Tuesday, 29 March 2011

"The new north"

I wondered whether I should write this week about the big TUC-organised demonstration that was held in London last Saturday. But it's been very well worked over in the print and broadcast media, and I didn't really think I had anything new to say that I hadn't already written in an earlier post, 'Taking to the streets'.

Instead, a little bit of serendipity has brought me to the topic of 'The new north'.

Some time ago I read a very interesting book by Laurence Smith called The New North: The World in 2050. The serendipitous reason I've ended up writing about it now is that the author was one of the guests on the latest programme of Laurie Taylor's Radio 4 series Thinking Allowed. I tuned in, as I almost always do late on Sunday night, not knowing what the topic will be, and heard Smith talking about his research and his book.
Will power and prosperity shift to the frozen North? A new book predicts that Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Russia will be the beneficiaries of a new world order. By 2050, four megatrends - climate change, rising population, globalisation and resource depletion - will lead to the rise of 'The New North', as migration, energy bonanzas and international trade turn the world upside down. The geographer, Professor Laurence Smith, tells Laurie Taylor why these projections amount to more than planetary palm reading.
The reason for Smith's appearance at this point is that he gave a public lecture at the RSA last Wednesday - there's a downloadable audio recording available.

Laurence Smith is Professor and Vice-Chair of Geography and Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of California, with research interests focusing on hydrology and the effects of climate and environmental change in northern environments.

He writes:
There is now broad scientific consensus that the northern part of our planet is rapidly transforming in response to climate warming, demographic trends, and large discoveries of natural gas and oil . . .  Such awareness has heightened the demand for accessible, science-based research on emerging issues facing northern countries and elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, the work must be presented in a form useful to policy and the general public as well as academics . . . A key quality of the book is its interweaving of rigorous science with personal observations and interviews with scientists, policy-makers, and local residents. Its objective is to provide a politically neutral synthesis of the physical, biological, and societal changes currently underway in the northern world, identify the challenges and benefits posed by continued warming and development in the region, and present an informed view of what the future may hold.
The New North 
presents a balanced, science-based projection of what our world might look like in forty years' time, driven by the four global forces of (1) population demographics, (2) resource demand, (3) globalization, and (4) climate change. The first part of the book (The Push) identifies key world pressures and trends, for example in urbanisation, population aging, energy technology, water supply, immigration, and a historic transfer of wealth and power from west to east. The second part (The Pull) describes the emergence of a new region, coined the Northern Rim, comprised of the northern United States, Canada, Greenland/Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Federation (named the NORCs). These eight northern countries and their surrounding seas will experience enormous changes over the next 40 years, making the Northern Rim a place of higher human activity and global strategic value than today. The last part (Alternate Endings) explores some more extreme, but less likely potential outcomes; and the power of societal choice in shaping our future.
The book describes:
-  The rapid rise of the world's new megacities... and the two paths they might take (e.g. Singapore vs. Lagos).
-  The mass migration of life forms to higher latitudes and elevations - and even hybridisation between southern and northern species - that is already underway.
-  Why competition for global immigrants will spell success or failure for many developed countries by 2050.
-  Current contrasts in human age structure that will produce startling shifts in the world's workforce by 2050 - for example Mexico's shrinking migrant worker pool to the United States.
-  The little-noticed battle between energy and water.
-  Why California's thirsty desert cities will survive, but its famously abundant agriculture may not.
-  How the world will begin tracking its water resources from space - even across sovereign country borders - in as soon as ten years.
-  Why the world will (and should) increasingly turn to Russia for natural gas.
-  The unique 'Arctic Amplification' of climate change that makes the northern high latitudes the fastest-warming place on Earth (2 to 3 times global average), especially in winter.
-  Why new shipping will spread across the Arctic Ocean - but not the kind imagined and dreamed about for the past five centuries.
-  Why Canada has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, with a growth rate six times greater than China and rivalling that of India.
-  How Canada may hold 175 billion barrels of (unconventional) oil, the second-largest endowment of petroleum on earth (after Saudi Arabia) -- with a catch.
-  The geopolitical race for the Arctic Ocean, and why Russia may have a special claim to the North Pole.
-  Why globalisation, resources, demographics, and climate change portend the rise of a northern maritime economy but abandonment of remote continental interiors.
-  How the indelible stamp of the U.S. military, Josef Stalin, and energy companies will shape the coming expansion of human activity around the Northern Rim.
-  The surprising power resurgence of northern aboriginal peoples in the United States, Canada, and Greenland, but not in Scandinavia and Russia.
-  Some possible wild cards of abrupt climate change, rapid sea level rise, north-to-south water sales, and collapse of our great global economic integration.
-  A coherent vision of 'The New North' - and its vital integration and importance to all of us - by 2050.

