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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”.

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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