Archive for September, 2011

Trump Continues To Battle ‘Big, Ugly’ Windfarm Plans


Donald Trump isn’t a man who gives up easily. And the billionaire US property tycoon doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of giving up fighting a proposed offshore windfarm in Scotland.

Trump has already voiced his objections in a letter to Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmon, in which he described the wind turbines as “disastrous and environmentally irresponsible”. And with a second letter already having been fired off to the minister’s office, Trump seems to be relentless in his quest to block the windfarms development.

Earlier this month, the Trump Organisation filed an objection to the planning application, which will see a £200 million 11-turbine windfarm built off Aberdeen Bay, barely 1.5 miles from the luxury £750 million championship golf course Trump is having built in Aberdeenshire.

Trump’s second letter points to the wind turbines having a negative impact on Scottish tourism: “People do not want to travel from all over the world to go to Scotland in order to stare out at big, ugly structures. Trust me, they will go somewhere else,” said Trump.

The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre is a joint venture between the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, utility company Vattenfall and engineering firm Technip.

“We have received a lot of comment on the plans to develop a project that will place Aberdeen, the north-east and Scotland as a leader in offshore wind technology development and we will take each and every one seriously, including those from the Trump Organisation,” said a spokesman for the project’s partners.

Get Smart With AlertMe’s New Smart Heating App


The future of home energy management looks set to get smart with the introduction of a new smart heating application.

AlertMe, the Cambridge-based SmartHome technology company has teamed up with Invensys to develop an application that will enable consumers to remotely control their heating, either by SMS, smartphone or online via the Internet.

Under the Drayton brand, AlertMe and Invensys have provided a means of helping consumers to become more energy efficient and the application is set to revolutionize home heating and the way in which it’s controlled.

The market for home energy management is predicted to take off in a big way over the next 4 to 5 years, and so far Government-funded pilot testing has seen the product achieve favourable results. Know as the ‘killer app’, initial results have indicated that consumers have the potential to save around 23% on their home heating bills. With energy prices at an all-time high, that’s certainly news we can all warm to.

“With current energy price rises of up to 19%, consumers need to be able to take control in order to become more efficient,” explains AlertMe chief executive officer, Mary Turner.

“SmartHeating is the ‘killer app’ for millions of families wanting to conserve energy without sacrificing comfort and convenience,” she added.

The technology works by combining AlertMe’s cloud-based controls platform with Invensy’s Drayton Digistat+3RF’s in-home control, which provides two way communication and online control via the customer’s home broadband connection and the AlertMe SmartHub.

According to AlertMe, its online heating dashboard “allows the user to set up to four time zones and temperatures for each day, automating the heating system to match their normal weekly routine, but also providing the flexibility of remote control to alter or override settings at any time, wherever you are using a computer, smartphone or even SMS.”

Controlling heating in the home is a proven method for reducing energy consumption and cutting energy costs. And turning your thermostat down by just one degree is a simple but effective weapon in the ongoing war against nasty heating bills.

Founded in 2006, AlertMe provides home energy management and SmartHome services, helping users to monitor and control their home energy use.


Human Waste to Generate Renewable Electricity


It must be a case of ‘waste not, want not’ for Britain’s largest water and sewerage company, as Thames Water has announced plans to use human waste to generate electricity.

It burns like wood-chip, looks just like instant coffee granules and is a highly combustible new renewable form of fuel, and Thames Water has estimated that around 16% of electricity means are going to be met by so-called poo power. That’s enough to run around 40,000 average family homes.

The process is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, and the water company has already begun producing the brown, granular flakes from solids extracted from sewage at its works in Slough, Berkshire. On any given day, the facility produces approximately five tonnes of sewage sludge for conversion to fuel chips or flakes, which are produced after the sludge is heated to 180C, before being transported to a specialist facility in Bexley, south east London, where they are used to produce electricity. How green this process actually is remains a mystery, but the resulting flakes are burned to produce electricity, so the technique is certainly not carbon-free.

