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Meeting the 2050 carbon reduction target with energy technology

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The government aims to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. With this in mind, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) looks to understand the most cost-effective and sustainable pathway to achieve this. Joseph Iddison spoke with its CEO, Dr David Clarke, about providing affordable and secure energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The ETI is a public-private partnership between six major energy and engineering corporations and the UK government”, begins David Clarke.

Those corporations are BP, Caterpillar, Eon, EDF, Rolls Royce and Shell. All those groups, along with our government, form our board. Those companies also, in some cases, help carry out projects for us. With them as board members and investors, we carry out strategic analysis and planning around the UK energy system.

We identified quite early on in our existence that there was a need for a better modelling system for the UK in terms of system design

We use the results of that analysis to look at where it makes sense for us to make investments in terms of engineering and technological developments and where the major challenges are.”

Aiming to increase efficiency in current energy systems, as well as helping to fund innovative designs for the future, the ETI will no doubt play a pivotal part in the UK energy market’s transformation. And it was founded in 2008 for that very reason.

We identified quite early on in our existence that there was a need for a better modelling system for the UK in terms of system design”, explains Clarke.

We developed one particular tool, ESME, which stands for the Energy System Modelling Environment. We built this tool with cost and geography built into it – which is a unique element that nobody has done before from a UK perspective. It also looks at power, heat, transport and the UK infrastructure and looks at how those interact together and how they develop together.

Our aim was to have a tool that enabled us to see what is going to be the most cost effective solution for the long term UK needs, across those four areas.”

One of the ETI’s main remits is to help fund energy projects, and, importantly, increase security within those projects.

The projects we do range from tens of thousands of pounds – for a very small project – to roughly £20m, so those are the typical spaces we tend to operate in”, details the CEO.

To date we’ve funded 40 projects that are either completed or in delivery. Most of the projects we’d expect to see commercial application beyond 2020.

The critical issue from a government policy point of view is this issue of certainty, especially for the long-term. We haven’t had a case where we haven’t been able to launch a project, for whatever reason.

We work with over 100 organisations and 15 countries around the world to deliver these projects in and for the benefit of the UK. What we’ve been attempting to do with the energy supply chain is develop key technologies, both now and in the future, and to significantly reduce cost on them as well as take away any risk.

The six priorities of the 2050 target

Clarke goes on to detail the major aspects of approach that the ETI focuses on, and the reasons why they are seen as such crucial players in the energy mix.

When we look at the 2050 target, six things consistently come out as priorities. The first is efficiency in energy use in buildings and transport. The second is reducing emissions, and we see nuclear power as an answer to this, as it is available now and the costs are not disproportionate to other low-carbon emissions. Another is gas – whether it’s fossil gas or bio gas or potentially hydrogen, we see gas as being critical in the future energy system.

Then there is bioenergy. We’re interested in what potential there is for growing bioenergy crops in the UK and how we then potentially use them – whether it’s in power generation or the creation of biofuels, or whether it’s in heating supply. There is a significant amount of underutilised land in the UK that is good enough for growing bioenergy crops. That’s an area where we’re investing quite heavily.”

Next is carbon capture and storage (CCS), which enables us to use fossil fuels and bioenergy, but particularly fossil fuels, in the short term. This is because of the fuel costs and security benefits that come with those. We’re running projects at about £25m each, looking at improved efficiency and CO2 separation technologies, as well as driving costs down. So CCS is quite key.

Clarke places great importance on CCS, which prevents the release of large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere from fossil fuel use in power generation and other industries by capturing that C02 transporting it and, ultimately, pumping it into underground cavities to securely store it away from the atmosphere.

We need to get CCS working”, he says. “The reason for that is that it gives you options for the future. If we can demonstrate CCS as an energy capability, not just as technology but as a business model, it will give us a whole range of options which are there if we need to use them, and the reality is we will use some of them, if not all of them, in meeting the 2050 target.

Wind plays a key role in 2050 target

Renewables also come into the picture with the ETI.

The final area is offshore renewables – wind in particular. The problem with wind is cost. We did some research a couple of years ago to see what we need to drive costs down, and the answer really is big turbines producing 8-10 megawatts (MW), with blades that are 85-95 metres long. We would need wind speed of 12 metres per second to put those turbines into optimum use.”

It is increasingly likely that we will need a significant amount of wind to reach the 2050 target

Therein lies the problem, however, as such turbines do not currently exist. Indeed, the majority of wind turbine blades range from between 35-50 metres in length, and produce far less than the 8MW suggested. However, Clarke is confident in the technology currently being developed, with the ETI supporting it.

Manufacturers are starting to build these larger machines but at only 7MW – we haven’t quite got 8. The bigger blades don’t yet exist but we’re in the process of contracting with a company to develop that technology.

In order to get wind speeds of 12 metres per second reaching our turbines, we need the machines to be off sight in the west coast of the UK, which is going into deeper water than we are doing today. Deeper water means the machines need to be on floating platforms as opposed to fixed platforms, which again is something we’re contracting to do.

Such efforts are important to UK energy says Clarke, as wind is in such abundance around the shores of the island.

It is increasingly likely that we will need a significant amount of wind to reach the 2050 target. We are seeing the best machines in the world in the latest projects, from the point-of-view of energy efficiency and cost efficiency. It is a leading position that the UK has.”

Smart energy systems

With energy efficiency a key development priority for the UK, the ETI launched its biggest programme to date earlier this year, called Smart Systems & Heat, as part of the prime minister’s trade mission to Japan. The programme focuses on so-called ‘smart energy systems’ for domestic and light commercial premises which the ETI says “will enable optimum use of energy” in the future, and is currently constructing a system model for eventual demonstration in the UK with Japanese electronics firm Hitachi acting as a programme associate.

Right now we’re doing the consumer study piece, along with technology development activity with the supply chains with the expectation that in 2015 we will have a demonstrator in an area in the UK”, explains Clarke.

This site will comprise of something between 2,000-10,000 buildings and houses. This demonstrator will address the point: what is more important – supplier improvements and efficiency or consumer behaviour. We will then analyse that and look to deliver a system with significant efficiency improvements resulting in benefits to the consumer.”

Regardless of technological advances, though, Clarke admits the biggest improvement must be in the energy market itself.

Critical right now is the UK energy bill and electricity market reform. Irrespective of technology, that’s the concern for everyone.”

Further reading:

Wind farm debate: have we forgotten why we’re doing this?

Jonathon Porritt: the wonderful world of clean energy technology

The climate clock is ticking. Normal isn’t working. What should we do differently?

Why policy is the biggest stumbling block of all for renewable energy

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy

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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