Archive for the ‘Energy’ category

Green Party Public Meeting – Charlbury Solar Farm

February 24th, 2016

Green Party Public Meeting – Charlbury Solar Farm

Sustainable Charlbury’s Liz Reason will describe the battle to secure a community solar farm in Charlbury.

Liz will also discuss the opportunity for local community investment that promises a 5% return over 25 years.

Corn Exchange, Market Square, Witney OX28 6AB

All welcome. Free to attend

BBC South Today: Thermal Imaging

February 7th, 2016

BBC South Today Thermal Imaging from Sustainable Witney on Vimeo.

Request free thermal imaging of your house to see where heat is escaping

November 27th, 2015

Would you be more likely to get round to putting up foil behind your radiator or insulating your house if you could actually see the heat escaping? That’s what thermal imaging does – it takes a temperature-sensitive picture of the outside of your house, so you can see where your home is losing heat.

Sustainable Witney have borrowed a thermal imaging camera from West Oxfordshire District Council. If you live in Witney and want to see if your house is losing heat then our free thermal imaging service might help. To request thermal imaging of your house please email your name, address, postcode and your contact details to the Thermal imaging team thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk

We’ll take thermal images of the outside of your house when the weather conditions are dry and cold and invite you to a feedback session in March 2016 where we’ll show you your images and explain the results.

The pictures below show a solid wall/single brick house before and after using radiator foil. See the red patches below the upstairs windows shows heat escaping and how this has improved in the second image after radiator foil has been installed.

 ThermalImages

Join the energy revolution

November 4th, 2014
children  holding a banner and balloons

The launch of the Low Carbon Hub share offer at Larkrise School

We’d all like our money to work harder. But what if your investment made Oxfordshire a better place as well as bringing in financial returns?

The Low Carbon Hub is giving you the chance to invest in a “new wave of renewable energy projects” through its community share offer scheme.

What’s the point?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to build another Didcot Power Station? The Low Carbon Hub has a long-term plan to boost production of renewable energy in Oxfordshire, reducing the county’s dependence on fossil fuels. But we’re not talking about giant Didcot-sized renewable projects; we’re talking about lots of smaller projects like rooftop solar and mini-hydro projects. Lots of small-scale projects add up to something much bigger: a clean-energy future for Oxfordshire (with less vulnerability to price shocks).

How does it work?

You invest between £250 (minimum) and £100,000 (maximum) to buy shares in the scheme. That money gets spent on local clean-energy projects. Those projects generate electricity, which makes money, some of which comes back to you as a return on your investment. The Low Carbon Hub says that the return on your investment is likely to be around 5% a year.

How do I apply?

You need to have at least the minimum investment amount of £250. You can apply for the shares online. The Low Carbon Hub are using an ethical investment company called Ethex to manage the community share offer, so you will need to register with the Ethex website before you can apply.

Your money will be accepted immediately and held safely in a separate account while your application is processed. It may take up to 28 days for the Hub’s board of directors to accept your application for shares. If for any reason they can’t issue the shares to you, or end up issuing fewer shares than you applied for, your money (or part of it) will be returned to you.

Will I make a quick profit?

No. The point of the share offer is to create an energy supply that’s both financially and environmentally sustainable. That can’t be done in a hurry. This is about the long term. So the Low Carbon Hub community share offer is designed to bring solid financial returns over a 20-year period. You can’t sell or transfer your shares to make a quick profit.

Is this a safe place to put my money?

If you’re thinking of investing, you should be clear that this isn’t like putting money in a savings account. Your money won’t be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or any other deposit protection schemes, and the return on your investment is not guaranteed. The Low Carbon Hub advise people to think about whether they can afford to lose the money they are thinking of investing. If the answer is no, you are urged not to invest.

What’s the deadline to invest?

You have until Friday 28 November to apply for shares. The Low Carbon Hub is aiming to raise £1.5 million for this part of the scheme, which they call the “first wave”. This will fund lots of solar panel installations across Oxfordshire, including rooftop solar at The Marlborough School and Woodstock Primary School. At the time of writing, people have already invested £646,050 in the share offer – that’s 43% of the target. Could you be the next to invest?

Logo for the share offer, saying "Invest now in renewable energy for Oxfordshire". To find out more and to invest, go to: www.lowcarbonhub.org/invest

 

Upcoming events: energy efficiency, cycle users and swap shop

March 31st, 2014

This is just a quick reminder of three Sustainable Witney-related events happening this week:

Something for everyone this week! Kind of. But you should put those in your diary if you haven’t already; and if you want to be kept abreast of local and related meetings and news, you should definitely register for the Sustainable Witney website. In return you’ll email notifications of our posts.

