Month: February 2012

Survey finds UK SMEs turning to renewable energy generation

According to new research from Opus Energy there is a growing level of interest among small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in generating renewable energy from their own businesses, with one third (32%) expecting to introduce solar panels, wind turbines or anaerobic digestion for example, and 38% expecting to be generating their own renewable energy within five years.

Despite recent cuts in energy tariffs, and perhaps faced with finding new ways to generate income (42% highlight the revenue opportunity behind any decision), a large number of SME business leaders questioned in the Opus Energy survey expect to be generating renewable energy within the next five years, with younger business owners (aged 18-34) more likely to make the investment sooner.

Despite cuts in subsidies, the opportunity to generate additional income appears to be a key motivator for the growing number of SMEs looking to generate green energy, with 42 per cent citing the opportunity to create new revenue streams behind any decision to invest.

Further information

Today’s attitudes to low and zero carbon homes – views of occupiers, house builders and housing associations in the UK

This National House Building Foundation (NHBC) primary research report summarises the current thoughts, awareness and understanding towards issues such as climate change, the 2016 zero carbon definition, airtightness and renewable technologies.

Containing a detailed examination of responses from occupiers, house builders and housing associations, Today’s attitudes to low and zero carbon homes – views of occupiers, house builders and housing associations assesses the priorities of industry and the consumer when building or purchasing a new home.  It looks at views that could impact new homes of the future and sets the context for the research and presents the key findings, recommendations and current details of the definition of zero carbon homes.

Key findings

The study found that:

  • Home occupants were sceptical of the title zero carbon, but didn’t like new homes being described as eco or green either. There was one term that occupants did like: 70 percent thought the phrase ‘energy efficient’ would tempt them to look at a home. Occupants also had negative perceptions of the names of some eco-technologies, such as greywater recycling, but were more positive when a description was given.
  • More than half of occupants were slightly or strongly attracted to buying a home with solar thermal or photovoltaic panels, although interest was found to decline with age.
  • 53 of 54 occupiers whose homes had mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) opened their windows on an occasional basis, with 57 percent keeping a window open at night. None said that they didn’t open the windows at all.
  • 87 percent of occupiers with MVHR kept the system running all or most of the time, but some turned it off in summer because they believed it used electricity unnecessarily.
  • 45 percent of housing associations said they have installed a back-up for a renewable technology in case of failure.
  • 23 percent of housing associations have decommissioned a technology because they have experienced problems. The report said that air source heat pumps and biomass boilers appear to have been most troublesome.
  • 39 percent of housing associations and 44 percent of housebuilders reported problems in sourcing reliable manufacturers. Only 31 percent overall could name a manufacturer with whom they have had a good experience.

Ways to improve attitudes

The report’s recommendations include:

  • The housebuilding industry should emphasis the lower running costs resulting from the energy efficiency of new homes through their marketing materials and sales staff.
  • Housebuilders need to adopt terminology that is user-friendly, engaging and easily understood.
  • Housebuilders must work to develop user friendly instructions and guides, training and intuitive control systems.
  • Valuers and mortgage lenders need to recognise that new homes save owners money in running costs, and factor this into valuations and lending decisions.
  • Occupiers should be encouraged to engage with renewable technologies and given more information about financial incentives.
  • Manufacturers need to develop products that work well in practice, with better technical support.
  • The government must confirm the remaining parts of the zero carbon definition to give industry confidence to engage with and respond to the challenge.

Further information

Article: Developers urged to improve occupants’ grasp of the benefits of green homes


Breakthrough research for super-efficient solar cells at Cambridge University

New solar cells could increase the maximum efficiency of solar panels by over 25%, according to scientists from the University of Cambridge. Scientists from the Cavendish Laboratory, the University’s Department of Physics, have developed a novel type of solar cell which could harvest energy from the sun much more efficiently than traditional designs.

Solar panels work by absorbing energy from particles of light, called photons, which then generate electrons to create electricity.  Traditional solar cells are only capable of capturing part of the light from the sun and much of the energy of the absorbed light, particularly of the blue photons, is lost as heat.  This inability to extract the full energy of all of the different colours of light at once means that traditional solar cells are incapable of converting more than 34% of the available sunlight into electrical power.

The Cambridge team, led by Professor Neil Greenham and Professor Sir Richard  Friend, has developed a hybrid cell which absorbs red light and harnesses the extra energy of blue light to boost the electrical current. Typically, a solar cell generates a single electron for each photon captured.  However, by adding pentacene, an organic semiconductor, the solar cells can generate two electrons for every photon from the blue light spectrum.  This could enable the cells to capture 44% of the incoming solar energy.

Bruno Ehrler, the lead author on the paper, said:

“Organic and hybrid solar cells have an advantage over current silicon-based technology because they can be produced in large quantities at low cost by roll-to-roll printing. However, much of the cost of a solar power plant is in the land, labour, and installation hardware. As a result, even if organic solar panels are less expensive, we need to improve their efficiency to make them competitive. Otherwise, it’d be like buying a cheap painting, only to find out you need an expensive frame.”

Full article


Ten Smart Meter Facts

  1. Consumers will have near real-time information to help understand and manage energy use, thereby helping them to save money and play their part in reducing carbon emissions.
  2. Smart metering will open up new products and services, such as the provision of tailored energy efficiency advice and more innovative tariffs.
  3. Suppliers and networks will be able to receive alerts if a customer goes off supply and when supply is restored – this will enable corrective action to be taken sooner, thereby minimising disruption to consumers.
  4. The remote functionality of smart meters will allow switching between payment methods and will open up additional payment channels for prepayment customers (i.e. top up over the phone, via the internet or ATMs).
  5. Data can be communicated between the meter and the energy supplier or other authorised parties.
  6. Meters can be read remotely by the energy supplier allowing for accurate and timely billing.
  7. The ability to connect devices to the meter, such as a telephones or computers.
  8. They will support ‘time-of-use’ tariffs, which offer different levels of charges, depending on when the energy is used.
  9. Equipment that has been linked to the meter can be turned off automatically by a business at particular times to benefit from varying pricing levels.
  10. Where electricity is generated at the site (such as through a wind turbine or solar panel), any excess electricity exported can be measured, to give an accurate calculation of Feed-in-Tariff (the premium paid to a consumer by its utility)


Source: Make it Cheaper

Natural England’s carbon reduction story

In 2006 the Natural England Board committed the organisation to reduce the carbon emissions of its business travel and estate by 50% by the end of 2010. Here we set out how we have achieved this target. It contains nothing new or revolutionary. In fact much of their reduction has been achieved through simple low or no-cost measures that can be found in any environmental management manual. What has been different has been the substantial shift in organisational culture towards more sustainable ways of working and integrating carbon into our everyday thinking.

Paul Hinds, Head of Sustainability at Natural England, describes its progress in reducing its carbon emissions, using mostly simple low cost measures to achieve estimated savings of £1.75 million a year.

Natural England committed in 2006 to reduce its emissions by 50%, achieving this target in February 2011. Read more…