vrijdag 27 februari 2009

UK energy saving policy 'failing'

Saving energy was one of the biggest targets of the UK government. It has even created his own measures to deliver energy savings. An expert showed that the UK government is failing their saving policy.

EU commitments want the UK to save 20% on energy by 2020. To stick to the commitments, there were some promises made by the government. The big problem is that they can’t follow their promises. So, the local authorities need more funds to ensure energy savings. In the UK, there’s a huge gap between the aspiration to do something and the execution. A lot of announcements are being done but nothing has already been executed.

First of all, the building regulation in the UK is very tough, one of the toughest in Europe. But concerning energy efficiency, there is still a lot to learn says Mr Sellwood (CEO of Energy Saving Trust). He is concerned about plans to increase the toughness of UK’s building regulation. Households in the UK are responsible for 20% of the nation’s gas emissions, so cutting CO2 emission by homes will threaten any attempt of the real target. The way of life is important in saving energy, but instead of getting more energy efficiency, they are getting energy inefficiencies.

Secondly, there was a plan of the UK government to introduce the so-called “smart meters” into people’s homes. So they would be able to indentify their energy use and they would be able to analyse where they have to reduce their energy waste. But since the announcement, nothing has already been executed! Mr Sellwood believes it could still take 5 to 10 years before the “smart meter” will be introduced. In other countries, the installation of a “smart meter” had reduced energy waste up to 10%.

The “smart meter” is not only a good thing to reduce energy waste. It is also a good help to save money in a time of financial uncertainty and high energy prices.

I think every country wants to spend some money in order to reduce energy waste. But reducing it isn’t as simple as we think. I agree the meaning of Mr. Sellwood. Spending money to reduce energy waste is a good thing but we all have to do something. We all have to change our way of living to save energy. This will become more and more important for the households. High energy prices and financial problems will oblige households to be aware of this problem, otherwise they won’t be able to pay their bills. At home, we try to save energy in order to save money. Just closing each door instead of leaving it open will help. And if everyone changes his way of life for just a little, I’m sure we can solve the problem of energy waste!

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7856185.stm

Posted by Joachim De Zutter

maandag 23 februari 2009

Hydropower -- Energy from Moving Water

Hydropower is one of the different sources of renewable energy that is often used. Hydropower is already an important source of electricity in the United States, where it generates 6% of the total energy generation.

Hydropower is also one of the oldest sources of energy, and has been used already a thousand years ago.
The industrial use of hydropower has started in 1880 when 16 brush-arc lamps were powered using a water turbine at the Wolverine Chair factory in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1882 the first U.S. hydroelectric power plant was opened in Wisconsin. Before this the people could only produce electricity with coals.

It’s speaks for itself that hydroelectric power plants must be planted at a water source, a river for instance. It’s thanks to the ability of transmitting electricity over long distances that this source of energy has been used all over the world.

I think hydropower is the most interesting source of renewable energy. Everywhere there is water, there are rivers, oceans, there is also rain. Water will always be available in large amounts, therefore I think hydropower is very useful. Another advantage is that there isn’t any pollution. It delivers a lot of power. It’s not very expensive.

There are also disadvantages, a hydroelectric power plant needs a lot of space, and so parts of nature disappear. Sometimes such plants are built on water source where there are a lot of fish, many of these fish can’t survive this. Such an installation makes also a lot of noise.

Source: http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/renewable/water.html

Kevin De Pauw

zondag 22 februari 2009

David King: Iraq was the first 'resource war' of the century

David King was the UK government's chief scientific adviser in the run-up to the start of Iraq war. The main cause of the war in Iraq was Saddam Hussein and the presence of weapons of mass destruction. According to King, this wasn’t the only reason for a war between the United Stated and Iraq.

The Iraq war is called the first of this century's "resource wars" by Sir King. He says that these wars will be caused by powerful countries to secure valuable resources for themselves. The human population is growing and the natural sources are running out, this would lead to more conflict. Sir King is sure that if we don’t handle this problem this will lead to a planet where large, powerful nations will secure the resources for their own people at the expense of others.

David King had a solution. He tried to persuade the Bush government to introduce more climate-friendly policies and to decarbonise the American economy. This would have been much better for the climate issue and the research for durable energy resources. He added that in this world with growing population and dwindling resources, changes in economy and society are necessary.

In my opinion David King is right. I think if there will be any war in the future, the reason would be to secure or to obtain natural resources. Nowadays, you can already see the economical power of oil (The Arab states of the Persian Gulf). I don’t think that the US had set up a war just because of the oil stocks in Iraq but I’m quite sure that it was also a mission to secure the stocks. Bush was a president who wanted world power, according to me. He interfered in all the problems over the world, while there were enough problems in the US. Like David King said, it had been better if Bush had financed the input of durable energy in the American economy instead of making a war. I hope that the new president, Barack Obama, will do a better job and will have more attention for pollution and the need of new energy sources without making war.

Robby Lampens

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/feb/12/king-iraq-resources-war

Big Solar heats up

The last decades weren’t really successful for the market of solar energy. The next few years, more than a dozen young companies will make plans to build new solar projects in the desert of the South-West. These projects will make it possible to power more than 1.25 million homes.

