Climate Change ‘Not a Chinese Hoax’

CHINA SMOG RENEWABLES

While we all worry that the US is about to take a back seat on climate change and even renege on recent important agreements, China is all set to become a global leader in clean energy.

When President Trump was still President-Elect back in November, another important meeting, the COP22, took place in Marrakesh. There, a Chinese foreign minister told the gathered delegates that any sign of US cooling to the climate change agenda would not be followed by his country.

Combatting climate change is not just key to saving the planet, according to China, it’s a great opportunity to make money and become a world leader in renewable and other low carbon alternatives. China, unlike the current US administration, see this as the future.

According to the Guardian back in November:

“When the news of Donald Trump’s electoral college victory set cell phones beeping at a private climate change discussion in Beijing, one of China’s leading climate policy experts observed that China should now expect to assume climate leadership.”

What’s Great About China?

You may think that it’s the pollution capital of the world, particularly if you listen to all news reports. Yes, they do have a big air problem in their major cities. But China is planning to invest some $361 billion in renewable energy. The ambitious plan they have set out will create 13 million jobs across the country and reflects the country’s commitment to weaning themselves off fossil fuel dependence for good. A lot of that effort is going to be pushed into solar, with China looking to expand 5 times their current capacity. That’s the equivalent of building 1,000 major solar plants according to Reuter’s.

A lot of this is being driven by the lowering of costs. Solar installations have come down by nearly 40% in the last 6 to 7 years. It’s not all good news though. Even if things go to plan, renewables would still only make up for about 15% of China’s power by 2020. They still have a huge coal infrastructure which needs to be rolled back and that’s difficult for a country this size, where many regions depend on the fuel for their energy needs.

Some argue that the US moving away from the climate change agenda might well damage our future irreparably. But there are others who believe that it could stimulate the renewable revolution to even greater heights.

Despite the enthusiasm for the Paris agreement a couple of years ago, where many world leaders finally came together on climate change, the Marrakesh summit warned that the world has already experienced a warming of 1.2 degrees. It may, even now, be too late.

Often seen as the fly in the ointment in previous years, China’s conversion to renewable champions has a good deal of pragmatism at its core. With a slowing economy, they took heart from countries like South Korea and Japan who were already taking steps to make their energy and resource use more efficient. This led China to see renewable and low carbon technology as the future. Combine that with the big pollution problems in Tier One cities such as Beijing and they have every reason and every incentive to change.

With enough funds still in the bank, China can also payroll the development of renewable technology such as solar and wind and push these out to the developing world. There’s money to be made in low carbon projects and the Chinese realise it. If it’s one thing they really know how to do, it’s build quickly – last year China overtook Germany to become the country with the largest solar capacity. It’s providing jobs, some 3.5 million at the moment, and changing the energy landscape slowly but surely. That’s something perhaps the Americans, and Trump, need to take a closer look at.

 

Has the Electric Vehicle Generation Arrived?

EV Charging

Are we the EV generation?

Electric Vehicles (EV’s) have been promoted in recent years in the media and through the help of think tanks, as the future of transport. Even today, The Economist and The Financial Times both had front page stories on EV’s and clean energy.

The present generation of school leavers have grown up with the internet and social media which are a platform for the promotion of social change. Driven by education from childhood regarding the need for a sustainable future or no future at all, this generation is seeking solutions, in response to the cries from the social sphere, the media sphere and the education / thinking spheres, to the problem of our future. The question is, however, are EV’s one of the answers we have been looking for to achieve a sustainable future, for the expectant future billions?

The past and why they haven’t taken over already

Up until recently the types of people who would buy an EV are those who feel they are pioneers and wish to promote greener ethics, like to make a statement and set examples and have the lifestyle, funds and inclination to stomach the range anxiety and constraints that go with the modern EV.  That said there is an emerging new breed, with the upcoming changes in UK income tax regarding company vehicles, this is all set to change. The technology isn’t there yet to make this viable and cost-effective for the masses, but we are getting there. Unless your desired vehicle has 0 emissions, doing the maths against modern hybrids such as the Mercedes C350e and the BMW 330e doesn’t quite stack up against their petrol and diesel counterparts, especially if one consumes a lot of miles in their day to day life.