No April Fool: just energy-efficiency advice

March 24th, 2014

LCEO_warmmeet_webflyerOn Tuesday 1st April from 5:30pm, SW member Dale Hoyland will be giving a talk on the subject of keeping warm, whilst keeping bills down and reducing reliance on fossil fuels and energy suppliers.

If you want to find out easy ways to insulate your home, get hands-on with different materials, see in real-time the difference LED bulbs make in comparison to older technologies, and discover financial help to make those larger energy-efficiency improvements, come along to this FREE public meeting a week tomorrow, at the Methodist church on Jeune Street in East Oxford.

This event is being organised by the Low Carbon East Oxford community group with the Oxfordshire Affordable Warmth Network.

Personalised heat-saving advice for Witney residents

March 12th, 2014
Two men chatting in front of a poster saying "Affordable Warmth Network"

Dale Hoyland talks to a resident about energy-saving.

Homeowners gathered for personalised heat-saving advice at last night’s thermal imaging feedback meeting. This winter our team of volunteers have been busy taking thermal images of Witney homes.  We invited the people whose homes have been thermal-imaged this winter to view the images and get energy-efficiency advice tailored to their specific needs.

Dale Hoyland of the National Energy Foundation gave a presentation on how to interpret thermal images. He was on hand afterwards to explain people’s images one-to-one and offer advice on topics such as insulation, fuel-saving and home improvement grants. The rest of the team were also available to chat about energy efficiency measures and offer general advice. Energy-saving household items such as radiator foil, energy monitors and power-down plugs were available to buy.

This winter’s round of Sustainable Witney thermal imaging is now over, but our team of trained volunteers will probably re-start the project in autumn 2014. To add your property to our waiting list, email thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk . (You don’t have to own the property to get it thermal-imaged, you just have to live there.) Please do also get in touch if you’re interested in helping out with the project next winter – we’re always looking for volunteers. For updates on this and other Sustainable Witney projects, why not subscribe to our email updates?

Reminder: thermal imaging feedback meeting tomorrow

March 10th, 2014

thermal image of a terraced houseDid you have your house thermal-imaged by our team of volunteers this winter? In November 2013 and February 2014 we responded to over 50 requests for thermal imaging of homes in Witney. We didn’t manage to get through the entire list of requests but if your home was thermal-imaged you will have received a little card through the door inviting you to a feedback meeting.

The thermal imaging feedback meeting takes place tomorrow (Tuesday 11th March) in committee room 1 at the West Oxfordshire District Council offices at Woodgreen. The plan for the evening is as follows.

5:30pm Doors open. You’ll be given a print-out of the thermal images of your house and asked to fill in a feedback form.

6pm Presentation by Dale Hoyland of the National Energy Foundation. He will explain some of the most common problems revealed by thermal images – and how to solve them with affordable energy-efficiency measures.

6:15pm-7pm: An opportunity to talk to the thermal imaging team about your images, get some advice about energy-efficiency improvements to your home and buy radiator foil.

Our 2013 thermal imaging feedback meeting was very well-attended and we’re hoping for similar numbers this year.

This event is only for people who have already had their home thermal-imaged by our volunteers. To add your name to our waiting list, email thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk . We’ve finished the current round of thermal imaging but we will probably re-start the project in November 2014. For updates on this and other Sustainable Witney projects, why not subscribe to our email updates?

Thermal imaging feedback meeting, WODC Woodgreen offices

January 12th, 2014

On Tuesday 11 March 5.30pm–7pm, Sustainable Witney will be hosting an evening meeting for people who have had their home thermally imaged to highlight energy loss, in the ongoing 2013-2014 season. There will be a brief presentation from an expert, followed by a chance for people to ask specific questions about their own images.

The meeting will be in committee room 1 at the West Oxfordshire District Council offices at Woodgreen, which are themselves at the large “1” icon on this council PDF map (be warned that there are other council offices, further out of the town centre, at Elmfield!)

If your house was imaged in 2012-2013, but you weren’t able to attend the last meeting, you’re welcome to come along: but do bring a printout of your results, as we can’t guarantee we’ll have previous years’ results to hand. The different meeting format does mean that we hope to avoid the long queues that beset 2013’s meeting.

Let us take a heat-picture of your house

November 13th, 2013
Thermal picture of a house

Thermal image of a home in East Oxford, by kind permission of the homeowner.

