Warmth in a Changing Climate: more thinking required

I have always wondered why a think tank is so named. Is it supposed to be like a military tank, that trundles through battlefields and cities firing shells or a fish tank in which in a special environment sheltered for the protection of the thinkers the thinkers can operate. Perhaps it is a water tank, with thinkers encapsulated inside, shielded, but that cannot be it.

Whatever kind of tank a think tank is the purpose of a think tank is to germinate ideas.  I suppose the thinkers in think tanks are people of undoubted talent, no doubt, and motivated by a particular direction of thought.

The Institute for Public Policy Research, the IPPR, describes itself as a think tank and contains many a notable thinker if their degrees are anything to go by. It has 30 research staff, appears to be independent and styles its web site as a key hub for progressive thinking. I am already confused.

What is “progressive” in terms of thinking? It cannot mean simply moving in one direction because I have heard progressive used to describe a desirable kind of taxation. Perhaps it means “fair” or “good”. No doubt one of the thirty researchers from the IPPR could enlighten me.

The reason for the detailed plea to understand what things mean is that I have just read the IPPR’s publication “Warmth in a Changing Climate”, which you can read at http://www.ippr.org/images/media/files/publication/2011/09/warmth-in-changing-climate-110915_7965.pdf. The report was by Andrew Pendleton and Jenni Viitanen.

They come up with some profound thoughts: “decarbonising household space heating is not a trivial matter” and the “framing” to the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive is household decarbonisation (I would prefer to call it lowering of household carbon dioxide emissions) which is the “essential background” of the RHI.

The report explains that huge quantity of emissions by households in the UK and that the RHI is also “driven” by the United Kingdom’s renewable energy targets which seek to derive 20% of energy from renewables by 2020.

This is where the thinking seems to go wrong. The report recognises that renewables are not necessarily emission savers but then seems to assume that using renewables for space heating will inevitably lead to large scale carbon dioxide emission reductions, building on earlier thinking in this regard, without examining the fundamental of whether this is necessarily so.

The RHI exists to increase renewable sources of energy, not to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. If the RHI existed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions it would not provide incentives for biomass burning (as carbon dioxide intensive in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and climate affecting particulates as coal) or heat pumps (which depend upon electricity and reduce their coefficient of performance to about the same level as using electric heating when the weather is very cold). The only technology that is proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly is solar thermal because using light produces no emissions and a typical solar system recovers the emissions used in its creation in about two years). The RHI is structured in a way that treats solar thermal simply as a means of heating water and not as a means of heating space.

The RHI is designed to increase theUnited Kingdom’s energy security by burning more wood and using more electricity which is hoped will come from renewable sources, like wind and wood burning. The wood burning stoves and biomass systems and heat pumps installed by virtue of the RHI subsidised with taxpayers’ money will probably make no difference to the actual greenhouse gas emissions theUnited Kingdomproduces.

This may not have occurred to the IPPR thinkers but regular readers of these posts will know the reasons why.

The authors of the report reach some interesting conclusions:-

1.  We need to focus on innovation; I agree with that, but that does not mean handing out money for research but ensuring that incentives are available for innovation. At Genersys we have system that will make heat pumps work better by drawing heat from light and putting it in the ground to replace heat drawn out by heat pumps and will as a by product also provide hot water. The RHI has no incentive for people to do this.

2. Extensive heat pump trials are needed, the authors conclude; if they had been reading my blog think tank over the past four years they would have already understood that the need for extensive heat pump trials is obvious. The authors suggest that receiving an incentive for a heat pump could be conditioned upon participating in trials; I would do it the other way round and not give a heat pump incentive until the trials proved they save energy and reduce emissions significantly.

3. Incentives should only be given to well-insulated properties.  I think that for pure heat applications that policy has sense but well insulated or poorly insulated homes make no difference to emissions or the costs of water heating. Fossil fuel based water heating emits the same greenhouse gas whether the house has insulation or not.

4. The RHI should provide assistance with capital costs. The authors found by carefully analysing the research workshops what puts people off buying renewable energy systems is the cost. The research also told them that people found that PV panels were less ugly that solar thermal panels. (The research was flawed because no doubt someone was showing the people the wrong pictures.) The capital cost model is what has operated with solar thermal inGermany for many years where you get a subsidy based on the area of solar panels you install, thus encouraging you to use solar for renewable heat as well as heating water.

5. The government should incentivise warmth, the report proclaims. Of course until the detail of the Green Deal is published we do not know whether there will be an incentive to keep warm.

The problem with “Warmth in a Changing Climate” is that there seems to be very little thinking about climate change and warmth by this particular think tank. All in all the recommendations are that we simply tinker with something that is fundamentally flawed. More thinking is required.

3 Responses

  1. […] Associates Feature: Green Energy Overtakes Fossil Fuel Investment, Says UNHydro Power In Scotland Warmth in a Changing Climate: more thinking requiredfunction getTubePressBaseUrl(){return "http://keepgoinggreen.com/wp-content/plugins/tubepress";} […]

  2. I could think of a much different kind of tank for a title and we should know that those who normally do the thinking in earnest normally don’t do any of the doing and those with the minds have no experience, they simply think they do.

    These people aquire degrees by the bucket load from esablishments designed to mend their own buckets, dear lisa, yet our’s never get seen too and when they do, well we all know the childrens song don’t we, think, think tank you can remember Lisa and Henry in their song.

    On the ever changing climate we war against the world with our machines while she constantly changes, first towards hot and then towards a cooling stage, In the excellent book called Collapse by Jarred Diamond is to be found a climatic model of change that saw the demise of the Norse in Greenland to cooling and the end of the Anasazi to heat and water shortages in the desert.

    This old world has done it to us many times before yet we forget the facts and evidence of the now empty buildings that litter these deserts the world over.

    A free will to any alternatives has always had it’s alternative counterparts who don’t want to give up any of their gains upon the populous otherwise it would cease to exist if it got caught knapping.

    Today the largest empire and circus is throwing free bread at a bewildered populous in order of maximum distractions, there are indeed plenty of alternative energies that could benefit our whole and an enviornment but not at the sheer speed we are travelling at.

    How much faster must one travel to see that we are eventually going to end up going in the opposite direction at the cost to our whole.

    For those who doub’t any of this remember, Condemnation without proper investigation is the highest form of ignorance.

  3. […] going here can be a good idea. Located in Africa, many people go here not just to enjoy its warmth climate but also to experience its unique culture. History lovers can also visit the well preserved remains […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: