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Solar energy in the UK

There used to be a perception that solar power maybe wasn’t the brightest idea for the UK given that – compared to Spain, Australia and quite a few other places too – we don’t exactly get the lion’s share of balmy days when even the the pavement’s scorching and all the mercury can do is race its way to the top of the thermometer.

However, the relationship between hot weather and solar panels doesn’t actually matter – since it’s light that allows solar panels to produce electrical power, not heat. And on top of this, you don’t need a cloudless day for a photovoltaic system to work. This is because while direct sunlight is obviously an optimum condition for energy production, there’s still light on days when there’s cloud cover. This more diffused type light will still be of use – it’s just that not quite so much electricity will be produced.

And, of course, given that photovoltaics are gaining in popularity worldwide, the actual panels themselves are more efficient than back in the days when they were a bit more of an unusual thing to see in a domestic setting than they are now.

This week Wrexham Council in Wales completed installing a large number of solar panels on homes in the area – 3000 to be precise. The combined positive effect of these on the environment will over time be a significant contribution to green energy in the UK – and will also help save some money too.

If you’re interested in what solar panels can do for you, there’s some good information available online – click here for the lowdown on cost and a guide to potential savings and income from installing a PV system.

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Will the UK boiler scrappage scheme return?

Launched just over two years ago,  the UK boiler scrappage scheme was introduced as an efficient and helpful way of further reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.

Given that the boiler accounts for such a large percentage of household energy use – estimates vary, but for most of us well over half the energy we use is for central heating and hot water. So ensuring people would move towards the newer type of energy efficient boiler was going to be more or less imperative for any government with a commitment to reducing co2 emissions.

Carbon emission targets for reduction are generally on the ambitious side, so encouraging people to get rid of older and less efficient equipment also meant that these machines were permanently taken out of use. To qualify for the boiler scrappage scheme there were a few conditions: you had to have the least efficient type of boiler and dependent on your age the boiler had to be working (under 60s) and either working or not working (over 60s).

The scheme was a great success, as many of us who take an interest in green energy and sustainability had guessed it would be. As the Energy Saving Trust‘s website says, “Unprecedented numbers of householders took advantage of the scheme to improve their heating systems and reduce their heating bills”. And not only that – the scheme also undoubtedly raised the profile of household energy efficiency.

But all good things must come to an end, and after upwards of 110 000 new boilers being installed as a direct result of the initiative, the scheme was wound down. Good news for people north of the border, however, as it was announced in January 2011 that it was to re-open in Scotland – more details here.

Will the scheme ever return UK-wide? At the moment, it’s difficult to tell – for the time being, the EST provides info on other grants and discounts that may be available, but following the closure of the scheme there haven’t as yet been any signals that it’s likely to return.

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Green sea power

Marine energy is an area where the UK excels. As a renewable energy source it’s one that we are perhaps well placed to innovate in – given the length of our coastlines, not to mention our forward looking approach to sustainables.

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Save energy at home….How to make savings this winter.

Given the recent energy price hikes and the concerns that this years winter may be as cold and harsh as last year it seems like everyone is concerned about the potential costs of keeping their homes warm this winter.

Now the last thing we want is for people to be worrying/freezin throughout the ‘season to be jolly’ so when we came across this great segment from the National Wildlife Federation on ‘How to save energy in your home’ we felt it was well worth sharing.

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Electricity pricing factors for business

Are you a business owner wondering how to keep electricity bills down? Then you might be interested in an article which popped up in The Independent today, regarding factors that affect electricity. In fact, included basics that every business owner should know – so you can keep bills down and decide when it’s the right time to switch or not.

The first tips obviously regarded usage and size – and we all know that if we use a vast amount of electricity in a big property we’re going to be charged more. It sounds straight forward, but it can be tempting to take a bigger office for a good price only to discover that energy bills are through the roof.

The other tips involved the type of tariff your business is on – if a company switches property it automatically switches to a ‘demand rate’ even if you have been there for a considerable amount of time and it’s up to the business owner to get in touch to change this rate. However, many suppliers offer great deals for businesses, so it’s worth hunting around for a good deal.

Your office is probably no stranger to the guidelines surrounding energy efficiency, but it’s worthwhile doing a review every now and again to check your not wasting electricity – some business save thousands of pound by reducing their electricity use. Get your staff into the habit of turning off lights at night and in unused rooms, and make sure all computers are completely powered down when not in use. Things like energy saving lightbulbs can also save considerable amounts of money in larger companies.

Finally, it’s important to choose your supplier wisely – energy companies offer competitive rates and packages to businesses at the moment, but this can differ depending on the type of business you have. Search around for good packages and always explain your business fully, including the size of your office, the number of staff and the kind of equipment and computers you’re using –  someone might just have a package that’s right for your company’s current circumstances.

So remember, if you’re thinking you might need to switch gas and electricity supplier for your business, just write a list and justify your current contract under five headings: usage, size, tariff, efficiency and company. You might just come to some interesting conclusions.