Most of us know our house could be better insulated. Would you be more likely to get round to it if you could actually see the heat escaping? That’s what thermal imaging does – it takes a temperature-sensitive picture of the outside of your house, so you can see where your home is losing heat.

For example, this picture shows that the brickwork around the window on the left is letting more heat out than the window on the right. It also shows that the loft insulation must be good because there is no heat escaping from the roof. Would you like to see what your own home looks like in a thermal image?

Sustainable Witney volunteers have use of a thermal imaging camera this month (borrowed from West Oxfordshire District Council) and we’re carrying out free surveys throughout November. You won’t need to puzzle over the results yourself – we’ll have a public meeting on 11 March 2014 where you can get an explanation of your images (just like the one we held last year). It doesn’t matter whether or not you own your home – the important thing is that you live there and want to keep warm with lower fuel bills!

You can sign up by emailing us with your full address. As ever, we’d like to remind people that we’re just a small group of volunteers and that the weather conditions have to be right for the imaging to work. This puts a limit on how many houses we can do. But the sooner you get added to the list, the sooner we can get round to you. And if you know someone who you think might be struggling with fuel bills, please tell them about this free service and suggest they get in touch with us on thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk.

How can we afford green energy?

November 3rd, 2013

I’ve heard the same argument a lot recently, phrased in slightly different ways:

“How can we afford green energy taxes when people can’t afford to heat their homes?”
“Why are you focusing on climate change when fuel poverty is killing people?”
“Green taxes are an insult to people who can’t pay their energy bills.”

If you’re campaigning for a sustainable energy future, you’ll have heard this argument too. You’ll hear it from people who are justifiably angry about the suffering caused by rising fuel prices – sometimes too angry to listen. It’s not always easy to gather your thoughts in that kind of situation, so here are some ready-made answers.

“How can you say green energy is more important than keeping the heating on?”

Nobody’s actually saying that, because it’s not one or the other. It’s not an either/or choice between the green option and the staying-warm option. Green politics and social justice go hand-in-hand; for example, the UK’s Fuel Poverty Action group fights for affordable energy and to safeguard the climate. Sustainable energy is about supplying energy at a price people can actually afford as well as keeping the lights on (without wrecking the planet in the process).

“We can’t afford to invest in renewables.”

Most green campaigners accept that the UK’s future energy supply has to come from a mix of sources – although there’s fierce debate on what exactly that mix should be! We’d prefer to see more investment in renewable energy and less in fossil fuels, for two reasons:

1. There’s a limited amount of fossil fuel left on Earth. That means it’s not an economically sustainable energy source, because it’s running out, and scarcity pushes up prices.
2. Fossil fuels aren’t an environmentally sustainable energy source either – if we extract and use  the remaining fossil fuels, it will without a doubt push the world into runaway climate change.

Point 1 is about the long term, but it also applies to the short term. A representative from the UK’s sole shale gas producer, Cuadrilla, recently admitted that even a boom in shale gas wouldn’t actually drive down prices. So destroying the countryside with fracking might not make any difference to your bills.

Contrast that with solar energy, where the price of a typical panel (including installation) has dropped from around £10,000-£12,000 to about £7,000. That will save the average household about £150/year on electricity straight away, as well as making money for the occupants from feed-in payments. Which is doing the quickest job of driving down household energy prices: fracking or solar?

“You keep asking people to switch to a green energy supplier. Don’t you realise that some of us have to watch every penny?”

Again, it’s not an either/or choice between green energy and saving cash. As I explained in a recent post about Ecotricity, most people in the UK are still on a standard energy tariff, despite all the hoopla about switching. Ecotricity promises to undercut the standard electricity tariffs of the “Big Six” energy companies, which means that most people in this country could save on their electricity bill by switching to Ecotricity.

Of course, the “Big Six” invest in green energy too – reluctantly, through the “green levies” they’re obliged to pay. Which brings us to the next question…

“How can you support green taxes when people can’t pay their bills as it is?”

When people talk about “green taxes” or “green levies” on energy bills, they’re usually talking about the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). The energy companies are obliged to pay this, so they charmingly pass on the costs to customers. ECO payments make up 9% of a customer’s bill. 3% is invested in renewable energy, 5% is spent on energy efficiency schemes and 1% is spent on the European carbon emissions trading scheme.