The impacts are already obvious in the extreme north, where melting Arctic sea ice, drowning polar bears, and forlorn Inuit hunters are by now iconic images of global warming. The rapidity and severity of Arctic warming is truly dramatic. However, the Arctic, a relatively small, thinly populated region, will always be marginal in terms of its raw social and economic impact on the rest of us. The greater story lies to the south, penetrating deeply into the 'Northern Rim', a vast zone of economically significant territory and adjacent ocean owned by the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. As in the Arctic, climate change there has already begun. This zone — which constitutes almost 30 percent of the Earth’s land area and is home to its largest remaining forests, its greatest untouched mineral, water, and energy reserves, and a (growing) population of almost 100 million people — will undergo one of the most profound biophysical and social expansions of this century.

You can see Laurence Smith talking about these issues on YouTube: The World in 2050 and The Future is in the North. And you can read an extract from his book, and also a review.
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The nuclear challenge - in Japan and everywhere

Back in the early 1980s I drove a green 2CV, a bit like this on, but all one shade of green, not two-toned.

On the back, stuck to its flat boot lid, I had a giant sticker (about 50cm across) saying ‘Nuclear Power, No thanks!’

This was a time when the anti-nuclear position was the only and obvious one to hold for all right-thinking (by which I mean, of course, left-thinking!) people. The anti-nuke position wasn’t only an environmental stance, it was also an anti-state, anti-THEM stance.

Various places declared themselves to be ‘nuclear free zones’ – some of these were major statements by whole countries (such as Austria); others were political stances taken by small regions. The first nuclear free zone declared in the UK was Manchester, and this remains so. UK nuclear-free local authorities refused to take part in civil defence exercises relating to nuclear war, which they thought were futile.

I remember Sheffield City Council declaring itself to be such a zone, part of a general bolshieness in that area that included the ‘People’s Republic of South Yorkshire’, and a prominent place in the 1984-85 miners’ strike

And that focuses the problem: nukes or coal? For many years the Green position has been: neither. For many years a simple oppositional position to all fossil-fuels has championed renewables as the way forward to generate electricity.

But two things have started to shift that perception. First, we are using ever more electricity. All our electronic devices, all our home gadgets and entertainment, our computers, the big servers that keep the internet functioning  . . . all of these guzzle up vast and increasing amounts of electricity. And if we succeed in switching from the internal combustion engine to electric cars, that will mean even more. The second question has come, ironically, from the success in getting renewable generation capacity constructed and installed. We can now see how good it is . . . and we can see its limitations. It’s no longer the fantasy future – it’s now, and we can see just what it can and can’t do.

There are plans to improve the reliability and ‘always-on’ capacity of renewables. One of these is the idea of a pan-European ‘super-grid’  that would combine: solar in southern Spain and North Africa; offshore wind in the UK and elsewhere; hydro and geothermal in Norway . . . and so on. The idea is that when the sun isn’t shining the wind will be blowing; excess power during the day can be used to pump water upwards in hydro systems, so that the gravity feed of water downwards can generate electricity during the night, etc. Technically and physically, it can be done; whether it can be done politically is another matter. And if the total power, at any time, is insufficient, how will it be decided who gets what? Images of the Russians shutting off gas supplies will dog such a project – can we really share equably across the whole of Europe and beyond? 

And so, slowly, over the past few years, a number of highly committed environmentalists have started to say: if we want to keep the lights on, if we want to lower carbon emissions, if we don’t want the industrialised world to collapse in a chaotic mess, then we’re going to have to put nuclear power into the mix. We can’t, actually, meet all our current needs (even with vastly improved energy efficiency) from renewables. It’s a difficult time for the green movement.

