations or areas where they might be built, using the term "spatially specific", "to give greater certainty and reduce the time taken at inquiry discussing alternative sites. Regional Spatial Strategies and local plans should reflect these national Statements and indicate, in particular, where regional facilities are needed."

The British Wind Energy Association welcomed the proposal as it would substantially reduce the waiting time for approval, currently an average of 15 months. The Review called for:
• a rapid increase in the turnaround of planning decisions
• an increase in planning resources to reflect changing priorities
• ring-fencing business rates for local communities
• permitted development rights for micro-wind installations.

The Review will now be considered by the Treasury which said that "in the context of the increased competitive climate caused by globalization the Government is committed to further reform, to ensure that planning delivers the development that England needs."

> Barker Review

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Boxer to fight for action

The California Senator who helped steer through July's groundbreaking legislation on climate change, Barbara Boxer, has replaced the denialist Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe as head of the influential US Senate environmental committee.

This means at last there may be a breakthrough on the international negotiations for caps on carbon emissions under Kyoto, stalled for years by Bush regime oil-interest negativisim.

Perhaps the best news for the environment for five years, Boxer has already promised major policy shifts on global warming, air quality and toxic-waste cleanup.

She was a co-sponsor of the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. She said on Aug 31 when California introduced caps on emissions:

"California's bill has a goal of a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. Senator Jeffords’ bill [which she co-sponsored] shares this goal, and then continues with an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“President Bush has not only failed to act, he is actively trying to stop California’s efforts to control global warming emissions from automobiles.

“The risks are too great to turn our back on this serious problem. The federal government should follow California’s lead in addressing global warming, for the health of our economy and the future of our country.”

Perhaps now it can.

This pint-sized Boxer packs a punch alright.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

£60m solar energy boost for Wales

G24i - one of the global leaders in the production of solar energy - is investing £60 million in a revolutionary solar panel production plant that will create 300 highly skilled jobs at Wentloog Park in Cardiff.

The plant will be the UK 's first zero carbon manufacturing facility.

Cardiff Council has signalled that it wants to make the city a world-class centre for renewable energy technology. The Welsh Assembly government has given much support but the project does not involve any public money.

It is the biggest single investment in Wales since 1999.

The plants's product, thin film dye sensitised solar cells for which G24i has bought the licence, can be made into small plastic foil or film patches for use on clothing or products, or into much larger surface areas up to the size of a roof top. Tthe initial market is expected to be for mobile consumer led products such as mobile phone chargers, smart textiles (incorporating the technology into fabrics), emergency and homeland security applications, MP3 players, laptop computers and handheld game consoles.

G24i plans to begin manufacturing early in 2007. 200 Megawatts (MW) of production capability will be on stream by the end of 2008.

Paul Turney, Chief Executive of G24i, said: “With the tremendous global explosion in the use of mobile electronic devices, there is a huge untapped market for G24i’s ground-breaking technology and products that will provide individuals with the opportunity to personally contribute to mitigating climate change on our planet.”

> G241

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

The naked truth about renewables

Women come clean - calendar girls go naked for green power

Awel Aman Tawe 2007 Calendar - naked women

Awel Aman Tawe is launching its 2007 Calendar. AAT is a community energy project in the Upper Swansea and Amman Valleys. It aims to contribute to local regeneration and implementation of Agenda 21 objectives through the development of 'Community Energy Schemes'.

It is in the style of Calendar Girls - nothing too rude, but it's fun, informative, practical and a little bit saucy. Each month features a different renewable energy or energy saving technology.

The naked truth is that climate change is the biggest threat we face, and the most important cause is our burning of fossil fuels for energy. The time for action is now. Make 2007 your year for clean energy and enjoy 12 months of saucy yet informative displays of renewable energy and energy effi ciency measures that you can implement. Are you ready to embrace the revolution?

‘Natural Power’ Calendar 2007.

> AAT website

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Nuclear - bad for business?

British Energy shares have suffered dramatically in the last two days as reports confirm multiple problems affecting most of its plants across the UK.

This is heaping even more pressure onto the already shaky financial status of the company, and casts further doubt on the viability of an industry already hugely subsidised by the taxpayer.

British Energy has confirmed that it is to close some of its nuclear plants, including Hunterston, due to cracks in boilers and in coolant pipes. The company has admitted that only one of its plants, Torness, appears to be working 'normally'.

British Nuclear Group which operates Sellafield, was also fined £500,000 yesterday for pollution.

For further information on the impact these multiple problems are having on the viability of the nuclear industry see: The Guardian and Reuters.

South Scotland Green MSP Chris Ballance has demanded a report on the state of Torness nuclear plant in East Lothian. Although not as old as Hunterston it is the same reactor design. He is calling for the company and the Nuclear Inspectorate to make the latest results publicly available as soon as possible.

Chris Ballance MSP, Green speaker on nuclear issues said: "This incident, the latest in a long string of problems, emphasises the cost and dangers of relying on nuclear power for electricity needs. When something goes wrong, it really can go badly wrong, both in terms of the environment and for the already disastrous finances of nuclear power. I want assurance that checks are being made at Torness, and for a report to be made publicly available without delay."

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Renewables - good for business?

A study into the performance achieved by investors in low-carbon energy technology companies in Europe has shown an average annualised return of 86.7% per annum.

