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Engingeering Projects of the Future Unveiled Today



A shortlist of low carbon, future-proof engineering projects fit for the 21st Century and beyond have been revealed today by Scotland’s Climate Change Minister at the Edinburgh based Green Investment Bank.

Climate Change Minister Dr Aileen McLeod announced the three shortlisted projects which were selected after a rigorous process involving many experts and 1000s of members of the public, who were asked which of a longlist of ten possible projects they felt should be taken forward most urgently.

The year-long initiative by the Low Carbon Infrastructure Taskforce [3] set out to explore how  Scotland’s proud engineering tradition could be harnessed  to tackle fuel poverty, improve public health, create jobs and slash carbon emissions.   It’s hoped the Scottish Government will now develop and take forward each of these strong infrastructure projects to help build a prosperous Scotland.

The shortlist includes:

City transport transformation.  Adapting our cities for active travel and public transport:  This project looks to re-engineer our cities to allow people live and travel in low-carbon ways- connecting public transport within and across cities, reducing air pollution from private vehicles and making it easier  and safer to travel on foot or by bike. Examples of this type of project elsewhere even show that projects like this can boost local business and improve the local economy.

Urban district heating networks: Building Scandinavian-style heating into Scotland’s cities:  This project would develop Scandinavian-style district heating networks in Scotland’s city centres to join up isolated “heat islands” and develop future-proofed heating networks, allowing homes and   businesses to benefit from renewable sources of power, energy efficiency and reduced emissions.

Energy efficiency retrofit programme: Making all of Scotland’s buildings warm, healthy and affordable to heat: This project is about improving our homes, businesses and public sector buildings to be more energy efficient, reducing fuel poverty, improving health and ensuring long-term financial savings. Insulation,    lighting upgrades and boiler replacements could help the 70% of buildings that will still be in use in 2050 be more ‘future-proof’.

Dr Aileen McLeod, Climate Change Minister said “Scotland is on track to meet and exceed our world-leading target of a 42 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. We have one of the most comprehensive packages of low carbon action in the world which sets the benchmark the international community needs to match in the years ahead if we are to stand a good chance of limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius as called for by the Paris Agreement.

“I am very impressed by the high quality of these short-listed projects that very much reflect the current policy focus of the Scottish Government, in particular with the designation of energy efficiency as an infrastructure priority and the expanding focus on low carbon infrastructure highlighted in the Infrastructure Investment Plan. We must now all of us – including businesses, industry and individuals – work together to achieve our common ambition of tackling climate change and making the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Sara Thiam, Chair of Low Carbon Infrastructure Taskforce said “This has been an exciting project and a privilege to work with so many people as passionate about Scotland’s infrastructure as I am.   The quality of the projects put forward was impressive in ingenuity and diversity including transforming transport in our cities to allow for more active travel and public transport, improving the energy efficiency of our homes and offices nation-wide and new ways of sourcing clean, cheap heating through installing district heating networks.  We’ve engaged with experts and the public and found there is ready support for these projects. I hope the Scottish Government will consider our shortlist and take it forward to ensure we grasp the benefits to our economy, environment and quality of life for the people of Scotland.” 

David Miller, former Mayor of Toronto (2003-2010), under whose leadership Toronto became widely admired internationally for its environmental leadership, economic strength and social integration, sent a video message of support to the event. Miller, currently CEO of WWF-Canada, said:

“In Toronto we focused on three key areas. Transportation, including active travel  like walking and cycling which made the city a better place to live, energy retrofit in buildings, which are a significant job creator, and clean energy generation. As a result of our efforts the city was emitting 15 per cent percent less greenhouse gases by 2012 based on 1990 levels. By starting with the right environmental values we built a better, more liveable, socially inclusive city that created jobs.

“Of course, there were challenges of money and political will, but we found that the people of Toronto were with us.   I know that Scotland and its people have tremendous ideas, and I have no doubt that the Scottish Government will implement the best ones.  I am confident of your success.”


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



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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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



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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