One of the clearest ‘green’ advocates of nuclear power now is Stewart Brand – author, environmentalist, best known for his work as the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog. An environmentalist before the word was coined, Brand’s most recent book Whole Earth Discipline: An Eco-Pragmatist Manifesto looks again at technologies we have dismissed. In the book, and in this challenging video interview, he argues that nuclear power might just be our green energy savior.

Closer to home, our own George Monbiot, never shy of controversy, uses the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and subsequent problems with the nuclear reactors to argue for nuclear power. Writing in his Guardian blog last week, he is headlined with:

Japan nuclear crisis should not carry weight in atomic energy debate - Nuclear power remains far safer than coal. The awful events in Fukushima must not spook governments considering atomic energy

He writes:

Before I go any further, and I'm misinterpreted for the thousandth time, let me spell out once again what my position is. I have not gone nuclear. But, as long as the following four conditions are met, I will no longer oppose atomic energy.
1. Its total emissions – from mine to dump – are taken into account, and demonstrate that it is a genuinely low-carbon option
2. We know exactly how and where the waste is to be buried
3. We know how much this will cost and who will pay
4. There is a legal guarantee that no civil nuclear materials will be diverted for military purposes
To these I'll belatedly add a fifth, which should have been there all along: no plants should be built in fault zones, on tsunami-prone coasts, on eroding seashores or those likely to be inundated before the plant has been decommissioned or any other places which are geologically unsafe. This should have been so obvious that it didn't need spelling out. But we discover, yet again, that the blindingly obvious is no guarantee that a policy won't be adopted.

And in the main newspaper this week:

Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power - Japan's disaster would weigh more heavily if there were less harmful alternatives. Atomic power is part of the mix

He writes:

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

He goes on to debunk the idea that nice, clean, local sources of power could (or ever did) keep the wheels of society turning, and he concludes:

The energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power. Thanks to the expansion of shale gas production, the impacts of natural gas are catching up fast.

Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry. Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.

The message from both Brand and Monbiot, in quite different ways, is that we have to think, not only emote, about the harsh realities, and not romanticise what a green future might look like. If it’s going to work, it will have to be strategic, efficient and high-tech. There are too many people on the Earth now for any other solution in the foreseeable future. As Stewart Brand says: we have to be eco-pragmatists.
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Sunday, 13 March 2011

Earthquakes and floods

At Woodbrooke, when we first started thinking about the work that evolved into the Good Lives Project, we were calling it – between ourselves – ‘spiritual civil defence training’. This was not meant in the militaristic sense of ‘civil defence’, but picking up the idea that is inherent in civil defence thinking, that an entire population needs to be prepared.

In the reporting on the earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan in the last few days, many journalists on the spot have commented on the preparedness of the population, and the calm with which earthquake drills have been put into practice. Here is a country where, of necessity, the whole population is taught from an early age what to do when the earth shakes. However, nothing can prepare for the devastation of a tsunami – except, perhaps, never living near the coast. But 13 of the 20 most populated cities in the world are coastal cities. This means that not only millions of people are vulnerable, but so are $bns worth of economic assets. Beyond the tragedy to the people caught up in the Japanese tsunami, beyond the enormous impact on Japan’s own domestic economy, there is the effect on the global economy – on all of us. At a time when the global economy is weak, affecting the lives and livelihoods of many, this disaster is Japan has rocked the financial sector and the world’s stock markets.

Population growth and rapid urbanisation suggest that this global vulnerability may increase to something affecting 150 million people within 60 years from now – within the lifetimes of children already born. The ‘asset exposure’ is forecast to rise ten-fold to $35,000bn. Countries most exposed, by population, are, in order: China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, USA, Japan. In terms of greatest economic exposure, it’s the same six countries, but in a different order.

