News Alert

Wondering how to further reduce your energy bills? Have a look at the HOBBS report for a few ideas.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Support for the Feed in Tariff

30 Sept '10: DNC writes: It's unfortunate that the Coalition government, having promised to be "Greener than Gordon Brown's government" have allowed rumours to grow and destabilize our confidence in the Feed in Tariffs.

If you are an early adopter, and installed PV before July 2009, they will not retro-engineer the FiT, so the best deal going seems to be with Good Energy. GE will continue to pay microgenerators on its HomeGen scheme who had their systems installed before 1st February 2010, and aren't eligible for the higher FiT rate. This amounts to15p per unit generated until April 2011, 5 times the amount that other utilities will pay. I don't know if this applies to you if you join them now, because initially, it seems to be a loyalty payment for those who have been with GE for a while. For my system they kept their word and sent me payment at 15p a unit for the period Oct 2009 to April 2010.

Please join the website group and send the emails to Chris Huhne and others, to make sure that there is no regressing on the Feed in Tariffs. To me, there is a fair case for reviewing the original FIT idea on other systems such as Biomass and Heat Pumps, as it was hard to quantify the income and earnings. With PV, there is an OfGem meter, and the amounts generated and the amounts imported through the house meter are completely clear, and are very difficult to falsify, so there should be no altering of this scheme. Flexibility is built into the existing scheme by their ability to tweak todays's figure of 41.3p, so it would be better to let that scheme continue. Home generators are, collectively, reducing the need for power stations to be burning Columbian coal or imported oil or gas, so are good for the country as a whole, making use more energy independent.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nottingham Evening Post features Rushcliffe Solar

28 Sept '10: Many thanks to the Nottingham Evening Post (and Jon Robinson) for a well written article on the Rushcliffe Solar project.

Quite often when you see something about you written in the media, you are grinding your teeth at the inaccuracies, but Jon is an experienced writer on environmental matters and has written it perfectly. I am glad to see that he got a comment there from a member of Rushcliffe BC.

So, congratulations to Jon on a good write up, and I have only one small addition which is to add that people wishing to get a free PV survey from Rushcliffe Solar should use the website and leave their details on the ENQUIRE Tab.
Rushcliffe Solar is a Photovoltaic campaign jointly initiated by Rushcliffe BC, Transition West Bridgford, Energy Saving Trust and University of Nottingham, with subsequent sponsorship by ten solar installers.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rushcliffe will be a power generator!

27 Sept '10: Councils can Create & Sell Electricity: when the Feed in Tariff came in, it was for householders, institutions and businesses, but somehow Local Authorities were not allowed to take part. This seemed anomalous as they have many many roofs in their ownership - the prime purpose of the legislation would seem to have been to reduce power generation transmission losses from distant fossil fuel power stations by local generating. So why were LAs not included?

Chris Huhne as part of the Coalition Government removed the ban - so that Councils are now able to generate electricity for sale to the grid.

In the light of this at the first available Council Meeting, Lib Dem Councillor Rod Jones proposed at a Council meeting on 23rd Sept: "in the light of the decision of the Secretary of State for Energy to remove the ban on Councils selling renewable energy, this Council recognising its scope from land and premises to produce energy from wind, solar, ground source and other sources, will review as soon as is practicable, the available options and the associated costs and income in the long term."

Well it is good news that this was approved!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Starting to plan October's event: Insulation and draughts

Now that I’ve looked at the feedback from the first Eco House Group talk on 14th September, I’m planning the next event (for mid October). So far the most likely date will be 12th or 19th October, subject to confirmation. It would be good to get some idea if you can make one or both of those (if the event itself is of interest to you). If neither is any good, do let me know – I may have a backup option. Please email:

From the discussions generated on 14th and the written feedback, it seems that many people are interested in insulation of some sort. And insulation and draught-proofing are normally quoted as the place to start when considering eco-improvements in the home.

So, whatever questions you may have regarding insulation and air tightness / draught-proofing, the intention is to bring in one or more experts and take a workshop/surgery approach to give you the chance to ask your questions and discuss possible solutions in detail. There is also likely to be a short talk covering the general points to keep in mind.

If you have come across an expert in insulation (independent expert or a supplier) who you would recommend, please do – I hope to get a range of expert perspectives on the subject.
Kind regards

Dataloggers ahoy

20 Sept: We are thinking of a bulk order for portable dataloggers - in their large form they are infernally expensive, but it is possible to get small USB sized ones for between 35 and 50pounds plus vat and post, depending.   The results can be read into a normal PC, and converted into graphs. 

Ones can be bought to measure temperature or humidity or  other conditions. The idea is that they store the data for long periods. Eg you can leave one in the garden or loft for six months, to have a complete temperature record for the whole season. If you have a few, eg in the interior, one in an external weather proof box, you can then compare the effectiveness of your insulation measure, day and night, week by week, months, and finally comparing seasons.
If you wish to share in a purchase, please email to Tina Holt and we can combine into a larger order. Indicate if you want only temperature, or ones for other purposes (there are ones for temperature, humidity, current, voltage, pressure, shock.Next year the VAT goes up, so some of the WB Ecohouse group already have an order lined up, so please add your order too, so you have no postage to worry about.