Nevertheless, the initiative provides a superb example of how waste products can be used to produce energy. As oil reserves are rapidly depleted, the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels is causing major concern among politicians and environmental campaigners; therefore, using human excrement to power the country – or at least a part of it – is undoubtedly sensible.

“This is the first time in Britain that a waste dryer has been used to create ready-to-burn fuel from sewage sludge, rather than simply being used as a waste-reducer,” explained Rupert Kruger, Head of Innovation at Thames Water.

“This innovative approach demonstrates our clear intent to help move Britain towards becoming a low-carbon economy by unlocking every ounce of renewable energy potential from waste”.

Whether poo power is set for use in the home remains to be seen, but any method of producing domestic energy at relatively little cost to the environment ought to be encouraged. The financial costs of electricity and gas central heating are already extreme, so perhaps energy companies could spare customers a few pennies by investing in a technology that stinks almost as much as some of their pricing strategies.

Which? Investigates ‘Too Complicated’ Energy Tariffs


It’s saying something when a qualified accountant struggles to calculate the cost of a domestic energy bill, but that was exactly what happened during the latest Which? investigation.

Which? asked members of the public to calculate the cost of a domestic energy bill, taking the information from a range of energy providers’ websites, including British Gas, Southern Electric and Eon. But only one person was able to undertake the task successfully.

In fact, apart from a company director, every single one of the 36 people who took part in the investigation got the calculations wrong – and that included an accountant.

“People tell us they want to be able to check they’re paying the right price for their energy, and when even an accountant struggled to calculate a bill, it shows it’s far too complicated,” commented Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?

An Ofgem spokesman said they welcomed the research, adding that following their own investigation they were already proposing radical action to reduce the number of confusing and complex tariffs.

“There are currently around 400 tariffs available and we are proposing new rules which will pare down the number of standard tariffs suppliers can offer, making it much easier for customers to pick out cheaper energy deals,” said Ofgem.

The Which? test was overseen by a mathematics expert from Edexcel. Keith Pledger, chairman and head of the mathematics exam board said most A-level maths students would find the calculations difficult and that it was “unrealistic to expect the public to be able to find the best deal when faced with such complex tariffs.”

As the cost of electricity and gas central heating continues to rise, Which? has launched the Affordable Energy Campaign. The consumer rights campaigner is calling on the energy regulator Ofgem to stamp out excessively complex tariffs in favour of a simpler format across the board.



Will Government Policy Fetter Fledgling Solar Industry?


The Government’s decision to press ahead with plans to reduce subsidies for medium to large-scale solar initiatives in the UK has been met with concern by the solar industry.

Accused of significantly limiting the country’s solar future, ministers have decided to stick to their guns on a spending issue that caused much controversy when it was first published. Without increasing the availability of subsidies under the feed-in tariffs system, the UK is set to lose substantial investment in the solar industry over the coming years.

Considering that most of next year’s budget for feed-in tariffs has been allocated already, little money will be made available for small-scale operators who happened to install solar equipment in the current year. Without further investment, it is argued, the UK solar industry is destined for disaster.

As ministers refuse to entertain the possibility of increasing the feed-in tariff budget or removing restrictions on subsidies for medium to large operators, the UK Government risks falling even further behind in the global race for solar supremacy.</p>

Dave Sowden, the Chief Executive of the Micropower Council, explained: “The scheme is a victim of its own success. If the annual caps are as rigid as we are being led to believe, this is a serious problem. The industry is worried that the growth is not going to be there”.

In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) hinted that the feed-in tariffs would continue to be supported for private users and small-scale investors.

The spokesperson said: “The scheme is paid for by energy consumers through their bills and has a fixed budget. The scheme is proving popular with households and we are continually monitoring the take up to make sure that we stick to budget. As we have previously said, all tariffs in the scheme are being considered in the comprehensive review with that in mind and we are monitoring the situation very closely”.

