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Why supporting innovation is vital for UK energy policy in 2013

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Britain is facing an “energy efficiency revolution“. That was the claim brought forward by UK politicians last November, and it is now time to act on it. After all, writes Chris Farrell, the potential is there.

As stated alongside November’s strategy, “success in the energy efficiency sector was highlighted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) after it had sales worth £17.6 billion in 2010/11 alone, with growth of 4% each year since 2007, and the government anticipated a further rise in growth in the next few years.”

Much has been said about the importance of creating a ‘culture of innovation’, both in UK and US political thought. However, despite the projected growth figures, recent trends are a cause for concern. Figures released by the World Bank indicate UK is lagging behind in the global innovation stakes, not to mention a new report released in January 2013 by Green Alliance director Matthew Spencer and low-carbon expert Paul Arwas, which argues the UK is “currently failing to adequately nurture the development of potentially game-changing clean technologies” – something I am inclined to agree with.

But why is innovation so important for the energy efficiency sector, and why are we currently failing to get where we need to be?

From Low Carbon Innovation Co-ordination Group’s (LCICG) website: “The UK has ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions while sustaining security of supply and improving energy affordability.

Delivering this low carbon economy will require a radical transformation of the UK’s energy infrastructure, underpinned by a portfolio of low carbon technologies capable of being deployed cost effectively and at scale. This will require significant investment in innovation and rapid deployment.”

The key issue for DECC, and government as a whole, as I see it is not the financial investment required for research and development of new technologies – public and private sector funding is currently available to ensure new technologies can be researched, despite the World Bank figures. The problem is that the current system needs to do everything possible to support new innovations to market, as soon as they demonstrate a significant benefit to the UK population.

What good is there in researching a new energy efficient technology if it does not get to market and directly benefit UK consumers? Or, as is often the case, takes 10 years to get to market, the so-called ‘Valley of Death’. In the constantly evolving energy efficiency sector, a 10-year wait means many products will be obsolete on arrival.

We need to ensure a system that provides support for inventors and innovators, from development all the way through to deployment of their products. Develop a network or platform to independently verify the benefits of a technology and ensure these benefits cannot be ignored by those in charge. Change regulations to promote the rapid deployment to market of innovations that show a real benefit to the UK. A major stumbling block for many energy saving inventions is that they do not fit into existing legislative categories. What we need is a fundamental change of policy from the government.

David Cameron has called for inventors and entrepreneurs to put Britain back on the map amongst the leading nations, Well, there are several inventors in the energy industry who have designed important technology that, if supported by the government, could put the UK at the forefront of energy efficiency in the world and eliminate fuel poverty in one fell swoop.

As it stands, many beneficial energy efficiency innovations are being held back, seemingly in the interest of the ‘big six’ energy supply companies, to maintain the status quo of less than optimal energy efficiency and maintain record profits. Why not mandate a certain amount of these profits be invested in new energy efficient technologies each year – even if a fraction of a percentage – which would lead to massive growth in new technologies and UK energy security.

As an inventor and entrepreneur myself I know firsthand the difficulties of ensuring a product gets to market and benefits consumers. It is in the government’s best interest to make things easier for innovators, and ensure DECC can meet its targets.

The future of innovation is outside the box. We need the market to recognise and therefore benefit from new energy efficient technologies that can be achieved simply and affordably, but lie outside the status quo. But we can’t do this without government help. Changes need to be made to ensure energy efficient products are supported in legislation, and can therefore benefit consumers and UK energy security. 2013 will be a year to watch, and if energy sector innovation is prioritised, the rewards will be substantial.

Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Energy, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets. This post originally featured on his blog, The Green Entrepreneur.

Further reading:

We need a credible green innovation growth strategy

Government launches long-awaited green deal scheme

Time for a change in energy policy

Home-grown innovation that might just change the world

Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Energy, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets

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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