carbon reduction initiatives

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The UK government announcement on incentives for small scale renewables has three unexpected features:

  • The payments for renewable heat, such as the home burning of wood to replace gas or rooftop solar hot water, are much higher than predicted.
  • The figures for wind have risen since the autumn consultation document. This means that well-located wind turbines of the 6-15 kW size are likely to produce returns above 13% per year.
  • The payments for solar PV have been increased slightly, but do not offer returns as good as wind. Importantly, the government has also signalled that it will allow PV installed at any time over the next 28 months to capture the full feed-in tariff. Previously, the tariff declined for installations made after March 2011.

An earlier article on this topic which looks in more detail on the incentives to take up the new ‘feed-in tariffs’ is here.

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Click here to read the reportThe UK is one of the least forested countries in Europe. Although the amount of woodland cover has increased substantially since its nadir after the First World War, growth has slackened in recent years. The growing maturity of UK woodlands means that carbon sequestration is falling rapidly. An independent assessment commissioned by the Forestry Commission has proposed one way forward: a million new hectares devoted to woodland, generating a reduction of up to 15% of the UK emissions in 2050.

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Tools for carefully estimating carbon footprints have tended to be difficult to use and clunky in appearance. Two recently introduced calculators make real improvements and allow individuals and companies to carry out effective analysis of carbon emissions.

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Light-bulb Libraries

UK supermarkets and DIY chains stock up to twenty different types of energy-efficient light bulbs but most households have some light fittings that cannot use any of these bulbs. There are several hundred different combinations of fitting, shape, and power. Some internet sites, such as www.lightbulbs-direct.com/article/energy-saving or www.gogreenlights.co.uk offer a very wide range of low-energy-use bulbs including many unusual types you cannot find in shops. One problem remains: it is not always possible to tell whether the bulb you see on a webpage will actually fit your lamp holder or whether it will be the correct brightness. Light-bulb Libaries may be the answer.

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Image source: Scientific American (courtesy of American Electric Power).

Image source: Scientific American (courtesy of American Electric Power).

Two pieces of news provide evidence of a fightback by coal. American Electric Power’s Mountaineer plant in West Virginia is reporting significant success for its small scale carbon capture project. And the UK has just licensed exploratory boreholes for offshore Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), a woefully under-researched technology that may make CO2 sequestration easier. The scale of the challenge facing the globe’s coal users is enormous but with determined research and development, the fuel may remain usable for power generation in a low-carbon world.

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Image source: Taiga Company.

Image source: Taiga Company.

1) If you buy just one new appliance in 2010, make it a really efficient fridge-freezer. The improvements in the energy use of the best fridge-freezers have been really impressive in the last few years. If you have an old refrigerator, it may be responsible for as much as a sixth of your electricity bill. A good new machine might use less than a half as much power, particularly if it is not too large. A second benefit is that by choosing to buy a really efficient refrigerator you will be sending a clear signal to the manufacturers that energy consumption matters. An impressive new web site – www.energytariff.co.uk – allows you to compare the electricity used by almost all the appliances currently in UK shops. You can make well-informed choices from your computer.

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Let’s face it: energy efficiency is boring when compared to the (relative) excitement of developing new sources of low-carbon electricity or heat. The popular science magazines are full of articles on new forms of solar panel and the latest designs for wind turbines. Improving the insulation of ordinary homes, shifting to LED lighting or increasing the take-up of heat pumps rarely command the attention of editors.

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The Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed stands in the sea off Kurumba to show the threat the islands face. Photograph: Chiara Goia. Source: Guardian.

The Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed stands in the sea off Kurumba to show the threat the islands face. Photograph: Chiara Goia. Source: Guardian.

Plans for a new windfarm are set to make the Maldives the country with the highest proportion of renewable power in the world.

The 30-turbine proposed windfarm, close to the capital Malé, will deliver 75 megawatts of electricity at full capacity, enough to provide electricity for the whole of the capital, the international airport and the surrounding resorts. Excess power will be used to run desalination plants that will produce bottled drinking water from the sea.

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Go green, go vegan

Lord Stern says the meat industry damages the environment. Image source: VirtualTourist.com

Lord Stern says the meat industry damages the environment. Image source: VirtualTourist.com

Clearly irritated that his argument in an interview in the Times had been boiled down to a ‘go veggie to save the planet’ headline, Nicholas Stern has issued a clarifying statement:

I think that once people understand the great risks that climate change poses, they will naturally want to choose products and services that cause little or no emissions of greenhouse gases, which means ‘low-carbon consumption’. This will apply across the board, including electricity, heating, transport and food. A diet that relies heavily on meat production results in higher emissions than a typical vegetarian diet. Different individuals will make different choices. However, the debate about climate change should not be dumbed down to a single slogan, such as ‘give up meat to save the planet’.

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Wittingly or unwittingly, many manufacturers make it difficult to compare the electricity consumption of home appliances such as TVs and refrigerators. Although many appliances have been through standard EU tests and then been awarded a letter grade for energy efficiency, these grades are increasingly unhelpful in distinguishing between the excellent and the merely satisfactory. As in British school exams, an A grade doesn’t mean much because it covers such as wide range of performance.

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