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Scottish Parliament: Make energy reduction a priority finds committee inquiry

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Reducing energy demand will be critical to ensuring the security of our energy supply in the future and a parliamentary committee is today calling on the Scottish and UK Government’s to make this a priority.

The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee’s inquiry into ‘ensuring Scotland’s energy supply’ is calling on the Scottish Government and Ofgem to produce a demand reduction strategy as a matter of urgency. The inquiry heard that communication with consumers had largely been ineffective to date. MSPs concluded that if consumers were to see how to save on their energy bills they would be more likely to change their behaviour.

The Committee also heard evidence that those least likely to switch energy suppliers were those on low incomes, with a poor educational background or those with disabilities. Given the November 2016 target to eradicate fuel poverty, the Committee is asking the Scottish and UK Government what more can be done to address unfairness in the system.

Convener of the Committee Murdo Fraser MSP said: “Reducing the demand for energy is often talked about in the context of climate change but not in the debate for ensuring we have enough electricity to keep the lights on.

“During this inquiry, we heard that the reduction of demand for energy can play a key role in increasing the resilience of our energy supply by rewarding consumer behaviour to drive changes.

“It was clear that authorities at all levels need to work harder to make it easier for people to change their behaviour. As a Committee we want to see energy reduction urgently made a priority.”

The Committee’s report welcomed the introduction of smart meters, a UK wide scheme, but also called for wider reform of the current settlement system.

The Committee also called for more clarity in communicating the costs and benefits of the revised transmission charging regime which is due to commence in April 2016.

Deputy Convener of the Committee Dennis Robertson MSP said: “The review of transmission charging has been a lengthy process over seven years and included a judicial review. It has also been brought into particular focus in Scotland due to the early closure of Longannet. This is why we are today calling for more clarity in communicating the rationale of the system and how it fits with the wider aims of public policy.”

Commenting on the publication today , WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Despite some recent headlines, people in Scotland should be reassured by the report’s conclusion that there is no security of supply crisis in Scotland. With half of our energy use and climate emissions come from heating, it is good to see the Committee calling for a much more joined-up approach to our energy system.

“We fully agree with the Committee that Scottish Ministers should prioritise energy efficiency and produce a demand reduction strategy for the country. As we approach the Holyrood elections, we call on all political parties commit to action to help consumers and businesses cut their energy usage and energy bills.

“Independent research has shown that Scotland can have a safe and secure electricity supply with almost entirely renewable electricity generation in 2030, by playing to our amazing natural resource strengths and improving interconnections. We want all political parties to embrace this transition, so that Scotland can capture all of the benefits of being the EU’s first 100% renewables nation.”

The Committee launched their inquiry in March this year. The remit of the inquiry was to consider Scotland’s energy needs in a changing UK electricity market. The inquiry focussed on four themes in particular: supply, demand, the transmission network and market functioning.

Read the full committee report.

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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