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Please scroll down for lots of useful information. There are links to industry and environmental journals, relevant dates in the environmental and renewable energy calendar, current debates, a solar PV Feed-in Tariff calculator, green products websites, campaign groups and more. Some of this might be a bit outdated given time considerations and the fact that I don't get paid for doing this, but I do try and keep it as fresh and new as I can so it's still worth checking out.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Friday, 28 December 2012

Pike Research report tracks development of energy storage





Energy storage projects are increasing steadily, both in terms of the project pipeline and the number of projects deployed and operating.  Two factors are influencing that expansion: first, demand for energy storage is increasing as utilities learn more about energy storage technologies and become less risk averse, and second, as the economic outlook brightens, companies are more willing to invest the capital frequently required for energy storage.  According to a new tracker report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice, the total number of energy storage projects worldwide (including announced, funded, under construction, and operating facilities) reached 714 in the last quarter of 2012.

“Various governments’ strategies to expand energy storage are beginning to yield significant dividends in the form of expanded project count and capacity,” says research analyst Anissa Dehamna.  “Looking back, we can see that there was a considerable diversification of the technology mix during 2010.  Both private investment and government spending contributed to this diversification.  For example, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) came into effect in February 2009, and the U.S. government disbursed these funds throughout the following year.”

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

DECC publishes support packages for solar and biomass



See my article for Renewable Energy Magazine. The Renewables Obligation (RO) encourages the generation of electricity from renewable sources in the UK and was introduced in 2002 with the exception of Northern Ireland where it was introduced in April 2005. It essentially places an obligation electricity suppliers in the UK to source an increasing proportion of electricity from renewable sources.

Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are green certificates presented by Ofgem to accredited renewable energy generators for the electricity they generate. They are intended to create a market and be traded at market prices.They can be traded with other parties but are ultimately used to demonstrate that the suppliers have met their obligations. Generators will sell their ROCs to electricity suppliers or traders and this allows them to receive a premium as well as the wholesale electricity price. Suppliers present the certificates to Ofgem to demonstrate their compliance with the obligation but if they do not present enough ROCs the suppliers have to pay a penalty known as the Buy Out Price. For 2012/13 this is set out at £40.13 for each ROC. The money collected by Ofgem from the Buy Out Fund is recycled on a pro-rata basis to suppliers who presented enough ROCs.

The cost of ROCs is paid for by electricity consumers of supply companies that fail to present sufficient ROCs while reducing the cost to consumers of supply consumers who submit large numbers of ROCs. The default is one ROC per megawatt hour (MWh) of production with some technologies receiving more.






Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Concerning Gold



About a year ago now I read a highly interesting book by Annie Leonard called The Story of Stuff which examined all the various accoutrements with which we surround ourselves, where they come from and how they are produced and manufactured. Included in the book was a very enlightening chapter on gold and how generally unethical and environmentally destructive the gold industry is. At this time of the year most of us are thinking of Christmas of course, but some love-struck people around the world may be planning wedding's next year. If so, and if you are thinking of buying some gold for whatever reason, have a look at this guest article by Jen Marsden beforehand. It might make you think about what gold you buy and how you go about it.


Heart of gold? Wedding rings with thought

Ethical issues in the jewellery industry tend to be focused on conflict-diamonds and other precious gems. But what about the raw material that these beautiful stones are set in? Gold mining can be a dangerous and unethical business in its own right. But there is an alternative.

What makes gold unethical?

Consumers tend to forget the importance of the metals in ethical jewellery sourcing – gems are only one part of the problem.  

Mined and appreciated for centuries, gold is a constant financial boon. In India, families put gold above property and see it as a sound investment for the future, making it the ultimate wedding gift for newlyweds. This is because the price of gold has a steady and strong market price increase every year.
Yet there’s much more to gold than meets the eye. 

As the no dirty gold campaign highlights, ““Gold mining is a dirty industry: it can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, hurt workers, and destroy pristine environments.”
Traditional gold mining tends to occur in less developed countries such as Africa and South America and there is often weak legislation to ensure sustainability. 

Gold mining is an industry that requires much labour and a lot of energy. Extraction utilizes deadly mercury or cyanide, which leaches the land and can cause many health and safety issues for the miners and families living in the communities. The large pits left from mining can even turn into breeding sites for mosquitoes, spreading fatal tropical diseases quickly.

When it comes to selling their gold, small-scale artisanal miners have few bargaining rights and often receive only a fraction of the local market value, as traders and exporters collude to rip them off.
Children are often used as the main labour force, both in the extraction process of the raw metal as well as in the cutting workshops for the finished product. 

David Rhode of bespoke ethical jeweller Ingle & Rhode explains, “The jewellery industry is not a particularly progressive one. A lot of jewellers have done things the same way for many years, and are resistant to change. Over the last six years we’ve noticed people within the industry starting to acknowledge some of the ethical problems, which must be positive. The downside is that certain jewellers can be quite cynical, and have started shouting about how ethical they are while doing nothing to clean up their business.”
Yet it’s not all bad news, as Rhode adds, “Interest in ethical jewellery is growing year on year, particularly around engagement rings and wedding bands. These are lifetime purchases, and clients are more likely to take the time to research what they are buying into.”

Hearts of gold

After years of campaigning by ethical jewellery companies like Ingle & Rhode, as well as local NGOs and human rights advocates, there’s now a friendlier alternative to the gold purchased for custom-made engagement rings or wedding bands.

The Fairtrade Foundation in the UK launched a global first in February 2011: Fairtrade and Fairmined gold.
This certified gold is becoming more available within the marketplace and stands to support millions of small-scale and artisanal miners around the world.

Fairtrade and Fairmined gold follow the same principles as other Fairtrade certified products, ensuring a set minimum price as well as a premium that is re-invested back into the community.
Small-scale mining communities can now work under carefully regulated conditions to produce metals that are both environmentally friendly and socially beneficial. The miners have the right to bargain collectively and child labour is strictly prohibited.  

Ingle & Rhode sources its gold from an association of artisanal miners in Peru called AURELSA, which is one of a handful of certified gold producers. AURELSA produces 3.5kg of pure gold each year under strict guidelines and an independent audit process. A handful of wholesalers are then authorized to import the gold to the UK, where several retailers are licensed to offer it to the public, who are also in turn independently audited by the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK. 

With the Fairtrade premium, AURELSA has been able to establish a health centre and build three schools, as well subsidise the whole village’s electricity.
David Rhode concludes, “Boosting demand for certified Fairtrade and Fairmined gold will really help the lives of the producers, and most of our clients like the idea they are doing something positive.”
Next time you or someone you know is planning a lifetime purchase of gold, have a heart and work with an ethical jeweller.

Eco expert Jen Marsden is author of the Green Guide for Weddings and supporting Ingle & Rhode and other ethical wedding suppliers for a greener, glamourous wedding day.
 



Friday, 7 December 2012

Warming is sending the Arctic into a volatile state



http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/warming-sends-arctic-into-new-volatile-state-69627
Global warming is rapidly driving the Arctic into a volatile state characterized by massive reductions in sea ice and snow cover, more extensive melting of the Greenland ice sheet, and a host of biological changes, according to a comprehensive report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Wednesday.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

EU freezes airline emissions policy



http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/articles/i/5537/
The EU has suspended its plan to include airline emissions in the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

New energy strategy



http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/articles/i/5536/
The government is promising a new energy strategy which will save the equivalent of 22 power stations worth of energy by 2020. Five end use energy demand centres will be created with support from UK research councils and £39 million worth of funding. Led by top universities, the strategy will in part look at how behaviour with regard to energy use can be changed.

Study confirms true scale of renewables bad press



http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2227813/exclusive-study-confirms-true-scale-of-renewables-bad-press?wt.mc_ev=click&WT.tsrc=Email&utm_term=&utm_content=How%20the%20national%20media%20treats%20renewables%20CC%20Group%20picture&utm_campaign=BusinessGreen%20Daily%20News%20281112&utm_source=Business%20Green%20Daily&utm_medium=Email

Do have a look at this story, published by Business Green today. I wish I could say I am surprised at this, but sadly I am not. The papers concerned are the usual culprits; The Times, The Mirror, The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph - all essentially serving a right wing agenda alongside vested interests in favour of the oil and gas industry and avoiding doing anything significant about climate change.

The survey by CCgroup that 51 percent of the articles surveyed were either negative or very negative towards the renewable energy sector. The interesting thing though is that the paper's viewpoints run counter to public opinion which is broadly in favour of renewable energy investment.

So, although it is true that to an extent the industry's voice is not being heard, on the other hand these stories are not representative of readers views. In other words, Telegraph et al, most people in society don't really accept your prejudiced views, which are outdated, unrealistic and unrepresentative. Do the world a favour and move on, as it's getting a little boring now to be honest...

The actual study can be found here: http://www.ccgrouppr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Whitepaper-How-the-UK-national-media-treats-renewables-November-2012.pdf

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

UK government outlines next steps in smart meter rollout



http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/articles/i/5524/

Energy efficiency could help schools to cut energy bills by £70 million



http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/articles/i/5530/

Energy efficiency is the best way to boost UK economy



http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/articles/i/5533/

CSP in India



http://social.csptoday.com/emerging-markets/how-will-india-incentivize-csp?utm_source=http%3a%2f%2fuk.csptoday.com%2ffc_csp_pvlz%2f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CSP+ebrief+12+Nov+12+en&utm_term=Algeria%3a+making+slow+but+steady+progress+is+CSP+growth&utm_content=247994

The current campaign against wind could damage marine renewables



http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/articles/i/5500/
Blog piece by Tory MP Oliver Colville

Wind could be second only to gas by 2020



http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/articles/i/5500/

Onshore wind costs plummet



http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/articles/i/5507/

Low carbon industries appeal to Energy Secretary for decarbonisation target



http://www.energy-business-review.com/news/low-carbon-industries-appeal-to-uk-ministers-for-decarbonising-target-071112

Wind power is here to stay



http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/11/06/wind-power-is-here-to-stay-despite-manufacturing-slow-down_n_2081487.html
Offshore wind turbine manufacturers have been hit with a production freeze, but renewable energy experts predict this is more of a delay than a shutdown.

A guide to grid PV regulations



http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/martins_blog/navigating_the_maze_a_guide_to_grid_pv_regulations_2356
What regulations do I need to study when designing a grid connected PV system? The answer isn’t completely straightforward, but the following documents are good places to start. By Martin Cotterell on Solar Power Portal

Monday, 12 November 2012

Heseltine calls for energy policy certainty



http://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/heseltine_uk_needs_unambiguous_energy_policy#.UJETSPlHmb0.twitter
In No Stone Unturned, his a wide-ranging blueprint for stimulating growth in the UK published today, the former cabinet minister and Tory grandee said that without the “real certainty” of a long-term energy policy, investors will “simply not risk the enormous sums of capital” needed to develop the UK’s energy infrastructure.

10 wind energy facts



http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/analysis/2220998/top-10-uk-wind-energy-facts
1. Wind power is booming - There was 6.9GW of total operational wind farm capacity by the end of June this year, with a further 4.2GW in construction and 5GW with planning consent.
2. Wind is to provide a 10th of UK electricity - If current levels of growth continue, wind energy capacity will reach 13.5GW by the end of 2013, delivering 10 per cent of the UK's electricity needs.
3. Councils are saying 'yes' to onshore wind - Wind farms have finally bucked the downward trend in planning approval rates. For the first time in five years, the amount of UK capacity being approved at a local level has increased instead of decreased.
4. Planning consents are up 15 per cent - UK consents by local councils for projects smaller than 50MW increased by 15 per cent compared to last year, and in England alone approvals rose by 60 per cent.
5. Ministers are rubberstamping wind projects - There was a near 50 per cent leap in approval rates for all onshore wind farms in the UK. This year, 110 schemes delivering 1.7GW were approved, compared to 77 projects and 1.1GW of capacity consented in 2010/11.
6. The pace of planning approvals has increased - Planning decisions taking place more quickly at all levels of government. Local authorities approved projects 10 per cent quicker last year, compared to a year earlier and government approval rates were 19 per cent quicker than the year before.
7. Smaller wind farms are in vogue - Despite the increase in approvals, project capacities have shrunk. The average consented project is 15.5MW for the second year in row - the smallest since 2000/2001. RenewableUK says the trend shows developers are consulting closely with communities to deliver projects that are more acceptable to local decision-makers.
8. The big money is in offshore wind - Businesses invested £1.5bn in offshore wind projects last year, which is 60 per cent more than in the previous year. These projects are expected to bring £150m-£600m into the UK economy.
9. Wind energy jobs are being created all over the UK - The wind energy industry now employs 12,200 people in full-time jobs, compared to 9,756 in 2010. The offshore wind industry alone now employs 45 per cent more people directly than two years ago.
10. The industry is not out of the woods yet - Despite growing optimism, the industry is concerned that the forthcoming Energy Bill and electricity market reforms will fail to deliver the long-term investor confidence the sector needs.

Scottish green energy target set at 50% of demand by 2015



http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-20140313
A new target to generate the equivalent of half of Scotland's electricity needs from renewable energy by 2015 has been set by the first minister.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Research into heat transfer fluids



http://social.csptoday.com/technology/heat-research-alternative-heat-transfer-fluids?utm_source=http%3a%2f%2fuk.csptoday.com%2ffc_csp_pvlz%2f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CSP+5+Nov+12+en&utm_term=The+Heat+is+On+-+Research+into+Alternative+Heat+Transfer+Fluids&utm_content=247994

German CSP fights back



http://social.csptoday.com/markets/german-csp-fights-back?utm_source=http%3a%2f%2fuk.csptoday.com%2ffc_csp_pvlz%2f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CSP+5+Nov+12+en&utm_term=The+Heat+is+On+-+Research+into+Alternative+Heat+Transfer+Fluids&utm_content=247994

Lord Deben confirmed as keynote speaker at LowCVP Low Carbon Champions Awards



http://www.lowcvp.org.uk/news/1909/bulletin/
John Gummer, Lord Deben, the recently appointed Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, is confirmed as the keynote speaker at the opening of the LowCVP Low Carbon Champions Awards which will be held in central London on the evening of January 29, 2013. The Awards will follow the LowCVP's Tenth Anniversary Reception.

An exciting future for Irish Wind Energy



http://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/article/an-exciting-future-for-irish-wind-energy-20121109
Kenneth Matthews was appointed as the CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association in September 2011. He has over 14 years experience in the Irish energy industry and has previously worked with Intel, EirGrid and ESB.
His experience encompasses power system operation and protection and transmission access planning with EirGrid including the technical and commercial aspects of generation and load access to the transmission and distribution system.

He has also held numerous management roles including Production Manager Poolbeg Power Station and Station Manager Ardnacrusha Power Station and has been involved in delivering numerous projects across power generation from safety to power plant overhauls.

As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol Ireland has been proactive in developing its wind industry and Renewable Energy Magazine was therefore very pleased to have a chance to speak directly to Mr Matthews in order to find out more about the exciting opportunities available to Ireland’s wind sector.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Cheaper, Greener Planet for all



A guest post by Eve Pearce

The continuing consumption of fossil fuels is problematic both to society and to the environment. Sources of energy that were derived from an earth that was once fertile and prosperous are being devoured by people’s lust after new technologies, bigger cities and an ever growing population -  the earth has become saturated with consumers and is rapidly failing to meet the demand.

A seemingly valid source of a potential solution are green electricity suppliers; a rapidly growing area of the economy that supplies energy via renewable sources such as: solar, wind, hydraulic, geothermal and biomass. However there are many problems with the ‘green energy’ sector including a major concern over how to store enough of the energy to meet demand from the grid. If the supply is not large enough, and cannot be maintained at an industrial level, the technology will remain more or less redundant. As renewable energy is renowned in many cases for being inconsistent and consequently unreliable, a suitable storage device must be developed that is suitable for grid level storage that is cost effective so it can compete with the current market price whilst being relatively silent and remaining emission free so as not to defeat the purpose of having such an energy resource in the first place.
The Solution 
The resolution to the multitude of problems presented by non-renewable energy sources is quite literally to eradicate their use. The likely hood of the required technology to make good on such a fix is slim to none, but within that slim chance there has been a major recent development that leaves us that bit closer to ‘saving the world’. Donald Sadoway and a team of students are on their way to accomplishing the impossible by attempting to resolve one of the major troubles of the mass use of renewable energy – storage. Together they have developed a battery that has the capacity of 2MWh (two million/mega watt hours) which is the amount required to power 200 households daily. This is available for grid level storage, is silent, cost effective and meets market price.
Renewable Energy 
As renewable energy is generated from an unpredictable natural resource, i.e. solar and wind – the sun does not always shine, nor is it always windy - we needed to develop a safeguard for when the supply of energy did not meet the demand, thus the necessity for a battery fuelled by the resource in question arose. However, both the initial and mass production of the battery proved problematic. The cost that such an invention would incur was supposedly far greater than would be economic and possibly allow a price match to be made with the current grid supply. Sadoway dismissed these initial concerns and took inspiration from the production of aluminium. Before the advent of the aluminium smelter the metal was almost as deer as the more commonly expensive gold, silver and platinum. The invention of the smelter was based on the principle of Dr. Volta’s battery whereby the initial model was no more than alternate coins of zinc and copper divided by cardboard soaked in brine. The difference existed in the components of the smelter being molten and therefore operating at much higher temperatures. Sadoway used this inspiration to begin his journey of constructing a storage unit based on the same principles, he also adopted another of the smelter’s inventers’ traits; their youth. The aluminium smelter was made by none other than twenty two year olds; Sadoway cut his expenditure by employing students within the same age category and trained them to think as he did before setting about designing the battery.

