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Scotland and Wales stand together in battle for community green energy projects



The Scottish and Welsh Governments have linked-up to call on Energy Secretary Amber Rudd to re-think Whitehall plans to cut support for renewable energy projects.

In a joint letter, described as a “demonstration of [the] strength of feeling”, the devolved administrations warn that investment in community energy projects is threatened due to proposed changes in the level of financial support available for local green power.

Both Scotland and Wales say they want meaningful discussions in order to protect the tens of millions of pounds of investment that is now at risk because of the UK Government’s attack on renewables.

The letter says the lack of discussion and advanced notice from DECC caused a more disruptive impact “than was necessary”.

Anne Schiffer, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “We fully support the Scottish and Welsh Government opposition to UK Government plans to cut support for renewables. Perhaps the most important legacy the UK can leave for future generations is to rid our energy system of dirty fossil fuels and build an energy economy based on our abundant renewable resources.”

“The transition to renewables is an opportunity to tackle the inequalities of our currently, highly-centralised energy system. Community energy has been a strong success story in Scotland so far. We believe that both people and the environment need to be at the heart of a renewables transition and the best way to achieve this is through community energy – people’s ownership of renewable energy.”

Members of the Scottish Community Energy Coalition including Friends of the Earth are calling on the UK Government to halt plans to remove Feed-in Tariff pre-accreditation for community energy projects in a joint response to a UK consultation on FIT accreditation.

Schiffer added: “It makes no sense to get rid of pre-accreditation, which has provided vital certainty for community energy projects, and then later reintroduce it. We need continuous support mechanisms on which communities and investors can rely, regardless of Westminster mood swings.”

The full text of the letter sent to Amber Rudd from the Scottish and Welsh Governments: “This joint letter is a demonstration of our strength of feeling, and looks to set out specific areas for meaningful dialogue following recent announcements about support for renewable energy.

“Firstly, we would wish to stress the importance of flexibility in the design of grace period criteria and that projects on the margins of eligibility need to be accorded careful consideration and handling. We would ask that you frame the grace period in a way that is appropriate, fair and reasonable.

“Secondly, you have stated that you will be willing to consider how community and local energy can be supported, and requested further thoughts on how such projects should be considered. Community energy is a key priority for both our governments and we feel very strongly that those communities who have invested heavily, in time, money and commitment, in a cleaner energy future, are deserving of this consideration.

“You have clearly set out the implications of continued spending at the current rate of deployment, and we are mindful of the costs of commercial development that does not recognise the true, and generally reducing, cost of development. However, we consider that the lack of discussion and advance notice will have an impact that is far more disruptive than was necessary.

“Your officials’ analysis of both the introduction of the restrictions for onshore wind under the Renewables Obligation (RO) and the cancellation of pre-accreditation for the Feed in Tariff (FiT) both state that you are unable to assess the likely impact. We could certainly have helped in this assessment, and indeed as recently as last month, officials from the Welsh Government offered support in providing information from our own schemes to help in the analysis to support the planned FiT consultation.

“We agree that is difficult to estimate the impact. However, your assessment on the Renewables Obligation impact clearly set out that there was little economic difference between the case for continuing the current level of support, and that for the proposed course: however, the benefits from the reduction in support accrue in the shorter term and the costs in the longer term. Wales’ legal commitments under the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act mean that we would not support a decision based on such short termism. Given that it is likely to leave future administrations, to fund the long term costs, and these economic and climate impacts lie within our devolved remits, we are very concerned about the lack of involvement in this decision.

“We consider that community groups, who are more risk averse as they do not have the capital resource to sustain losses, have limited ability to progress projects rapidly, and have collaborative and often complex decision making structures, are likely to be much more impacted commercial developers, who are able to resource the rapid development, decision making and construction of projects.

“The net outcome is therefore likely to be that the remaining developments that can be funded under LCF will be commercial; the small scale industry will go into a hiatus until either the retail price of electricity, or advances in storage and local supply, make projects commercially viable without subsidy.

“If this assessment is correct, the broader implications are likely to include stalling of the community energy sector beyond projects that have been pre-accredited by 22 July, and commensurate loss of local supply chains, and well-paid jobs in the consultancy, delivery and maintenance of projects, leading to increased joblessness and poverty. As part of the FiT review we will provide evidence of those community projects that will be impacted.

“It will also be disappointing to see the demise of the emerging capacity to deliver community share offers, which could have founded a culture of locally raised funding, and of the loss of community understanding of energy more broadly, which is driven by community energy projects, and is fundamental to greater energy efficiency. The funding for a wide range of projects supporting locally identified needs, such as fuel poverty, impacting on local cohesion, will also be lost.

“We both see that the future direction for energy is one of local generation and supply, based on renewable sources, and smart storage and local grid management, with significant local benefit. The current proposals will significantly damage the prospects for this future if the local ownership and benefits of projects are not considered within the support regime.

“We very much hope that this letter will establish a meaningful dialogue about potential mechanisms for continuing to support the development of community capacity, community benefit, and the supply chain capacity, in order to deliver on this future.”

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7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption



Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions |

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living



Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions |

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.


Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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