Forget renewables in Europe – it would make nuclear and the Emissions Trading Scheme Fail!

Saturday’s Guardian led on a story under the headline “Britain seeks loophole in EU green energy targets”. Apparently the Business Minister, Lady Vedera proposes that renewable energy targets should include projects outside the EU. In other words, we should count as part of EU emission targets projects that we sponsor (or sell) to places outside the EU. It is an astonishing concept because if you do have a target for a country or a group of countries to reduce their emissions it seems risible to count countries not part of that group.

Clearly if the EU were persuaded by Lady Vedera it is easy to see what would happen. We would build wind farms and similar renewable energy devices in places outside the EU, where land is inexpensive and planning controls non existent. We would not have any incentive to create renewable energy within the EU. Continue reading

Christian Aid is lobbying for the wrong things

The Christian Aid charity is campaigning about climate change. There are advertisements in glossy magazines (I saw one in the Sky magazine) depicting poor southern Asians being flooded out of their homes by dirty flood water, with a call for readers to contact their MP to ask him to increase the emissions reductions in the Climate change bill from 60% to 80% in many years time.

The charity is clearly motivated to do their best to help the world’s poor who will be the first to suffer if the pace of climate change increases, as it seems to be. They have identified carbon emissions as the likely cause of rapid climate change, but unfortunately present emissions as the only cause, and I think that is a mistake. Over simplification is misleading.

The Christian Aid website also has a striking picture and a call to toughen up the Climate change bill, in this case by making companies report their carbon emissions. If you want you can see what I mean by clicking on   

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Another YouTube video for Genersys

Genersys has put another video on YouTube. In it I explain how solar thermal systems are controlled by the digital controller and the pump station. If you are thinking of getting a solar system you will get an idea of how they work by clicking the YouTube link on the right of this page.

Modern domestic thermal systems are designed to operate automatically; they have a number of safety features that work best if the system is left ion permanently. If you go away from home for a long holiday always leave a Genersys system on. The electricity usage will be very modest – over a whole year the cost of electricity for the pump and the digital controller will not be more than £6 in a normal domestic system.

Renewable energy systems like modern solar systems use very modest amounts of electricity to help in providing the best and most reliable form of energy. You can install a PV panel to run the pump and digital controller but the cost in environmental terms (because PV is so environmentally expensive to produce) makes it better to rely on mains electricity where available.

You might well get mains outages, especially in the future as nations compete for energy, but those will almost certainly occur in winter nights when the solar system will not be functioning.

I hope that you enjoy the video. I liked making it. We will be uploading one about our panels in the near future.

Is your home suitable for solar panels?

Solar panels mounted on a slate roof

Lots of people want to install solar panels but worry about whether their house is right for them. How should they be aligned and is the roof strong enough? Most houses are suitable for solar and a solar system will work well almost everywhere in the world.

The key thing to check is whether the area where the panels are to be deployed is shaded by trees or buildings for most of the day. If it is, then you will have to look for another renewable energy option. Fortunately most houses are not shaded.

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The new nuclear renaissance – an easy decision but…

John Hutton is Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. By training he is a lawyer, but he now is in charge of Energy for the United Kingdom. His problem is to set out an energy policy that will provide the nation over the long term with energy as cheaply and as low carbon as possible.  

This is a real hard problem because there is a natural conflict between cheap energy and benign energy that all the grandiose statements of intent cannot hide. Continue reading

Ice, deserts and the wisdom of the ancients

The vernal equinox has come and the days are getting longer. For those of us in the United Kingdom we can look forward to the weather getting warmer (although you would not think so from the unseasonal snow we have seen over the past few days) and the longer daylight hours mean, amongst other things, that you solar system should be performing better and providing your with more free energy, that the trees will come into leaf soon and the Northern hemisphere will warm.

The southern hemisphere will cool down and theoretically at this time of the year the ice melts will be ceasing in the Antarctic as it moves to a period of virtual night. What seems to be happening at the South Pole is not what we would expect. Part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf is crumbling and a chunk of it – about 120 square kilometers – has broken away from the ice shelf. No one expected this to happen now although they did expect it to happen in the future. Continue reading

Do biofuels cause more harm than the benefits they provide and should there be a Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation?

Tropical Forest

Things are not what they seem when it comes to renewable energy. Most people, including those who should know better, think that all energy from renewable sources is equally benign and all should be supported equally. In fact this simplistic approach can cause more damage than benefits. You end up with heat pumps and biomass boilers being installed in places where they cause more emissions than traditional fossil fuels, for example.

We have to be discriminating in our energy choices and that applies to renewable energy as much as it applies to fossil fuels. In the world of energy there is no democracy – only hard facts and science that should determine what we do. There has been a rush towards using more biofuels. I cannot really describe it as a rush, more of the typical slow shuffle that typifies the UK’s use of renewable energy, but even a shuffle, it is shuffles to a worse place, is a bad thing. Continue reading

Celebrities and lawyers: an environmental journey or climbing on a bandwagon?

There have been a lot of people starting on an environmental journey. Celebrities have discovered just how green their life styles are and are anxious to tell us about how climate safe they are. Lifestyle magazines feature articles, often with a compendium of famous musicians, models, chefs and people generally famous for being famous.

Reading about their climate change friendly measures I get the feeling that they are praising themselves for doing in some things what we all should be doing – recycling waste oil in the case of a celebrity chef for example as they climb into their four by fours. Continue reading

Solar central heating


There has been a lot of interest in my post of 10th March which shows you how you can heat your home with solar energy. In Kent Chris Flaherty of Vietech Heating has recently fitted a solar heating system using a 450 litre store. 

I have added his photograph to this post so that you can see what one of these large stores looks like – it is about four times the size of a normal domestic cylinder. It has inputs for the solar heat and the back up boiler. The system provides both central heating and water heating. Continue reading

Energy prices, free markets and Russian Gas

The last of the big six energy suppliers, Scottish & Southern Energy, announced a price rise a couple of days ago which will take effect from 1st April 2008. They blame wholesale price increases and they are right to do this. They also point out that transmission costs are also going up as are “environmental costs”.  

Like all energy suppliers Scottish and Southern have a number of different tariffs. On average electricity is rising by 14.2% and gas by 15.8%. Oil is today standing at around $110 a barrel.  Trying to see where prices will end up is difficult. There is the possibility of price falls due to the present economic turmoil. Continue reading