Correcting the world’s wrongs…

Very interesting article on a few levels from the Guardian.

This article points to a number of the central themes of the climate change and renewable technology agenda. Ideas such as industrialised countries fighting against the prevailing world trend and actually lowering carbon emissions, the take up of renewable energy technologies within a framework of investment and remuneration (FIT), and the ever-present threat of dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuel energy sources, even in the face of vast renewables potential in all areas of the world.

Last, but certainly not least, is the reference to the main reason why Germany (and Germans) have embraced the concept of sustainability to the extent they have.

But despite the problems, Germany remains committed to its green agenda, driven, some say, by the need to correct the world’s wrongs – a sentiment that goes back to the second world war and the postwar generation who challenged their parents afterwards for just standing by.

“That has led to a very strong environmental and anti-nuclear movement,” says Green party MP Hermann Ott. “It ultimately led to the foundation of the Green party and made us very strong. If something goes wrong, you have to speak up and do something otherwise your children will ask you in 20 to 30 years, ‘Why didn’t you do anything?'”

Why didn’t you do anything? A powerful question and one which millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are already asking the industrialised western countries and one which many millions more will be asking countries such as India and China in the decades to come. One of this generations (and many to come) biggest problems, set against past tragedies. An example of what not to do can be very powerful.



Sharing the benefits of wind power…

‘Most Britons like wind power, but the minority who don’t exert a painful electoral grip on the Conservative party. The only solution is to ensure those who live with the turbines also profit from them.’

This is such a simple and obvious solution. Bring communities into the deal and spread the benefits.

Another eye-opening set of figures from Germany (again, leading the way)…

‘In Germany, 20% of all electricity comes from renewable energy and over 65% of the turbines and solar panels are owned by individuals, farmers and communities. Bringing power to the people, at the expense of unpopular utility companies, has delivered overwhelming public acceptance.’


‘In the UK, less than 10% of renewable energy is owned locally. Over 90% is owned by the big energy firms, seen as untrusted giants dumping turbines into the countryside and taking the proceeds out.’


Solar: Feed-in Tariffs…

Slightly old news now, but here it is none the less… the expected but still harsh cut to the single biggest motivator of renewable solar technology in the UK – Feed In Tariffs.

In my humble opinion, the solar renewable energy industry has not had time to grow and sustain itself – the level of FITs need to be in place for a number of years first (as in the 11 years in Germany). Halving the rate is going to take the free panels schemes out of the residential market, as there will be very little incentive for private companies to provide them.

‘On Thursday, Germany, the world’s biggest solar panel market, said it will also cut subsidies for solar photovoltaic power. Rates will be reduced 15% from January 2012, the Bundesnetzagentur, the federal grid regulator, announced. Power from panels will earn between €0.18 and €0.24 per kWh, depending on size and location.’

‘Deep cuts to the popular tariff have been overseen in recent years, with the German government arguing that economies of scale and improvements in technology are resulting in rapid reductions in the cost of the sector, meaning the industry no longer needs such a high-level of state aid. Since Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) was introduced 11 years ago, providers are guaranteed fixed prices for the electricity they feed into the grid. Like the UK scheme it is paid for by consumers, adding €0.036 per kWh on energy bills or, according to calculations by the Rheinish-Westphalian Institute for Economic Research (RWI), €85.4bn for the solar built between 2000 and 2010 and ensuing payments.’

‘The Bundesnetzagentur revises the tariff regularly. A 9% reduction every year is given by law, but it can be higher depending on actual new installations.’

Johns told the Guardian that the cuts would be a “disaster”. “If they go ahead with this, the tariff is way too low, and all the social housing and free solar schemes – which make the feed-in tariffs exciting in terms of fuel poverty – will be destroyed.” He added that this was the third government review into solar subsidies this year, saying: “We’ve invested business in PV [solar photovoltaic panels] and had it sliced up three times in a year. They [the government] have no credibility on this any more.”

Germany, as ever, provides the case study to follow here. They have built up a strong dominance in the solar market (certainly in Europe) by providing a stable and incentivised solar market. They didn’t slash their FIT rate after 1 year, rather they steadily reduced it over a period of 11 years, with the full knowledge of all involved.