Let’s look at that 5% again. This goes to pay for home insulation subsidies, other home energy-efficiency subsidies and the warm-home discount for pensioners. In other words, it goes towards measures to help people keep their homes warm – including people who couldn’t otherwise afford those measures. It’s correct in one sense to class it as a “green levy”, because it helps people to use less fuel – but it could just as accurately be described as a “fuel poverty help levy” or a “social justice levy”.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change calculates that all these energy efficiency schemes will bring energy bills down in the long run, making them lower than they would have been without the “green levies”. So that so-called “tax” is saving you money, long-term.

“Well, how come energy bills are going up?”

There’s no doubt that price rises are happening. The average British Gas dual-fuel customer will soon see bills go up from £1,190 to £1,297. Is that anything to do with green investment? Well, data is available for how much money energy companies actually spend on investment in renewables. So we know that British Gas spends just £7.55 per customer on renewables investment. We also know (from the parent company Centrica’s own annual report) that £49 of the average customer’s annual bill is pure profit. I’m not saying they should heat our homes for free; I am saying that to blame price rises on renewables is ludicrous.

The idea that “green energy” and “affordable energy” are two opposing concepts is damaging, because it undermines the efforts of people who are fighting for both. I hope I’ve shown why it’s simply not true. A final thought: who benefits from the false idea that energy can’t be affordable and renewable?

Five reasons to switch to Ecotricity

October 27th, 2013

Been meaning to switch your household energy to a green supplier? Here are five reasons to switch to Ecotricity as soon as possible.

Electricity will probably be cheaper than your current tariff. Ecotricity used to price-match the standard electricity tariffs of the six biggest energy companies in the UK. Now it’s going one better: it’s promising to undercut the standard electricity tariffs of the “Big Six”.  How? Well, Ecotricity has invested in green energy to the point where around 40% of the energy supplied to customers is actually generated by Ecotricity projects. That means it’s less vulnerable to shocks in global wholesale energy prices. Most UK energy customers are still on a standard tariff, which means the majority of people could save on their electricity bill by switching to Ecotricity.

When you phone them, you get through to a human straight away. Ecotricity doesn’t have call centres as such; when you ring them (on 08000 302 302) you’re basically ringing the office. There aren’t any targets about handling call volumes and the person who answers the phone is empowered to actually make decisions, offer information and generally handle your query in the way they think best. This revolutionary approach – treating staff and customers like human beings – results in nine out of ten queries being dealt with in a single call.

They’re top of the league for customer service. For the past three years, energy regulator Ofgem has required energy companies to report the customer complaints in a way that can be compared. Ofgem don’t publish these results – that would be too easy! But Ecotricity does publish them, in its annual reports. And guess who’s been top of the customer service league table for the past three years? You guessed it: Ecotricity.

They’re top of the league for green investment. This is another area where nobody else is compiling the figures, making it tough for consumers to compare. But Ecotricity does; you can see the numbers at http://www.whichgreen.org/. Obviously it takes time to get a renewable energy project going, so it’s not helpful just to look at short-term data. But over the nine years that Ecotricity has been recording the figures, a pattern is clear: most of the big names in energy are spending a tiny fraction of their profits on renewables investment. You might expect British Gas parent group Centrica to be a bit rubbish (0.1p per £1) but even green supplier Good Energy is only spending 4.3p per £1. Co-operative Energy and Green Energy UK are even worse, spending precisely 0p on renewables projects. Ecotricity comfortably tops the table with a spend of 50p per £1.

They’ll help Sustainable Witney – or the charity of your choice. When you switch to Ecotricity and quote the code SUSW1 , Ecotricity will give a £50 donation to Sustainable Witney – at no extra cost to you. We’re a volunteer-run organisation with low overheads, but we do have some costs – like venue hire when we run events such as ReFashion or swapshops. Money from people switching to Ecotricity allows us to cover those costs and keep our events free.

So what are you waiting for? Ring 08000 302 302 and switch today! (And please quote the code SUSW1 too.)

Thermal imaging of homes starts next week: sign up here

October 27th, 2013

Want to find out how to keep your house warmer, for less money? In November, Sustainable Witney will have possession of a thermal imaging camera for the first time in the 2013/2014 season. So if you’re worried you might have a draught too many, or you normally just can’t get the house warm whatever you do, then our voluntary service might help, and you can sign up by emailing us your street address here.

We’ll take thermal images of the outside of your house, and with these to hand, you can more easily work out what improvements to your home can have the most impact on its insulating properties. We’ll even have a public meeting on 11 March 2014, where we’ll give you a printout of your images, explain the results, and offer you a one-on-one consultation with an expert.