In terms of the genesis of the Good Lives Project, we were doing our thinking not long after Hurricane Katrina, and the scenario we were thinking of was: what if events on this scale were to be happening in several places in the world simultaneously? What if no-one could come to the aid of the stricken, because the potential aid-givers were struggling with their own disaster? What if there is no ‘cavalry coming over the hill’? The Tewkesbury and Gloucestershire flooding of 2007 gave us in Britain just a tiny taste of what a larger disaster might entail.

This led us into thinking about the nature of population resilience. Clearly, there are physical and practical matters that the Emergency Planning departments of Local Authorities are charged with anticipating. But alongside those official concerns, what of ordinary people? What helps each of us to be resilient in the face of calamity in our lives? What enables ordinary people to step into leadership in their local communities when the need arises? These are the questions that lie behind our concept of ‘spiritual civil defence training’.

We believe that Quakers, with our history and practice of shared leadership and responsibility, with our network of meeting houses and communities, are potentially a significant group of people in this concern. Our own resilience starts – but does not end – with our individual and corporate spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual discipline matters both for its own sake (for God’s sake) and as preparation for the times that are ahead of us. The point of a spiritual discipline lies in what the Buddhists call it: practice. It is practice in the same sense as training in sports; or as playing your scales and doing your five-finger exercises if you are a world-class concert pianist. It is not exciting, mostly it is not interesting, often it is dull and tedious, but you do it regularly and faithfully, because without it you cannot do what you deeply and truly desire to do – break that world record, play that difficult sonata. Spiritual discipline is five-finger exercises for the soul. It trains the mind and heart, the psyche and the emotions, so that when the going is tough, when the ordinary comforts are not available, when the demands on us seem to be greater than our capacity, we have something that we discover we can rely upon. We cannot start to create this resilience when things are already difficult, any more than we can run a marathon tomorrow morning if we only started training this afternoon.

A spiritual discipline is not, of course, undertaken for utilitarian reasons, in the way, for instance, that a stress-management programme might be; but a spiritual discipline, sustained for intrinsic reasons, will turn out to have extrinsic benefits. All such practices remove our individual egos from the centre of the stage; similarly, we – humanity – also need to find ways of moving our collective ego out of the way.

Undertaken faithfully, and sustained over time, such practices attune our inner ear to the promptings of the Spirit, so that when we are called, when our service is required, we will first of all hear the call, and secondly will have the capacity to respond. This is all true for each of us as individuals; it is also the case for us as local communities of Friends and as a national or world Quaker community.

We have seen three major earthquake disasters, since the major devastation in Pakistan in 2008, caused by both earthquake and monsoon flooding. Pakistan was hit again in January 2011, Christchurch (New Zealand) in February 2011 (after a previous quake in 2010), and now Japan in March adding the fear of a nuclear alert to all the other problems. All this strains the relief and reconstruction resources of the global community – the time to start increasing local resilience is now.
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Sunday, 6 March 2011

New build eco-house

This week’s guest post comes from David Searle. David was born in 1938, and was interested in things mechanical from an early age. He was apprenticed to Rover (before the British Leyland debacle), and worked there as a vehicle development engineer. Latterly he acquired considerable computer experience in Product Planning and Timing. He took voluntary redundancy in 1976, foreseeing the decline of the BL empire. He became self employed at the beginning of the microcomputer revolution, and evolved to specialise in process control systems. He retired in 2003, and looked to downsize his accommodation.

This post is based on two talks he gave about creating a new-build eco-house. The talks were given in 2010, and updated in February 2011 to, variously, the Kenilworth Initiative for Climate Change (KICC), the local Renewable Energy Club (REC) and the Heart of England Organic Group (HEOG),  a local group of the Soil Association. This account of a new build complements well the recent postings here on retrofitting insulation, solar panels and other low energy technologies.

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David writes:

I’d like to start with a quotation, in 1931, not long before he died, Thomas Edison told his friends Henry Ford  and Harvey Firestone:
“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
I have had ‘green’ interests for as long as I can remember, going back to a ‘Dig for Victory’ allotment, tended by my father. My father also inspired me by building a bungalow to downsize for his retirement, working well ahead of the building regulations of the time with better insulation and minimised air leaks. So when we decided to downsize, we looked around the local area, but couldn’t find anything suitable. Several years of agonising about the best way of ‘greening’ our old house, led us to believe that knocking it down, and selling off half the land would be the only financial and practical way to arrive at a very low carbon house.

