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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Climate change lecture

28 Oct '10: David NC and Tina Holt went to a meeting arranged by Derby Climate Change Coalition, for an excellent lecture on 'Zero Carbon Britain 2030'. Peter Harper, senior researcher at CAT (Centre for Alternative Technologies) is joint authored of a major report on this title, addressing the question of whether Britain can meet its future obligations (Kyoto, Copenhagen etc) by reducing its CO2 emissions, or going even further, to be considered Carbon Zero - by reducing emissions, and balancing the remainder by using renewable energy generation, nationally.
Peter started by reminding us of our obligations to future generations "The Fierce Urgency of Now". If you are lucky enough to have grandchildren, it reminds you starkly of the risks they face in the future. In all other aspects of life, we take precautions when we see a risk, we don't wait until after the house burns down before taking out insurance. The Stern Review of 2006 makes an economic case for taking care to combat climate change now, rather cheaper than waiting until after the disasters have occurred (and when major climate-responsible ones do occur, such as the floods in Pakistan does it affect public opinion in USA and UK? probably not...)
  We are getting close to a point in time... a parting of the ways... that future historians will look back to and say "in that decade, when CO2 levels were ***, that would have been the time to finally face up to the risk, the runaway effect started then". Once the runaway effect occurs, the time scale will be hundreds of human generations, as occurred with previous climate cycles. A Zero Carbon approach will be tackling both Peak oil and Climate Change, interlinked issues, both urgent.
  Different countries are at different stages - the developed world is burning more than the planet can support, but is recognising it has to cut back energy consumption, the middle world is enjoying its new affluence, and the developing world expects to reach a higher standard of living in the future - all 'high standards of living' involve high energy consumption.
  What effect can dear little Britain have? a mere 2% of the population? Well.... with climate change we are not one single country in an air tight box. All countries share the same air, so we must all be concerned, and if we wait for the others, nothing will happen. Some countries (i.e.the UK), the ones who consume MOST should be leading by example and a bit of self sacrifice (some energy abstinence).
  Hence, the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report presented to the government in 2010. We can identify three main tasks, 1. the Reduction of demand for energy, 2, Improved delivery of Zero carbon energy supply, and 3. Net negative processes to reverse the levels of CO2 such as planting and sequestration.
  The first one, which influences our actions and decisions is TO POWER DOWN! UK buildings and construction are more than half the CO2 emission, we need not just ecohouses, but to retrofit every building in the country, millions of which are insufficiently insulated. We need a shift in our Transport, to use more public transport, travel less, avoid air transport, more trains, more sharing and cycling. We need to rethink the generation of Electricity - much more wind power (on a large scale, enough to overcome intermittency), develop ways of storing energy, e.g. with heatpumps, and we should consider a European Supergrid - for example, solar power delivered by the hot southern countries, hydro from the north and wind power from the coastal countries, and sharing of nuclear if we have to have it.
  Local generation, such as domestic PV is important for stabilising grid and reducing transmission losses.
   For the UK, there is an abundance of Wind in the North sea, and if the country invested as much in that as it did in the oil rigs of the 80s and 90s, there would be a source of energy that could never run out. Electric cars are improving in performance, image and range. Hydrogen - which the US favours - is a great technology, but it has been promised for the last 40 years and still seems to be in a state of infancy, with so little delivered or accepted.
  Agriculture is a major user of energy, but crop production uses vastly less energy and land than meat production. More land could be devoted to Biomass farming if we grew less meat, and crop growing reduces CO2 levels. The overpopulation of grazing animals emit Methane and Nitrous Oxide, both greenhouse gases. We have managed a paradigm change in land use before - in the early 1900s much of our land was still devoted to horses, our previous prime form of transport. We made a major change in 100 years - much of the land devoted to airports, motorways, transport depots, and large scale farming, with the space for horses statistically negligible. Peter brought up the idea of Carbon Farming - a policy of financial incentives for farmers to grow crops not animals.
  One of the problems for the environmental movement, in our efforts to influence government, is that we have conflicting objectives, perhaps because we interpret 'environment' differently. We may all want to stop global warming, but some will also say Nuclear No Thanks, others to Save our Land from Wind Turbines, others No to Trams or No to Tidal barrages. Some propose Carbon Offsetting, but does that work? Some propose Carbon Capture and storage (whatever the cost) but does that work? Could Biofuels enable us to continue our consumptive lifestyle - we think not! Can Lifestyle changes bring down energy consumption? yes, but who is the first to turn off the lights? Can we invest in giant geo-engineering schemes to get heat from below?
  But in the face of the major hazards ahead, we should be prepared to consider Every possible option, have no taboo about discussing them, we have to be prepared to compromise our faith or opinions if necessary to achieve the larger target.

A full copy of the Zero Carbon 2030 book is available free as a PDF on line.

David NC writes: I hope you enjoyed this summary of Peter's talk, now I hope you will enjoy seeing the full copy of the document on line!

WB Ecohouses Meeting on 16 November

Renewable Energy Technologies and their financial incentive schemes
Tuesday 16th November 2010
7pm for refreshments, prompt start at 7.30pm

SNC Training, South Notts College
Mere Way, Ruddington Fields Business Park, NG11 6JZ

The third in a series of free evening events:
Short talk and experts to answer your questions

The talk will cover:
  • Generating your own electricity via Solar PVs and wind turbines
  • Ground and air source heat pumps
  • Solar hot water, wood/pellet stoves and boilers
  • FITs and RHIs (i.e. the financial incentives)
First, Talk by: David Hill - Carbon Legacy
followed by the chance to put your questions to a panel of suppliers and independent experts.