The European Clean Energy Venture Returns Analysis (ECEVRA), which was commissioned by the organisers of the European Energy Venture Fair, looked at the returns achieved by a sample of 19 investors who had invested in 57 companies in the sector since 1999. Among the other key findings were the following:
  • Of 57 portfolio companies sampled, five had completed an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and three had been sold to a trade buyer. This group of companies had produced an average annualised return of 476% for their investors
  • A further nine had undergone a second or subsequent venture investment round at a higher valuation, yielding an average annual return (on paper) of 14.9%.
  • Six companies had been liquidated, with the majority of money invested being lost.
  • The remaining 34 portfolio companies had not undergone any subsequent investment round, and so were valued for the purpose of the study at the same value as at the time of the initial investment. Many of these were quite recent investments, and could prove highly attractive.
  • The 57 companies in the sample had raised a total of €130.8m of venture capital money, and €449m in follow-on funding from the public markets.
  • The companies in the sample have created a total of 2,700 direct jobs.
  • It is estimated that in total European venture capital-backed clean energy companies have created a total of just under 9,000 direct jobs and a total of 24,000 direct and indirect jobs in the European economy.

On the other hand, in the States, whereas in 2005 solar stocks outperformed the average NASDAQ stock by an amazingly wide margin -- almost 100 times, despite California passing major pro-solar legislation and state after state following suit, as of the end of the 3rd quarter, solar has been was one of the worst market sectors to be invested in.

- Average Loss for US solar stocks in 2006 = -11.98%
- Average Gain for Leading US Indexes in 2006 = +6.13%.

According to Wall Street analyst J. Peter Lynch "the solar sector is currently oversold and is certainly due for at least a technical "bounce" up. But it is still suffering from short-term emotions and fears. There is no doubt in my mind that the future of the solar industry is brighter than ever. As with any new industry, there will initially be greater volatility and will more than likely be more losers than winners."

In the longer run the Low Carbon Kid expects a shake-out rather as has happened in the internet sector - small companies pioneering the way, but we end up with a few giants at the end, and these may well be the traditional oil giants, reconfigured. After all, they've got the capital and muscle.

The question is, how green will they really be?

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Can biofuels reduce climate change emissions?

It is often claimed that biofuels are carbon-neutral because when they are burnt they only release the CO2 that was already in the atmosphere.

There are, however, considerable CO2 emissions from the refinery and distillery process needed to produce biodiesel or bioethanol, as well as from transport, the use of farm machinery, and fertilizer production.

Biodiesel in particular is linked to high emissions of the potent and long-lasting greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, which is released by microbes when nitrogen fertilizers are applied to soils, and also during the production of nitrogen fertilizers. Some, though not all studies, also link biodiesel to higher tailpipe emissions of nitrous oxide and nitrogen oxide. Nitrogen oxide is a precursor to tropospheric ozone, a strong but short-lived greenhouse gas.

And, finally, there are emissions of CO2 from soils as more land is put under the plough.

SE Asia Peat Fires

An urgent email alert run by Ecological Internet urges people to support strong international action against the destruction of peat forests in south-east Asia. Peat drainage and burning is linked to palm oil and timber expansion and logging and is a major contributor to global warming. Emails must be sent before 4th November.

NPower and Palm Oil

Npower (RWE) want to burn palm oil from SE Asia - linked to deforestation, evictions, human rights abuses, and to peat and forest fires causing around three times the greenhouse gas emissions that the Kyoto Protocol is meant to save. Tell Npower to drop their plans!

Thanks to email and letter-writing campaigns, all major UK supermarkets have now agreed to join Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.


Parliamentary Lobby 28 November 2006

Oppose the Government’s proposal that ‘nuclear has to play a role in the future UK generating mix’.

Come to the mass lobby and join some of the leading experts on nuclear issues in persuading MPs to oppose some of the provisions in the forthcoming Energy White Paper.

Mass Lobby of Parliament : 28 November 2006
- Book to see your MP in Portcullis House (or Houses of Parliament)
- Invite her/him to listen to presentations in:
The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, Westminster, 1-5pm
Full lobby information available from:
Tel. 01603 631007
The Greenhouse, 42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich NR2 1NR.

Four Crucial Themes

Introduced by Ian Gibson, MP
- The Way Forward: decentralisation, renewables and energy conservation (1-2pm): Allan Jones, MBE, Prof Sue Roaf and Dr Rajat Gupta; chaired by Michael Meacher MP
- Nuclear Economic Liabilities (2-3pm): Antony Froggatt and David Lowry; chaired by Chris Huhne MP
- Nuclear: not the solution to climate change (3-4pm): Dr Kevin Andersen and Dr Bridget Woodman; chaired by Tim Yeo MP
- The Nuclear Nightmare: contamination and proliferation (4-5pm): by Dr Frank Barnaby, Dr Kate Hudson and Dr Rebecca Johnson; chaired by Hywel Thomas MP

Friday, October 13, 2006

Low energy lighting - the challenges

The energy used in lighting worldwide could be 80% higher in 2030 than today if no action is taken to hold back the expected surge in demand, according to the International Energy Agency.

But, says its executive director Claude Mandil, "if we simply make better use of today's edition lighting technologies and techniques, the global demand need be no greater than today."

Lighting currently consumes more electricity than is produced by either hydro or nuclear power and results in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to about 70% of the world's cars.