The reason why EV’s, and particularly in this case – cars, have not taken off in the fashion that some may have had you believe they would when they were a new technology, is the simple fact that people see too many face-value issues, the lack of infrastructure being the main one. If one were to invest in an EV it would have to be, either confined to the home and work place, or any local areas with a charging point. Modern hybrids have however, to a large extent, overcome this. The cost of installing chargers is also initially expensive even if, in the long run, it will save the owner money. Along with that, the car itself is a large initial investment and will cost £4-6k more than standard models.

Even if, which nowadays is slowly coming to pass, there were many public charging points, the time it takes to charge can be inconvenient and even impossible if there are many cars to be charged at the same time – a lot longer than a trip to a fuel station (2-5 hrs in respect to a 4min tank refill). On top of this, the need to recharge can be more frequent, as the mileage it can achieve hasn’t been the same as conventional engines, so especially for long distances, diesel has been preferred.

However fuel stations are a lot messier and inefficient as deliveries must be made, fuel can spill and is harder to keep safe, while electricity can be transported in wires and controlled for safety, creating no physical pollution either. Where fuel does come out trumps though, is its simplicity. It can be transported to anywhere with infrastructure to do so without the need for permanent or labour extensive wires, reaching the furthest points of civilization, where electricity may not.

On a more technical level the power needed to supply a social change towards electrical cars is almost overwhelming, meaning an increase in grid capacity and generating power, as well as transportation ability, although this may not have put consumers off so far.

For larger EV’s the main concern is the ability to carry loads. It is one thing to be able to travel certain distances but if it can only carry its own weight efficiently, it will be of little use for haulage or transportation on any scale.

Finally the batteries involved cause uptake problems, the weight and size being inefficient for travelling and the life of the battery may be short in terms of ‘years needed to pay back the cost benefit of investing in EV’s’.

Dealing with the problem

The race to find a lasting and powerful battery at ever smaller sizes is being named by many as the breakthrough invention that will hallmark the evolution of EV’s becoming the market leaders. The problem is, the more powerful the battery seems to get, the more volatile it is and becomes more susceptible to catching fire. The Argonne National Laboratory in the US is dedicated to finding the solution to the problem, testing an array of possibilities and many car manufacturers are investing in the technology. Volkswagen for instance, refuses to comment – it believes its technology is so valuable, it’s afraid that it will be stolen and used against them.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology however have said that 9/10 driver’s requirements could be met by hybrid electric vehicles today. Could this then be the first phase of the personal travel revolution?

The grid and electrical supply is also undergoing a transformation in supply as well as demand. Last year wind power became the greatest new source of power in Europe and 90% of the power came from renewable sources. This is leading to a change in dynamics as the power is coming from many areas and not from a single power station, already demanding a change in the grid and the way it currently works. So if this leads to a great grid re-shaping, then the ability to cope with the extra demand from EV’s could be factored in to the infrastructure enhancement work.

In the UK, the department for transport outlined plans to increase the number of charging points dramatically to try and incentivise the public to buy more EVs, aiming to give the image that it can be convenient, the recent tax changes seem to contradict and penalise those who chose to opt for EV’s though, highlighting the current governments lack of a coherent and long term investor-friendly policy in regards to renewable power sources, EV’s and anything remotely environmentally friendly. In the US, under the Obama administration, came the news of 48 charging corridors to be constructed along 25000 miles of highway.

The Change

Worldwide, there is an obvious requirement for Electric Vehicles, they are the future whether we like it or not. Last year there were 2 million electric cars registered on the road. After a slow start and a few false beginnings, it seems that the demographics are now changing, putting EV’s at a continual upward moving market share, as technology and infrastructure improves, this uptake will become exponential.

Worldwide, pollution in cities is becoming a massive, current and desperate health problem and a rapid change to clean, electric vehicles would be a simple part-solution to this problem, as cities are after-all the ideal place to use them, where there is easy access to a large number of charging points.

Pollution from petrol and diesel engines is not only contributing to climate change, but also to the decline in health of every nation. The increase in asthma and deaths from lung cancer caused by traffic pollution has become a major problem worldwide. The use of EV’s, especially in cities, would bring about a radical reversal of this.

 

Climate change is not caused by man. It’s official.

Trump and Climate Change

Happer, Pruitt and Those Zombie Climate Change Theories

Climate change is not caused by man. It’s official.

Leading physicist William Happer at Princetown University says so.

You should take notice because he is definitely in the running to become one of Trump’s science advisors. No matter that Happer has never once contributed to climate change research (apart from denouncing it) and has never had a paper published in a scientific journal on the subject.