Explanation of Passivhaus

20 Sept: DNC writes: The Isover website has a very succinct explanation of the principles of the Passivhaus, and to avoid the risk of upsetting someone at the Passivhaus institute, they call it the Multi Comfort house. There are good diagrams, and some downloadable PDFs.
   It is impossible for an existing British house to be brought up to the standard of Passivhaus as the requirements for insulation extend to the tiniest levels of detail, such as avoiding cold bridges at every conceivable junction. No matter how well insulated your main surfaces are, there are heat losses at the junctions, eg. roof to wall. Traditional houses, and ones being built have cold bridges all over the place. Also, British houses are naturally ventilated, and Passivhaus should mostly be nearly airtight, with a heat recovery ventilation system.
  In a well insulated house, the ventilation in winter becomes the main cause of heat loss. It is difficult to build an airtight house, let alone persuade a British family to live in one and operate it correctly.

So what is the next best thing you can do? Well, the first thing is to INSULATE! 
Note: External insulation is vastly more effective than Internal.
The cost of getting it applied externally is mitigated by the benefit of leaving your interior unchanged in size and appearance. It is better because the thermal mass of your house remains within the shell, acting as a conditioner of the air temperature. It will cover a large number of the thermal bridges. External insulation works better if you take it below ground level, with just a metal expansion joint along the line of the old damp proof course.
If you have a garage up against your house, it is an easy DIY job to stick insulation to the external wall within the garage, not requiring to be weather proofed.

The other aspect is to check your windows, and consider a programme of window replacement with modern panes and frames with thermal breaks in them. Do not consider expensive options like mechanically assisted heat recovery ventilation until you have made the house more airtight and better insulated.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rob Hopkins Lecture

13 Sept: Rob Hopkins leads the Transition movement by virtue of his guidebook, and he is a great motivational speaker. In his lecture at Derby, he started off with a quote from Moomin : 'Why do things always change?' and discussed the way we respond to Change. Discovering the theory of Peak Oil is what got him into Transition movement, and we do seem to be reaching the end - we have had 100 years of very low-cost abundant energy which cannot continue. See for a long discussion of Peak Oil and other energy issues.
The news is that the UK's energy balance is back in deficit, and the wealth that flowed from it went into tax cuts and de-manufacturing redundancies - unlike in Norway where it was better invested. Global warming is happening - the weather and ice mass statistics prove it - the revealing of more dark sea and dark tundra will make it happen even quicker.
So, with Peak oil happening, and climate change happening, what do we do? We need to Plan - plan to Power Down (reduce our consumption), and plan to Power Up - find clean sources of power. We need to avoid anomalies like eating air freighted beans from Peru that could be grown in our own garden. is the starting point for the Transition network, and the movement has been viral, with many local areas joined, or waiting to join. Last year's annual conference had energy Secretary Ed Miliband present and listening. Transition is fun, its creative, it is necessary as part of the historic change process to a low energy future. It had become international, indeed global.

He ran through a number of key points worth remembering,
• Tips on getting started (be inclusive, make it locally relevant)
• Transition training (for the group to run well, the key people should train)
• Run successful meetings (retain the talent, don't put people off)
• Foster Arts and Creativity (generate leaflets, posters etc)
• Form working sub groups (to address topics, eg Food, Power, Recycling)
• Visioning (have an eye to what the future could be like in low energy society if we get it right)
• Backcasting (evolve strategies for Now that could lead us to the best part of the vision)
• Financing (groups need funds to be effective, consider Pledgebank, events etc)
• Avoid Burnout (workers doing too much need emotional support)
• Celebrate Success, and take Failures philosophically (you get nowhere without taking a risk)
• Practical Manifestations matter (you need solid achievements like trees planted, or people insulating)
• The great Re-Skilling (we need to return to times when people can repair clothes, grow food etc)
• Work with Local businesses (you need their support and they benefit from yours)
• Unleashing (if starting a new group, make a splash with early events)
• Outreach (work together, share support, get community involved)
• Group Brainstorming (find out what people are concerned about locally and build on that)
• Oral history (older people have useful lessons to teach about living more simply)
• Engage young people (schools are a resource, and often children can teach their parents)
• Form networks and partnerships (we are all rowing boat in same direction, so cooperate!)
• Use Maps successfully (can be used to overlay information, eg schools, employment, brownland, routes)
• Adaptation - form an Energy Descent Plan - this is how Transition started
• Anticipate how the Energy Descent can be carried out
• Social Entrepreneurship (some of the subgroups may evolve into new forms of employment and activity, e.g. Sustrans)
• Consider the options for Community Energy companies (co-ops for wind turbines, water turbines etc)
• Plugging the Leaks (cant remember what this was about.... :)
• Exchange scheme (for example the Brixton Pound, Totnes pound, forming local currency for services etc)
• Strategic thinking (look at regional maps and see how things relate, eg food circles, power transmission distances etc)
• Strategic local infrastructure (what is needed locally?)
• Community Assets  (e.g. retain buildings if more energy efficient to do so)
• Policies for Transition (if you have a descent plan, help the Local Authority to plan for post-Peak-oil)

