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‘Shot In The Arm’ Called For By Economists To Boost Warm Homes

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'Shot In The Arm' Called For By Economists To Boost Warm Homes

Calls for increased investment in energy efficiency in Scotland have today (Monday 12th September) been backed by leading economists who have suggested that it is one of the best ways to drive up economic activity and tackle cold homes.

The economists from the London School of Economics and the University of Strathclyde said that energy efficiency programmes are an excellent way to boost the economy by getting cash out into local communities and into consumers’ pockets as quickly as possible.

The economists welcomed the First Minister’s recent announcement in her Programme for Government that £20m of post-EU referendum stimulus funds are to be channelled to energy efficiency programmes. However, they urged the Scottish Government to build on this good start, to amplify the economic benefits and speed up action on fuel poverty and climate change.

The economists join over 50 organisations backing the call from the Existing Homes Alliance (EXHA) for a national infrastructure programme to improve the efficiency of Scotland’s homes, to tackle fuel poverty and climate change.

Professor Karen Turner, Director of the Centre for Energy Policy at the University of Strathclyde said:

“It’s good to see the Scottish Government recognise the multiple benefits of improving the energy efficiency of homes. Our own research shows that energy efficiency improvements free up disposable income for low income households to better heat their homes or to spend on other things. This helps reduce fuel poverty and drive new economic activity, delivering a long term and lasting boost to the economy on top of the infrastructure programme itself.

“With the UK economy still reeling in shock from the EU referendum, energy efficiency investment is a direct shot in the arm, delivering a relatively rapid economic stimulus.”

While annual spending on energy efficiency will increase to roughly an annual £125m, analysis suggests that the Scottish Government must spend closer to £450m per year in order to tackle fuel poverty and meet climate targets.

If the Scottish Government were to increase its warm homes spending, it would find its investment paid back many times over.

 

Dimitri Zenghelis of the London School of Economics said:

“It’s great to see the Scottish Government recognise the immediate economic benefit and value of channelling new infrastructure investment into scaled-up home energy efficiency programmes. The uncertainty created by the EU referendum continues to cast a shadow over investment in the economy and it will be vital that government spending be used on projects that can quickly boost local economies.

“Now is a good time for Government to borrow to invest; there’s no shortage of private money available with a glut of household savings making no real returns because of a lack of perceived investment opportunities. With real returns on government bonds being below zero, there’s strong evidence to suggest that returns generated on well-managed, carefully selected public investment projects such as smart investment to improve the energy efficiency of homes are likely to significantly exceed their financing costs.

“However, this current investment package is small in relation to the size of the Scottish economy and the levels of economic uncertainty. If the Scottish Government were to increase its warm homes spending, it would find its investment paid back many times over.”

Lori McElroy, the new chair of the Existing Homes Alliance said

“It’s great to see leading economists highlight the benefits of energy efficiency and the First Minister’s announcement lays solid foundations from which much could be achieved. Her Government can build on this success by creating a national infrastructure programme to support all homes in Scotland to reach at least an Energy Performance Rating (EPC) of C by 2025, funded with increased public investment and leveraged private funding.

“Such a programme would cut energy bills, helping the 845,000 households currently living in fuel poverty in Scotland heat their homes, as well as reduce climate emissions, prevent ill-health and create up to 9,000 jobs across the country.”

 

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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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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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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