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Economy

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

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The debate surrounding wind power is riddled with money, politics and prejudice. It’s time we began concentrating on the primary reason why we desperately need cleaner energy.

Much of yesterday’s news was dominated by energy minister John Hayes’ impromptu attack on wind power. “Enough is enough”, he was reported to have said in relation to the expansion of the industry, before being shot down by energy secretary Ed Davey, who reaffirmed that the coalition’s stance on renewable energy hadn’t changed.

Now we don’t profess to have listened to, watched or read all the media coverage of the story by any stretch of the imagination – there are only so many hours in a day, after all – but we did catch quite a bit. Of the debates, opinions and interviews we did come across, though, almost all neglected – whether knowingly or unknowingly – to mention the indisputable backbone of the argument for renewable energy and indeed, the reasons why it’s so desperately needed.

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists – the men and women with qualifications in climate science, who ought to be the go-to knowledge base on the subject – agree that humans are the chief driver of climate change, through our consumption of fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal. In turn this produces greenhouse gases that form a layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that in turn drastically warms the planet.

Just one look at the devastatingly sharp decline in Arctic summer ice this year – which shrank to its lowest ever point in August – shows that something really quite urgent needs to be tackled.

But even more basically than the debate around climate change is a need to reduce our pollution and waste and to protect the world’s biodiversity. As a country, and indeed as a planet, we are pumping unsustainable amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere, poisoning our oceans, ripping down our forests and wasting precious, finite resources.

If the argument for anthropogenic climate change is as solid as it gets, the one for excessive pollution and waste is even more concrete. According to a 2009 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, carbon dioxide from fossil fuels accounts for account for 60% of the “underlying radiative climate forcing”. Whatever your stance on climate change is, this isn’t sustainable.

But renewable energy emerges as a clean, abundant alternative to fossil fuels. And wind power is the most advanced option we currently have. Other technologies – solar, wave, hydro, geothermal and biomass, for example – are either not yet commercially-viable or are incompatible with the UK’s geography and natural resources. We can’t make the sun shine more, but these technologies will become more commercially-viable as the price of new technology always falls – wave and tidal power have potential for our island nation. Islands tend to be surrounded by waves and tides.

Solar is a burgeoning industry, and is seen by many as the future of renewable energy. In 2011, £6.9 billion was spent on new solar projects – a massive 122% rise on the year before. In the UK, the cumulative installed solar capacity shot up over 3,000% between 2010 and 2011, whilst the generation rose 2,300%. But still, this only accounts for 1% of the total generation.

Hydro (18%) and landfill gas (17%) make up a significant proportion of the UK’s renewable energy arsenal, but way out in front is wind power – the most sophisticated clean energy alternative we have at our disposal. Onshore wind accounted for 33% of the UK’s renewable energy at the end of 2011, whilst offshore contributed 16%.

Yet too often, the debate strays into realms of aesthetics, and not the reason why expansion of clean energy is so imperative in the battle against climate change. NIMBYs (not-in-my-back-yarders) are quick to oppose planning for an onshore wind development, but often come unstuck when pressed for a better option. Admitting that an objection is aesthetic rather than resorting to pseudoscience would be a positive step in the right direction. Building wind farms offshore is seen as the solution to this – something that the UK is doing at rapid speed, but the relative cheapness of installing turbines on the land means that onshore wind is currently the best option.

The difference between wind power and other forms of energy is its involvement of communities. Individuals across the country are buying into wind projects that benefit their local community – Westmill Wind Farm and Drumlin Wind Energy being a prime examples. Not only do investors get a decent return from these projects; but their homes – if they live locally – will often be powered by the energy that the turbines generate.

John Hayes added that the UK “can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities” – something that Dale Vince, founder of green energy supplier Ecotricity – questioned on BBC Radio 4 yesterday.

Onshore wind energy is the only form of energy generation that local communities effectively have a say in”, said Vince.

It’s the only form of energy generation that’s decided by district councils; the government decides every other form of energy – nuclear, gas coal, that kind of stuff – so it’s quite ironic really for certain ministers to make great play of the fact that communities need to be involved more when actually this is the only technology that they really are involved in.”

To say that the public don’t want renewable energy would be erroneous, too. Recent polls in both the UK and the US displayed overwhelming support for clean energy. The public is definitely switched on to the need for cleaner energy. Prejudiced policy, then, must renewables’ only stumbling block.

Another criticism of renewable energy – and wind in particular – is that it is a subsidy-junkie. A subsidy, though, is just another word for government spending for public good, and what these critics conveniently overlook is the massively inflated subsidies currently going to towards fossil fuels.

Over $400 billion a year is handed to the oil, gas and coal industries – six times more than what renewables get, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). As with any burgeoning technology, early investment is the key to its survival. The domestic feed-in tariff rates for solar have been severely cut in the last year – on the face of it a step back, but it could be argued that this has been because of the great progress made by the industry over that period.

Outspoken commentator and blogger James Delingpole, who recently withdrew from his post as anti-wind candidate at the Corby by-election after receiving less than 1% of votes in a pre-election poll, brings up another misconception in his latest rant.

He wrote, “Oh – and [wind power] doesn’t even reduce carbon emissions or create energy security because wind power, being by nature intermittent and unreliable, requires near 100% back-up from conventional, fossil-fuel power ticking away on “spinning reserve.”

This is true for the short-term, but in most cases renewables are backed up by natural gas – the most low-carbon of all fossil fuels. Energy storage across renewable networks is seen as the holy grail within the industry, and like many clean technologies, we have the science; it’s just not commercially-viable right now.

Effectively, it’s a toss-up between two options: continue burning dirty fossil fuels – oil, gas, coal – or invest in clean, limitless, renewable energies including wind power – the best, most efficient, most developed alternative energy source, and one that will assist the UK help tackle climate change and reduce pollution. I know which one I’d go for.

Wind power is the cornerstone of renewable energy. The UK is a windy, wave-swept, tide-surrounded island; it’s clear that we need to strive for clean alternatives if we are to tackle climate change, and utilising our limitless resources is paramount in this challenge. Opponents of wind might as well be climate change sceptics – indeed, many are – because we’re not going to win this battle without it.

Further reading:

Coalition at loggerheads over energy minister’s wind comments

Wind power experiences boom but policies still lean towards fossil fuels

Clean British energy in action

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

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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