Please email if you are likely to be attending: it is not obligatory, but it helps with planning the refreshments and leaflet printing.

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)

For more information about the Eco House Group, go to

The WB Eco House Group is a project inspired by Transition West Bridgford:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Slimming or slashing the heating bill?

Insulation and draught-proofing

22 Oct: Tina Holt writes: At the second event in this series of talks, David Hill of Carbon Legacy gave an overview of the aspects to consider when reducing heat loss from a building. He included some very useful facts, figures and general advice. This covered insulation of walls, roofs and floors, what to look out for when considering new windows, and ways of reducing draughts and providing suitable ventilation without excessive heat loss. A short report summarising the options is available on request from

Following the talk, people put their own questions to one of the experts present: David Hill, Tim Saunders, Sean Stevenson, Gil Schalom, Mike Siebert and Sheila Hood. Some of these conversations were continued in the pub!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spending Review - did it affect renewables?

20 Oct: Despite this day being a much feared day (for budget cuts), and one that will have many consequences in other parts of our life and economy, there is a small glimpse of relief, in that the situation for renewables is presently unchanged.
The Good Energy website sums it up well, Feed in Tariffs will continue in their present form for PV, and the Govt will continue with intended plans for the Renewable Heat Incentive.
    The degression rate - the rate at which the rate of FiT payment is reduced annually - might be reduced a bit faster than the originally proposed 7%, but this can only be good for those who get their panels up before 2012. The degression system was always intended to encourage early adopters, and discourage the "We'll wait until prices come down" brigade.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Slimming or slashing the heating bill? Insulation and draught-proofing

Slimming or slashing the heating bill? Insulation and draught-proofing
Tuesday 19th October 2010 7.30-9.15pm

Location: SNC Training, South Notts College
Mere Way, Ruddington Fields Business Park, NG11 6JZ

Please bring
 Your questions!
 A photo of your house and any area within it that relates to your query (e.g. a room that you wish to insulate).

Topics our experts can cover include:
 Cavity walls, loft insulation and other standard options and DIY tasks
 Loft conversions, ceilings and floors, windows and doors
 What to do about solid walls?
 What about air quality in a super-insulated, air-tight house?

Experts: David Hill - Carbon Legacy; Tim Saunders - Energy Saving Trust,
Sean Stevenson - Westville Insulation; Gil Schalom - Architect

Please email if you are likely to be attending, or can't but need to be kept informed.

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)
For more information about the Eco House Group, go to
The Eco House Group is a project inspired by Transition West Bridgford:

Chris Huhne Passivhaus conference speech Oct '10
Chris Huhne, in a speech to the UK Passivhaus conference Oct 11 '10:

"I would like to see every new home in the UK reach the Passivhaus standard – and there are some beautiful examples on display tonight. We are making progress.
We will ensure that all new homes post-2016 can be zero-carbon,  without letting the costs of new build stop the sustainable development we need.
And we will introduce a minimum standard for fabric energy efficiency, based on the recent consultation on the Code for Sustainable Homes.
This will help us to break away from the model of homes being developed at low cost, but which are expensive to run. Moving toward a new concept of value in home ownership."
It is great to see the present government keeping the 2016 target in existence, and taking on the recognised standard of Passivhaus.  He also mentions the importance of retrofitting the existing housing stock:
"We also need to make homes that have already been built more energy efficient.
The Technology Strategy Board’s ‘Retrofit for the Future’ Competition is providing some fantastic examples of what is technically possible. Even in the UK, with some of Europe’s oldest housing stock, the Passivhaus standard can be achieved.
But it also highlights the cost and disruption, as houses are stripped to their bare bones before efficiency measures are installed.
The biggest challenge we face in retrofitting is not just getting householders on board, but having a credible answer when the going gets tough. When cost or inconvenience is a real barrier to improvement.
At the heart of the Energy bill which we will be introducing later this year will be the Green Deal: a radical programme backed by a completely new finance mechanism.
In times of rising bills and tight family budgets, one of the major barriers to energy improvement is the upfront cost. 
The Green Deal will provide a straightforward way for people to find out about energy efficiency measures, finance the work and feel the benefits.
It will offer households the chance to improve their homes without covering all the upfront costs, with the option to repay through savings on the energy bills of them and their successors in the home. "

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beacon of External Insulation

West Beacon Farm, near Loughborough, demonstrates what can be done with external insulation. This 1950s house - originally built with almost no insulation - has been insulated with Straw bale external wall cladding, and render.
Even when the roof won't fit exactly over the insulation, a special flashing can be used to deflect rain. There is a detailed PDF about the project.
Insulation design is by Jerry Tseng of Pick Everard.
Photos from the PDF document.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Choosing PV Panels

2 Oct '10: We get quite a lot of questions about 'Which panels to use' - this is difficult to answer, as it takes 25 years of living with them to know if a class of panels is truly successful, and what the replacement percentage may have been in that time. Some panels are tested merely by quick 'Flash' tests, and that says nothing for the 25 year  reliability of the panel or the responsiveness of the manufacturer to technical queries or claims.
  David Hill of Carbon Legacy has written a long and detailed article on Rushcliffe Solar site about some of these questions.