At the G8's Gleneagles summit of July 2005 the IEA was asked to come up with recommendations for lighting efficiency. It found in a report published a year later that lighting is routinely supplied to spaces where no one is present and/or far brighter than it needs to be.

Even more savings could be realised through the intelligent use of controls, lighting levels and daylight. Mandil says that following such simple measures would save more than 16,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and 2,600 billion US dollars through reduced energy and maintenance costs.

The International Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) Harmonisation Initiative is seeking a single international testing method to measure energy efficiency, which will reduce manufacturing cost, make it easier for manufacturers to sell their products throughout the world, and facilitate more effective regulation.

This should help promote universal market penetration of the bulbs.

Light Emitting Diodes

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are much more efficient than even CFLs, and will last a lot longer. The Market Transformation Programme (MTP) has estimated that LED lighting in homes could save 12.7 terawatt hours per annum by 2020.

Despite this, in countries like the UK, the choice of which lamp to buy is not so much based on running costs as on style. If LEDs are to make an impact on the domestic lighting market policies will need to be developed that will encourage synchronous development of them together with the luminaires that use them.

Manufacturers will not start to use LEDs in their designs unless they are encouraged to.

LEDs have several major benefits: they are long-lived, they provide the kind of sparkle light effect popular in the home, and they already exceed the energy efficiency of tungsten filament and trunks and halogen lamps.

If a luminaire is well-designed, the bulbs can last for all the usable lifetime of the luminaire itself. This means from a builder's point of view, they can be placed in inaccessible places. Even fittings used for six to eight hours a day would last between 17 and 20 years.

The drawback with CFLs is that even the "warm white" lamps have a colder appearance than GLS bulbs. It is partly for this reason that tungsten halogen lamps have made large intrusions into domestic lighting, and also office lighting.

However the newest white light LEDs are giving about 70 lumens per watt, expected to rise to 160 by 2020.

The MTP hopes that the Lighting Association's DEELs programme can be extended to include LED luminaires.

A good DEEL in the UK

Over £3,500,000 of The Lighting Association's DEELS (Domestic Energy Efficient Luminaire Scheme) subsidies have been claimed so far, equivalent to over 706,000 energy efficient products in the marketplace.

DEELS enables the retail of energy efficient luminaires at the same competitive price as conventional (GLS) luminaires. This gives the more energy conscious customer an increasing variety of designs at realistic prices, whilst saving on their energy costs. The manufacturers of the lights are subsidised per lamp and ballast used in each approved product.

In addition, over 928,000 energy efficient lamps have been supplied by the Energy Efficient Lamp Scheme (EELS) for independent retailers. This is because independent stores could not compete with major retailers on price where compact fluorescent lights are concerned. The Lighting Association therefore purchases them wholesale just like a large company such as IKEA, which is able to sell them for under £1.

This scheme establishes a competitive route to market for energy efficient lamps. Assured that the lamps are of the highest quality, retailers also have a large choice of styles, including stick, look-a-like, candle look-a-like, halogen and a variety of wattage and cap types.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stop Climate Chaos march/cycle protest timetable

10.00am Cycle protest assembles at Lincoln's Inn Fields, South side (Holborn/Temple tube). Goes via ExxonMobil offices, Australian Embassy and Downing Street to arrive at US embassy at 11.30 am.

11.00am Rally opens : Messages from around the world, performance poetry & musical protest with "Seize the Day" and others.

12 noon Main Rally at US Embassy, Grosvenor Square. Speakers include George Monbiot, Colin Challen MP, Caroline Lucas MEP, Norman Baker MP, Zac Goldsmith.

1.00 pm March for Global Climate Justice from US embassy to Trafalgar Square

1.45 - 2.00 pm March joins i-Count's Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square

1.00 - 3.00pm i-Count Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square

Stop climate chaos are limiting their activities to the UK but the march organisers, CCC, are keen on international solidarity, more on:

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

From cardboard to caviar - an exemplary sustainable winner

A novel closed-loop project, which converts waste cardboard into valuable Siberian sturgeon and caviar with the help of socially disadvantaged groups and energy from a renewable source, has won an award and is the type of project that warms the carbon-free cockles of the Low Carbon Kid's heart.

The Green Business Network’s (GBN’s) ABLE project at Caldervale sewage treatment works in Wakefield is a partnership with Yorkshire Water, East Wakefield Primary Care Trust, and West Yorkshire Probation Service for the regeneration of a 34 acre former landfill site. It has won the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management’s (CIWM) inaugural ‘Innovative Practice in Wastes Management and Resource Recovery Award 2006’.

Siberian sturgeon and caviar are produced from waste cardboard that is first shredded for animal bedding. The used bedding is composted using worms, and excess worms are fed to the sturgeon. In the future, worms from food composted on site will also be used. The project provides training to aid in the rehabilitation of offenders recovering from substance misuse.

The output of composted sludges from the sewage treatment works will be used to grow willow, which will then be burnt as a biofuel to heat water in the fish tanks, saving Yorkshire Water and the environment the cost of its transport. In addition, along with many other activities, the project will create a 3km wildlife trail using recycled plastic groundblocks, manufactured by Intruplas Ltd, a recycling company previously set up by the GBN. The path will also use recycled glass substrate.

The project is a superb win-win-win demonstration of sustainable development, providing training and development of job skills for groups from the probation service and youngsters from across the West Yorkshire area in danger of being excluded from school. They will receive training in aquaculture, horticulture, land and countryside management and will grow plants and vegetables in planters made from recycled plastic again from Intruplas. Fencing from the company will also be used around the site.

