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The North Tells Osborne: Clean Energy Must Power the Powerhouse

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More than 80 organisations from across northern England have called on the Chancellor ahead of the Budget to ‘Keep it Clean’ and back renewable energy for their region. The North of England led the Industrial Revolution, and they say it should be at the forefront of this new, global, clean energy transformation.

The signatories include the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, communities investing in their own small-scale renewable projects, business groups, faith groups, and nature conservation organisations. In a declaration sent to the Chancellor, George Osborne, they say:

“The future we want is one with clean air, healthy people and resilient communities … To make this vision real, the 2016 Budget must enable us to develop and grow renewables for our region into the 2020s. The UK government should be celebrating clean energy as core to its economic plan. To cherish what we love about our region and reassert our place in the forefront of the world’s economy, we ask the Chancellor to back clean energy for the North.”

The declaration also reflects concern over the extreme wet weather that badly affected parts of the North this winter linking this with the need to shift to renewable energy to reduce the risk of extreme weather from climate change. In December, countries across the world committed to take action on climate change, signing the historic Paris Agreement. Yet in the UK, this is a very uncertain time for renewable energy, with an influential committee of MPs warning last week that the government needs to restore investor confidence in the sector.

So far negotiations about the Northern Powerhouse have ignored the need for new energy infrastructure.  The groups backing the declaration are clear that this should be clean, renewable energy combined with the benefits of smart energy technologies and reducing energy waste.  The call follows a recent report from industry body Energy UK calling for a ‘smart energy future’ and stating that the UK’s energy sector is ready to deliver affordable, reliable and clean energy.

Renewables are the most popular energy source in the UK. According to government statistics, 78 per cent of the public support them, with only four per cent against. Already, the North of England has enough solar PV to power half a million homes, enough onshore wind capacity to power one million homes, and enough offshore wind capacity to power 1.5 million homes.

Councillor Kate Chappell, Executive Member for the Environment at Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester is proud to sign the Clean Energy Declaration. As a city which was integral to the Industrial Revolution, we now see ourselves as being ideally placed to help lead the Clean Energy Revolution we need to see in the 21st century. Along with other great Northern cities, we have signed a pledge to move towards being exclusively powered by clean energy by 2050. And we will continue to develop the emerging Manchester Strategy, which explains our commitment to reducing the city’s carbon footprint, including through the use of clean energy. We’re also working with other Greater Manchester authorities and partners to improve our collective understanding of low carbon energy, as we seek to discover innovative, locally generated renewable energy sources for the city.”

Jeremy Garside, chief executive of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, said: “As an organisation concerned with protecting wildlife and important natural environments in the Tees Valley, we know climate change is a big threat and that we need to transition quickly to a low carbon economy to make sure people and wildlife can thrive in this area.”

Phil Davies, director at Community Energy Cumbria Ltd, said: “With Cumbria experiencing three major flood events in the last decade and with the rural economy struggling, it has been heartening to witness so many Cumbrian residents willing to invest their money and passion in community renewable energy projects. Whilst local procurement has undoubtedly benefitted Cumbrian businesses, the distribution of profits back into communities has begun a renaissance in true sustainability. We really need the Government to acknowledge that supporting community renewable energy represents the perfect vehicle for job creation, social well-being and environmental common sense. Surely this is what we all want a northern powerhouse to deliver.”

Gordon Watts, sustainability manager at the South Yorkshire Housing Association, said: “South Yorkshire Housing Association is committed to improving the environmental sustainability of our housing stock. The use of renewables such as solar PV and solar thermal in some of our existing housing schemes helps to keep our customers’ energy bills down and to tackle fuel poverty. But, like all other stock investments, financial viability is a key consideration and as such SYHA would strongly back continued Government support for clean renewable energy in the North and across the UK until the renewables sector is fully mature”.

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Energy

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

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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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