California will introduce new standards that require utilities to generate 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by next year. There is also an investment of 30% tax credit for solar projects. So, the solar companies are smelling their chance to get new projects underway.

Most of these upcoming projects will use new technologies of which they can’t prove if they're reliable to produce cheap power. Normally, solar energy is mainly used by photovoltaics on the rooftop to produce a few kilowatts to power a home or business, but now it has to be able to power organisations for some megawatts. The question is if this will be possible.

The government will do large efforts: tax credits and other subsidies. This all in order to build the new projects and to become a price that’s as close as possible to what utilities pay for electricity from gas-fired turbines (15cents per kilowatt hour).

The solar companies are employing a variety of designs, some of which are a collection of photovoltaic cells that turn the sun’s energy directly into electricity. Others will use concentrating solar power designs by using mirrors to focus light on one single point to boil water and create steam to drive conventional turbines.

All these several designs create a battle of who will be the leader in technology. They all have to be aware of the financial limit to start a new project, and maybe it will be necessary to fight among themselves in order to create a technological hegemony.

In my opinion the raise of demand to solar energy is definitely a good thing. First of all, the environment will become better to live in. Secondly, it will decrease the expenses of the companies towards energy. The question if solar energy can supply a company is really a good question I think. Here in Belgium, we only use solar energy on our rooftop to get energy for our houses, but we can’t compare that amount of energy to a big industrial company. A reason why the market of solar energy is getting more and more important is because of the efforts of government. Here in Belgium, you get tax credits too when you buy photovoltaics. The purchase isn’t cheap but we can reclaim a considerable part. And if you take the difference in prices of other energy sources, you will get a large profit in the end!The competition between the different solar companies is modal phenomenon. Each company wants his own design, his own way of thinking and producing energy, just like every brand of cars has it’s own identity. I don’t think they have to create a hegemony but let every company free to invent their projects!

Posted by Joachim De Zutter

Blown away

In a period of 14 days the largest energy groups of Britain will submit bids to build a lot of giant wind farms off the coast of the UK. The cost of this project is estimated to be more than £30bn. But the groups have little confidence that this project will become reality because there aren’t enough public subsidies at the moment.

The government has set ambitious renewable energy targets. To achieve these targets it’s necessary to build a lot of offshore wind farms.

Next month is the last chance for the energy companies to bid in the third round of licensing for offshore wind. The government hopes that this project will host more than enough power to supply London.

But it’s not that easy to build these kinds of farms. The running projects are already running into problems. E.ON, a developer of London Array offshore project admitted last month that it’s not going well with the economics of the projects. The energy group will decide soon if they will continue with the project or not.

Offshore wind farms are very expensive investments. This is the first time that farms with this scale will be built. That’s just why these projects are so risky, there is a lot of capital needed. Elsewhere in Europe developers are guaranteed a certain price for the sold electricity, but not in Britain, so it’s not a surprise that a lot of projects are put on hold or are being cancelled.

It’s not easy for these energy companies and developers, but they don’t give up all hope. They hope that the economical situation will improve soon so that it will be a little easier to invest.

I think that it’s very important that the people and the governments show more interest for these projects. It’s a good way to deliver power on a less polluting way, and it helps to save our world. If we can use more wind energy, there will be less pollution in the world. I also know that it’s a huge cost, but I think that these investments are worth it. I also think that we must continue with research for green energy methods. The big advantage of wind energy is that it is always available.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/feb/15/wind-energy-business

Kevin De Pauw

'Long-term rise' in energy prices

According to Ian Parrett could the uncertainty in the supply of gas push up the costs and affect domestic energy bills in the long-term.

He also says that prices could be pushed up when the economy starts to recover.But others have suggested that a second round of energy bill cuts could be seen this autumn as wholesale prices fall.

In Great Britain more than seven million British Gas customers saw a 10% cut in gas bills take effect from 19 February.

Wholesale prices

Joe Malinowsky, of price comparison website TheEnergyShop.com, said the price cuts were not deep enough.

He said there was a "mixed bag" of price changes because of the variety of price increases made last year. He expected that differential to narrow following the latest round of cuts.

More cuts?

Each of the suppliers base their tariffs on long-term wholesale contracts and so there is a lag between supply costs coming down and cuts in domestic bills.Mr Malinowsky said he expected a second round of price cuts in the autumn.

Mr Parrett added that energy suppliers might also be dragging their feet over price reductions because of the economic downturn.

Some suggest that as early as 2010, domestic energy bills could start to rise again.

'Unfair pricing'

In the meantime, some customers are still set to benefit as a result of an investigation by Ofgem into unfair pricing.

An Ofgem spokeswoman said the regulator hoped a conclusion would be reached on the issue as soon as possible.

Because of the bad economic situation all the prices increased. So it’s positive when the gas prices decrease. But I don't think that they will rise again like Mr Parrett says. When the economy starts to recover I don’t think that the prices could be pushed up because when the economy is doing well the prices will decrease in general, so the gas prices will also decrease. According to me a lot depends on demand and that depends on the nature and depth of the economic recession. I think there are also other reasons why the prices will rise. The availability and the production of oil is in decline. We also have the speculators, they are boosting the price of oil and becoming very rich in the process. So according to me the gas prices will only increase in the future.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7899630.stm

Dominique Van Huffel