How green should we be?
Basically as green as we could afford! The first thing was to do a lot of research. While browsing the bookshop at the Centre for Alternative Technology, near Machynlleth, I found The New Autonomous House by Brenda and Robert Vale. It instantly struck a chord. Their actual house was completed in November 1993, so there is no really new technology in our house, just more up-to-date versions. The book discusses not only possible solutions to the idea of an autonomous house, with no mains connections, but the reasoning behind each decision.

What do we mean by zero carbon homes?
In an ideal world we would mean a home, which is completely autonomous, i.e. requires no energy inputs, and uses no communal services, unless they were also carbon neutral. A very good approximation is described in The New Autonomous House. Definitely worth a read, even if you don’t decide to build a house based on it, such as ours. The significant difference between their house and ours is that we do have mains water and sewerage. We didn’t feel that a composting toilet and only rainwater supplies were going to be considered acceptable in our location on the edge of a small Warwickshire town. The technology and practicality are entirely proven and practical, but there is the “yuck” factor when our children come eventually to sell the house. Perhaps by then it will be thought of as normal. We can live in hope.

It was similarly important – from the point of view of pleasing the planning department and not leaving our children a problem building – that we built something that looked ‘normal’.

General view of the front of the house from the street.

The roof shows all three renewables in one picture: solar hot water, biomass flue, solar pv.

What are the principles of designing for a zero carbon home?
Get the shell of the house right, then minimise inputs of all kinds! For insulation, you need between 2 and 3 times the thickness of the amounts recommended by the current building regulations. Use a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system, because in a well insulated house, ventilation losses would account for around 75% of the total, assuming current practice, with trickle vents in windows etc.

You need thermal mass, this will stabilise the temperature so that it is cool in summer. In winter it stays warm through the night, after soaking up the daytime temperatures. All these minimise the heat required, and keep it where you want it.

Then you need to evaluate how to supply the reduced amount of energy you need. The big question is heat, because we tend to burn stuff to get it, either at the power station, with around 25% efficiency delivered, or gas, a fossil fuel, or biomass (renewable), or better still passive solar design, supplemented with solar thermal panels for high grade heat. Heat storage is an issue because the sun is intermittent. It has two main forms, structural mass of the building for space heating, and volumes of water for storing high grade heat. If electricity use has been minimised, with low energy lighting, and efficient gadgets, then solar PV panels become an option. They are the last thing to consider, because they have the longest payback.

On the indirect use of energy, rainwater harvesting plays a part, because one of the relatively high carbon consumers is the water industry. On payback generally, we have taken the view that the enhancements will reflect in the sale price of the house anyway. So our criterion for any one item on the menu was 'will the saving exceed the loss of interest on the capital cost?' If so we deemed it to be worthwhile.

How do you do it for a new build?
We did it by following the construction principles outlined by Brenda and Robert Vale in their book, in order to get the shell right, as far as our site and planning issues would allow. What is shocking to me is that their house was built in 1993, and building regulations won’t reach their standards for the shell until 2016!

We then added systems to reduce our resource usage (and hence costs and carbon emissions) in the following priority order.
- Wood burner, later fitted with a flue boiler for domestic hot water
- rainwater harvesting
- solar thermal panels (5sq.m.)
- solar PV panels (15sq.m.).
Interestingly the relative sizes of the two types of solar panel roughly reflect the relative efficiency of solar collection of heat (50%) and electricity (15%) respectively. Our panels harvest almost exactly the same number of kWh. Has it worked? Minor teething and tuning problems apart, emphatically yes!

The wood burner kept us in the range of 20-23 deg C throughout the winter of 2009-2010, and topped up the hot water system to between 50-60 deg C whenever it is lit. The efficiency of the shell is such that, on average non freezing winter days, the temperature drops just over 1 deg C in 24 hours. The lowest temperature we have experienced was on returning from a long weekend away: 17.1 deg C, when we had been running the house between 20 and 22 deg C previously.

