Thursday, 27 September 2007

Voluntary Bulb Ban Initiated

The highest wattage incandescent bulbs will no longer be available on the shelves of some high street stores across the UK from early next year as part of an effort to reduce energy use and 5m tonnes of CO2 emissions (0.9% of UK CO2 emissions).

The voluntary initiative is being backed by leading retailers, (ASDA, B&Q, The Co-operative Group, Home Retail Group (Argos and Homebase), IKEA, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco, Waitrose, Wickes, Woolworths, British Retail Consortium, Association of Convenience Stores and the British Hardware Federation) and energy suppliers as part of their activities through the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT).
“Retailers are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and play an active role in helping consumers reduce their own environmental impact. This is just the latest in a number of initiatives in which retailers are helping to shape consumer habits through the promotion of energy saving products. We look forward to working closely with Government and manufacturers in the lead up to the 2011 deadline to ensure the supply of energy saving light bulbs matches demand, and that they become a viable alternative to conventional light bulbs for consumers of all incomes”
Kevin Hawkins, Director General, British Retail Consortium

“We fully support the idea of phasing out inefficient lighting in favour of energy efficient light-bulbs. In most homes, lighting accounts for 10 – 15% of the electricity bill and UK households currently use £1.8 billion worth of electricity every year on lighting. An energy saving light bulb can last up to 10 times longer than a non-efficient version. Just one energy saving bulb could save up to £7 a year, fit all the lights in your house with energy saving bulbs and you could save around £600 over the lifetime of the bulbs. If everyone in the UK installed three energy saving light bulbs, we would save enough energy to power all the UK’s street lighting for a year.”
Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive, Energy Saving Trust
The government has proposed, as an illustrative schedule for the phase out of inefficient lamps, that retailers are suggested to follow:
  • By January 2008, cease replacing stock of all inefficient (General Lighting Service, GLS) A-shaped incandescent lamps of energy rating higher than 100W (predominantly 150W lamps).
  • By January 2009, cease selling all inefficient GLS A-shaped lamps of energy rating higher than 60W (predominantly 150W lamps, 100W lamps, plus some 75W lamps)
  • By January 2010, cease selling all GLS A-shaped lamps of efficacy of energy rating higher than 40W (predominantly 60W lamps)
  • By 31 December 2011, cease selling all remaining inefficient GLS A-shaped lamps and 60W "candle" and "golfball" lamps. (predominantly 40W and 25W A-shaped GLS bulbs, and 60W candles and golfballs).
Each house in the UK currently has on average 23.5 light bulbs. Lighting accounts for 19% of electricity use worldwide, and using the most efficient lighting, such as CFLs or LED lighting can reduce electricity use through lighting by up to 90%, potentially saving £120 a year per household.
“Britain is leading the way in getting rid of energy-guzzling light bulbs and helping consumers reduce their carbon footprint. Choosing energy saving light bulbs can help tackle climate change, and also cut household bills, with each bulb saving up to £60 over its lifetime. I am delighted that major companies have said they are prepared to help deliver this ambitious timetable and offer products which will help their own customers play their part in combating climate change. But there are many more energy hungry gadgets on sale in shops that waste too much energy. That’s why I want to see today’s initiative widened. I want to see more retailers, manufacturers and service providers taking action to phase out the least efficient products from their ranges, for example, certain set top boxes and TVs, and so help offer greener choices to their customers.”
Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment
This voluntary initiative will be an effective curb on carbon emissions from the home for the near future, and could potentially lead to an annual reduction of CO2 emissions of 5m tonnes (0.9% of UK CO2 emissions), equivalent to taking 1.8m cars off the roads. The benefits of this will be felt by all parties, with the negative impact being felt only by those who oppose energy efficient bulbs for whatever ideology (Matt Wright explains the most common excuses). There is one important factor to consider for the future and that is the disposal of the bulbs as they contain mercury. They are now covered under WEEE, but educating the public of the need to recycle could be a greater task than having previously asked them to buy energy saving bulbs in the first place.