Why should that matter? Accept that he may have the ear of the President.

According to his Princetown colleague Professor Micheal Oppenheimer (who does have many articles on climate change to his name), Happer “appears to have become unmoored”. Happer has called the climate change agenda a cult and has even thrown in a Nazi reference for good measure.

But that’s not all.

The successful nomination of Scott Pruitt to the Environmental Protection Agency is also another worry. Pruitt has his feet firmly in the fossil fuel camp and has been one of the EPAs most vociferous critics.

He’s sued them no less than 14 times.

He may not think that climate change is a hoax but neither does he truly believe that it’s man made. He told the nomination committee:

“Science tells us the climate is changing and human activity in some matter impacts that change. The ability to measure and pursue the degree and the extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”

There could be some turbulent times ahead for climate change scientists who diverge from this new world view of the Trump administration. Some have suggested McCarthy style witch hunts that could even drive researchers underground or at least get them to change their views in public.

So, what are the arguments that climate change deniers are still continuing to postulate? Some have called these zombie theories because the appear to turn up again and again. They are often delivered straight to our door by the media, or as Trump calls them ‘fake news’, via right wing think tanks.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) monitored the Wall Street Journal, which has been more climate sceptic than most, and found that of 48 articles only nine actually reflected the true state of current science in this area. Another sceptic outlet is Fox News which produced 37 out of 40 misleading segments over a year.

One sceptic stance is that climate change has happened before in the distant past and life on earth managed to survive. Climate change wasn’t caused by humans then and it isn’t now. What climate change sceptics fail to point out is that the sea level rose considerably at during this period – and if it happens this time it will cause major catastrophes for millions of people around the globe.

We seem to have stepped into a world of alternative facts, certainly. If the leader of a powerful country such as the US is only listening to the contrarian point of view, then there’s a problem. Particularly when most of the evidence points in the opposite direction. It’s easy to believe that Trump also has his feet firmly planted in the fossil fuel camp. The truth is he probably doesn’t feel that strongly about climate change one way or the other.

There’s no doubt that most of the scepticism has been fuelled by the right. A think tank called the Institute of Public Affairs has helped to spread the climate sceptic agenda and has been able to influence the media into reporting their ‘talking points’. The fact that these are being listened to is probably more worrying than Happer’s slightly unhinged view of the world.

One thing is certain: The climate change fight is not won.

We’re far from that point and may even be moving backwards. This isn’t just a US problem either. There are plenty of sceptics around the world who want their voices heard and we could soon find ourselves in a world where scientists who openly support the evidence of climate change are ridiculed in public and ostracised for their views.

That means the fight now needs to go up a notch – we need to shout louder than ever before.

Old Buildings Love Infrared

mansion

There was a problem in 2012 when the National Trust in Scotland wanted to refurbish and upgrade a Victorian home after the long-term tenant left. The issue was how to install an efficient heating system without detracting from the historic and aesthetic value of the property. This is a question that many old and listed buildings are having to face in the green age.

The answer for the National Trust came from infrared heating. Not only does it provide good levels of warmth for properties that suffer from draughts and poorer insulation, it also has one distinct advantage.

It can be hidden from view.

One of the benefits of installing infrared heating is that it doesn’t have to look like a standard radiator. Historic Scotland invested about £5,000 to upgrade the building, hiding nine infrared panels behind objects such as mirrors. That means the property didn’t lose any of its charm and that was a big plus for an organisation like the National Trust.

Scotstarvit Cottage is in Fife and had an old oil fired heater. The owners were looking for a more efficient and low carbon approach to heating the old building up. According to the company that installed the heaters:

“Now that we are able to properly insulate most homes, these convection heating systems are shown up as costly and inefficient. Far infrared heaters are the next generation, offering a far more 
efficient and controllable ­heating. I believe these heaters can make a difference in both modern and historical properties.”

The success of the upgrade for Scotstarvit Cottage didn’t just include installing infrared heating. The insulation had to be improved as well. There are hundreds of listed buildings all over the UK that are badly in need of the same type of upgrade to make them more habitable. Infrared heating could be top of the list for may simply because it is so flexible from an aesthetic point of view. Panels can be fitted to walls and ceilings and they can either be disguised as works of art or mirrors.

The other benefit is that infrared is also considered one of the healthier heating option. It works by heating objects directly rather than the air around it, making it suitable for old buildings where issues such as damp are perennial problems. For old buildings, there has always been an inherent problem when attempting to change to newer, greener technologies. There is, understandably, a desire to retain the look and feel of these properties and maintain the protected aspect.