As always, we’ll be prioritizing Witney residents – we’re all doing this in our spare time of an evening, and a whole week of nights can often be made unsuitable by the weather alone – but if you’re in one of the surrounding villages then do still sign up, as we’re considering running a separate scheme for those.

While the first serious cold front of winter is approaching the UK, and while the energy companies are getting into trouble for price hikes (all except Ecotricity, who now offer 100% green energy at less than the big suppliers!) then you might think it’s the perfect time to email us on thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk, and get on the list for thermal imaging.

(As always, because of the nature of the survey, which is very weather sensitive; and because we’re volunteer-run and have limited time available: we can’t guarantee a time or date. But we’ll let you know when your house has been imaged! We should also be clear: there’ll be no commercial involvement in the public meeting, and no pressure to buy any product or service.)

Powering the world without fossil fuels

July 24th, 2013

I’ve previously written about how we need to move away from our dependency on our energy suppliers, and in turn, the use of fossil fuels (which continue to make up the majority of energy generation, averaged out over all tariffs), along with some easy starting points in achieving this. The need to move away from fossil fuels has never been greater, as we continue to move closer to runaway climate change, and significant irreversible effects on our planet. Arguably, we have already succeeded in this, as the greatest mass-extinction of species on Earth, since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, is well underway. This is the 6th mass-extinction event the world has experienced, but for the first time, it is caused by just one species; humans.

But, can it be done? Is it possible to move away from the need to burn fossil fuels, but still be able to generate the energy we require to continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed?

Today sees the launch of a groundbreaking new web resource from UK Tar Sands Network, which brings to life two possible models of energy production and consumption for the year 2035. The first, ‘Fossil-Fueled Future’, is the future the International Energy Agency forecasts we are heading for if governments and fossil fuel companies follow through on their current promises on energy and climate change. This future is not the worst-case scenario: it’s the best that politicians and businesses are currently offering us. In this world, global temperatures will rise by at least 4–6°C this century, resulting in inevitable runaway climate change.

The second ‘Cleaner Fairer Future’ draws on extensive research including the latest Zero Carbon Britain report by the Centre for Alternative Technology (released just last week). It shows that currently available renewable energy technologies can meet the energy needs of our growing global population in an equal and environmentally sensitive way. In this world, there is a decent chance of avoiding runaway climate change. The health outcomes for the planet, humans and all other life are markedly better.

Two Energy Futures

I’ve been in contact with Jess Worth, from the UK Tar Sands Network, who says:

‘We’re now standing at a crossroads. It’s time for humanity to make a choice. Do we sit back and allow fossil fuel companies and oil-friendly governments to dig, drill and frack us into a dark and dirty future? Or do we stand together with communities around the world to stop these extreme energy projects, and head down a different path? There are people all over the planet taking action to ensure a cleaner, fairer world. We hope that this website will arm them with the information they need to help bring about a fossil-free energy future.’

Here at Sustainable Witney, we certainly agree with Jess that now is the time for change, and we hope the new interactive info-graphic built into the UK Tar Sands Network’s website will be helpful, particularly for anyone who has found themselves in the situation of having to convince others (or themselves!) that a fossil-free future is possible. This resource is available at: www.twoenergyfutures.org

Want your house to be thermally imaged? Bookings are open!

July 23rd, 2013

It feels like the wrong time of year to be thinking about heating your home, doesn’t it? But a well insulated, draught-proof house gives you options for keeping warm and cool; and whatever the temperature outside, it isn’t going to last….

So if you’re worried you might have a draught too many, or you normally just can’t get the house warm whatever you do, then help is at hand. We offer a voluntary service to Witney residents, where we take thermal images of the outside of your house. With these to hand, you can more easily work out what improvements to your home can have the most impact on its insulating properties. We’ll even have a public meeting some time in March 2014, where we’ll give you your images, explain the results, and offer you a one-on-one consultation with an expert.

Because of the nature of the survey, we have to do it in the colder months, but we’re now taking requests for November and February, when we’ll next have possession of the thermal camera offered by WODC.

Over a hundred Witney residents had their homes imaged by us in the season of 2012/2013: if you’re interested, then you should email us on thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk, to get on the list for next winter!

(Also because of the nature of the survey, which is very weather sensitive; and because we’re volunteer-run and have limited time available: we can’t guarantee a time or date. But we’ll let you know when your house has been imaged! We should also be clear: there’s no commercial involvement in the public meeting, and no pressure to buy anything.)