Project Manager, Graham Wiles explained: “The project conserves the resources of today for use tomorrow. At the same time it uses those resources as a catalyst for the training and education of disadvantaged people, enabling them to be integrated back into society. Some of these people have severe learning difficulties and the horticultural side is extremely beneficial”.


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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Micro CHP - bringing power to the masses?

Those in favour of Micro CHP argue that it has the power to be a disruptive heating technology, because of its revolutionary impact in getting so much more for less. But how effective is it?

Micro CHP is considered to be anything up to about 10kW, although the larger models are generally sold to small businesses such as restaurants. At the lower end, a 1kW model called Ecowill has sold very well in Japan -- in the last financial year 10,000 units were shipped. Manufacturer Delta estimates that 16,000 units were sold in 2005, representing about 31MW of generating capacity. Although only five companies offer products on a commercial basis, several others express confidence that they will have a product ready for the market by next year or the following year. Micro CHP markets may see an exponential growth over the next three to five years, enthusiasts say.

But critics argue that the technology is still untested. Units, typically the size of a fridge, can sit in the kitchen and run continuously in order to provide heat and electricity. Running on gas, they share the same advantages as large scale CHP -- in other words more benefit for the same amount of gas. Nevertheless, the units are expensive with a long payback time, although recent legislation in the UK may help to reduce this is especially if surplus electricity can be exported back to the grid.

Does it really save carbon?

A study at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh of residential micro CHP (Stirling engine) in four different climate conditions concluded that there was a slight benefit - 0.4 to 0.8 tonnes per year of carbon per kilowatt, depending on the technology. This depended to some extent on the coincidence of the demand for heat and the demand for electricity; and whether it was possible to store excess electricity or export it to the grid and gain carbon credits for doing so. This was highlighted as being particularly desirable for future policy change. The tick-over gas usage and power management regime would also need to be tightly controlled in order to ensure the carbon benefits required.
Jon Slowe of Delta argues that a Stirling engine product costs around £600 more than a conventional boiler but will save between £100 and £200 a year.

Looking slightly further into the future, fuel cell driven micro CHP will be a more efficient option, and is being introduced in Japan now. This is likely to have a much better carbon impact. Government support is required to encourage mass production of units and therefore bring the price down.

Mark Hinnells, at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, has modelled a whole series of policy initiatives leading to a 60% reduction in the carbon impact of our homes by 2050 which include the promotion of fuel cell powered CHP.

Additionally, if you think about it, running one of these units is like leaving the motor of car running continuously -- therefore in an expected lifetime of say 13 years, if it were a car, it would be travelling many hundreds of thousands of miles – like going to the moon and back several times. Moving parts wear out, and therefore maintenance might be expected to be expensive (accelerated testing is being conducted). Service agreements will therefore need to be entered into by consumers with a cost impact similar to those currently used for gas combi boilers.

Micro CHP in the short term is therefore expected to establish itself only in niche markets. More aggressive growth is possible towards the end of the decade if HVAC manufacturers engage more firmly with the technology. Hinnells argues that the only way this is like this to happen on a large scale is if energy service companies (ESCOs) take up the management of energy in the home and implement Micro CHP on a wide scale. They should see the technology as a good investment.

Virtual power plants

However, an experiment in the Netherlands shows a slightly different model. Drawing on a real-life research that used 15 Stirling engine power micro CHPs in the same housing estate, Renee Kamphuis of the Netherlands’ Energy Research Centre argues that in the future such clusters can be aggregated to create what they call 'virtual power plants'. These intelligent clusters can draw power on demand as the grid requires it.

Householders would receive the benefit of selling their surplus electricity drawn in this way, but would have to accept that for some of the time their units might be remotely controlled. Naturally such a system implies the introduction of an IT network into every home.

However such networks are likely to be introduced into homes anyway in order to roll out so-called smart meters, which can be read remotely by the electricity or gas utility company. It is a small leap from this to imagine that they could actually draw power from your unit and pay you for it when they needed it. This would create a truly distributed decentralised grid.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Blow for community renewable energy

Awel Aman Tawe community wind farm has lost its appeal against an adverse planning decision by Neath Port Talbot County BoroughCouncil.

It has been in development for six years. As the Inspector himself says, "it It has been highlighted as an example in a number of case study documents, awards and at conferences" as a good example of community involvement.

But the inspector said the size of the turbines and their location, and the fact that the community was deeply divided, plus the relation of the proposal to national policy, were reasons to turn the appeal down.

Project Manager Dan McCallum expressed his disappointment saying "The decision seems an extremely conservative interpretation of TAN8 planning policy which we feel may have serious implications for the development of the wind sector in Wales."

The long-winded nature of the whole processs leaves no doubt as to why there are so few community-based renewable energy projects in the UK, and why we are so slow to meet our targets on renewables.

The Inspector criticised the community aspect by saying that the rewards to the community "do not relate to such matters as highway improvements, mitigation for any adverse impacts from construction activities or payments to overcome adverse implications for telecommunications. In consequence any community benefits that would arise from this development cannot be a consideration in any assessment of the acceptability or otherwise of the proposed scheme in planning terms."

It would seem that more coperation from the Council in the spirit of the enterprise would have saved everyone a lot of time and money.