Introducing infrared heating could be the solution that organisations such as the National Trust are looking for. It’s relatively cheap and easy to install and maintenance over the lifetime of a panel is minimal. Heating can also be tightly controlled and costs kept down compared to old gas and oil fired technologies that have outlived their usefulness.

The good news is that infrared heating is beginning to gain popularity in the UK, as it has already done in other parts of the world.

The Renewable Heat Incentive

RHI

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a UK government scheme set up to encourage the conversion, or application of renewable heat technologies amongst British households, communities and businesses. This is through using financial incentives, paying those who join for the amount of clean heat it is estimated their system produces. It is claimed to be the first scheme of its nature in the world and it was introduced to help the UK reach its European Union 2020 targets.

There are two main branches to the scheme, the Domestic and the Non-Domestic, each having different tariffs, joining conditions, rules and application processes. Applicants may only apply to one or the other in cases where buildings have dual purpose. Applications must also be received within a year of the technology’s commission.

What it covers

From its launch in 2014 it was designed to support its members financially for seven years after the installation. The scheme was only launched in Great Britain and excluded Northern Ireland. It also targets off-gas supplied households.

Technologies which the scheme covers are limited to Biomass wood fuelled boilers, Biomass pellet stoves with integrated boilers providing space heating, ground to water heat pumps, Air to water heat pumps and solar thermal panels providing hot water for your home or building. There are other technologies that are potentially eligible, such as water source heat pumps, as they could be listed as ground source in some cases. The Government however made some changes to the scheme in December 2016.

The table below is a simple depiction of what the tariffs one would receive if an application was sent today (21/2017)

Technology Air Source Heat Pump Biomass Ground Source Heat Pump Solar Thermal
Tariff per kWh of renewable heat 7.51p 4.21p 19.33p 19.74p

Changes (Domestic)

In December 2016 there were a number of changes suggested for the domestic RHI. These are, at the moment, subject to parliamentary approval, thus will only come into effect in Spring 2017. There have been previous changes as well. Below is a simplified table of the changes:

Year/Month What Changed?
November 2014 Amendment to scheme eligibility
October 2015 Sustainability requirements for those with biomass technology, are use of fuel that meets with specific sustainability requirements.
March 2016 Further amendments to scheme eligibility
July 2016 Biomass tariff digression (new tariff taken in place from 2017)
January 2017 Biomass tariff digression – the tariff of 4.68p per kWh of biomass heat, reduced to 4.21p for new applicants. Existing members stay the same.

 

Non-Domestic

The non-domestic changes to regulation are more complicated due to the nature of them. They need to be understood by professionals representing businesses or businesses themselves, which are assumed to have more diversity in requirements and a need for greater and more fine-tuned regulation. As such there are two volumes of changes made to the non-domestic RHI, the latest version being published in 2015, although the more recent domestic regulations on biomass also affect non-domestic biomass.

The general rule with heating is, the larger the space which you have to heat, the greater the savings which can be made by switching. This is for two main reasons. The first is that the energy bill being paid before the switch to cheaper sustainable energy, would have been greater as the energy requirement would have been greater. The second is that efficiencies can be maximized by heating the core of the premises and using wall or floor heating to heat two rooms, where in the past it would have been two separate systems.

The scheme, in this case, aims to reduce the payback period and make the sustainable technologies financially more attractive to individuals on a small scale. On a large scale, the scheme aims to make cost reduction the incentive to those corporate bodies which may not think of sustainability as a social need.

Problems?

Because the incentive aims to artificially create the market to move to a sustainable source, it becomes a necessity for the survival of the projects under the umbrella. If changes were to be made, or if the scheme was to be cut, then many of the projects could collapse. This volatility causes concern in the time of government cuts as, especially for domestic RHI users, making economic sense from a simple cost savings perspective may not be an option.

The introduction of many sustainable and renewable heat systems also requires a lot of initial capital investment around the actual technology. For instance, the heat pumps which are covered under the scheme work best with well insulated houses with under floor or wall heating. So while eligibility for the scheme may be a start, for many, RHI cannot be a realistic investment due to the costs associated with installing and preparing for the new system. By the end, the financial securities after installation are outweighed by the prior costs.

Heat Pumps, Making Use of Low Grade Heat

Heat Pumps

What are Heat Pumps?

