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Does Griff Rhys Jones have a point about renewable energy?

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Many of us who were around at the time were big fans of Alas Smith & Jones (1984-1998). Alas, Griff Rhys Jones has recently become embroiled in a row over energy policy and the location of solar farms.

It has been known for some time that Rhys Jones objected to renewable energy generally; solar and wind farms more specifically. We wrote about his views this time last year as he was press ganged into the Delingpolean faction.

His objections came to fore when he protested against a solar farm near his home in Suffolk. He told the BBC, “We’ve been conned into assuming that when we put in renewables it doesn’t matter that they blight the countryside because they’re saving the planet.”

This prompted a natural response in the Guardian from Solarcentury’s Jeremy Leggett, in which he argued, “Someone has to live near solar farms”.

In turn, Rhys Jones responded to Leggett in a two-page letter which is worth reading in full to fully understand his position. This response was headlined by the Guardian as Rhys Jones attacking green energy’s ‘random desecration’ of countryside.

We like Griff Rhys Jones; we like the Guardian (we used to like the Daily Telegraph until it was hijacked by the provisional wing of the Conservative party and horsemen of the climate apocalypse).  This is our take on the issue.

Rhys Jones is president of Civic Voice, who describe themselves as, “The national charity for the civic movement in England. We make places more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive. We promote civic pride.”

He has a right, like anyone, to comment on aesthetics. He makes the point clearly that he does not “dispute at all that we should try and reduce our carbon emissions.” He adds, “I am not a climate change sceptic.”

On wind farms, he says, “Some wind turbines have gone offshore. The populations of the east coast of England have their fair share of them. Yes, we have some in our backyard. I certainly know where they are. They do, as you say, have to go somewhere.”  Accepting they ‘have to go somewhere’ is hardly the view of hardliner.

Admittedly, describing renewable energy as a “subsidy-hunting free enterprise” is misinformed and likely to trigger a response. We regularly point out that subsidies for fossil fuels outstrip renewables 2.6:1. Shielding and supporting infant industries has long been part of our economic strategy. Oil and gas is not an infant industry; renewables are.

Regardless, Rhys Jones’ central argument is “large-scale solar farms should be on brownfield sites” and that we should use “wasteland” first and foremost: “There is wasteland, even in lovely Suffolk. There are warehouse roofs and superstore roofs, car park roofs and, yes, school roofs. There are disused quarries and motorway wastelands. I think it is legitimate to ask why they are not being used more.”

He goes on to make a strong defence of nuclear power as an alternative to renewable energy and fossil fuels. In response to Leggett’s query on what Rhys Jones would do when the lights go out, “I am unlikely to rely on solar power. I am rather conscious of energy saving and tend to only use lights at night. Solar power doesn’t operate then. So I will probably depend on a nuclear power plant. There is already one in Suffolk.

Sizewell B produces as much electrical energy as about 550,000 acres of wall to wall solar parks. Sizewell C is planned. On the ground, though surrounded with a buffer construction zone, Sizewell C will actually take up less of the countryside than this one solar park, and will generate over a thousand times more energy every year, an even greater output in fact than Sizewell B.”

Nuclear power comes with a unique set of delightful problems. Getting planning agreement in the first place; picking a future proof technology; investing billions to build, run and then decommission them; storing radioactive waste and dealing with proliferation. Then there’s the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima issue.

The letter’s arguments about agricultural land use are disingenuous. Livestock can easily graze beneath solar panels and between wind farm pylons. They can’t graze at nuclear, coal, gas or oil power station.

It’s quite easy to take down a solar or wind farm after they come to the end of their natural life. Not so with fossil fuels and nuclear.

So, if we stick to the central argument of Rhys Jones’s letter, it’s about the placing of renewable installations in sympathy to the environment and local communities. We agree with Leggett and we agree with Rhys Jones.

We need to massively increase our renewable energy generation to reduce our carbon emissions and because it is clean, limitless and domestic – especially as offshore wind, tidal and wave technology matures, and becomes a valuable export industry.

We also need to be sympathetic to those who speak out against our crazy planning laws and wish to protect the aesthetic of the countryside such as the National Trust, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and Civic Voice, in the shape of Rhys Jones.

As we wrote in The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013, the government has been dithering over nuclear and is divided over renewables. This is silly: “Two reports ignored by government demonstrate that the UK could become a net exporter of energy if it produced and implemented a coherent energy strategy, with a pivotal role of renewables.

The National Grid’s ‘Future Energy Scenario’ report 2012 indicated that the UK could become a net exporter of energy by the 2020s, by delivering on the commitment to have 15% of energy generated by renewables. Meanwhile, the ‘Offshore Valuation’ demonstrated that using just a third of our offshore energy potential could make us a net energy exporter.”

We need a mature debate that avoids sensationalising different parties’ views. Alas, Cameron and Osborne appear unable to lead a mature debate on this issue.

Further reading:

The energy bill: it’s time to talk about ‘energy and climate security’

What have subsidies ever done for us?

The diversity of renewables

Getting beneath nuclear power

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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