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Britain third worst in EU for use of renewable energy

Ashley Seager, The Guardian,
The scale of the renewable energy challenge facing Britain was revealed yesterday by figures showing Britain installed about 270 solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on houses in 2007, compared with 130,000 in Germany.

Britain is the worst performer behind Malta and Luxembourg in the EU in its use of renewables and produces only 2% of its energy from them. Last month the EU said Britain must raise that share to 15% by 2020.

Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, acknowledged last week that Britain needs a “revolution” in green technologies and insisted the country was showing “leadership” in the area.

But a document leaked to the Guardian shows that Department for Business’ grants for households to install solar, wind or hydro-power would be underspent by £10m over the next year. That is more than half the £18m allocated for the three years to March 2009.

The low carbon buildings programme was cut in May when the scheme was reformed, leading many people to give up trying to install renewable technology. For solar PV, the maximum grant was cut to £2,500, making the systems uneconomical.
(15 February 2008)

All about EfficienCity

EfficienCity is a virtual town, but pioneering, real world communities around the UK are using similar systems. As a result, they’re enjoying lower greenhouse gas emissions, a more secure energy supply, cheaper electricity and heating bills and a whole new attitude towards energy.

While our government promotes the fallacy that we need coal and nuclear to keep the lights on, innovative councils, businesses and individuals are taking the leap into a cleaner, greener future with decentralised energy.

What is decentralised energy? Well, it’s pretty much the opposite of our present, outrageously inefficient energy system, which was designed to meet the needs of a society that hadn’t even heard of climate change. This centralised system is a shambles – in fact, it would be impossible to invent a less efficient way of generating energy.

The typical power plant in the UK is only 38 per cent efficient. By the time we use electricity in our homes and offices, we’ve lost nearly 80 per cent of the usable energy inside the fossil fuels we burn.

This is mostly because we have two separate energy systems: one for electricity, and another to heat water and buildings. It’s news to some, but heat is a far bigger culprit than electricity when it comes to global warming.
(February 2008)

Eliminating fossil fuels is friggin’ cheap
A third of our military budget could cure our carbon addiction

Gar Lipow, Gristmill
Scientific American‘s grand plan to provide a bit over a third of U.S. energy from solar sources provides insight into what it would cost to phase out all or most U.S. greenhouse emissions. Bottom line: a lot less than current military spending.

The total cost of the SciAm plan: $420 billion over the course of that 40 years, or slightly over ten billion dollars per year — less than current fossil fuel subsidies, less than the new subsidies “clean coal” would require.

The authors suggest phasing out fossil-fuel powered electricity over the course of forty years, using a solar dominated electricity grid. They suggest Compressed Air Electricity Storage (CAES) and thermal storage to compensate for the intermittent nature of solar electricity, and High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines to move solar electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed.

However, we can’t wait 40 years, and we especially can’t wait 40 years for a 35% reduction in emissions. So suppose we tripled the investment, and spent over the course of 20 years. That would be about $1.26 trillion, or $63 billion a year over twenty years — a rounding error in the Pentagon budget.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. The “Grand Plan” saves a lot of money via slow implementation, giving the technology time to develop. Implementing it more quickly, with less mature technology, would cost more, probably requiring more solar thermal and less photovoltaic power …
(16 February 2008)

SFU walks away with new source of energy

Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun
Energy Harvester fits around the knees and converts force from steps into electricity

Researchers at Simon Fraser University have invented a device that could tap into one of the most reliable sources of clean, cheap energy: you.

Called the Biomechanical Energy Harvester, it fits around each knee and, using the force naturally created at the end of each step, generates electricity as you walk.

Max Donelan, one of the device’s inventors, said at normal walking speed, and with little extra physical effort, the device can generate about five watts of constant electricity — meaning a single minute of walking could power a cellphone for 10 minutes or an MP3 player for 40.

“All of our portable devices could start running on people power,” said Donelan. “You’re the juice, essentially.”
(8 February 2008)