 

Heat pumps are any device which transfers heat from one place to another. In regard to commercial and residential use, they move warmth in the air or ground from outside a building to inside. Heat pumps can extract their low-grade heat, needed to create useful heat transfer into the desired area, from any source above -30°C, although they work better the higher the temperature of the source.

Traditionally, ground and flowing water can be used, as they keep a mostly constant temperature all year round, no matter what the conditions. These methods of obtaining heat, however, require an increased initial investment. There is a very small risk if anything were to turn faulty, for example, the heat pipe system can be buried up to 100m underground, or if refrigerant were to leak into the waterways it could cause environmental damage.

Sourcing from the air

Air source heat pumps (ASHP) are becoming more widely used in the UK, as they are elsewhere in the world. They are essentially reversed air-conditioners. They are the easiest to install and the most cost-effective forms of heat pumps (circa £7000 as opposed to GSHP, circa £18-£23,000) to install, as they do not require bore holes or underground systems or nearby waterways or lakes/ponds. They do function better in higher temperatures though, and so one downfall of the ASHP is that when the heat is required most in winter, there is less available heat to be transferred and in the summer, vice versa (although they can be reversible and used to cool in the Summer). As a result the seasonal performance factor (SPF) is 10-30% worse than ground source heat pumps (GSHP) especially on windy and cold days, but the UK has a pretty stable and agreeable range throughout the year for them to operate at a high efficiency.

Working in the UK

 

The UK’s temperature range normally sits between 0°C and 15°C, which increases the SPF compared to other countries, as constant temperatures can raise the efficiency of a heat pump especially if it can stay above 0°C. Due to the intermittent nature of the air source, in the past ASHPs have required a fossil fuel powered backup system as an insurance against loss of a heating device for installed buildings, but modern ASHPs do not require this and can operate efficiently to provide hot water and space heating for most reasonably well-insulated homes.

For residential properties, our single phase supply has had very little investment from manufacturers in pushing the envelope in regards to heat pump design, especially in regards to large capacity heating. That was, however, until Kensa Heat pumps, based in the UK started to manufacture heat pumps with a capacity up to 24kW for single phase electricity supplied homes. This is a lot larger than the previous common 12kW capacities, however the larger output models require a larger initial start-up input, which in older properties in particular, can have side effects, such as lights flickering when they come on and if a power supply is shared with others could become an installation obstacle, as the demand of these units is understandably very high.

“We need to stop living in poorly insulated, high heat-loss homes using radiators containing water at 70°Cand start constructing super insulated buildings that are heated using water at 35°C, through under floor and wall heating systems”

– Andy McCrea, Renewable Energy, 2013

Fitting and efficiency

Due to the fact that any heat pump circulates heated output at a temperature of around 35°C, the traditional radiators are inefficient at distributing the heat to the room, as it has a relatively small surface area. At these lower temperatures, larger radiators or a network of under floor heating is required to distribute the heat evenly and effectively. This means installation and retrofitting of heat pumps can be labour intensive and not suited to certain buildings (particularly listed buildings). They also require a better base level of insulation as they cannot allow for as large a heat loss as the conventional 70°C wet central heating systems.

A new construction can most efficiently use the pumped heat by designing heat outlet pipes in the core of any building (between walls of two rooms or floors of two levels). This also means there is less pipe network required as the rooms can use the same heat source. It is best paired with high thermal retaining materials and buildings, allowing for short spells of insulation reductions with minimal heat loss (windows opening etc.). This again increases the surface area the heat has to emit from. In existing buildings this may be prohibitive and more complicated to achieve, due to any existing infrastructure, leading to expenses mounting and financial inviolability becoming a problem. Commonly retrofits overcome this issue by using existing piping but fitting special air radiators which better circulate the lower level warmth produced by the heat pumps.

Benefits to current gas consumers of switching

If we assume for an example that 1 kWh of electricity is 15p, and 1kWh of gas is 5p, heat pumps as an example can be said to convert 1kWh into 3.5 (worked out using the COP, see below) units of useful heat, where the traditional heating system works at a 1:1 ratio of 1kWh to 1 unit of heat. Therefore the one unit of electricity which the heat pump would use, could actually become a more efficient method of heating the desired area, so long as insulation is sufficient.

