Archives for the month of: November, 2011

We’ve got a whole year to wait until the latest instalment of James Bond hits our cinema screens, so for those of you who really can’t wait that long, why not get all 007 at home? Sound odd? It won’t when you see our top five James Bond-style products.

Your Mission: To make your home as energy-efficient as possible and be the spy who killed household energy waste.


Danlers wall switch 

What could be slicker than the lights coming on when you walk into a room? The Danlers wall switch will save you energy and is essential for your  James Bond lifestyle…It also has a manual setting for when it’s time to relax with the James Bond impersonations.

Eton Scorpion

The super powerful, master-of-all outdoor gadgets, Eton Scorpian has a torch, USB charger and radio. (If you tried the shaken not stirred nonsense but it didn’t work for you, then there’s even a bottle opener for your beers.)

Powerxtender Charger

This is the gadget to charge your gadgets. Small but mighty, the iGo Powerxtender charger offers power to all your regular spy gadgets: up to 10 hours of extra talk time, 20 hours of playing time and 28 hours of listening.

energyEGG 

The energyEGG turns your appliances off when you leave the room, cutting your energy usage dramatically.  It means you don’t have to remember to turn the telly off before you embark on your mission – perfect for Bond, whose gadgets do all the hard for him.

H20 water powered alarm clock and thermometer

Every spy needs to keep a close eye on the time and the temperature so they can stay in control of their mission. With the H20 water powered alarm clock and a shower you won’t need batteries – it runs on water!

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Barry Gardiner, Member of Parliament for Brent North and Ed Miliband Special Envoy for Climate Change

Barry Gardiner,  Member of Parliament for Brent North and Ed Miliband’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, tells us his views on the future of UK energy prices…

It is very simple. Rural households pay more for energy.

Rural households classed as being in “income poverty” are much more likely to be in fuel poverty than those in urban areas: 44 per cent of the “income poor” in rural areas live in fuel poverty compared to 26 per cent in urban areas.

These published figures are now more than three years out of date, and although we have no reliable current analysis all the evidence suggests things are getting worse.

In urban areas there are three well known causes of fuel poverty:

1. Poor energy efficiency performance of housing
2. Low income levels
3. High energy costs


In rural areas it is important to add a fourth: Lack of access to mains supply.

Out of every hundred rural homes 42 are not connected to mains gas, compared to 8 per cent in urban areas.

Rural households rely more heavily on oil and bottled gas to heat homes, the prices of which have both risen significantly over the course of the last few years. Rural households are also unable to take advantage of the dual fuel discounts which are offered by many energy suppliers.

Households cut off from mains access to energy simply pay more. The average heating bill for a three bedroom house using domestic fuel oil is 84% more than the cost of mains gas. For liquid petroleum gas (LPG) that figure rises to
130% more.

But homes that are “hard to heat” are often also “hard to treat”. Many rural houses have solid walls and these homes need more expensive internal and external solid wall insulation that is not currently included in Government Grant Schemes such as Warm Front.

In fact 34 per cent of homes in rural areas are classed as hard to treat and these account for over 50 per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions from housing.

Any programme delivering energy efficiency measures in rural areas costs more due to greater distances between households and the inevitable loss of efficiencies that can be achieved in more densely populated urban areas. Warm Front has confirmed that even where householders were eligible for a grant, some people cancelled energy efficiency work because they were unable to pay top up costs.

Those living in rural areas were much more likely to cancel through an inability to meet the average top up bill of £875.

In fact up until 2008, cancellations of work in urban areas due to top up costs were 26.4 per cent, whilst in rural areas they were 73.6 per cent.

Between 2000 and 2008 only 10 per cent of Warm Front Grants were awarded in rural areas. This figure climbed to 15 per cent in 2008/09 but it is clear that even this rate of addressing the problem is wholly inadequate to meet the exceptional level of need in our rural communities.

We should be calling for major programmes to address rural fuel poverty. They must be specifically targeted to deliver insulation solutions for solid wall properties and, where insulation is not viable, government should work to deliver micro-generation and community based heating schemes to deliver lower cost alternatives to rural households.

By 2008 Germany had over 2,500 anaerobic digestion plants in rural areas. In the UK we had precisely 23.

Such a technology could be used to power energy generation at a community level in rural villages across the UK, taking by-products and waste from agriculture to provide bio-gas. Using this for local heat and power would provide new jobs in rural areas as well as delivering low cost heating solutions. DEFRA’s own analysis suggests that the UK’s 90million tonnes of agricultural arisings such as manure and slurry could power up to 20Tetra Watt hours of heat and power by 2020.