The benefits far outweigh the potential negatives and could not only reduce emissions but improve the quality of life through reduced air pollution, government from the reduced adverse social impacts of power stations will also benefit financially. Energy companies and government will also be able to effectively increase renewable energy rates in percentage points in a short period of time, and as more renewable energy farms are built they will provide a greater proportion of total national usage than they would have previously. It's only a shame they didn't phase it in faster. Goodbye Bulb!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Severn Barrage Feasibility Study

Yesterday the government announced a new feasibility study will investigate the Severn Barrage, a tidal power plan that could provide about 5% of UK electricity, 17 TWh of power per year, equivalent to about 18 million tons of coal or 3 nuclear reactors. Expected output at 8640 MW during flow, or 2000 MW average power. The cost of the project which includes a 16km (10 miles) barrage from Lavernock Point to Brean Down with 200 turbines is set to exceed £14 billion and could be generating electricity by 2018.

The Severn Barrage is not a new concept to locals in the region with the concept dating back over 150 years, the last time the project was touted was in the early eighties. The building of the Severn Barrage would be an engineering feat, comparable with some of the world's biggest construction projects. The huge size and cost of most of the ideas over the years are what have kept plans firmly on the drawing board. The study will examine the social, economic and environmental aspects of the barrage. As well as the long term environmental benefits through reduced CO2 emissions, negative impacts from the project will also be addressed. Social benefits will be through the creation of up to 35 000 jobs in the construction industry and up to a further 40 000 permanent positions.

Due to the fact the UK is an island, the country has great potential for generating electricity from tidal power. To date, wave and tidal power have received very little money for development and consequently have not yet been exploited on a significant commercial basis due to doubts over their economic viability in the UK (due to the low cost of oil in 1975). Yesterday's news follows on from an announcement in February for the UK's first wave farm by the Scottish Executive in February 2007. It will be the world's largest, with a capacity of 3 MW generated by four Pelamis machines and a cost of over 4 million pounds.
"I grew up in south Wales and I remember the barrage being discussed. The idea has been around for a long time. It has got great potential for creating clean energy. It is now extremely pressing and I think we should leave no stone unturned. The price of doing nothing about changing our energy mix, how we generate our energy and not reducing our carbon footprint means several years down the track the habitat of the Severn could be affected anyway. We've got to do something. The last time this was looked at in detail was 1989. We want a serious study into its potential and to say whether this could be best realised by a barrage or lagoon."
Stephen Williams, Bristol West, Member of Parliament
"It's probably more likely than it's been for perhaps 20 years - with the threat of climate change on us, we need to look at new ways of tackling that and generating our energy. This is now being looked at but if it did go ahead, it would still be nearly 2020 probably before any power was generated - and what we're doing at the RDA is pioneering some projects in the region to try to bring other renewable technologies to fruition which can also help tackle climate change."
Jonny Boston, South West Rural Development Agency
I fully support renewable energy projects that will have an overall positive effect on the environment and can be accepted by the majority. This project is a serious way that the UK can increase the proportion of renewable energy and reduce CO2 emissions by in excess of 9m tonnes annually (about 1.5% of UK CO2 emissions). The project also has other supplementary benefits;
  • Predictable source of "green" energy during lifetime of barrage
  • Home-grown facility, independent of foreign uncertainties
  • Flood protection for the vulnerable Severn estuary, including against global warming sea level rises
  • Transport links for road and/or rail
  • Better shipping and boating conditions behind the barrier
  • Boost to local economy - construction industry in the short term, tourism and infrastructure in the long term
  • Reduced turbidity (cloudiness) of water will improve the density and spread of invertebrate colonies in the estuary. This should lead to better carrying capacity for migratory fish and birds.
Whilst there are positives to such projects from one aspect we must also listen to voices from all parties who will be affected by the project. Some of the negative impacts of the project are;
  • Existing ecosystems would be heavily altered, with new species moving in and perhaps dominating old species
  • Some of the low-tide mud-flats would be lost, displacing some of the wading birds that make the estuary a protected area
  • Lack of industry skill in the UK for a project of this size.
  • Likely to stimulate silting in some areas and coastal erosion in others
  • Enhance flood risk on the seawardside because only a proportion of the water that presently flows up stream will pass through the barrage leaving the remainder to rise up outside possibly raising levels by as much as a metre.
  • Shipping would have to navigate locks
  • Costs associated with navigating the locks would impact trade and commerce
  • Severn bore weakened
  • All industry discharges into the Severn (eg Avonmouth) will have to be reassessed.
Some of the voices speaking out against the project are from environmental organisations Friends of the Earth and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
"The Severn barrage was a bad idea in 2003 and is an even worse proposal now, not least because there are better, less damaging alternatives. Clean energy technology is developing apace and there will soon be less intrusive ways of harnessing the tides with little environmental cost. Tidal stream systems are being tested in the Bristol Channel, Scotland and Northern Ireland and could generate far more energy and cause little environmental harm. The RSPB strongly supports the development of renewables but today's white paper lacks the drive to develop the best green energy projects quickly enough."
Dr Mark Avery, Conservation director, RSPB