To work out the coefficient of performance (COP), which is the formula used to assess the efficiency of the system in question, there is a simple formula:

Direct ground heat source pumps, which is when the refrigerant is directly circulated into the ground, can work at up to 500%, or 5.0 efficiency levels at certain times of the year, but on average heat pumps will work at a 3.5 or 350% efficiency. That is to say for every unit of energy put into the pump as electrical energy, 3.5 units of heat energy are put into the home, in comparison to 0.96, or 96% average rating of a gas boiler. This shows the potential benefit a gas consumer can have by integrating a heat pump (~250%~). The difference in actual heat output, however, may mean that a property wanting to swap between the two supplies may have to insulate before installation to gain the full possible improvements.

Investment and Incentives

The government has just increased the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for this kind of technology to encourage increased uptake in the UK. If you are thinking of installing a system like this, now is the time! Read more on the RHI here: https://www.renewableenergyhub.co.uk/heat-pumps-information/heat-pumps-cost-and-savings.html

Infrared Heating Vs Modern Storage Heating

modern storage heaters vs infrared heaters

What are Infrared Heaters and What are Storage Heaters?

Infrared is, in summarized Oxford Dictionary terms, ‘electromagnetic radiation, having a wavelength just greater than that of the red end of the visible light spectrum but less than that of microwaves… emitted particularly by heated objects’ and it is these heated objects which can be used in a domestic setting to more efficiently raise the temperature of a home or business. Storage heating on the other hand is … well the storage of heat, it is sometimes referred to as a heat bank (Australia) and they are electrical heaters which store thermal energy when the electrical costs are lower during the evening or at night, and then release the reserved heat when required. This is essentially a more economically efficient heater, although the heating technology is the same as traditional heating systems.

Far Infrared (FIR)

FIR is a region in the infrared spectrum and can be defined as ‘any radiation with a wavelength of 15 micrometres to 1 millimetre’, the most obvious difference between near and far infrared is the temperature which they can reach, near infrared (NIR) can reach temperatures of up to 1200°C whereas the FIR only reaches 100°C. The difference, however, with any form of Infrared compared to traditional heating is that they work by heating the objects in the area they are placed in. The rays which they emit, hit these objects where it is retained, before releasing it back to the air when the temperature difference between the two becomes greater. This gives the heat a larger surface area and allows the area to be warmed at a far more effective rate. This is different from heaters which heat the air, which in turn heats the objects at a much slower rate as it has had the potential for energy loss in the middle (non-insulated windows for example taking the energy from the air before it can be used heating the surrounding objects). In effect infrared is making the process chain one link smaller.

Heaters on the market

Because the Sun emits Near Infrared waves (NIR), the human body has evolved to reflect a large amount of any that come into contact with the skin, making it an ineffective method for heating the body and thus is better used for applications where higher, concentrated heat is needed, such as cooking or welding. Other uses may include heating outdoor areas like the smoking areas in restaurants, where exposure periods are short and there is less risk of being touched. The unenclosed environment also requires a higher heat output as the elements will have an influence on the effectiveness of the heating process. The majority of us will have seen this type of system before. An example of one of these heaters is The Burda Term 2000 IP67 which can be installed in a higher position than the desired heating area, which should be satisfactorily effective in an area up to 14m².

The benefit of indoor infrared is that it can also be combined with everyday objects in the home, in turn saving space. The bathroom heaters, for example, can combine mirrors (Aspect Frameless Mirror Infrared Heater With Backlight) and towel racks (Aspect bar Style Infrared Tower Heater) to become efficient at doing not only their intended purpose of reflecting and drying towels respectively, but also in heating the entire room at the same time. Products have been designed for this purpose to fit the modern trend of smaller living areas, given the space constraints we are feeling as the housing crisis becomes more of an issue, here in the UK more than other places.

With regards to storage heaters, they are essentially programmable heat storing electric radiators, where the heat theory stays the same and the way in which they operate and save costs differ. They make heating through convection electric radiators as efficient as possible by using features such as automatic charge regulators, which adjust to changing weather conditions to dictate the amount of heat to be stored and when to store it so to achieve maximum savings on electricity prices at different times of day.

They best achieve this using Economy 7 rates which can be 50% cheaper on some tariffs. It is for this reason that many suppliers seem to be reducing the availability of this cheaper tariff as, with grid capacity being reached they are losing profits as the availability threshold nears its limit, so future ROI equations regarding the benefits of this type of heating preference should be taken into consideration.

One example of a manufacturer developing more advanced forms of storage heater technology is Dimplex, with the Dimplex XL and XLS range.