Do you agree with the MP or do you think there’s another solution? If you’re cut off from mains gas or know someone who is, share your stories with us in the comments below. 

by Deborah Burley

The government recently unveiled plans to cut feed-in tariffs by 50% in the next six weeks. It means that those with plans to fit solar panels to their homes will have to do it by the 12 December or else will only receive about half of the rates.

It means contracts that have already been signed for solar panels are getting cancelled by those less than happy with the ‘greenest government ever’’s announcement because the work won’t be done in time – others are expected to follow.

Is there still a future in solar panels?

Up until last week, the government stated that UK home owners would have until the 1 April 2012 to fit solar panels and still be eligible for the higher Feed in Tariff (FiT) payments.

It was a deal that many jumped on – with around 10,000 households joining up.
Now, after the change of plan from the coalition, that date has now been moved forward, prompting serious concern about the viability of an industry constructed around the Feed-in Tariff scheme that now contains over 25, 000 people. It may mean serious and unexpected job loss in a market that held such promise.

What next for FiTs?

Much anger and frustration had surrounded the government plans for FiTs. An industry protest is planned in Westminster on 22 November and Friends of the Earth have threatened a legal challenge should there be no reversal on the proposal, claiming that the government should be encouraging renewable energy instead of putting people off it.

The industry is working over-time to complete the already started installations by the 12 December or  the 43.4p per kWh initially promised will drop to just 21p per kWh.

Potential problems

As well as the obvious draw back to the government’s FiTs proposal, other barriers are becoming evident for those planning to earn from their solar panels.

Firstly, those in the middle of an installation may now discover that they have to have all relevant paperwork in by 5 December bringing the installation deadline forward even more, although this is by no means a blanket policy.

Feed in Tariffs – what you need to know

  • If you are having solar panels installed by the 12 December then you will be on a FiT  rate of 43.4p per kWh for the next 25 years.
  • If your installation falls between 12 December and 1 April, you will be on the FiT rate of 43.4p per kWh until 1 April when the rate drops to 21p per kWh.
  • If your solar panels are not fully installed until after 1 April, you are only eligible for the 21p per kWh rate.

How do the government’s FiT proposal affect you? Are you currently in the middle of installation or planning an installation for before or after the 12 December? Do you think it’ll still be worth setting up solar panels after you’ve made your home compliant with the energy-efficient measures? Do the new plans make little difference to you – it’s still good to be generating your own energy, right? Let us know your thoughts…

By Rahm Emanuael (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Rahm Emanuael via wikimedia commons

By Deborah Burley and Maya Robert

Nuclear power has hit the headlines this year. When a devastating Tsunami hit Japan’s coastline, concern grew over the Fukushima power plant and the after effects of leaking nuclear waste. Despite this,  the UK government announced plans for more nuclear power plants, promising safe power to boost energy sources.

Today, another argument against nuclear power surfaced as ofgem realeased a study of Scotland’s wind and marine power concluding that it  would decrease the cost of feeding Scotland’s renewable energy back into the national grid by 80 percent  if this power source was increased.

The nuclear debate is constant. Some see it as the future of UK energy, while others feel that the safety risks may be too high to outweigh the benefits.

We’ve used nuclear power for the last 50 decades and in the 1990s, 30 percent of the UK’s energy supply came from nuclear power stations. Although this figure has reduced since then, as many of these have been,  or are set to be,  decommissioned several energy providers still use nuclear as their main supply source – EDF, for example, use 64 percent of their electricity from nuclear energy.

It was announced earlier this year that several new nuclear power plants are planned for the UK by 2025 to tackle the need for sufficient UK energy sources. But considering the media attention surrounding nuclear as an energy source, and their implications when met with natural or man-made disasters seen through the events of  Chernobyl, Fukushima and Hiroshima, concern around the topic grows.

We asked Alastair Evans, of the Nuclear Industry Association and Andy Atkins, of Friends of the Earth if nuclear was the future…

Friends of the Earth

Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth

“People are angry: UK unemployment is at a 17-year high. Households are struggling to pay their bills while the energy companies continue to rake in massive profits. We all lost out because our politicians failed to stand up to the banks. We desperately need them to make sure we get a good deal on energy.