"We are opposed to the large Severn barrage because it would have a major negative environmental impact. Any proposal to build a barrage could face strong legal challenges on environmental grounds. It would take a long time to build, there would be high costs and it would generate a lot of carbon dioxide as it was being built. There are better alternatives available such as a tidal lagoons."
Gordon James, Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Cymru
Whatever the outcome of the feasibility study, it will continute to be a talking point for the future to come.

Image: Second Severn Bridge by David Moreau

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Energy Saving Week

Energy Saving Week (Monday 22nd October through to Sunday 28th October 2007) is the Energy Saving Trust's flagship week and focuses on how we, as individuals, can make a positive difference to reducing our impact on the environment. Now in its 11th year, the overall campaign theme is "Commit to save your 20%", and they will be encouraging people to sign up to an energy saving commitment.

As more details about the week become available I will publish this information. If you are holding an event to coincide with Energy Saving Week please feel free to email me with the details.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Picture: EMSD Install Hong Kongs Largest Solar Array

A 350kW solar photovoltaic installation at the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department Headquarters has been installed on the roof of their new headquarters in Kowloon Bay. The installation, being the largest PV installation in Hong Kong, comprises of a solar array made up of more than 2,300 PV modules which together has a total area of around 3,180 m2, and a smaller system made up of PV glass laminates.

Each PV module in the solar array is constructed in the form of a rectangular panel and consists of 72 series-connected mono-crystalline silicon PV cells. The panels are mounted on supporting racks in an inclined manner and facing southwards so as to receive maximum solar irradiation during the year.

In addition to these, PV glass laminates are installed on the viewing gallery on the roof of the building. There are totally 20 sets of PV glass laminates, each consisting of 100 series-connected mono-crystalline PV cells sandwiched between two sheets of glass.

Carbon Neutral Car Insurance

In June 2006, the UK saw the launch of ibuyeco, a service from Budget Insurance offering "100% Carbon Neutral" car insurance. The idea follows on from most conventional car insurance comparison websites, with a value added CO2 offset offered via The Carbon Neutral Company, whose clients include: Silverjet, Avis Europe, American Express, Honda, Berkley Homes, Barclays Bank, BSkyB, Royal & Sun Alliance, Volvo, and Bovis Lend Lease. Emissions are calculated by using details provided in the quotation process (ie car, CO2 emissions and annual mileage). For example a person travelling 10 000 miles annually in a small car would likely according to the quote process, emit 2.6 tonnes of CO2. This would cost approximately £20 to offset, a cheap price for a clear conscience, right?.

I have stated before I am not an advocate of carbon offsetting, however I can see the benefit of such a scheme. On the downside users would have to be prepared initially to offset their emissions to use this scheme, otherwise you could simply purchase the insurance from an alternate provider for the insurance only cost. Users are trusted to be honest, in general this is not the case with some users reducing the annual mileage as a way to reduce the insurance cost, and thus providing a proportionate reduction in offset carbon. Users may become complacent, offsetting before reducing (driving by car 0.5 mile because it offset, rather than walking).

Carbon offsets are a short term fix to reducing CO2 emissions, they do work if the projects are legitimate and projects managed correctly. But are they unsustainable in the long term? There are only so many residents of developing countries you can give energy saving bulbs to offset emissions. For example Climate Care estimate that energy saving bulbs have a net offset of 20kg of CO2 per year. The average person in the UK offsetting all their emissions would need to supply 450 bulbs through such schemes over a period of five years. Investment into renewable energy technology, has potentially a longer life and will most likely provide the realistic offsets of the future. As well as this we could see more wind farm co-operatives being developed.

Since lauching ibuyeco have, in their first three months offset over 18 000 tonnes of CO2 (0.02% of all emissions from road travel in the UK), certainly not an achievement to be scorned at.

