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Keep on track! Taking renewables to 2020 and beyond…



Mike Landy and Nicki Darvill of the Renewable Energy Association (REA) introduce Keep on track!, which aims to help the EU meet its 2020 clean energy targets.

This piece originally featured in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013.

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) requires that the European Union (EU) produces at least 20% of its total energy consumption from renewables by 2020, while the UK must achieve a national target of 15%. With much debate currently underway in the EU in terms of what our 2030 targets should include, the REA has been active in monitoring EU and national progress as well as investigating and reporting the key industry perspective.

Keeping on track of our EU targets

The REA is proudly representing the UK in the pan-European project, Keep on track!, which is supported under the EU’s Intelligent Energy Europe programme and is co-ordinated by the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC).

The project, which runs from 2012 to 2015, aims to monitor that the actual deployment of renewable energy across the EU is in line with the RED’s trajectories towards the final 20% share.

Through a series of work packages the project intends to identify any emerging shortfall, both for the individual member states as well as for the EU as a whole, and the barriers that are preventing or slowing deployment. Using this information it provides policy recommendations and solutions to address the issues and in turn put us back on track as illustrated in figure 1.

Figure 1: The intended effect of Keep on track! in terms of tackling any shortfalls in the deployment trajectory.

The REA has so far provided Keep on track! with national statistics, supplied opinions on modelling scenarios, assessed the key barriers that hinder our achievement of the targets and offered thoughts and advice on policy recommendations.

This will be combined with that of the other member states into a series of annual documents including an EU Tracking Roadmap, an analysis of deviations and barriers and a report on policy recommendations. The first editions of these were released during the European Union Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), June 24-28 2013, and are available online.

An industry perspective

Whilst Keep on track! aims to measure and monitor progress towards EU targets, the REA has recently furthered this investigation by assessing industry confidence in the outlook for the UK renewable energy sector.

Senior managers from 68 companies responded to the first edition of the biannual survey, giving an overall confidence index result of 47%. The REA believes that a score of at least 75% is required for the UK to have good prospects of meeting its 2020 target. The findings confirmed that there is clearly plenty of room for improvement.

As shown in figure 2, 68% of respondents had poor or very poor confidence in whether the UK will achieve its 15% renewable energy target.

Despite this and the other less-than-positive results, a certain amount of optimism was evident as respondents predicted that their turnover, new business and employment prospects would improve in the coming 6-12 months.

The REA is looking forward to seeing if these predictions have been realised and if industry confidence in meeting our targets has improved when the second Renewable Industry Confidence Survey is carried out in August 2013.

Figure 2: Industry confidence in the relevant statements. (Click to enlarge)

The challenging road ahead

While we await Keep on track!’s publications and future confidence analysis through the industry survey, the commission’s recent ‘Renewable Energy Progress Report’ suggested that renewables at the EU level have made a generally solid and promising start.

However, with slower than expected removal of key barriers, disruptive changes to support schemes, increasing deployment rates to get to 2020 and continued economic challenges, the outlook for achieving the EU’s 2020 targets is not so promising.

The REA also notes that when considering our national situation it is important to remember that the UK has to achieve the most challenging growth rate in the EU (bar Malta) in order to meet our 2020 target. With a required average annual growth rate of 16% we cannot afford to become complacent.

In light of such hurdles and limited industry confidence, strong representation across all renewables technologies is required to allow this vital sector to flourish. Policies need to be simplified and streamlined and mandatory national targets set for 2030 to maintain momentum to 2020 and beyond. 

For further information on Keep on track! please visit or contact Mike Landy at 

Further reading:

UK will miss 2020 renewables target but we ‘shouldn’t let up the pressure’

‘Renewables will win. It’s just a question of when’

RWE Npower director Nina Skorupska to lead renewables trade body

96% of the renewables industry apprehensive about UK targets

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013


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




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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Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



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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