Our energy bills are sky-rocketing because of our broken electricity system. The last thing we need is another round of costly nuclear power stations. Despite all the money spent on nuclear power over the years – at a cost of billions of pounds to the taxpayer – they still require huge injections of public cash.

And there remain significant safety issues. The government’s own chief nuclear inspector catalogued 1,767 safety incidents across Britain’s nuclear plants between 2001 and 2008. The UK may not be at risk of major earthquakes or tsunamis like Fukushima, but our nuclear power plants are vulnerable to sea level rise and terrorist attacks.

Nuclear power is often presented as a shiny modern technology, but in reality it’s a product of the 1950s that hasn’t changed much since. Like fossil fuels, it still involves environmentally damaging extraction industries, and creates pollution. We need to ditch the old polluting energy technologies and opt for smart, clean technologies. The main thing that stands between us and a fair energy system is not a lack of available technologies, but a lack of ambition on the part of our politicians.

We need an energy system that will keep our lights on in the future without costing the earth. Replacing our broken energy system requires investment and means that our bills will go up. But Government figures show that they will go up less and be more stable in the long run if we invest in renewable energy and cut the energy that’s wasted in our homes and businesses, rather than persisting with dirty fuels, and guzzling power.

A step-change is needed with a new focus on clean energy and local production. Communities and householders need to be supported to produce their own clean energy. Friends of the Earth led and won the campaign for solar and wind energy rewards through the feed-in-tariff which has created 25,000 new jobs in the solar industry since it was introduced in 2010. Investing in green energy and energy saving will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and give us an energy system that we can be proud of. Investing in nuclear will create a fraction of the jobs, expose us to unnecessary risks and leave a legacy of radioactive waste that will remain dangerous for generations.

75% of Brits think our top energy investment priority should be renewable energy or energy saving in homes. 11,000 people signed the Friends of the Earth petition for a nuclear free future based on renewables and energy saving. It’s clear that the Government’s plans to expand nuclear is out of step with public opinion. Nuclear power is a gamble we don’t need, and can’t afford,  to take.”

Nuclear Industry Association

Nuclear power, Nuclear Industry Association

Alastair Evans, Nuclear Industry Association

The UK has legally binding commitments to reduce emissions of Co2 by
80% by 2050 as part of measures to combat global climate change which the coalition government are determined to meet. Furthermore, the Government needs to ensure the lights stay on throughout the United Kingdom.

We therefore need a secure supply of affordable low carbon energy – and nuclear must be a key component as part of a balanced energy mix.

Renewables should play a role but the constant baseload supply of electricity provided to the grid by nuclear is essential.

The stability that nuclear provides ensures that when the wind is not blowing the lights stay on. Nuclear delivers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The other options in the mix –coal, and gas are high carbon, and if our climate change targets are to be achieved then we must plan for a low carbon energy mix with nuclear at its heart.

Security of supply in an ever changing world is important. Nuclear is not an imported energy source subject to interference by other countries. In this age of international uncertainty and geo-political issues, energy is becoming a much bigger topic of concern. We need nuclear’s flexibility, and stability.

The new nuclear programme of up to 16GW of new plant will provide a significant economic boost to the UK and up to 30,000 new jobs as the build programme progresses.

Nuclear will provide a generation with work in one industry for life, something that is increasingly rare. These jobs are not created by Government, but by industry.

There is no public subsidy for the new build programme; these jobs are created by investors with the foresight to invest in nuclear now.
Safety is at the forefront of everything that is done in nuclear, from new build, to the running, and finally to the decommissioning of a plant. We have a remarkably good safety record and the industry is overseen by one of the most highly regarded independent regulators who would not permit an industry that is not safe to operate.

A thorough review of the major accident at Fukushima has been carried out by Dr Mike Weightman the UK’s chief nuclear regulator, who was also chosen to lead international investigations. In his report ‘the lessons to be learnt from Fukushima’ 30 recommendations were made that will be implemented by UK industry going forward. The UK is committed to the principle of continuous improvement and the maintenance of a strong safety culture.

Politicians change every few years, and it is therefore essential we have continuity in our energy policy and bipartisan support. This gives confidence to the UK supply chain, as well as investors to ensure the right decisions are made now to keep the lights on, minimise the UK carbon footprint, and give the British public stable energy pricing.”

What are your thoughts on nuclear energy? Are you worried about the goverment’s plans to build more nuclear power plants? Do you live near one of the proposed sites? Do you think we should use other alternatives to nuclear power? Or are you confident that nuclear is the future?