As I have been negative about carbon offsets lately, there are positives of such projects. In the short term they provide independent financial backing for projects, which in many cases would not have been carried out otherwise, providing immediate reductions in CO2 emissions. This also is helping government meet renewable energy targets within the UK, where projects fund such developments. It would be encouraging to see more carbon offset companies using revenue to support renewable energy projects in the UK, especially large scale wind. Many companies support projects in developing countries where, it makes more sense ethically and financially to invest, and rates per tonne of CO2 are substantially lower than that in the UK, but is this at the cost of the quality of life within the United Kingdom, through increased death, hospital admissions and short term illness caused by air pollution, offset projects in the UK could potentially lead to savings of billions in taxpayer revenues.

Summarising, I think I am coming around to carbon offsets as a short term fix (within reason, like a bridging loan) but in the longer term energy efficiency and carbon offsets focused in the United Kingdom are what is needed to "fuel" a low carbon economy, providing real financial backing for renewable energy projects, and could prove to be financially beneficial to the government and its people.

Is ibuyeco good or bad? What is your opinion?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

My Most Polluting Purchase

I have just made one of the most polluting purchases I will make this year, something that emits 25g of CO2 per second, the equivalent to eating a packet of Walkers crisps every three seconds. 1.5kg of CO2 per minute, similar to boiling a kettle for one hour. 90kg CO2 per hour, one percent of the annual carbon footprint of the average person in the UK. And 2.18 tonnes of CO2 a day, the same as a 11975.2 miles flight from London Heathrow to Hong Kong.

Well actually, if you had not guessed from the picture that is what I have purchased, a flight from London Heathrow to Hong Kong with British Airways, of course in cattle class, not that I could afford Club World or First (not that I would reject a free upgrade), my excuse is cattle class of course is somewhat more "environmentally friendly", but that is a very empty excuse at that and to hide my overwhelming guilt. Whilst the trip will be a mixture of business and pleasure, I can't help but feel guilty for the cardinal eco-sin I have committed upon the planet after considerably galant efforts from the initiation of this blog. Offsetting seems the only way to free my conscience. Whilst I am not a fan of offsetting, in this case it seems the only fast track route to eco-heaven, and possibly to dissipate the guilt from my mind.

So how exactly can I offset 2.18 tonnes of CO2, well British Airways have partnered with Climate Care to allow passengers to offset their emissions for a nominal fee, in my case a mere £16.84. That is a fast track way to a guilt free flight. Like similar offsetting schemes the money is invested into projects around the world; Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, or Forest Restoration.

Technically my £16.84 will purchase about 22 energy efficient bulbs to reduce carbon emissions in one project. I think this is my gripe with carbon offsets, they seem so trivial and uninspiring, but if it reduces emissions surely it is a good thing.

To calculate your carbon emissions from British Airways flights visit the British Airways Carbon Calculator.

If you can inspire me to use £16.84 more wisely to offset 2.18 tonnes of CO2 emissions (or more), tell me how, and I may just consider your proposal. Add your ideas to the blog responses section.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Hong Kong October 2007

From 03 October 2007, I will be in Hong Kong for eight days, during that time I will be writing on various topics based on energy efficiency in Hong Kong, and how these concepts could be implemented into a low carbon economy in the UK. If you are part of an energy related project in Hong Kong that you would like to publicise, explain to me, show off to the world please feel free to contact me. Our site currently receives in excess of 50 000 hits (75 000 page views) per year and growing steadily month-on-month, with top international brands, and industry insiders reading on a regular basis.