So.... the big question is: Peak Oil is ending ... and what's on the other side?
As Moomin would say: 'The path ahead seems very twisted, but it may still be the quickest way home'
Notes taken by David Nicholson-Cole 
The Transition Derby Website contains a mini version of his presentation 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eco renovation meeting

15 Sept: We had the meeting as advertised (see earlier part of this blog). It was held in one of the new buildings established by South Notts College on the Ruddington Business Park. The Eco-houses group is a subset of Transition West Bridgford, focusing on ideas for house adaptation and eco-renovation.
   Tina Holt opened with an introduction for the group - it is the first meeting, and we want to encourage this to be a regular event.
  Architect Mike Siebert presented the main talk, concluding with 4 key points 'in a nutshell', which were to Insulate, Control Airtightness, control Consumption (wasteful appliances and lifestyle), and only after all that has been addressed, consider Renewables (technological fixes).
  Tim Saunders concluded with a summary of documents and energy saving ideas from the Energy Saving Trust.
  Tina collected ideas for future meetings and events. There may be another eco-renovation open day. She has a strong interest in External insulation and that was debated quite vigorously until the building manager had to throw us out at 10pm! Hopefully, she will organise another meeting soon! She collected requests from the audience for focused topics to cover in later meetings.
  David Hill of Carbon Legacy (a heat pump, rainwater catchment, windturbine and photovoltaic installer) was in the audience and DNC (author of this little piece, and creator of the RushcliffeSolar and ChargingtheEarth projects) visited David H's house the following day to view the heat pump and heat recovery system - and was very impressed with the Swift wind turbine.

PDF of Tina's introductory talk / PDF of Mike Siebert's talk /

Summary of Tim's points:
Tim of Energy Saving Trust recommends a few pages on the EST site that have good advice:

Home energy check - this will provide a tailored next steps report.

Carbon Cutter

Sustainable Refurbishment guide and house type summaries

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Transition Derby and Rob Hopkins

Initial briefing for the session
13 Sept: DNC writes: Tina Holt and DavidNC and Kate Troy and Julie Lygo from Transition West Bridgford took a short ride to Derby to take part in a Transition Derby meeting, with Rob Hopkins as a main speaker. There were delegates from all over the Midlands, Birmingham, Wirksworth, Lincoln, Nottingham to name ones that I noticed.

The evening began with some audience participation exercises, such as talking to neighbours, and writing ideas onto post-it notes. I was most impressed at the effectiveness of this ice breaking process.
Sorting out the post-it notes
and selecting discussion topics.
The notes were all collected in and were organised into distinctive groupings, such as Power generation and conservation, Food, Transport issues, Waste recycling, Social Skills, Events, Group organisation etc. Volunteers were found to chair a 35 minute discussion group for each of the main topics, after which there was a reporting back. I am sure some of the ideas will appear on Transition Derby's website eventually. Then we had some vegetarian dinner and home made cakes.

The rest of the evening was a lecture from Rob Hopkins from Totnes who started the Transition movement in the UK (it is now becoming global). I took notes and will try to summarise his lecture in a later posting.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Evening Seminar -- Prioritising your eco-refurbishment actions:

Prioritising your eco-refurbishment actions: Environmentally? Financially? Logically?

Tuesday 14th September 2010
SNC Training, South Notts College
Mere Way, Ruddington Fields Business Park, NG11 6JZ

You are invited to a free evening seminar for an introduction to eco-refurbishment options small and large. What saves money straight away? What’s a good financial investment for the future? What are the most environmentally friendly options? How do you work out what to do now and what to do later?

  • The likely future of energy costs
  • Home comfort in a future climate
  • A whole house approach to eco-refurbishment
  • Low-cost and no-cost options for saving cash and carbon

Speakers: Michael Siebert, Architect and Tim Saunders, Energy Saving Trust
Come along, invite your friends. All welcome.
If you can, please email so we know how many to expect.

Directions: Follow Mere Way through Ruddington Fields Business Park. Pass the first SNC building on the left, and take the next turning to the second SNC Training building. It has a distinctive suspended curved wall with car parking beneath it. Park here or on the roadside.
Buses to Ruddington village: Ruddington Connection (Trent Barton) & No. 10 (Nott City Transport)

The Eco House Group is a project inspired by Transition West Bridgford. For more info, go to

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Case Study on the Peveril Solar House

2 Sept: DNC writes: wow! I am really happy that Good Energy (renewables-based electricity supplier) have written a case study about the PV roof on my house and the research on the Sunbox project.
See the Greenenergyrepublic Page

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Bjorn Lomborg turns at last

31 Aug: a few years ago, the Climate Change debate was countered by the energetic influence of Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish academic who gave cheer to all the deniers, such as Nigel Lawson. In more recent times I read that he now believed in Climate Change, but now felt that it was too late and too expensive to do anything about it (having no remorse it seems for his part in having things go beyond the tipping point).

  In today's Guardian, the front page story leads with his total U-Turn, in which he now agrees that it is the most important thing to make a major international investment in - countering Climate Change.