Achieving Zero

Brenda Boardman is at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. I have always found that she has interesting things to say about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings. She has now written a report “Achieving Zero” which you can read in full at or in summary at which sets out some findings and ideas about reducing greenhouse egas emissions from buildings. This is a difficult problem in the United Kingdom where there are more than 26 million buildings the vast majority of which were built to designs and specifications when green house gas emissions and fuel costs were not a concern. Continue reading

The Genersys Solar Thermal Guide to the Renewable Heat Incentive for commerce, businesses, industrial and public sector and not for profit organisations

The Renewable Heat Incentive is a United Kingdom government subsidy, financed by the tax payer, to provide incentive payments for those who install renewable heat. It is essentially an incentive to reward renewable heat installations, rather than low carbon emitting installations and covers solar thermal biomass, ground and water source heat pumps, geothermal, biogas and biomethane technologies, but I shall concentrate on the incentive for solar thermal incentive. Continue reading

The rationale for a renewable heat incentive

Consumers often ask why they should pay for renewable heat. The funds allocated for this over four years may be around £850 million, which is a great deal of money in these hard times. Renewable heat in effect comprises biomass, solar thermal panels for heat and hot water and heat pumps. There are two main reasons for encouraging renewable heat. The first is to provide a measure of energy security, lessening the dependence on imported fuel. The second reason is to help alleviate rapid climate change because, biomass aside, these technologies emit significantly less carbon dioxide than traditional fossil fuel and in the case of solar panels they emit virtually no greenhouse gases.

Is it right that these installations should be incentivised by the taxpayer? I think so. Continue reading

A Short Guide to the United Kingdom’s Renewable Energy Statistics

This year the United Kingdom is generating 3% of its energy requirements from renewable sources as defined by the European Union. That may seem to be cause for celebration, as that figure can only rise, we hope. Continue reading

Problems with biofuels

The main biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel, which are becoming used more frequently in an effort to slow down global warming. Germany, for example, aims to provide 17% of its liquid fuel need from biodiesel and ethanol within ten years. Continue reading

Certification of biofuels and biomass

I have written a number of times about the problems with biofuels and biomass. Most governments seem to accept that these are “renewable” fuels and because of that associate them with low carbon fuels. They fail to understand that not all the carbon dioxide is taken up with new growth and in some cases, like ethanol made from corn, the net carbon dioxide emissions are higher than those created by burning oil. For that reason I have classified biofuels and biomass as “dirty” renewables.

The message is beginning to sink in. The European Union is now encouraging (but not mandating) member states to set up certification programs for biofuels, including wood and wood chip. I do not know yet how the certification system would work – no one does – but we can only hope that the standards would be stringent and genuinely address the problems that certain biofuels create, by banning them, or at least withdrawing all energy subsidies for them. Continue reading

How much fuel is left in the world?

In London when I was much younger there were two fellows who walked around with sandwich boards, not because of their occupations, but as a result of their preoccupations. One chap’s board had a message that warned against the eating of beans and pulses, which according to this chap were at the root of all lasciviousness and evil. The other chap’s message was, at the front of his board, “the end of the world is nigh”. He wanted to tell the population of London that the world was about to end. On the back of his board the message read “prepare to meet thy doom”. Continue reading

Classifying energy fuels and clean and dirty renewables

Many people use the words “renewable” and “sustainable” in relation to energy fuel and the environment without being specific about what they mean by these words. I could write a long piece about definitions, but in the case of energy I think that it is better to classify the various types of energy fuel so that the classification is based on sustainability and environmental impact.

By using this classification I hope that environmentalists can avoid the double speak of politicians and the lack of clarity that makes people who disbelieve the realities of climate change and the benefits of environmentalism.

So here are my classifications, sets and sub sets for energy based on fuel that produces energy, be it electrical or heat energy or energy for transportation:- Continue reading

Will we see gasworks again?

Once every town and city has a gas works. Although the gas works did not feature on the Monopoly Board, they were once commonplace. You can still see the old gasholders in towns and cities, where they are soemtimes used for gas storage. Originally in the United Kingdom gas, called Town gas, was created by extracting energy from coal by the process of gasification. You can also extract energy from carbon based materials, like oil and wood by the process of gasification, which in effect converts the coal, or oil or biomass into a synthetic gas which contains more of the usable energy from the raw material and less wasted energy.

Gas works created town gas, which was originally used for lighting and then, as electricity became more widespread for heating and cooking. Typically sixty years ago most homes had a gas hob and oven and perhaps one glorious gas fire, usually in the living room, which was lighted with matches and provided heat without the hassle and dirt that coal fires brought.

In 1965 BP discovered the first of many natural gas fields and the process of converting every town gas cooker and fire to work with natural gas started in 1967.  The conversion involved fitting different sized burners and cost what was a large sum of money because fitters visited over 13 million homes. When the conversion was completed the end of the gas works came, and for a long time the redundant gasholders blighted the skyline and the last gas works was taken out of commission in 1987 in Northern Ireland.

Gas works, of a different kind, may soon reappear on the landscape. In the Isle of Wight there is a new gasification plant which converts waste into energy, by means of synthetic gas. It may be possible that waste is better converted into methane than buried in landfill or recycled. The advantage of gasification is that it is a more efficient process than creating energy by directly burning the waste, although it is more expensive. Continue reading

Using methane from land fill sites

We waste our waste. We carefully follow our legal obligations and separate paper, metals, plastic and the like, urged on by an expensive television campaign telling us to make sure that our waste bins are skinny, with only things in then that are recyclable, and despite all this effort on our part, every little of our waste is recycled; it used to mostly go to landfills all over the country. Now some of it goes to landfills in China. All the carefully and time consumingly sorted waste is mostly stored in vast warehouses because the recycling centres have found that the price of raw materials has fall, making many of their business unviable, in the financial sense, although still very viable in the environmental sense of the word.

When waste goes into landfills it has many undesirable effects. If you look at what the residents at Small Dole have had to suffer as a result of their proximity to a landfill site, you will gain some insight. You can see from the local action group’s web site ( )and unfortunately there are many communities who have suffered from the same problems caused by landfill sites. Continue reading