The difference in modern storage heaters is the available level of control that can be had compared to the old heaters, however the problem with this is that it requires more attention by the end user to ensure the desired extra efficiency, as much of it will have to be done on a conscious basis and cannot be programmed. It must also be noted that elevated charges apply outside the recharge (cheaper) hours of between 12pm and 7am, so cooking, lighting and boosting the heaters will cost significantly more during these on-peak hours.

Which is better for home or business use?

 The uncertainty of the future benefits of electric convector heat storage, and the fact that it is not a modern, energy efficient technology, would place infrared as a better heating option due to its ability to be able to save space and more effectively heat the area/objects required, however the initial purchase cost of a storage heater, if one would prefer only to replace existing heaters would on the face of it, be a more attractive option, however the consumer would need to factor in the dramatically increased long term electricity consumption, in addition to the prospect of energy price inflation, due to be over 50% in the coming few years.

As energy expenditure goes, the Infrared heaters ability to heat more efficiently allows it to be a less energy consuming form of central heating, combined with lack of maintenance and installed in a well-insulated property, this combination should be hard to compete with in the long term.

Useful Links:

Quality infrared heaters:

https://www.rehhd.com

Quality electric storage heaters:

http://www.fischerfutureheat.com/electric-heaters/electric-storage-heaters/

http://www.dimplex.co.uk/products/domestic_heating/installed_heating/energy_saving_features.htm

2020 Vision, Just a pair of empty frames?

EU 2020

The European Union as a group of 28 member states, is one of the biggest energy consumers and greenhouse gas emitters in the world, as such, the EU’s renewable energy directive has set a binding target for final energy consumption by its members, obtained through renewable sources, of 20% by the year 2020.

Each member state has set their own differing national targets (Malta being the lowest at 10% and Sweden the highest at 49%), each country has set out the strategy they intend to implement to meet their individual targets, but how effective has it actually been?

Tracking the Progress

One significant mark of success came with the news in early February 2017 that, in 2016, Wind power capacity over-took coal to become the second largest form of power capacity in the European Union, second only to gas (although it still falls behind in supplying demand due to its irregular patterns). This was, in part, attributed to five member states breaking national records for wind farm installation (France, Ireland, The Netherlands, Finland and Lithuania), more significant however was the percentage of new capacity developed across member states in 2016 that came from renewable sources, a record breaking 86% totalling a possible output of 21.1GW.

In the UK however the target of 15% of energy obtained from renewable sources has come under criticism, for becoming an environment which has not been attractive enough to investors to be able to achieve so far, one factor was the government initiated, independent review of how much value for money tidal lagoons were, which gave projects an air of uncertainty, giving a negative result on, at least the short term, investment. One particular example is the Swansea tidal lagoon, in which initial reports suggest skeletons of buildings while construction was halted.

The UK is 24th of the 28, in the list for renewable energy consumption at an 8.2% national rate, only a few per cent ahead of 28th place Luxembourg, at 5%. There are calls by some critics that the government needs to do more to encourage the industry, if not by commission, then by omission, one in particular was the recent reform of the Renewable Heat Incentive, which has been criticised as a reason for the stagnation of the growth of the biomass sector.

This view not only needs to take into account large investors and suppliers but also the smaller scale more numerous ones, an example of the initiatives which the government had rolled out previously was a particular scheme aimed at small scale producers of either personal, or local supply, the FIT (Feed-in Tariff) offering 4.85p per unit of electricity sold back to the electricity supplier for up to half of the generation capacity of the site, but this is not aimed at big scale investors or large output sites. This has also been compromised now as there are doubts of its security for the future, as the government are said to have initial plans to raise the tax for those with rooftop schemes from the current 5% to 20%.

With Germany installing 44% of the wind power capacity last year, what could the UK, which has the greatest wind resources of the 28 member states change to meet the target? Individual governments have set their own plans in place, Scotland has stated that it intends to meet a 50% target by 2050, but there seems to be little else in the rest of the UK at this point in time. Could it be time to relax regulations on construction sites, similar to the recent housing crisis solution? Is this possibly the future energy crisis? Do we have to see black outs before the issue is properly addressed by those in power?

The Future

The imminent departure of the UK from the rest of the block however has left questions about whether the government intend to keep the 15% target or if they will discard it and replace it with their own target, raising or reducing. In their manifesto the government promised to “halt the spread” of onshore wind farms and so if the recent plans for FIT combined with this promise which they came to power on are anything to make predictions on, there is no wonder the UK industry is stagnating, investors are simply not prepared to gamble their capital on so much uncertainty.