New Products Added to Carbon Label Scheme

Video (Only Availabe to UK Residents)
The Carbon Trust announced today that a further nine brands will add carbon labels to at least one product. Walkers, Boots and Innocent added labels to one of their products in March 2007, which I commented on in July and suggested that it would be encouraging to see more companies doing the same. The nine new brands to sign up to the scheme are;
  • Coca-Cola
    One still and one sparkling drink
  • Cadbury's Schwepps
    Dairy Milk chocolate bar
  • Kimberly-Clark
    Andrex toilet tissure and Huggies nappies
  • Aggregate Industries
    Hard Landscaping Products (paving stones etc)
  • The Co-operative Group
    200g and 400g punnet of strawberries
  • Halifax
    Halifax Web Saver account
  • Marshalls
    Hard landscaping products (paving stones etc)
  • Muller Dairy (UK) Limited
    One type of yoghurt
  • Scottish & Newcastle
    Fosters lager and Bulmers cider
I am encouraged to see the varying brands and products that will be added to the scheme and this will further assist consumers in buying decisions. It is also interesting to see that for the first time two competing brands in the same industry are working to label their products, and how each vary will be a talking point for the future.
"It is encouraging that so many top companies were "stepping up to the plate" on the issue of climate change. The take-up from business of the Carbon Trust's scheme shows that there's real appetite and willingness to firstly understand, and secondly to reduce the impact that their products have on our planet."
Joan Ruddock, Climate Change Minister
Each company that signs up to the scheme must commit for a minimum of two years to reduce their carbon footprint. Following the Carbon Trust guidelines each company is given a "reduce or lose" clause whereby, if they don't reduce their emissions within this time the label usage will be revoked.
"The unprecedented level of interest we have had in this initiative makes me confident that by working with manufacturers and producers to reduce indirect carbon emissions, we can move the UK another step closer to a low carbon economy"
Tom Delay, Chief Executive, Carbon Trust
The expansion of the carbon label is another step towards reducing the UK annual carbon emissions of 648m tonnes, as each new company signs up to the scheme and labels their products it offers consumers a new choice, and the commitment of the brand they support that they are actively working to reduce the impact of their product on the environment. It makes financial sense that each brand will be commited to the reduction, least not the red faces should they not.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Video: "Biking is Better"

After visiting the LifestyleGreen Show and speaking with the Northern Ireland Cycling Initiative, the largest cycling campaign group in Northern Ireland, I am feeling compelled to act on my previous inclinations to purchase a new bike. I have resisited previously over minor concerns. I will, should I purchase the new bike use it to travel to work and to make late night shopping trips to the supermarket on a regular basis. This will be a small part in reducing the 91m tonnes of CO2 emissions caused by road transport in the UK, and it might make me a little fitter in the process. From research published by Lets Green This City, which I have commented on previously how could I deny myself the thrills and fun of cycling to work which 19% of cyclists say is the best part of their day.

One of my major concerns was bike theft which I have now resolved, with an insurance quote from CycleGuard which is a fraction of that of car insurance premiums.

Would-be cyclists can benefit from a bike to work scheme offering tax savings on bikes purchased by employees through their work for employees via PAYE, who then pay for the bike through monthly contributions for twelve months. The employee can then buy the bike for a nominal retail value. A £400 bike purchased through the scheme could result in savings of upto 33% off the retail value. Whilst I think this scheme is a great way to encourage people on to their bikes, the red tape and complicated system I feel would deter some people even asking their company about implementing the scheme (including myself). More appropriate I feel would be cycles rated Vat free and tax deductible with certain limitations. However the response to this suggestion from the government is outlined below.

"VAT is a broad-based tax on consumer expenditure generally and reliefs from it have always been strictly limited. When the UK joined the European Community in 1973, it meant signing up to the general agreements which covered the application of VAT throughout the EC. Under these and subsequent agreements, signed by successive governments, we are allowed to keep our existing VAT zero rates but not to introduce new ones. This means that we cannot remove VAT from bicycles and other human powered vehicles or their parts and spares.

The Government is taking practical steps to increase levels of cycling, as a means of contributing to many of our key priorities including improving the health of the nation, improving the environment and helping to reduce urban congestion. In 2005, the Department for Transport launched Cycling England, an independent expert body to co-ordinate cycling across the country with a budget of £5m a year for a three-year period to allocate to cycling programmes. This was increased to £10m a year in June 2006 with the additional funding being targeted on funding safe links to school and additional cycle training in schools. Cycling England has a free expert advisory service to support local authorities to help them get the best value out of their expenditure (around £60m in 2006/07) on cycling. £17m (with match funding) is also being invested in six Cycling Demonstration Towns over 3 years, to showcase best practice, and test whether by investing at levels seen in successful European cycling cities we can start to see similar levels of cycling in England."

The above video is from Transport for London, to promote people to get on their bikes, because it's "Better to Bike".

Picture: CIS Tower, Manchester

The CIS Tower in Manchester is the UK's largest solar PV project which cost £5.5m to implement, and received over £1m in grants, the tower generates in excess of 180 000 kwh annually reducing CO2 emissions by 90 000kg. The scheme on the 40 year old building also offset the need to reclad the existing building with traditional rainscreening, which would have an adverse ecological impact.

Monday, 17 September 2007

What's in Season from Your Local Farmer?