There is no other heating except the solar hot water and 2 hours per day of one towel rail, run off the hot water system. At the equinoxes when neither the solar systems, and the woodburner, are producing reliably (the rooms could get too hot!), the immersion heater is used for top up purposes. A key feature is the thermal mass of the building. I haven’t calculated how much concrete is incorporated inside of the insulation, but it is many tonnes. We have no studding partitions - all internal walls and partitions are made of dense concrete blocks. The lifetime calculation, taking into account the embodied carbon in the concrete, still makes this kind of building genuinely low carbon.

Having looked through a textbook of solar design with descriptions of actual solar houses, I was struck that the only one which attempted to be self sufficient in heating through the year, with no other source of heat, used a 63 tonne water tank in the basement as the store. It operated on a temperature range of 15 deg C to 65 deg C using solar collectors on the roof. They were located in Cambridge, Massachusetts at latitude 42 degrees North. We are at 52 degrees North here, and only use the temperature of the indoor atmosphere to charge up the thermal mass.

We have used mains water for flushing toilets for only about ten days in the year, which represents a large saving in water usage. I can’t tell you exactly how much it saves, because we have had a silent water leak for an unknown period our side of the mains water meter. Luckily our water company repaired it at no charge and allowed me to make an arbitrary adjustment to the resulting bill! We have a tank capacity of 3500 litres, and it is sobering to think that we once had a completely empty tank in late spring last year, and overnight it filled to overflowing, i.e. we had received 3½ tonnes of water from our roof overnight.

The solar thermal panels have provided us with a tank full (250L) of 65 deg C hot water on many occasions in the summer, and the pump was active on almost any day with some sunshine in winter. We even had a tank full at 52 deg C in February.

The solar Photo Voltaic panels have reduced our bills (excluding standing charge) from around £750 to £256 giving a payback in around 23 years at current prices. The total payback time will reduce year on year as the cost of fuel goes up, so a payback in 15 years in real terms sounds quite feasible.

Energy Rating on the house
Our house is rated at 101%, and –0.2 Tonnes of CO2 on its Energy Performance Certificate. This is despite the fact that they estimate that we will spend £459 on energy this year, split between £90 for Lighting, £272 for heating, and £97 for hot water. Our actual net expenditure (excluding standing charges) on energy is £256, as we have loads of free wood, and have no gas. Of these, heating and hot water are supplied by solar, and a woodburner with a flue boiler, and an occasional top up from an immersion heater. The immersion heater, the oil for transport of wood and chain saws, are not carbon neutral, although wood is generally regarded as carbon neutral because it is a renewable resource. However there is not enough of it to go round if the entire world were to move over to biomass for energy purposes. Hence we have to go back to solar or geothermal in the not so long run.

Realistically I have no idea how you would rate our house, if you truly wanted to have a zero carbon home, as we buy in electricity, water, and sewage services. We might have been able to use a green electricity tariff, but the buyback of our own generation appeared to be a problem.

Until 1 April 2010, we were paying a normal tariff of 11.7p/kWh imported from the grid, and receiving 28p/unit for those we exported to the grid. Since that date we get 9p per unit for all the electricity we generate, plus 3p per unit exported to the grid [NB: this is an older installation, and so does not receive the newer 43p feed-in tarriff allocated now to new installations]. These feed-in tariffs apply for 20 years.

As of June 2011 (postponed from April) there is a plan for a similar scheme to apply to solar thermal installations (Renewable Heat Incentive), probably on the basis of estimated capacity, as opposed to measured input, as many installations will not be able to measure the thermal input reliably. The proposed rate is 18p/kWh for solar hot water, and 9p/kWh for biomass heating of space and water. The government example of a semi-detached 3 bedroom house, of reasonably upgraded insulation, gives a repayment of £1400/year. I am guessing that our house might qualify for around £1000/year, because our space heating requirements are so low.
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Thanks to David for this post.

If you want to post a comment, and are having technical difficulties, you can email your comment to me at Good.Lives@woodbrooke.org.uk and I can post it for you.

If you are reader from outside the UK, please remember to post your comment in English - I won't post anything if I don't know what it says.