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EU Sustainable Energy Week

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Blue & Green Tomorrow interviews Gilles Gantelet, head of unit (communication & inter institutional relations) at DG Energy of the European Commission about Sustainable Energy Week, which runs June 18–22.

 

Energy efficiency and renewable energy go hand in hand. Raising awareness of the need for energy efficiency is clearly important, so what progress is the EU making?

The European Union has taken important steps towards sustainable development in the last few years by setting the 20/20/20 objectives, namely achieving a 20% energy savings, a 20% share of renewables in final consumption, and a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. We are on track to succeed in reducing emissions and increasing the share of renewables. However we are far from being successful in energy efficiency. The current trends show that we will miss our objectives by far if we do not boost our efforts. Energy efficiency is key to guarantee simultaneously our security of supply, the sustainability of the energy system and our competitiveness.

What is the history behind Sustainable Energy Week? What is the anticipated involvement rate?

The EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) began in 2005 in the form of a single sustainable energy debate. It then grew bigger and bigger, doubling in size every year until 2010, when its organisation was delegated to the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI). Last year, it comprised more than 700 events in 43 countries with an estimated 150,000 participants. This year the goal is to reach 1,000 events in Europe and beyond.

The cheapest energy of all remains the energy we do not consume.

The EUSEW consists of a high level policy conference held in Brussels with the aim of building alliances among sustainable energy stakeholders, and a series of Energy Days organised by municipalities, regions and other stakeholders throughout Europe to ensure a strong level of public awareness, understanding and support. The key idea is to favour a bottom-up approach; we have to build on all experiences on the ground, at local level to federate efforts in favour of our common objectives. The week takes stock of all actions and allows various projects to exchange views. It is the Europe of realities and Europe of citizens at its best.

Many people support renewable energy but are under the impression that because the energy is renewable and non-polluting, they can use more of it and think less about energy usage. What can be said or done to change this attitude?

You are right. Renewable energy is not a new source without limits. To be fully operational, it requires important capacities of production and an adequate infrastructure for transmission: this will need important investments. Moreover, renewable energy is also facing the challenge of its own intermittence, and the subsequent need for back-up and some diversity in energy production. Citizens must be more aware of the importance and impact of energy, as well as its cost. And they must be especially mindful of the fact that the cheapest energy of all remains the energy we do not consume.

What is the potential of renewable energy and the role energy efficiency has to play in the mix from an EU perspective?

At EU level, there is an overall objective to have 20% of final consumption from renewable energy. This has been a great effort for some countries and this objective takes into account the diversity of national situations. The important thing was to ensure that all countries would make huge efforts and increase their share of renewables. This share will certainly increase further after 2020. But it is premature at this stage to say what the new share will be. This is exactly what we are discussing with all Member States and the European Parliament within the debate on the Roadmap 2050. Various scenarios are being considered, and according to the efforts made by the countries, we will be able to simultaneously secure a low-carbon energy system and a secure supply. And again, energy efficiency remains the most promising way of reaching a reduction of more than 80% of emissions in our energy system: the margin of progress is enormous. And it would certainly favour the creation of jobs within the EU. 

How far away is Europe from achieving an acceptable level of sustainable energy production? What more can be done?

Europe is on track to achieve an acceptable level of sustainable energy production, but, as you might know, the energy mix is a matter of national competence and it is eventually up to Member States to choose their energy sources. However, within a Single Energy Market any decision has an impact on the overall system and requires some coordination at EU level. Last but not least, all scenarios explored by the Roadmap 2050 show that renewable energy will have more importance. It is important to get the balance right to have a diversified energy mix catering for our needs at the best price. The crucial decisions we need to take now will pave the way for the next decades. I would like also to add that it would be very wrong if some actors used the current economic context to slow down the efforts. This would be a major mistake also in terms of missed opportunities for economic recovery. Though renewable targets were on track, several Member States have reduced or stopped the current support schemes, creating a strong uncertainty for investors. And investors need certainty.

Though renewable targets were on track, several Member States have reduced or stopped the current support schemes, creating a strong uncertainty for investors. And investors need certainty.

Saving 20% of primary energy consumption is an ambitious goal – what are the everyday steps that people can take at home and in their businesses to contribute to success?

Energy efficiency is everyone’s business. We have made important proposals on buildings and services and I hope that Member States will maintain the same level of ambition. These proposals will constitute the framework for actions in public buildings, schools, industry, services, etc… But there are also a lot of choices that we can all make at home. The assessment of the energy performance of a “green” house or office shows that in many cases you can have a strong return on investments in a few years. And daily decisions on heat or lighting systems already have an impact on the bill you pay at the end of the month. I deeply think that the first thing to do is to be aware that energy is a cost. And while we must always pursue the target of affordable prices for all citizens, we must also be aware that nothing is for free.

Could you give some examples of Energy Days that are taking place that will inspire people to create their own?

Energy Days vary in format and size. Examples include special classes given by energy experts who explain to students how solar panels and wind mills work; professional workshops aimed at sharing the latest innovations and technologies in insulation materials; outdoor events and activities that allow people of different ages, class and education to experience the usefulness of renewable energy; guided tours for journalists interested in the economic advantages of energy efficiency. Energy Days take place in large capitals and in small villages all over Europe.

Ultimately, Energy Days are about people, so what really matters is the creativity, competence and motivation of their organisers, and how well connected they are with their local reality, city and region.

For more information about Sustainable Energy Week and how you can take part, visit the website here. 

Further reading:

Ed Davey’s clean energy investment challenge

Renewable energy backed by 85% of Brits

UK renewable energy investment surged in 2011

Infographic: renewable energy in Europe


Features

What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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