There needs to be a reassurance that, outside of the EU the government will still, at the very least guarantee to stick to current 2020 agreements or better for the industry still, invest and create an environment where we can aim to hit, and improve on 15% final green energy consumption as a nation. Whether you believe in climate change or not, clean power and clean air are something that we all must take very seriously!

The overall target however for the collective member states is still on track, according to the European Commission, and on results published forecasting progress at current rates. The results revealed that if consumption and economic growth can be kept at certain levels then the target of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, in comparison to their 1990 level will be achieved and that a 20% final renewable energy consumption will be a reality. Thus it would appear that the 2020 targets are not just a pair of empty frames, but for now, a realistic aim.

Could a Solar PV and Infrared Heating Mix Be Ideal for the UK?

Solar Panels and Infrared Heating

The issue of heating is set to become big in the next few years as many countries try to reduce their carbon footprints in line with the Paris Agreement. Currently in the UK, about 40% of the country’s energy usage is taken up by hot water and heating, much of which is supplied as fossil fuels such as gas.

And therein lies the problem. According to the Committee on Climate Change, there is much that needs to be done in the UK:

“The Government needs a credible new strategy and a much stronger policy framework for buildings decarbonisation over the next three decades. Many of the changes that will reduce emissions will also contribute toward modern, affordable, comfortable homes and workplaces and can be delivered alongside a major expansion in the number of homes.”

While the UK Government is taking steps to promote low carbon solutions such as biomass and heat pumps, there are other viable options currently available that could make a big difference. One of these is infrared heating which has numerous benefits including low electricity usage and easy installation. In fact, when used in conjunction with power produced by wind or solar, infrared can be considered a hundred per cent carbon free option.

This raises an interesting question about how we combine different types of technology to make more eco-friendly homes and offices. It’s all well and good installing solar panels on your roof but if you are still using fossil fuels for heating and hot water, those CO2 emissions are going to be high.

With the development of solar storage technology starting to take hold and the potential for all of us to have homes that are energy independent, the Government and the population should be thinking about how everything fits together better. In the UK, according to the Solar Trade Association, some 670,000 homes now have solar and could benefit from also updating their current heating technology to something that doesn’t use fossil fuels.

So why isn’t more being made of infrared heating? While the Government has invested in the Renewable Heat Incentive for tech like heat pumps and biomass, they have yet to create the same incentives for infrared. It’s strange because it could be the cheaper option for many homes and businesses. Granted, biomass boilers can be used for heating hot water as well but the large majority of energy usage in homes is from room heating.

The Benefits of Infrared

While it has received less coverage over the years than other forms of heating such as biomass, infrared heating can deliver some real benefits to home owners and businesses beyond the potential lowering of carbon emissions.

They are easy to install, for a start. The latest infrared panels can be quickly fitted to a wall and plugged into the electricity supply with the minimum of fuss. They can also be linked up to wireless thermostats so that you have greater control over your heating.

Infrared panels also work differently from traditional convection heaters. Step outside on a summers day and you will feel the immediate warmth of the sun on your face. This is infrared, it works by heating objects directly rather than the air around you. What does this mean? As soon as you switch on the panel you should feel the effects. No waiting for the room to warm up.

Infrared panels also use a small amount of electricity compared to other heaters and can lower your costs substantially. They’re thought to be a lot healthier and can help reduce damp in walls and could be beneficial to people with allergies and asthma.

Even if you don’t have solar installed, you can switch to an energy provider that utilises renewable sources for their customers, cutting down your potential carbon footprint. The point is that we all need to find new ways to combine different technologies and make our planet safer. Installation of something like infrared of course requires an initial outlay but the potential to reduce energy costs and combine it with tech like solar is something we should all be looking at a lot more closely.

Infrared could well be the perfect solution for homes, particularly in the UK where you have many older properties that wouldn’t benefit from technologies such as heat pumps, where the integrity and insulation of the building is an important factor. The ease of installation and panels that can now be controlled via a Wi-Fi thermostat makes this option viable on numerous levels.

Perhaps it’s time we took a closer look at infrared heating and how it can complement the renewables revolution. It’s an affordable and proven technology that works and there is a case for better promotion and maybe even subsidies to increase uptake.