The inspector's conclusion is particularly sad:

"I accept that renewable and sustainable energy development is to be generally supported and encouraged and that the Assembly Government is committed to playing its part by delivering an energy programme which contributes to reducing carbon emissions.

"However such support is not, in relation to this particular type of development in this location, unqualified. I am not convinced that, in this case, the environmental impacts arising from this proposal can be avoided or minimised or that the proposed development would accord with local planning policies in the development plan or emerging UDP.

"In this connection I have had regard to the planning conditions discussed at the inquiry and to the Section 106 unilateral undertaking relating to funding for the restoration of the site. I have noted all the other matters raised, including general observations concerning the desirability of urgent action in relation to climate change issues, but find that none are of sufficient weight or importance to override the considerations that have led to these conclusions."

In other words, go away, put it somewhere else, and I don't care if it takes another five years.

Will our children thank us in 50 years time for the wisdom of decisions like this?

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blackout London

4th November 2006

You are invited to take part in the largest demonstration of People Power that London has ever seen on Saturday 4th November 2006, by turning off all your lights, and switching off all your non-essential electrical equipment.

Climate Change is already compromising the water supply, crops, habitat and livelihoods of millions of people worldwide, and threatens to undermine the Global Economy within a few decades, as well as creating waves of Climate Refugees, and driving countless animals and plants to extinction.

The principal cause of Global Warming is the rising Carbon Dioxide emissions into the atmosphere from the burning of Fossil Fuels, for electricity generation, transport, manufacturing, industry, space heating and air conditioning.

Remember, remember, the fourth of November!

For one day in November, we are asking everyone who receives this message to think about what they can turn off, switch off and unplug, to show support.

We want the power demand in the United Kingdom to reduce so much that the newspapers are obliged to report it.

We want the lights to go out in London, so that on the night of 4th November 2006, the dimming effect will be visible from space.

To protect us from the Enemy of Climate Change, we need a War on Energy Abuse. Just like Britain during World War Two, we need to see a Blackout all over London.

Celebrate The Night Of Power: Turn Off! Switch Off! Unplug!

If you are a security guard for an office block in London, please ask your employers when you should be turning the lights out. If you are a church warden, please check with your church council to see if they agree to switching off the floodlights. If you are working for your local Council, ask if you can help them implement an energy reduction plan to turn off lights, computers and fans at the weekend. If you are at home, switch off your set-top boxes, pull all the chargers out of the wall sockets, turn off lights in any room you are not using, switch off any machine with a digital clock in it, unplug the hi-fi and the TV and the games console, de-frost your freezer, switch off your fridge for a couple of hours. Turn the central heating thermostat down to 16 degrees and put a woolly sweater/jumper on if you're cold.

Power cut

Blackout London is being called by the same group that organised the Power Cut on 31st August 2006, and is being promoted by workface :-

Come off it!

Blackout London is being called in cooperation with Come Off It ! the campaign from Dave Hampton, the Carbon Coach, as part of a series of regular events to produce negawatts - negative power demand - from the People's Power Station :-

Stop climate chaos

Over 2 million people in the United Kingdom are members of organisations that have been invited by Stop Climate Chaos to take part in the I-Count event in Trafalgar Square, London on Saturday 4th November 2006.
I-Count is a national campaign to invite people to pledge to reduce their personal Carbon Dioxide emissions, and the I-Count Total Carbon Saved will be celebrated on 4th November 2006 :-

Big ask

Friends of the Earth are running the Big Ask campaign up until 11th October 2006, encouraging everyone to ask their UK Member of Parliament to support the Climate Change Bill. Big Ask Members of Parliament will be speaking at the Stop Climate Chaos rally in Trafalgar Square, London on Saturday 4th November 2006 :-

Climate march

The Campaign against Climate Change is calling for people from all sectors of society to join the Global March for Climate Justice on 4th November 2006. The Climate March will hear speeches at Grosvenor Square, London at 12 midday under the shadow of the United States Embassy before moving off to join the I-Count rally in Trafalgar Square, London :-

Carnival of climate chaos

People and Planet are holding a street carnival of Climate Chaos on 4th November :-

Guy Fawkes

We need to return to the time of Guy Fawkes : light candles instead of lightbulbs; burn wood instead of Natural Gas; travel by foot instead of by car; power our labour with windmills and water mills instead of coal-fired electricity generation.

To support Blackout London and the Climate Rally, instead of holding your Bonfire Party on 4th November 2006, please hold it the Saturday afterwards, or enjoy your bonfire and fireworks on 5th November 2006 itself.


Global Commons Institute :
Stop Climate Chaos :
I Count :
workface :
Campaign against Climate Change forum :
Campaign against Climate Change :
Global Climate Campaign :
Christian Ecology Link :
Operation Noah :
Big Ask :
Climate Outreach Information Network :
Quaker Green Action :
People & Planet :
Speak :
Year of Living Generously :
Take Global Warming Seriously :

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The solar potential

Solar power can deliver electricity to more than two billion people and provide more than two million jobs with an annual investment of 113bn Euros by 2025

This is in a new report, Solar Generation [4MB pdf], from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace International.

This excellent report is packed with vital statstics and shows what industrial and political moves are required to let solar pv reach its full potential and become cost competitive.

