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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Department of Energy and Climate Change Energy Trends and Prices

The latest provisional monthly energy statistics produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change were released on 26 March 2015 according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Highlights for the 3 month period November 2014 to January 2015, compared to the same period a year earlier include:
  • Primary energy consumption in the UK on a fuel input basis fell by 2.4%, on a temperature adjusted basis it fell by 1.8%. (table ET 1.2)
  • Indigenous energy production fell by 2.5% (table ET 1.1), with nuclear down 9.1% due to outages in November 2014. (table ET 5.4)
  • Lower coal generation due to the closure of plants, however coal share remains above gas. (table ET 5.4)
  • Coal provided 35.4% of electricity generation by Major Power Producers, with gas at 26.9% and nuclear at 19.0%.* (table ET 5.4)
  • Wind generation by Major Power Producers up 6.9% due to increased capacity, whilst overall renewables up 18.9% with growth in biomass.* (table ET 5.4)
  • Low carbon share of electricity generation by Major Power Producers up 2.4 percentage points to 37.8%, due to rise in renewables generation.* (table ET 5.4)

Green Energy Mull to develop Hebridean Island's first community hydroelectricity scheme

Australia's largest solar plant now online

Friday, 20 March 2015

Smart Meters: Saving the Environment or Spying on Citizens?

A guest post by Emma Bailey

With growing international concern about the environment, power consumption, and the correlation of said consumption to environmental problems, we've seen a dramatic uptick in research into efficiency measures, as well as research into renewable energy alternative. What we see is, improved energy efficiency can make an immediate positive impact on the environment. With more real-time usage data, energy providers can better provide the energy consumers need, issue more accurate billing and help homeowners implement a home energy savings plan.

One of the efficiency measures that is gaining popularity, particularly abroad, is smart meter technology. These meters seem promising, but they don't come without their share of controversy.

What are Smart Meters?
The idea behind smart meters is very simple. These are devices that are used to record consumer energy usage and transmit this data back to local energy companies. This information is communicated to the energy companies at least once a day and can be used in a more real-time fashion than previous types of metering solutions. The benefits of this system are that users can better monitor, and thus change, excessive energy consumption. It also financially benefits people who choose to use energy during non-peak hours by offering them lower rates during those times.

Privacy Concerns
While at first blush, these meters might seem like a smart business and environmental decision, there are many that have valid privacy concerns. As we have seen in the past, consumer data, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have immense value to a variety of parties. With the slew of recent hacking scandals of major corporations, it's become all too clear that none of our information is as secure as we'd like it to be. Consumer privacy advocates worry about the potential for the sale of private energy consumption data to governments and/or other businesses.

Voluntary Energy Code of Conduct
As a means to soothe consumer privacy concerns, the Department of Energy has unveiled the Voluntary Energy Code of Conduct. Signing off on this code of conduct is not, as the name implies, compulsory. This code of conduct is comprised of a number of different smart practice measures that utility and associated agencies use to help ensure that consumer data is safe and secure. These measures include a consumer's right to know about changes in company privacy policy, as well as to have a say in how and who can use their private data.

Potential Benefits
There are a wealth of potential benefits (as well as some valid concerns) when it comes to the use of smart meters. Estimbated billing has been the bane of the consumer for years. More sensitive, real-time measuring devices allow for more accurate billing, saving customers countless amounts of money on energy bills.  Despite valid privacy concerns that are being addressed (as well as those which will be addressed in the future), smart meter technology has the potential to really help consumes manage their energy usage, as well as provide for more accurate billing, thus reducing the energy overpayment that currently occurs. While the debate rages on, any technologies that have proven to provide efficiency increases as well as energy saving applications should be strongly considered.

Emma Bailey is a US writer and tech enthusiast who has been following recent developments in smart meter technology, particularly with regard to consumer privacy issues.

Australian State of Victoria open for wind energy business

Australian State of Victoria open for wind energy business

The problem with Jeremy Clarkson is...

Admittedly this isn't related to environmental issues except in so far as Clarkson's attitude to renewable energy, climate change, fox hunting, motoring and.....okay, well maybe it is then....have a look at this piece on my website blog...

If you're wondering what my problem with Clarkson is....this should explain it clearly...

Monday, 9 March 2015

Voices on the Wind

Voices on the Wind

It is a rare thing for me to lose my temper outside the pages of Facebook, but on this occasion I went ballistic. So here is a little word or two about Druidry….

The stimulus was an editorial written by Tim Stanley in which he described the Green Party as “a Looney Tunes alliance of druids and trots.” As far as cheap shots go, this is a very cheap shot. The Green Party, unfortunately, are a very easy target, but an even easier target are Druids. It wasn’t just the fact that Mr Stanley, I can barely mention his name now without spitting blood, implied that Druids are just a bunch of looneys, it was also the fact that he compounded the insult in the text by implying that we sacrifice goats “to Sheba the Moon Goddess.” In essence, this was a highly abusive, highly insulting personal attack on a whole community of people, within the UK and abroad, who follow a particular spiritual tradition. In short, religious bigotry and intolerance of the very worst kind. As a Druid myself, I took this very personally, and said so in my response within the comments section below the editorial itself.

Fortunately for the Telegraph, and for anyone else, Druids don’t have to suffer the problem of having an extremist minority that the rest of us have to disown or condemn, who claim to be acting in the ‘interests of Druidry’ or whatever feeble excuse, by blowing up the Telegraph offices or acts of a similar evil nature. In that I would just as quickly like to express my sympathy and friendship with the Muslim community, the 95 percent of peace-loving, warm, friendly Muslims who do have to endure such warped individuals acting in such a despicable fashion and claiming it for Islam. However, I am assuming that in part this means that the Telegraph, on some level, feels it can viciously attack Druids and Pagans at every available opportunity and even feels it has the right to do so. Druids are, as I mentioned, an easy target.

