This key renewables industry is ‘at a crossroads’ The UK government along with its Scottish counterpart to ensure the future of the hydropower industry, this is according to Paul Wheelhouse, the Business, Innovation and Energy Minister
Visiting a pumped hydro storage plant at Foyers, near Loch Ness, Paul Wheelhouse said the industry was “at a cross roads” with new projects coming on stream but with future investments and jobs threatened by the UK Government subsidy regime.
Mr Wheelhouse highlighted the role pumped hydro storage – a mature and highly flexible technology that enables the storage of renewable power – could play in Scotland’s energy system and called for closer working between the two governments on extending pumped storage capacity.
Mr Wheelhouse said:
Hydro generation in 2015 was at a record high level – 5,780 GWh, up 6.3% on 2014.
“The hydro sector is at a crossroads, with a number of exciting developments opening, but with some future investments, especially in small scale hydro, at risk due to changes in subsidies, brought in by the UKG, putting jobs at risk in many rural communities.
“Pumped hydro storage – like the facility I have seen today in Foyers – is a case in point. This tried and tested technology can play a key role in enhancing energy security, providing local jobs and helping to integrate renewables onto the network.
“As well as being able to further support peak demand, expanded pumped hydro storage would also be able to effectively store greater levels of electricity at times when renewable energy output is high but demand is low. However, this part of the hydropower industry requires substantial government support – not the kind of extra hurdles that changes in subsidies from the UK Government have put in place. That is why I am using this visit to urge the UK Government to do all that is can to support the real and continued potential in this energy resource.
“We are committed to supporting the development of renewables as part of a balanced energy portfolio, and are already developing an overarching energy strategy, setting out what we can do to optimise the benefits of Scotland’s significant energy resources and expertise through to 2030. We will do all that we can to ensure hydropower, and pumped hydro storage, will play an important role as part of a balanced energy portfolio.”
Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, has responded to the Energy Minister’s comments on the role pumped hydro plays in Scotland’s renewables mix with the following :
“Along with efforts to reduce electricity demand and strengthen interconnectors, increasing our hydro-pumped storage capacity will help make the most of Scotland’s abundant renewables and help deliver a fossil-fuel free power system. That is why the UK and Scottish governments need to work with industry to incentivise investment in pumped storage.
UK and Scottish governments need to work with industry to incentivise investment in pumped storage.
“Independent research has shown that Scotland can have a safe and secure electricity supply with almost entirely renewable electricity generation in 2030. The Scottish Government’s forthcoming energy strategy is the perfect opportunity to set out a bold vision for how we could become Europe’s first 100% renewable electricity nation by 2030, ensuring that we continue to harvest the benefits of our renewable electricity revolution.”
Hannah Smith, Policy Officer at Scottish Renewables, has also responded to the comments by saying :
“Hydro has a proud history in Scotland, with many of the familiar schemes installed after WWII recently celebrating their 70th anniversary.
“Scottish Renewables research last year showed 204 smaller hydro plants were now up and running across Scotland, providing clean power to homes, businesses and community organisations.
“Cuts to UK Government support in recent years remain a matter of real concern for our members, and are likely to mean a sharp downturn in deployment in the next 12 months.
“However the potential for hydropower and pumped storage hydro in Scotland remains strong, and we are working with the Scottish and UK Governments to seek clarity over the support this valuable technology can expect to receive in future.”
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
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 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.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
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?
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.