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Health of Neighbours Impacted by Coal-Burning EU Countries

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Coal power plant by peggydavis66 via flickr

A report on the very first analysis of the cross-border impacts on health of coal power plants in the EU has been published today. The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Climate Action network (CAN) Europe, the WWF European Policy Office and Sandbag, have outlined the enormous benefits a full coal phase-out would bring.

The report, ‘Europe’s dark cloud: How coal-burning countries make their neighbours sick’, analyses the health impacts from air pollution of all EU coal-fired power stations for which data is available (257 out of 280). It reveals that in 2013 their emissions were responsible for over 22,900 premature deaths, tens of thousands of cases of ill-health from heart disease to bronchitis, and up to EUR 62.3 billion in health costs.

For the first time, the report analyses how the harmful dust caused by coal plants travels across borders and the effect this has.

The five EU countries whose coal power plants do the most harm abroad are Poland (causing 4,690 premature deaths abroad); Germany (2,490); Romania (1,660); Bulgaria (1,390) and the UK (1,350).

The five EU countries most heavily impacted by coal pollution from neighbouring countries, in addition to that from their own plants are: Germany (3,630 premature deaths altogether), Italy (1,610); France (1,380); Greece (1,050) and Hungary (700).

The report shows that each coal power plant closed provides a major boost for the health not only of those living nearby, but also for those abroad: the UK planned phase-out of coal by 2025 could save up to 2,870 lives every year – more than 1,300 of them in continental Europe. If Germany decides to phase out coal, it could avoid more than 1,860 premature deaths domestically and almost 2,500 abroad every year.

“The report underlines the high costs to health that come with our reliance on coal power generation. And it also debunks the myth that coal is a cheap energy source. Clearly, no country on its own can solve the problem of air pollution from energy production. We hope that the EU and member states take this evidence to heart and act for cleaner air,” – Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said.

“The report proves that a full coal phase-out is a true Europe-wide cause that unites us all and as such should be one of the EU’s stated goals” – Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy of WWF European Policy Office added. “The devastation coal wreaks on the climate and health of all Europeans means that all EU countries have a shared interest in working together to phase it out as soon as possible.”

“The report shows that every coal-fired power station switched off will bring great benefits reaching beyond national borders, for both human health as well as climate” – Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe concluded. “After the Paris Climate Agreement, EU leaders have even more responsibility to dramatically ramp up efforts to shut down all coal power plants and swiftly move to 100% renewable energy”.

Medical professionals support the Dark Cloud report:

Air pollution is responsible for millions of deaths worldwide.

“Higher temperatures resulting from climate change will exacerbate the problem. The good news is that reducing our use of fossil fuels – including harmful emissions from coal – provides a unique opportunity to improve air quality and mitigate climate change thus protecting health from the greatest public health challenge of this century,” says Dr Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to the European Union.

“The external costs to health from coal power generation are bigger than for any other energy source. The costs of reducing greenhouse gases are partially paid back because of lower health costs,” according to Professor Paul Wilkinson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

“This report brings further insights into the harm coal power generation does to our health. It shows us why everybody should be concerned about coal power plants. The harmful emissions from each single plant can cause significant health impacts and health bills. A full coal phase-out is needed,” according to Dr Michal Krzyzanowski, former World Health Organization expert on air quality and currently Visiting Professor, Environmental Research Group, King’s College London.

“The media has recently drawn public attention to car exhausts but other sources, such as emissions from coal power plants, are also very important. The ‘Dark Cloud’ report makes clear that coal power plants are a considerable source of air pollution. In addition, the report quantifies the adverse health impact and health costs of transboundary emissions from coal power plants for the very first time. This provides a further argument to phase-out coal in the energy mix,” says Dr Joachim Heinrich, LMU, Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, University Hospital Munich.

Further Information

You can download embargoed full report, infographics, Q&A and video showing how pollution spreads here.

The report is available online here.

A video showing how pollution spreads is available online here.

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. HEAL has more than 70 member organisations, representing networks of health professionals, non-profit health insurers, patients, citizens, women, youth and environmental experts working at the international, EU, national and local level. Together, we help to bring independent expertise and evidence from the health community to different decision-making processes.

WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by:

  • conserving the world’s biological diversity
  • ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable
  • promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption

The European Policy Office contributes to the achievement of WWF’s global mission by leading the WWF network to shape EU policies impacting on the European and global environment.

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s largest coalition working on climate and energy issues. With over 130 member organisations in more than 30 European countries – representing over 44 million citizens – CAN Europe works to prevent dangerous climate change and promote sustainable climate and energy policy in Europe.

Sandbag is an evidence-based non-profit organisation to help European decarbonisation. We focus on phasing out coal generation across Europe, getting a higher carbon price through EUETS reform, and working on long term ways to decarbonise energy intensive industries.

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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