Archive for category Renewable electricity suppliers

Shouldn’t we do more with our poo?

Cows by Sunfox
I read today in the Guardian that Lunen, a town north of Dortmund in Germany is to become the first town to be powered by animal waste when it launches a 6.8 mw power plant later this year - enough to power and heat 26,000 houses.

This is great news, but the first thought that came to my mind was ‘about time!’. We’ve known for a very long time that animal and human manure has potential for power generation, but it seems to have remained a cottage industry rather than going mainstream. I’m not the first person to bring them up, but the reasons are obvious:

  • A never-ending supply of manure. As long as we and our animals continue to eat, we will produce…
  • Reducing the need for waste disposal or treatment
  • By products in the form of highly effective, organic, fertiliser
  • Power generated by natural resources

I’m guessing that the reasons that more hasn’t been done here and sooner are the same as for many such potential CO2 reduction solutions: ‘the investment required doesn’t make it financially viable in the short or even medium term. We just can’t justify it.’ But surely the same people saying this are the governments and official bodies who have finally (apparently) recognised that we need to do as much as we can as soon as possible, and the same people who have just spent billions on bailing out our banks?

There are many different potential solutions for reducing our CO2 emissions, some easier than others, some cheaper than others. The most important are undoubtedly related to power generation: solar, wind, hydro, waves -all based on natural, never-ending energy sources. I think we need to add manure - or more simply, poo to this list. As long as we’re around, there will be poo, so let’s use it, rather than letting it go to waste.

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What would you like for your Budget? Surprise me, Darling…

Tomorrow Alistair Darling announces his new Budget for the UK. This is an opportunity for him and his party to actual concretise some of the past promises they have made about ensuring that the UK leads Europe in its approach to the environment. It’s also an opportunity to counter the more than justified criticism of existing policies, or rather the lack thereof. Basically, Darling needs to put place some clear, firm and positive measures to show that Labour really is taking Global Warming and the reduction of CO2 seriously.

We do already have a few teasers - or at least all the newspapers are saying the same things. So-called ‘gas guzzlers’ are likely to be punished with a forecourt tax aiming to discourage people from buying them in the first place. Tax discs may be marked more clearly to indicate emissions levels of different cars.  There are even suggestions of more radical proposals such as making parking more expensive for vehicles with higher emissions. Continuing with vehicles, energy companies will apparently be forced to increase the amount of biofuels (sustainably source, of course) they sell on a yearly basis - maybe a good move, but as we know from ongoing discussions, not one to please many environmentalists, and certainly not the ideal long term solution.

These proposals are all very well, but they certainly don’t show the government getting tough on the environment, and neither will raising green taxes or continuing to increase duty on fuel. This we’ve seen before, and, quite frankly, the impact will be minimal. So the question is, does Mr Darling have any surprises, real surprises, hidden under his hat?

Well we can hope, but what should we hope for? Personally I have one hope, although I fear it will not be fulfilled: as well as continuing with the deterrent approach - mostly taxing emissions - it’s time to do like Germany and introduce incentives, specifically a reasonable, interesting, Fee-in tarif for anyone producing surplus electricity via renewable sources. Just in case you’re not sure what this is, it’s really simple - if you generate electricity for your home or business via a renewable source - solar, wind, geothermal - and you produce more than your building requires, you can sell it back to the grid. This generates revenue, enabling you to pay back your investment in renewable energy faster (the cost to install a solar voltaic system for a 3 bedroom house is in the region of £20,000 today).

Germany is today the leader in electricity generation from sources such as wind and solar, and installations outnumbered those in the UK by as much as 1,000 to 1 last year. Why? Because people had a reason to invest beyond just ‘being green’. Because they had a way to pay off their investment within a reasonable period.

So I’m crossing my fingers for tomorrow, but I’m not holding out much hope. I will however continue to rant about this: we all know - governments included - that we need to move fast, and instead of just using the infamous ’stick’, this government needs to provide some ‘carrots’ - real, tangible ones.

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (13): change to a green electricity supplier

Green or renewable electricity suppliers are approved electricity suppliers who buy the power that they supply from renewable energy sources: wind farms, hydroelectric power stations, solar photovoltaic installations, and, in the future, wave power and others… Some of them also use nuclear power, which I know is not everyone’s idea of ‘green’ electricity, but fortunately there are enough suppliers to enable you to pick and choose.

Switching to a green electricity supplier means that the energy you consume is CO2 neutral, that is to say that it has been generated without producing CO2 emissions. It doesn’t mean you should go ‘woohoo’ and consume all you want, but it does mean that you are emitting less CO2 than someone whose electricity comes from a coal-burning power station. Surprisingly enough, renewable electricity costs about the same as well, or at worst 10% more expensive, which you can offset if you change all your lightbulbs to energy saving ones.

The UK’s open energy supplier market (and it’s the same in many European countries too) means that it is extremely easy to switch your electricity supplier nowadays. In fact, all you have to do is to click on this link to visit Energy Linx, who compare all the different available prices, show you the options (including their sources of green electricity) and help you set in motion your transfer online.

Switching to a green / renewable electricity supplier has to be the easiest move you can make to reduce your co2 emissions. If you combine it with following all of our other reduce your co2 tips you will save money as well, and ensure that there is enough renewable electricity available for all the other converts. This one is a given: DO IT NOW!

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