Also see: European Photovoltaic Industry Association

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UK's first climate road map

The UK now has a comprehensive roadmap to a low carbon economy that would deliver on Government commitments to keep temperatures from rising beyond a critical point.

It's contained in a report from The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research published by The Co-operative Bank and Friends of the Earth.

It suggests that a carbon budget of around 4.6 Giga tonnes between 2000 and 2050 would allow the UK to play its part in keeping temperatures from rising two degree centigrade above pre-industrial levels - the danger level. If emissions continue at the current rate the UK would emit close to double this amount by 2050.

It also claims that the UK can achieve the necessary carbon reductions if the Government implements a major programme of action within the next four years. Delaying action will require much more drastic and less manageable cuts. The UK needs to achieve significant emission cuts - of around 70 per cent - within the next 30 years. Government targets of a 60 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 are insufficient as they do not provide for enough reductions within the necessary timescale.

UK carbon emissions have not fallen since 1990. Government calculations which show a decrease are misleading as they fail to take into account emissions from international shipping and aviation. The route map shows what policy framework implemented now will drive the technological solutions necessary to shift smoothly to cleaner energy sources, and the changes to come in daily life as the UK moves to a healthy, low-carbon economy.

The Future Starts Here: The Route to a Low Carbon Economy is an important read.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Home energy labels still on

All homes sold in England and Wales from June next year will still have to carry energy efficiency 'eco-labels,' despite the recent government backtrack on a central part of the packs.

An Energy Performance Certificate will be required for all houses sold and bought, reflecting their energy efficiency and carbon emissions. An energy efficiency assessment will precede each sale, covering heating, hot water, lighting and insulation/draughtproofing.

The labels, similar to the voluntary EU eco-label scheme (awarded in May to three British youth hostels), will place the energy efficiency of each home on a scale of A to G and give advice on how to improve.

They will form part of the "Home Information Pack" that the Department for Communities is introducing next year, even though the inclusion of a home condition report in the pack has been scrapped.

Together with smart meters and disclosure notices from electricity suppliers on the carbon content and source of the electricity supplied to a home, the measure is expected to transform people's awareness of domestic energy use, and lead to more take-up of micro-generation.

European agreements require all homes for sale in the EU to carry energy certificates from 2009. France has already introduced a compulsory eco-label for homes.

Personal carbon allowances back on the agenda

Personal carbon allowances to combat rising domestic emissions
Tradeable personal carbon allowances are now on the government agenda, says David Miliband, Environment Secretary.

This is an idea whose time has come. Much research has already been done into making it as fair as possible. You can't expect it to solve problems of inequity which already exist in the world - the rich will always be able to buy themselves a way out, and survive catastrophes better than the poor.

But properly run, the scheme would protect the fuel poor, and allow low carbon consumers to make money from the rich.

Following last year's private members' Bill by Colin Challon, the idea, which has been current for at least ten years, is gaining ground as an effective way of changing people's behaviour without being prescriptive.

Mr Miliband said he believed "there is merit in providing people with a capped number of carbon allowances, which if they chose to reduce their emissions, could then make them money by selling surplus allowances".

Carbon allowances would cover people's direct use of energy through their electricity, gas, petrol and air travel – which makes up 44 per cent of the economy's total emissions. He said such a scheme would be more fair than tax increases because personal carbon allowances provide free entitlements and only offered financial penalties for those who go above their entitlement.

Speaking yesterday at the Audit Commission's annual lecture, Mr Miliband said: ”Imagine a country where carbon becomes a new currency. We carry bank cards that store both pounds and carbon points. When we buy electricity, gas and fuel, we use our carbon points, as well as pounds. To help reduce carbon emissions, the Government would set limits on the amount of carbon that could be used.

“People on low incomes are likely to benefit as they will be able to sell their excess allowances. People on higher incomes tend to have higher carbon emissions due to higher car ownership and usage, air travel and tourism, and larger homes.

“It is more empowering than many forms of regulation because instead of banning particular products, services or activities, or taxing them heavily, a personal carbon allowance enables citizens to make trade-offs. It is also empowering because many citizens want to be able to do their bit for the environment and tackle climate change, but there is no measurable way of guiding their decisions.”

Personal carbon tradeable allowances are one of a number of ways the Government is looking to consider further how individuals can be better informed and personally involved in tackling climate change. Carbon loyalty cards, league tables, the use of carbon offsets at point of purchase for certain sectors, awareness raising through labelling and carbon calculators are all being investigated as potential long-term measures.

Brenda Boardman, of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, is running a feasibility study on the introduction of personal carbon allowances and trading, and would like to run a pilot scheme, perhaps on the Isle of Man. She proudly carries round a mock-up of a carbon credit card.

The success of such a scheme will ride on the amount of the overall, yearly decreasing, cap on emissions, which must be carefully fabricated and monitored. Directly linked to this is the price of the units. As we've seen with the European Carbon Trading Scheme, the wrong price results in failure to achieve the scheme's goals and discrediting of the whole scheme.

The Energy Review highlighted that the Government (Department of Communities and Local Government, Defra, Department for Trade and Industry and HM Treasury) will undertake a joint study that will look at the role of “community level” approaches to mobilising individuals, and the role of local authorities in particular in making them work effectively.

The study will draw on experience of what initiatives have and have not worked in both the environmental area and other policy areas, such as public health. In the light of this information, the study will examine what new policy options, such as tradeable personal carbon allowances, could be deployed to stimulate local action and consider their relative advantages and disadvantages.