Here is the thing, and it might come as a surprise to some. Druids don’t spend all their time dancing around stone circles in white robes muttering strange bits of poetry. In fact, that white-robed thing, though important in some ways, is merely what I call ‘the public gloss’. It makes us highly visible when we appear in public, celebrating the seasons and conducting ‘rites of passage’ ceremonies such as handfastings (Pagan wedding ceremonies), Namings (Pagan ‘christening’ ceremonies) and ‘passing over rituals’ (funerals). However, 95 percent of Druidic work, so to speak, doesn’t involve dressing in a white robe. Well, not to me it doesn’t, and I imagine that would also be true of many other Druids.

Having said that, it is probably true that, on the basis of the ‘white robed thing’, Druids have a bit of a PR problem. And that is probably why it is a very good time for me to set some time aside to just explain a few things about Druidry, or what Druidry means to me.

So what is Druidry?

That depends on who you ask. Although Druidy has some common characteristics, one Druid’s Druidry may be very different to another Druid’s Druidry. A short answer may therefore be ‘Druidry is what Druids do’. After that though it gets a little more complicated.

To me, Druidry is a wisdom tradition. It is overwhelmingly rooted in the neo-Celtic atmosphere or energy known to many as ‘the western mystery tradition’. A part of this is drawn from Ancient Egyptian mythology surrounding particular deities such as Isis (the goddess consort of Osiris) and Horus and others. As I interpret it,  the western mystery tradition is mostly concerned with the ‘bardic shamanism’ of Irish and Welsh myth featuring particular characters such as the poet Taliesin, the shadowy Merddin Emrys underlying the later Arthurian character of Merlin and Irish heroes such as Fionn MacCumhail (Finn MacCool) and CuChulainn.

Even more so, Druidry is also rooted in nature and the idea that the ‘spirits of the land’, however you may wish to think of them, communicate partly through the power of language and the vocal arts, which includes language in its written form alongside powerful oratory. In essence, the human capacity for expression in the form of song, poetry and story could potentially be interpreted, and is so in my case, as the ‘voice of the land’ moving through humans, using them as a ‘channel’.

There are much simpler ways of putting this of course: ‘Knowledge is Power’, ‘powerful oratory’, the ‘sacred power of the word’, and so on. You might dismiss this nonsense, but before you do I would ask you to consider the multitude of ways in which words have an effect on you, and the multitude of ways in which those words affect your thinking and your emotions. Even more illustrative are the ways in which, throughout history, powerful oratory and powerful written texts, have moved nations, for good or ill. Think of Adolf Hitler and you will hopefully see how the power of words has the capacity for evil of an utterly terrible kind, but think of Dr Martin Luther King, Steve Biko, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, William Shakespeare, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and many others and you will see that the power of words equally has moved nations, and arguably the entire world, for the power of positivity and good.

This is the essence of Druidry, rooted in a Celtic framework and in reverence for nature. It’s that simple. The Celtic framework in this sense is indeed, in part, romanticist and pseudo-historical. It can involve tales that are often heavily distorted or, in the case of material originating from the 17th and 18th century ‘Druid revival’ led by figures such as Iolo Morgannwg, are even completely invented with no actual root in recorded ancient myth.

On some level, that doesn’t matter too much, because it is the spirit of the thing that is the most important element. However, as far as possible, being an enthusiastic fan of Celtic myth and history and having an academic nature, as well as being a freelance journalist myself, I try as much as possible, wherever I can, to get it right. I might therefore do my Druidry by reciting aloud the John Matthews version (based upon translations by R. A. S. MacAlister, Eleanor Hull and Cross and Slover) of ‘The Song of Amairgen’, a 27-line invocation in which the poet declares himself to be ‘the wind upon the sea’ and ‘the mound of poetry’ and so on. I might instead tell the story of Pwyll and Rhiannon from the ‘Second Branch of the Mabinogi’ in the Welsh collection of stories known as ‘The Mabinogion’, or the tale of Diarmuid and Grainne from Irish myth, and so on.

Or I might choose instead a modern song based on The Song of Amairgen called ‘The Mabon’, composed by Glastonbury band ‘Silver on the Tree’, or indeed a line or two from W. B. Yeats or Shakespeare.

And I might do this not just at a ritual or ceremony but also while out walking in the countryside, or working in the garden.

And that is the point. Druids are journalists, musicians, singers, storytellers, novelists, poets, gardeners, farmers, foresters, hikers, cyclists, naturalists, historians, archaeologists, artists, carpenters, builders, bankers, technicians, even scientists.

But above all, we are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, lovers, all united by a love of the land, a love of humanity and the desire to do good. For others, for other lifeforms and for the planet which supports us all, as well as for ourselves on occasion.
And that is why Tim Stanley’s editorial is so grievously disrespectful, insulting and abusive.

We should not tolerate it. We will not tolerate it. And that needs to be announced and understood, clearly and comprehensively.

And that is all I have to say on the matter, for the moment. Doubtless this debate will drag on in some form, but I now call to others, Druids and non-Druids alike, to follow this through and utterly condemn this editorial for the hateful diatribe it is.

So may it be.

Alstom announces major milestone for Deepwater Wind's Block Island offshore wind farm

Thursday, 5 March 2015

EU launches Energy and Biomass Project II in Moldova

Drax enters UK domestic wood fuel heating market

Drax enters domestic wood fuel heating market

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

SeaRoc to help build a novel tidal energy foundation system

McLaughlin & Harvey and SeaRoc have formed a new team to demonstrate a novel foundation system in a tidal stream site.

Energy & Environment Dates 2012