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From the village green to the village blue

Robert Booth, The Guardian
Plans for a new generation of “floodable” towns will be unveiled today with guidelines showing how homes and estates built beside rivers can be designed to cope with rising waters.

New advice for planning riverside and floodplain developments commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs calls for pathways to double as canals and gardens to include floodable sections to stop waters rising and engulfing homes, as happened in Morpeth in the north-east in September and Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire in 2007.

A “village blue”, effectively a lake designed to expand during floods which will also include facilities for swimming, boating and fishing, should also be built alongside the more traditional village green. Recreation grounds would be designed to flood and schools and community buildings would be built on higher ground.

The advice has been partly inspired by the canals of Venice and water dwellings on Tonle Sap, a lake in Cambodia which changes levels dramatically with each monsoon season…
(26 November 2008)

Homes and offices should take ‘green MoT’, says thinktank

Alok Jha, The Guardian
Homes and offices should have regular “MoT-style” tests to rate their energy efficiency, according to experts, in a bid to meet the government’s ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Those that fail to meet required standards could see their council tax or buildings insurance rise, suggests Foresight, the government’s scientific thinktank.

A Foresight report published today tackles the issue of how the UK’s buildings can cut their carbon emissions. The energy used to power buildings is responsible for more than half of the UK’s carbon emissions. The two-year study brought together more than 150 academics and industry experts in economics, energy technologies, planning, construction, and social sciences…
(26 November 2008)

Wasted opportunities

Virginia Matthews, Guardian
Britain dumps 6.7m tonnes of food a year in landfill sites that emit CO2. But there are cleaner ways to deal with our leftovers

By 2013, when EU plans to enforce stricter waste targets and penalties will be introduced, local authorities will have to show that they are taking radical action to tackle the 6.7m tonnes of food – worth £10bn annually – that currently ends up in landfill sites that emit greenhouse gases.

While local authorities are experimenting with a number of different options for diverting food from the waste stream, it’s the potential for extracting usable methane energy, via anaerobic digestion, that currently dominates the debate. This is a waste disposal system that uses micro-organisms to convert organic waste into methane-rich biogas that can replace fossil fuels. The small amount of waste residue from the process can be used as fertiliser.

Then there’s the lower-tech option of composting. In Brighton, the council offers heavily subsidised composting bins for home use, but does not offer a collection service. In the London boroughs of Hackney and Haringey, food waste goes first into a small kitchen caddie, which householders empty into a larger bin outdoors. This is collected weekly, mixed with garden clippings, and composted.
(26 November 2008)
Two words: “worm bins” (vermicompost). In my experience, it works much better than regular composting for kitchen scraps. A healthy set of worms will process wastes within a week. The result is some of one of the best gardening amendments you can make or buy. -BA