At a time when it’s becoming increasingly vital to embrace alternative sources of energy, the fifth annual New Energy Awards takes place at the Science Museum on March 29, and it’s set to be a corker.
“Recognising commitment to alternative sources of energy” is the awards’ tagline, and just a week after George Osborne’s disappointingly unsustainable and not-so-green budget statement, it’s great that an awards ceremony can reward innovation in the space.
Entering into its fifth year on the scene, the New Energy Awards is an event run by Vitesse Media, specialists in growth businesses.
“[The awards] were founded to recognise the achievements of entrepreneurs, investors and professional advisers for the renewable energy sector”, explains managing editor Nick Britton.
“There are twin focuses to the awards. One of them is about cutting our carbon emissions, and the other is about making a business success out of the attempt to do that.
“It’s not purely about helping the planet; it’s also about building financially sustainable business models as well.”
With regards to Osborne’s crushing blow to the renewables sector last week, or rather his complete disregard for it, the timing of the New Energy Awards means that businesses in the industry will be aware of the adversity they face from the very top of the tree.
But Britton adds that the encouraging impetus in innovation must continue, and the awards ceremony tomorrow will ensure that it does.
“The Government doesn’t want to be seen to be completely backtracking in its commitment to new energy, but all the stuff about being the “greenest government ever” – I don’t think anyone really believes that that’s the Government’s priority anymore and, in fact, they’ve said themselves that things have to be fiscally sustainable”, he says.
“I think you can see their point to a degree. There have to be sustainable financial models for new energy as well, but at the same time, it’s always disappointing to see previous commitments being scaled back – it’s happened with the feed-in tariffs and again in the budget.
“I think it’s very important to keep up the momentum, and this is what the event is all about.”
A total of 55 individuals and companies have been nominated across nine categories that include retailer of the year, investor of the year and entrepreneur of the year, as well as two new classes – innovator and new energy champion.
As its name suggests, innovator of the year recognises innovation, which is something the other eight categories do also. But with the introduction of a bespoke classification, the judges are able to appreciate organisations that have really set a new pace in the past year.
Meanwhile, the new energy champion award goes to a company that has either reduced its own carbon emissions or influenced other companies to do so.
Britton forms part of a judging panel for the awards that includes a number of high-profile investors, academics and engineers – all of whom are experts in their fields, whether it’s financial or scientific.
Paul Ekins, professor of energy and environment policy at the University College London’s Energy Institute is another judge.
“Technological innovation is one of the keys to energy security and a low-carbon energy system at affordable cost”, Ekins says.
“These awards seek to recognise some of the most promising innovations relating to energy that have come forward in the past year […] Some of the companies and technologies awarded will become the household names and appliances of tomorrow.
“That’s what makes being a judge such a fascinating, and responsible, task.”
Britton explains the significance of the awards, particularly in the current climate – both economic and physical.
“I think [the awards are] particularly important at a time like this because we all know that we have to burn less fossil fuels, but it’s very difficult for us, with our modern lifestyle, to reduce the amount of energy we use”, he claims.
“To give just one example, you’ve got mobile phones that are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so they’re using more energy. One of the companies on the shortlist is finding a way to reduce power consumption of phones and mobile phone transmitters as well.
“I think there are lots of clever ways that companies can help us all use less energy, and it’s particularly important at a time when governments, including the UK Government, are looking again at their commitments to green energy and thinking about whether they can afford them in fiscal terms.”
Blue & Green Tomorrow has spoken to a number of the companies and individuals shortlisted for tomorrow’s ceremony, which takes place at the Science Museum in London.
In an eleventh hour message to the 55 nominees, the three things that are needed to be a New Energy Award winner are “a combination of innovation, a real commitment to the principles of new energy and also the business acumen to make the ideas reality”, says Britton.
A healthy amalgamation of these three ingredients will stand you in good stead to take home a gong.
We’ll be attending the event ourselves and writing a review of it afterwards (and maybe even tweeting during it if you’re lucky), so check back on Friday for a rundown of the lucky nominees that evolved into winners. You can also visit the event’s website here.
In the meantime, check out our new report, The Rise of Renewable Energy for more information on why shifting our dependence from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is so important. You should also consider shifting your own home to renewable energy through Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity provider.
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.