The first problem they resolved as a team was the expense of the necessary metals. They needed to find a metal that was an earth abundant element in order to cut manufacture costs. Magnesium was the answer they came up with and, now working with a small team of twenty students funded by the government, they developed a battery that was comprised of low density molten magnesium on top, a molten salt centre and a high density molten magnesium on the bottom. The temperature of the battery was also self sustaining as the current passing through generated enough heat energy to keep the components at a desired temperature and in a molten medium. With the basic design complete Sadoway’s team felt confident that the product they had come up with could quite literally be the answer to decades of unresolved questioning regarding the appearance of renewable energy resources. To speed up the manufacturing process the team set up a small company whereby they could then employ others to assist in advancing the project more hastily.
Sadoway’s team has broken the mould in terms of the traditional methodologies of inventors that normally consist of hiring highly skilled technicians at vast expense that are often so in tune with previously existing technologies that they prohibit the advent of new expertise. The out of the box thinking that students often embody and the blind ambition of professor Sadoway led to this discovery which is easily set to change the future of our planet.

Eve Pearce can be contacted via this blog. If you wish to contact her email me on robinwhitlock1966@gmail.com

Green transport in Bristol?



My article for AtoB magazine concerning the prospects for green transport in Bristol has just been published:
http://www.atob.org.uk/


Virtually everywhere you go in Bristol the city’s transport system is often the subject of complaint. If it isn’t regular mutterings about the First bus network, it’s often comments about cyclists by motorists or about cyclists by pedestrians or about motorists by cyclists, and then there’s the question of the city’s rail network and the need for some kind of central transport hub. Meanwhile, the daily congestion in the centre of the city is horrendous and arguably growing worse....

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Better ways to energy security



http://vowlesthegreen.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/nuclear-news.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+VowlesTheGreenInKnowle+%28Vowles+the+Green+in+Knowle%29
The Bristol Evening Post is being a little premature when it says Japanese electronics giant Hitachi will build new reactors in Britain. Glenn Vowles explains why....

Top 10 useful UK wind energy facts



Business Green has recently published this article which is really interesting and worth reading:

http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/analysis/2220998/top-10-uk-wind-energy-facts
A new report from trade association RenewableUK has painted a bright picture of the UK's wind power sector, including a major upswing in approval rates for new onshore projects. Here, BusinessGreen outlines its key findings and recommendations:

1. Wind power is booming - There was 6.9GW of total operational wind farm capacity by the end of June this year, with a further 4.2GW in construction and 5GW with planning consent.

2. Wind is to provide a 10th of UK electricity - If current levels of growth continue, wind energy capacity will reach 13.5GW by the end of 2013, delivering 10 per cent of the UK's electricity needs.

3. Councils are saying 'yes' to onshore wind - Wind farms have finally bucked the downward trend in planning approval rates. For the first time in five years, the amount of UK capacity being approved at a local level has increased instead of decreased.

4. Planning consents are up 15 per cent - UK consents by local councils for projects smaller than 50MW increased by 15 per cent compared to last year, and in England alone approvals rose by 60 per cent.

5. Ministers are rubberstamping wind projects - There was a near 50 per cent leap in approval rates for all onshore wind farms in the UK. This year, 110 schemes delivering 1.7GW were approved, compared to 77 projects and 1.1GW of capacity consented in 2010/11.

6. The pace of planning approvals has increased - Planning decisions taking place more quickly at all levels of government. Local authorities approved projects 10 per cent quicker last year, compared to a year earlier and government approval rates were 19 per cent quicker than the year before.

7. Smaller wind farms are in vogue - Despite the increase in approvals, project capacities have shrunk. The average consented project is 15.5MW for the second year in row - the smallest since 2000/2001. RenewableUK says the trend shows developers are consulting closely with communities to deliver projects that are more acceptable to local decision-makers.

8. The big money is in offshore wind - Businesses invested £1.5bn in offshore wind projects last year, which is 60 per cent more than in the previous year. These projects are expected to bring £150m-£600m into the UK economy.

9. Wind energy jobs are being created all over the UK - The wind energy industry now employs 12,200 people in full-time jobs, compared to 9,756 in 2010. The offshore wind industry alone now employs 45 per cent more people directly than two years ago.

10. The industry is not out of the woods yet - Despite growing optimism, the industry is concerned that the forthcoming Energy Bill and electricity market reforms will fail to deliver the long-term investor confidence the sector needs.

Monday, 29 October 2012

GL RC opens new UK office



http://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/article/gl-renewables-certification-gl-rc-opens-new-20121029


The company has opened its fifth international office in Glasgow which will deal with type and component certification for clients in the UK and Ireland.

Energy & Environment Dates 2012