Buying locally is often difficult at the best of the times, but knowing what is in season and buying accordingly is one way to find what you are looking for, you don't have to comprimise too much as a wide variety of foods are available all year around.

| All | J | F | M | A | M | J | J | A | S | O | N | D |

To find details of your nearest farmers markets (England, Scotland & Wales), or in Northern Ireland at the Ulster Farmers Union website.

Monday, 10 September 2007

The Green Provocateur

After reading "The Green Provocateur" and Donnachadh McCarthy's attempt to take on corporate organisations head on, I was to a certain degree pleased to see that the response from individuals, the corporates and the blogging communinty, here, here and here, in most cases was polite and positive. Which had me thinking about doing the same thing, for I had been thinking for several weeks about contacting Northern Ireland Railways regarding lighting on trains and in certain stations, but had resisted believing that my comments most likely will be overlooked, disregarded or seem hypocritical, but then why would a company disregard the potential of saving hundreds or thousands of pounds a year for a few minutes work. For the next year I plan to follow the green provocateur's lead by enlightening corporates in my local area with ideas on how to reduce their impact and reduce their overheads. Starting with a target of 1 000 tonnes of CO2, and no doubt gradually increasing to 10 000 and so on, I will update progress in the comments section.

HIPs Average EPC Rating "E"

Today sees the implementation of Home Information Packs for three-bedroom houses, now covering 60% of the UK market. But with this also comes news that the average four-bedroom home achieved a miserable "E" rating for the Energy Performance Certificate. An E rating could potentially rise to a C if consumers carry out measures recommended in the certificates, such as loft and cavity wall insulation.
"Families buying four-bedroom homes are getting clear information, which shows how they can save hundreds of pounds on their fuel bills and cut carbon emissions too. It is important that this should be available for people buying three-bedroom homes as well." Iain Wright, Communities Minister
Related Posts
Home Information Packs
Energy Performance Certificates Influence Buyer Decisions

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Coke Aims for 100% Recycle Rate

Coca Cola has announced that it plans to invest over £30m in building a PET recycling facility to recycle or reuse 100% of its plastic bottles in the United States. The plant is being built in partnership with United Resource Recovery Corporation, and is expected to be fully functional by 2009. In addition to this ambitious target Coca Cola are strengthening their ties with kerbside collection organisations such as RecycleBank. The news comes after Coke announced plans for a line of eco apparel made from recycled PET, with environmental based slogans 'I'm wearing post-consumer waste, 'My white t-shirt is green' and 'My Bag is Green'.

It's good to see a strong corporate organisation make such an ambitious target for dealing with the consumer waste it produces, especially plastics, whether or not they can step up and meet the target they have set will be seen in the long term.

In the UK companies must recycle 25% of the plastics packaging they produce, and Petcore figures from 2004 said that Europe wide we recycled just over 30% of PET bottles. I wonder will Coke make this gesture in other countries and help us out a little.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Planet Relief Big "Switch Off" Switched Off

The now defunct Planet Relief and its predecessor Live Earth, had both planned for a big switch off. The idea that thousands of households around the country would switch off simultaneously in a grand gesture to save the planet. Cameras positioned in prime aerial city locations around the UK would watch as the UK switched off and the ensuing blanket of darkness would cover the UK, saving energy, CO2 emissions and well the planet for a few minutes. Or so that was the plan, in reality such actions are like playing Russian roulette with the countries energy supply, and may end up doing more harm than good. The plans even had the National Grid nervous.

The reasoning, that the unpredictable demand for power could lead to households losing power, and wasted energy, resulting in a likelihood, more emissions being created than saved. Not to mention the irony, a television station asking viewers to switch off.

Surges of electricity are not uncommon for the National Grid, but a mass exodus of power consumption is. Surges often range from 300MW, 60 times the maximum output of the RePower 5MW wind turbine, to in excess of 3200MW. These are normally down to what are known as TV pick-ups. The National Grid faces a constant challenge. It must provide enough energy, and not too much, and it must keep the frequency at 50hz.
"The way to think about it is to imagine you are in your car and your challenge is to keep the car at exactly 50 miles an hour. You press on the accelerator as you go up the hill, and you ease off on the other side. A TV pick-up will give you anything between 200-400 [extra MW] if it's not a major storyline; for a main character being killed or a wedding with a lot of hype 700-800. If the analysts' predictions are more than 300MW out, the incident might be investigated. We can't store electricity in any great quantity, so we have to forecast second by second, minute by minute. You base that on what did it do yesterday, what did it do last week, can you identify a day with exactly the same weather. There is a demand-forecasting computer program that looks at the corresponding five weeks over the past five years. And better still there is an analyst who tackles the TV listings every day and tries to predict the spikes. There will be somebody now looking at this evening's television schedules and forecasting what the control room should expect. Saying we want to switch off everything now is not going to be sustainable and is very, very unpredictable. You would create far more carbon [emission] than what you would actually save."
Alan Smart, Operations Manager, National Grid
Whilst I am somewhat happy to see the demise of Planet Relief, I truly believe whilst the intention was good, the show would have entered into the shady saturated genre of TV appeals which have become all to familiar, added with the likely outcry of hypocrisy, again. But more to the point the likely reason it was scraped was the miserable viewing figures for events like Live Earth which were also broadcast on the BBC and the public desire for factual programming to disseminate the information.