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Slow wind farm planning in Wales

Large energy companies are warning that the slow procedures required to set up a wind farm in Wales is hampering the chances of developing renewable energy in the country.

Companies such as Scottish Power claim that planning applications are not processed quickly enough and other companies are stating that they are unsure of the government’s stance on green energy.

The energy company SSE has also raised concerns about the trials attached to setting up a wind farm in Wales, saying that it was ‘more complicated’ than other parts of the UK. The company also said that the Welsh government must provide a ‘stable and predictable environment for investment’ if it is to attract energy companies to the country.

Both energy companies and government ministers have called for the Welsh government to clarify their policies and procedures for renewable energy firms working within the country – in case the country loses the investment and energy companies take their busines overseas.

Research conducted last year showed that wind power is generating around £120 million and employing nearly 789 people in Wales.

Here at Greener Power, we are of course in favour of Wales producing more renewable energy. Would you like to see more renewable energy companies in Wales?

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UK to invest in green energy… Or are we?

Britain’s Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has came out fighting this week criticising those who he claims are “are decrying the UK’s potential for renewable power.”

The UK has set its sights on being the European market leaders for offshore wind and the top destination for marine energy investment.

Mr Huhne was speaking at an energy industry conference this week when he stated that there is a general agreement between Westminster’s three main parties that steps need to be taken to make the UK a more attractive destination for renewable energy investment.

Mr Huhne mentioned the £1.7bn which had been committed last year as evidence of the UK’s potential for projects and growth.

However there are some parties showing concern at the Energy Secretary’s plan to put all Britains eggs in one basket regarding spending billions of pounds on what are still extremely expensive technologies and it just cannot be justified in the current economic climate.

It appears that the two key figures involved are Chris Huhne and George Osborne who unfortunately are both pulling in different directions – Huhne is definitely putting forward a strong case for investment in renewables however Osborne seems to be trying to cut him off at every turn and denying the proposed benefits of investment.

One can only hope that both parties have the UK’s best interests at heart.

Read more on this article….

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SSE energy plan may shock power market…

SSE (Scottish & Southern Energy) is to begin plans to start auctioning off their entire electricity supply.

This is a first from any of the major energy suppliers who provide their own electricity. It is being viewed as a move that could potentially open up the energy market – removing some of the barriers for entry and thus making things a bit more competitive.

However UK watchdog Consumer Focus isn’t so sure about the size of the impact as most suppliers buy their energy “well in advance”.

We’d love to get some debate going on this move so please drop us a comment, and share your thoughts.

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Chris Huhne looks to reign in gas plant surge

The increasing number of gas fuelled power plants popping up could result in Britain breaking its CO2 commitments.

The UK’s recent surge in the construction of gas power plants is to be halted by the government as they believe if it continues to go unregulated the growth of the stations could end up breaking Britain’s legally binding targets for CO2.

The number of gas-fuelled plants in the UK has seen a steep increase because they are comparatively quick and cheap to build. They also only generate around 50% of the carbon emissions expected from a coal powered plant.

Recently gas power has been touted as the transition fuel, paving the way for carbon neutral electricity. The director of public affairs for Centrica (they own British Gas) backed up this idea saying “Gas is a critical part of the fuel mix, it is a transition fuel. At this moment in time it is as crucial to the UK, as nuclear and renewables.”

Yet green energy campaigners are showing concern that too many gas plants are being built making it nearly impossible for the UK to adhere to its carbon budgets or worse still once it’s the transition period is over the plants will become stranded assets due to the technology being obsolete in a carbon neutral environment.

In 2010, there was approximately 27 Giga-watts of gas based power capacity in the UK, with 4GW worth of new plants under construction, and a further 8GW having been granted planning permission. At present the installed capacity of all types of electricity generation is 75GW. Yet predictions by the national grid have shown that by 2018 there will be around 45GW of gas based power in the network.

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New turbines – Blowing into town….

The wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has claimed it could be building a new factory in the UK next year. However construction of the factory is dependent upon getting a sufficient amount of orders for their new offshore 7MW V164 wind turbine.

It is believed that Vestas have already secured a site should the move go ahead. The new factory will be based at a massive 70 hectare plot in Kent.
Initial figures have shown that if Vestas can get the required orders in place, and the project gets the green light it could create upwards of 1800 jobs and be finished within a year. This would allow Vestas to begin production before 2015, which is when the new batch of wind farms is set to begin construction.

The company is understood to already be in discussions with current and potential clients about securing the orders and investments that would allow them to give the whole project the go-ahead.

The actual proposal from Vestas has come as a bit of a shock to some, due to the company somewhat controversially closing down an Isle of Wight turbine blade factory in 2009. However since that closure the company has actually stepped up their financial backing for a number of research and development facilities, interestingly one of them happens to be a large facility on the Isle of Wight. Yet if it goes ahead the facility in Kent will still be the first actual turbine manufacturing facility in the UK.

Vestas are said to be positive regarding the proposed plan. As even with the current financial uncertainties surrounding Europe, the company are expecting orders to be in the region of around 7.000 to 8000 MW.

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