Property owners in the UK can avail of solar PV technology by installing domestic panels that capture sunlight and convert it into electricity, which can be used throughout the home or sold to the National Grid under the feed-in tariffs system.


Government Pledges £35m to Boost Energy Efficiency


The Government has revealed its plans to reduce carbon emissions and cut energy bills with a £35 million package, as it pledges to make buildings across the country more energy efficient.

As it stands, around 18% of the country’s carbon emissions comes from commercial buildings, with the residential housing market accounting for 24% of all CO2 emissions in the UK.

On Tuesday, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced it was setting aside a pot of £35 million in the shape of its energy efficiency innovation technology fund. The fund forms part of the Government’s November 2010 Spending Review, which saw £200 million made available for low carbon technologies over a four year period.

There’s no word yet, on how the fund will work, but DECC’s new Energy Efficiency Deployment Office – which is currently being established – will more than likely be accountable for its spending. The fund will provide support to the Coalition’s policy agenda which sets out to make businesses and homes more energy efficient. The Green Deal, for example, due to launch in autumn 2012, aims to insulate a whopping 3.5 million homes over just two years, providing consumers with energy efficiency improvements ranging from cavity wall insulation to double glazing and loft insulation.

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat Party conference in Birmingham, energy secretary Chris Huhne said: “With energy saving, we can offset the effects of higher prices and end up with lower bills.”

Retrofitting existing homes and businesses in the UK remains high on the Government’s list of priorities.

energy efficiency improvements including energy efficient boiler replacement, cavity wall insulation, double glazing and loft insulation

Npower Empowers Pupils to Go Green and Save Energy


Pupils in West Yorkshire have become the latest recruits to earn their energy saving stripes by taking part in npower’s Climate Cops Academy.

Image courtesy of npower

Since its launch in 2007, the initiative has reached 38,000 students across the UK, and almost 200 pupils from schools in West Yorkshire have become the last group to participate in the programme.

Climate Cops Academy teaches children how to go green and become more energy conscious by saving energy in a fun and engaging way, and around 70 Year 4 and Year 5 students from Sharlston Community School in Wakefield were shown ways to save energy. The interactive day featured a range of activities, ranging from miniature examples of renewable energy to the effects of insulation and generating electricity through body movement.

“The children really enjoyed the day; it taught them about climate change and saving energy in a fun, engaging way,” commented Karen Riley, headteacher at Sharlston Community School.

“They’ve learnt some simple ways to conserve energy that will make a big difference to the school, their homes and the environment,” she added.

Climate Cops Academy – an integral part of npower’s Brighter Futures education programme – was designed to visit schools across the country. Encouraging staff and pupils alike to do their bit for climate change by reducing their carbon footprint, the programme has seen npower join forces with local councils to help schools become greener and more energy efficient.

“It’s wonderful that the Climate Cops programme is helping schools across the UK to become greener and more sustainable and is inspiring young people to get involved in energy efficiency, themselves,” said Clare McDougall, npower’s head of community and education.


Energy Secretary Wages ‘War’ on Energy Companies


In a rousing speech at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Birmingham this week, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne announced his intention to “get tough” with Britain’s leading energy suppliers.

Not long after his Labour counterparts suggested he had been “standing idly by while energy companies raise their prices way above inflation”, Mr Huhne informed fellow Liberal Democrats that the time had come to act in the interests of energy consumers.

Of course, many households in the UK might argue that the time to wage war on the country’s leading energy suppliers had arrived some time ago; nevertheless, Mr Huhne’s comments may signal a change in fortune for the millions of Britons trapped in fuel poverty.

The Energy Secretary suggested the introduction of more simplified tariffs alongside a system that ensures consumers are made aware of cheaper prices from different suppliers. Mr Huhne also hinted that Ofgem could receive enhanced regulatory powers.

Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary, Meg Hiller, derided Mr Huhne’s promises as little more than aimless “tinkering”.