Picture: Princess Elisabeth Station Antarctic's first "Zero-Emission" Base

Princess Elisabeth Station, which claims to be the Antarctic's first "zero-emission" base, entirely run on renewable energy and completely recycling all waste. The station will be situated inland, near the Sor Rondane mountains in Dronning Maud Land, not far from where Belgium maintained the "Roi Baudouin" base for a decade following the last international polar year (1957-58). The station site (at 71 degrees South and 23 degrees East) is in the 1500 kilometer empty stretch between the Japanese Syowa station and the Russian Novolazarevskaya station. Commissioned by the Belgian government from the International Polar Foundation, Elisabeth is currently on public display in Brussels. It is due to reach Antarctica on Christmas Day.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Drax Power Station Begins Energy Efficiency Plan

Whilst you can not support a company which emits in excess of 20m tonnes of CO2 annually, you can commend them for actions they take to reduce their impact and improve efficiency. Drax Power Station, Selby, North Yorkshire is the largest coal-fired power plant in Europe with a maximum capacity of 3,945 MW, providing 7% of the UK's power, and burning up to 36 000 tonnes daily.

Drax has made an early start in its £100m plan to upgrade turbines, and installing its first high pressure turbine this month. Once complete, these upgrades will reduce the plant CO2 emissions by 1m tonnes of CO2 annually, the equivalent to removing 360 000 cars from UK roads. Drax also plans to produce 10% of its electricity from burning biomass, and recently surpassed 4% from burning olive and sunflower waste. This will further reduce the CO2 emissions from the plant by 2m tonnes per annum.

Whilst this wont appease the protesters who attended the plant in August 2006, it is a small step towards reducing the emissions generated by UK population through electricity production, and until renewable energy or other forms of zero emission energy is utilised to make coal-fired plants redundant its unfortunate that Drax will continue to emit emissions.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

eurostar Carbon Neutral from November, and A Little Faster

eurostar have decided to offset their CO2 emissions in full as from November 14th 2007. As part of their new ten point plan to "tread lightly" on the environment and reduce their emissions by 25% directly through efficiency and waste reduction by 2012. Consequently, changes across all areas of their business, from the big things like energy efficiency, paperless ticketing and waste management, through supply chain selection to smaller cultural changes like recycling in their offices.

Ten-Point Plan
  • Reducing paper usage by switching to e-tickets and bar code ticketing downloaded to mobile phones; undertaking direct marketing via email and web-based information; and where paper is unavoidable, sourcing from sustainable forests or recycled paper, and recycling all used paper
  • Separating, sorting and recycling all on-board waste, including food waste, by the most appropriate methods
  • Ensuring on-board disposable items (e.g. cups, plates, napkins) are either biodegradable (made from maize extract) or fully recyclable
  • Replacing train air-conditioning refrigerants with the less environmentally damaging chemical R134a by 2008 – seven years before the EU deadline
  • Refurbishing or de-branding and recycling used staff uniforms
  • Sourcing on-train food from local sources in UK, France or Belgium wherever available, including organic suppliers, or Fairtrade for overseas supplies
  • Ensuring that lighting, heating and mechanical plant at stations, depots and offices are as energy efficient as possible; developing a ‘switch-off’ culture; and sourcing electricity from greener sources of energy
  • Reusing water from train-washing at the new Temple Mills maintenance depot, and investing in rainwater collection to further reduce consumption
  • Sorting and recycling waste from stations, offices and the Temple Mills maintenance depot, with the goal of zero disposal to landfill; and with 80 per cent of waste to be recycled by 2009
  • Helping travellers reduce CO2 emissions when accessing Eurostar services by providing journey planner information and ticket sales for public transport options, and developing new travel initiatives and partnerships
It is faster to travel by train from London to Paris, than plane, after the opening of new high speed lines where trains can travel at up to 186mph, from the new home of eurostar at St Pancras. The journey from Paris to London, took a mere 2 hours 3 minutes and 39 seconds. The expected average journey time will be about 2 hours 15 minutes. Construction of the line and revamping St Pancras cost £5.8bn in public funds. Of the funding, £800m went on redeveloping St Pancras station, meaning the cost of installing the line was about £73.5m per mile. This compares with £28.4m to build a mile of a three-lane motorway in 2005, according to a Parliamentary answer from May last year.