The pilot will report back to Ministers in the first half of 2007.

> Tyndall Centre Report

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Questioning Blair's assumptions on the need for nuclear power

This week Downing Street published three graphs on its web site to support Blair's case for going nuclear "with a vengeance". But what are the assumptions behind these figures?

Are they correct? Are there other possible predictions? If so, we can question Blair's conclusions on the basis that his assumptions can be changed.

Challenge 1: The 'carbon gap'

The first challenge is not up for question.
Challenge 1: The 'carbon gap'

If we do not reduce our carbon emissions, by whatever means, we can only expect that the devastation predicted to come from climate change will be at the mosre severe end of the spectrum.

At the moment the trends are all going the wrong way, despite the Kyoto agreement. Something radical must be done.

Challenges 2 and 3

Challenge 2: One third of current generating capacity will retire by 2025

Challenge 3: Increasing reliance on gas as domestic production declines

These two challenges are up for question.

The main way to do so, according to many commentators, is to observe that they fail to take account of policies and strategies to implement the Rational Use of Energy (RUE), which reduces demand, and makes the most of what we have.

So much energy is currently wasted.

As Peter Harper, from the Centre for Alternative Technology, comments today: "This should go in and 'orthodoxy' should concur. After that it's just a question of filling in the gaps according to our political and other prejudices.'

Peter is one of the authors of CAT's 1977 document Alternative Energy Strategy for the UK.

This was the first report of its kind and addressed concerns such as Climate Change, Peak Oil and resource depletion many years before they entered the mainstream consciousness. So he has been thinking about this stuff for a good deal longer than Tony Blair.

He continues: "The pattern I prefer is below very similar, Dave, to the one you published a couple of years ago [in Defra's own highly subversive Energy and Environmental Management magazine... Something else Blair doesn't read, no doubt.]

Energy needs forecast to 2050 using rational use of energy

"This is just as plausible as the nuclear route, and in fact could incorporate a nuclear component," continues Peter. "But neither will happen if left to a deregulated market."

It's easy to see from the graph that RUE reduces the need for power, and therefore for new plant, and therefore, in principle, new nuclear build.

If we can make products, transport and homes more efficient, we need less power. If we use the power we do generate more efficiently, we need less power. If we need less power, energy bills come down, and we need to spend less on generating power.

Energy efficiency is always cheaper than buying new plant.

Whether our energy in Blair's future comes from nuclear or renewables, or clean coal, the price we pay for it is going to rocket. This is the end of cheap energy, and the beginning of higher bills for business and consumers.

What does the CBI, which applauded Blair on Monday night, think of this?

It should be thinking, that it is becoming far more cost-effective make rational use of the energy it buys and stop wasting £1.5 billion a year (Carbon Trust figure).

Rational Use of Energy (RUE)

Google currently references several pages on Rational Use of Energy (RUE) from DTI's own web site, but these links are broken, and a search on the DTI site turns up very little.

Is it a coincidence that they have suddenly disappeared?

In fact the DTI has been a partner in a pan-Europan programme to develop the Rational Use of Energy under the Fifth Framework Programme.

Nowadays RUE is generally called energy efficiency and resource efficiency. The EU has published its research on the types of policies governments can effect to promote the Rational Use of Energy. The UK Government is perfectly aware of them (somewhere).

The political will to implement the policies is the only thing lacking.

Blair is letting his government off the hook.

Instead, by choosing to put the onus on the nuclear industry and a deregulated market to find the means to address the three challenges, Blair is letting his government off the hook.

A policy solution requires an effort of strong leadership and implementation (such as Taking the choice out of sustainability).

But we know from New Labour's attempts to reform the NHS or implement big IT projects - or even meet its own climate targets - how difficult Blair finds such a government-led solution.

Is it not much easier, he surely thinks, just to pass the buck?

Surely then no one could blame him for failing to "take the tough decisons" or, even, failing - and leaving us with either a legacy of nuclear waste and a security nightmare, a horribly expensive legacy, or the devastation of climate change.

It would be someone else's fault. Dream on, Mr Blair.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Back on the agenda with a vengeance"

Speaking to the CBI last night, Tony Blair said he was "back on the agenda with a vengeance", and that, after a period of unpopularity, he would make another comeback to rescue British business from predicted dark days ahead.

The BBC reported, "Mr Blair's official spokesman predicted there would be "despairing shrieks of outrage" in response to the prime minister's comments".

Oh, I'm sorry, Mr Blair wasn't talking about himself was he? He was talking about nuclear power!

No prizes for guessing that what he said about it was what he has been thinking for at least 18 months.

It's just another example of how Blair is always happy to trample over the wishes of the majority in pursuit of his own convictions.

He claimed that he based his statement on having seen a 'first cut' of the Energy Review's conclusions.

But this is not actually due till July..surely a little pre-emptive? Perhaps it's really the draft he's had in his bottom drawer for the last eighteen months.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said ministers appeared to be considering changes to the planning process to overcome local resistance to new power stations. What's that about then? - if the democratic process doesn't work in your favour - change it.

BBC political correspondent Carole Walker was maybe on the ball when she said Mr Blair "is trying to distract from all the speculation there is about when he is going to go." He has to appear to be big and macho - still the alpha male - and what's more macho than nukes?