Referring to the Energy Secretary, Ms Hiller said: “His own plans to reform the energy market do nothing of the sort and will exclude many potential new entrants… Chris Huhne is fiddling with an already broken system”.

The cost of electricity and gas central heating have increased markedly over recent years, with most of the leading suppliers increasing prices last month despite posting record profits.

Donna Hume, an Energy Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, noted: “It’s right that people should be able to switch tariffs and companies more easily, but this won’t ease householders’ pain in the long run, with all six major energy firms putting up prices and the cost of gas rocketing.

“Behind closed doors, the energy companies are attempting to lock us into expensive gas power plants for the next two decades instead of investing in the home-grown clean energy”.


Huhne Tells Energy Firms to End “Predatory Pricing”


Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is once again threatening to get tough with energy firms, accusing the ‘Big Six’ of “predatory pricing”, something which he says, must stop.

At the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham earlier today, Mr Huhne yet again pledged his commitment to help households tackle skyrocketing energy bills by bringing costs down. Promising to “get tough” with the six major energy providers, Mr Huhne said the Government wanted to make it easier for people to switch utility companies, and if necessary claim back money if they behave in an inappropriate manner.

Accusing the ‘Big Six’ of “predatory pricing”, he wants energy companies to stop the practise of luring new customers with cheap deals; deals which are paid for by subjecting millions of their customers with higher bills.

“It’s not fair that big energy companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their consumers – who do not switch – while introducing cut-throat offers for new customers that stop small firms entering the market,” he said.

“That looks to me like predatory pricing,” added Mr Huhne. “It must and will stop.”

The Energy Secretary reinforced his intentions to make the coalition the greenest Government ever by using its Green Deal – set to be introduced  in autumn 2012 – to stimulate jobs and help households fight ever-increasing energy bills. According to Mr Huhne, the Government’s flagship initiative will lead to households being better off by 2020.

But actions, as they say, speak louder than words. Only time will tell if Mr Huhne has the courage to do something productive to stop energy providers from bleeding consumers dry. He may be able to talk-the-talk, but can he walk-the-walk?

Search Launched For Families to Test-Drive Eco Homes


The search is underway to find two families to test-drive two eco-homes in Northamptonshire – by living in them for a year, rent free.

Packed with carbon and energy saving technology, Velux have built two brand new eco-homes and have launched a campaign to find suitable “tenants” to test-drive them, as part of an initiative to prove that eco-friendly living can reduce household bills and help the environment.

The Velux CarbonLight Homes will transform the way people see sustainable living, and these pioneering homes are part of the group’s Model Home 2020 project.

The two properties in Rothwell, Northamptonshire come fully furnished and the search to find real families to test drive real homes will officially be launched at the Grand Designs Live roadshow at the NEC in Birmingham from 7th-9th October.

Viewed as a practical and affordable solution to mass market new builds in the UK, the 3 and 4 bed-roomed energy efficient properties benefit from renewable energy technology, including air source heat pumps and a solar hot water heating, enabling the house to generate its own energy. With ‘smart’ temperature controlling technology, to help reduce energy consumption and household running costs, lights have been designed to go on and off automatically, depending on room activity and available daylight.

“Our search for families to test drive these homes will provide us with a chance to further drive consumer awareness of affordable and sustainable future living practises,” commented Keith Riddle, Managing Director at VELUX.

“The test residency would be ideal for anyone in the region currently planning a house move or undertaking a self-build project and in need of a new temporary home base for 12 months,” he added.

To be eligible to be one of the families chosen to test-drive a “home of the future”, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a two adult / two children family unit or a two adult / one child family unit.
  • Have at least a basic understanding of eco practises.
  • Be prepared to review and maintain a diary detailing their time spent at the CarbonLight Homes.
  • Be able to move in to the property in March 2012 for a full 12 months.

For further information, and to register your interest, visit or alternatively pop along to Grand Designs Live Birmingham, between the 7th and 9th of October. Closing date for entries is 31st October 2011.