"Today marks Britain's entry into the European high-speed rail club. Journey times to Paris, even for people travelling from Yorkshire, would be broadly the same as for those flying due to lengthier check-in times at airports."

Richard Brown, Eurostar, Chief Executive

Anticipated Journey Times
  • London-Paris 2 hrs 15 mins
  • London-Brussels 1hr 51 mins
  • London-Lille 1hr 20 mins
Not only is it faster, it is also more environmentally friendly, even without the full offsetting of emissions, per passenger eurostar emissions are only 10.9kg of CO2 (London - Paris, Return Journey). In comparison, easyJet who I highlighted yesterday as being one of the most efficient airlines, emit 112kg of CO2 for the same return journey, plus this does not include the emissions from getting to out of city airports. To offset each passengers emissions will only cost about nine to twelve pence. Seven services to Paris and five to Brussels will start running from Ebbsfleet from 19 November and a ticket office has been opened at Bluewater Shopping Centre two miles from the station. Eurostar tickets from London to Paris start from £59 return.

"Doing nothing is not an option. What Eurostar is doing is a plan for the future."
Stuart Rose, Marks & Spencer
, Chief Executive

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Easyjet Show Off Their Green Credentials

easyJet are keen to show off their green credentials by launching "easyJet and the Environment" section on their website. Here they make three promises towards social responsibility and the environment, to be environmentally efficient in the air, on the ground, and to lead the aviation industry in shaping a greener future.

easyJet one of Europe's leading low-cost airlines has grown to servicing over 38 million passenger journeys annually, however their business structure, whilst based on cost minimisations, also reduces their footprint on the environment. They are one of the most environmentally efficient airlines and operate 137 of the cleanest, quietest aircraft available with an average age of just 2.3 years. easyJet’s efficient business model (higher seat densities and higher load factors) means that traditional airlines emit nearly 27% more emissions per passenger kilometre than easyJet flying the same aircraft on similar routes.

The easyJet carbon offsetting (“ECO”) scheme was launched last month. The easyJet Carbon Calculator will calculate every passenger’s emissions in a reliable and robust way, based on sector length, load factor and fuel burn. The airline expects the average contribution for a return journey to be around £3. This sum is added to the cost of the flights and paid for in one single transaction. easyJet will invest the money contributed by its passengers to buy CO2 emission credits from the Perlabi Hydroelectric Project in Ecuador, a UN approved Certified Emission Reduction scheme, acting on a not-for-profit basis. Citigroup, a leading financial services provider and a prospective project participant, will sell the credits from the Perlabi Hydroelectric Project directly to easyJet.

Emissions Per Passenger On Three easyJet flights;
  • LTN (London Luton) - CDG (Paris) - 56kg CO2 (£0.73)
  • BFS (Belfast International) - SFX (Berlin) - 102kg CO2 (£1.33)
  • EDI (Edinburgh) - MAD (Madrid) - 149kg CO2 (£1.94)
"That's why easyJet's new offsetting scheme is a really positive step forward. We particularly welcome its exemplary decision to use only certified offset credits that meet Kyoto standards, meaning that its customers can be sure that the carbon reductions are real, clear and accountable. These are the same kind of credits the Government uses to offset its emissions from air travel and is in line with the standard we aim to set through the Government's upcoming Code of Best Practice for offsetting products and will give consumers the clarity they want when offsetting."
Hilary Benn, Environmental Secretary

Saturday, 1 September 2007

What's in Season from Your Local Farmer in September?

Broad Beans
Brussel Sprouts

In Season All Year
Red Cabbage

Soup Veg

Bramley Apples


Other Grains

Please note the above selection of foods is based on what is in season in the United Kingdom.

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