What did he actually say? Blair said "stark" facts "put the replacement of nuclear power stations, a big push on renewables and a step change on energy efficiency, engaging both business and consumers, back on the agenda with a vengeance."

If the latter two were ever off the agenda, then who's fault is that Mr Blair? You've ignored the matter for too many years and now there's real urgency.

But all those pesky details of all the different renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are too boring to get your head around - better to just make one decision - more nuclear power stations. The hell with the details.

The Low Carbon Kid says: politics and nuclear power make an explosive combination. When they are in bed together you can be sure, as wrong decisions can be taken for the right reasons, it will end in tears.

So many have told you Mr Blair that nukes - for reasons of timing, security, the long view and expense - are that wrong decision.

Listen, for once.... or leave - and turn the light off as you go.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Revealed: bizarre Nirex plans to 'groom' political favour

The Low Carbon Kid has obtained evidence of a deliberate and secret plan by the nuclear industry to influence Parliament and public opinion.

The evidence is a document from Nirex, the nuclear waste agency funded by your and my taxes.

Its initial aim, on page 4, is 'to produce a list of MPs with an interest in radioactive waste management...which can be targeted".

This is based on an analysis of MPs and Lords' voting and speaking history since 1995, and other research.

It then fiendishly goes on to discuss other targets and how they can be 'groomed' to promote Nirex' views as the only viable ones.

Prepared by an anonymous PR consultant, the 48 page report includes a substantial section 'The Way Forward'.

This nefarious plot argues that "We have to be sure that 'opinion leaders are carefully recruited and groomed'", and someone has cleverly handwritten the word 'Careful!" at the side of this paragraph.

Hmm, obviously they weren't quite careful enough.

Target: journalists

Surprise! The target groups include journalists. Page 12 reads: "My general feeling is that journalists are manageable and must be kept on-side. It's also important to recognise that we are dealing with different 'types' of journalists".

The Low Carbon Kid wonders how much the un-named consultant who wrote his devastatingly insightful comment was paid for his specialist advice.

Target: Wales

But there's more of this cutting stuff. Wales is also considered - he writes (and this is all he says about Wales): "We must also be aware of Wales with its devolved powers in the environment field."

The WAG must be quaking in its boots.

Fatuously, it continues: they [decision makers] must be made to "realise that 'our' way is the best way forward, otherwise there can be no future development of the nuclear industry" (sic). [p. 16]

Target: CoRWM

The document is not new - it is dated 2004 - and refers to the forthcoming CoRWM report (their views were published earlier this month).

It seeks to argue that "a positive CoRWM report does not mean that government will act. They will still be facing the same problems and lobby groups that they face today."

Well, he got that right. Yes, we're not going anywhere.

So, "There will be a need to argue". Smart thinking, Batman.

Meanwhile, NIREX should bring "third party pressure to bear" on CoRWM.

As the report is now out, and we can see that CoRWM did indeed opt for burial, we must expect that the Nirex 'strategy' was implemented and is being implemented now... however poorly.

Target: everyone

The 'strategy' lists four targets:

1. Parliament and government
2. The public at large
3. Regional communities that might be affected
4. Nirex' image and reputation.

Well, that should cover everyone.

The first target groups are supposed to be "well-briefed to respond 'spontaneously' to the CoRWM report".

Spontaneous planning, eh? Kind of like a "Well-planned spontaneous riot".

Our ever resourceful consultant then lists organisations who can be encouraged to influence the public. These are:

- Geological Society
- ESEF (Emgland and Wales)
- universities
- and, er, others.

Not a very good list then.

The report then lists all the MPs to be targeted (including Jeremy Corbyn - good luck, guys!)

The last 12 pages include a 5 page action plan of who to target, and how.

On this evidence we're not quaking in our boots either. It's hardly surprising that Nirex shuld be doing this, although, as a public body, it's highly questionable that they should be spending our taxes on this sort of nonsense. No, they should employ a consultant who knows what he's doing (not).

>> Read the Nirex document [PDF 517kB]

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill passes third reading

The important Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill has this afternoon passd its third reading in the House of Commons.

The Low Carbon Kid applauds all the effort which has gone into making this happen, including much grass-roots lobbying, and the work of backbench MPs, all trying to push ministers into doing what they should have done anyway if they really wanted to walk their talk about climate change.

It's great to get some good news from Westminster for once.

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David Miliband's blog site

Our new environment secrtary, a mere stripling at 42, has a blog site.

This should make it easy for friends of the Low Carbon Kid and others to let the minister know what they think the government should be up to!

The Low Carbon Kid has started the ball rolling here, sand there's a new link on the right.

Miliband chose a Prius as his Ministerial car and takes the train to his South Shields constituency.

The latest issue of Which? magazine says the Toyota Prius 1.5 VVTi T-Spirit Hybrid is the greenest petrol car available in the UK, emitting less CO2 than even the cleanest diesel supermini.

A hybrid family car that uses both a petrol engine and an electric motor, the Prius cuts CO2 emissions by 44 percent versus a similarly sized 1.8-litre Toyota Avensis auto.

It saves money too. In an independent trial the Prius averaged 45 to 50 miles per gallon.

However potential buyers may baulk at the price - 20,270 pounds.

It remains to be seen if Miliband will bite the bullet on the really tough issues like transport, waste and energy efficiency by getting the Treasury on board. It's they who need to take the cost out of going green.

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