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National Grid: winter energy capacity to fall to seven-year low

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The National Grid has warned that the UK’s electricity capacity will be at a seven-year low this winter, after a string of power plant closures and breakdowns.

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Though the national energy operator stressed that blackouts are unlikely, spare electricity capacity will run at around 4% this winter – down from 5% the year before and 17% three years ago.

This follows the planned closure of some plants and the unexpected breakdown of others, while some new facilities have failed to come online fast enough to replace them. Overall, the UK will go into the winter with less nuclear and coal-fired capacity than usual. 

“The plant retirement rate has simply outrun the replacement rate. That we are even talking about the possibility of blackouts is in itself a massive policy failure,” said Institute of Directors (IOD) energy policy advisor Dan Lewis. 

“If energy policy was as good at building power stations as it has been at closing them, we would not be facing the risk of targeted blackouts this winter.”

However, the National Grid’s 2014/15 Winter Outlook insists that there is little chance of shortages in the colder months. To extend the margin, the Grid is in negotiations with three power stations to provide an extra 1.1GW of reserve power, while businesses will be offered financial incentives to cut power at peak times.  

“The electricity margin has decreased compared to recent years, but the outlook remains manageable and well within the reliability standard set by government,” said Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of market operations. 

“We will continue to keep a close watching brief across both electricity and gas throughout the winter so that we’re strongly placed to respond to any unanticipated events.”

The report should calm the fears of some critics, who argued that the UK was wrong to close its old, inefficient and polluting power plants. In order to help secure supply in the long term, campaigners and experts have called for the UK to do more to embrace the benefits of improved energy efficiency – which is already driving down demand. 

“The events of the last few months show that no form of power station is completely reliable, whether it’s gas-fired, coal-fired or nuclear,” said Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. 

“But just building more power stations would add to people’s bills. So the future for Britain has to lie in an efficient, flexible grid, making more use of demand management and interconnections with Europe to even out peaks and troughs and cope with unexpected failures. 

“Policy needs to prioritise options that boost our energy security, keep bills low and combat climate change – and reducing energy waste is clearly a no-brainer.”

Jenny Banks, energy and climate change specialist at WWF, added, “We absolutely need to meet the security of supply challenge but current plans to give hand outs to creaking old coal and nuclear plants which are increasingly unreliable and clearly well past their prime are not a long term solution, but a sticking plaster.”

Photo: Ewan Munro via Flickr

Further reading:

UK wind farms better nuclear plants for 24 hours

EDF confirms nuclear reactors may stay offline until end of the year

National Grid warns of possible winter power shortage

Power shortage warnings show need for effective national energy reduction

UK needs ‘major investment’ to avoid electricity shortages

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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