The cut to the UK tariff is so severe that it will take out a large proportion of the whole market in one blow. Yes the 43.3 pence per KWh tariff is unsustainable, but this is needed to get technologies off the ground and to establish markets. Just as this was starting to happen, it all changes dramatically. Very annoying and a shameful lack of support for our renewables industry.


Nobis House – Munich…

Following my last post about the use of wood in architecture, another incredible example of this approach, this time from Munich…

The Nobis House is an interesting minimalist structure which has flexible spaces and a very open view and perspective. The use of light is very effective as is the use of wood.

Another more fun design element is the use of fabrics and colour and just lots of fun…

The Willy Wonka House, New York.


Energy and pollution…

I just realised it’s been at least a day since my last rant about energy/pollution and the environment, so here goes… : )

Another great article from Monbiot on the issue of pollution, from one of the most feared sources on Earth – Nuclear power!

‘Let’s begin with safety. The best evidence for the safety and resilience of nuclear power plants can be found at Fukushima. Not at Fukushima Daiichi, the power station where the meltdowns and explosions took place, but at Fukushima Daini, the plant next door. You’ve never heard of it? There’s a good reason for that. It was run by the same slovenly company. It was hit by the same earthquake and the same tsunami. But it survived. Like every other nuclear plant struck by the wave, it went into automatic cold shutdown. With the exception of a nuclear missile attack, it withstood the sternest of all possible tests.

What we see here is the difference between 1970s and 1980s safety features. The first Daiichi reactor was licensed in 1971. The first Daini reactor was licensed in 1982. Today’s technologies are safer still. The pebble bed reactors now being tested by China, for example, shut themselves down if they begin to overheat as an inherent property of the physics they exploit. Using a plant built 40 years ago to argue against 21st-century power stations is like using the Hindenburg disaster to contend that modern air travel is unsafe.

Compare it to the damage and death that climate change will cause, and you find that our response is so disproportionate as to constitute a form of madness. It’s a straightforward pay-off. Germany’s promise to ditch nuclear power will produce an extra 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. In June Angela Merkel announced a possible doubling of the capacity of the coal and gas plants Germany will build in the next 10 years. Already Germany has been burning brown coal, one of the most polluting fuels on earth, to make up the shortfall. The renewable technologies which should have replaced fossil fuels will instead replace nuclear power.’

In terms of pollution reduction, David JC MacKay (Professor of Natural Philosophy Department of Physics, Cambridge) has developed an amazing resource website which covers every topic within the field of sustainable energy.

Here are some extracts from the website.

Fast breeder reactors use nuclear fuel 60 times more efficiently than once-through reactors and use the waste produced by standard reactors.

– The nuclear energy available per atom is roughly 1 million times more than the chemical energy per atom of conventional energy, meaning the waste in theory is 1 million times less. As an illustration, the amount of natural uranium required to provide the same amount of energy as 16 kg of fossil fuels, in a standard fission reactor, is 2 grams – 8,000 times more power per weight. This isn’t a million times more because most reactors only use 1% of the total nuclear potential of the uranium used as fuel.

– The period of time nuclear waste is dangerous = 1000 years, not 100,000 as suggested by other sources. The 100,000 year figure is apparently the time the Uranium will take to decay to a safe radiation level, but as a raw material found within uranium mines, it is as radioactive as nuclear waste which has been stored for 1000 years.

If this technology can be refined and properly controlled (still a big question mark) then the cost and efficiency of this power source could easily decarbonise our whole existing economy, as well as provide the bridge to the longer-term solution which is renewable energy from solar, wind, tidal and thermal.


Solar power legal action…

Great comment on an article on the Guardian Website:

Solar companies take legal action over UK feed-in tariff cuts!


19 April 2011 7:54PM

Oh dear, this article has only been out for a couple of hours and already the luddite ‘Trolls’ who think they are informed and ‘climate deniers’ have come out putting their ridiculous opinions forward

So, just for their information to start with, a paragraph taken from a leading renwable energy publication after Greg Barker had trotted off to Germany to ‘learn lessons’ from their Feed in Tariff legislation.

‘It is quite curious that [climate minister] Greg Barker was out in Germany last month partly so he could come back and say: ‘Look at what the Germans have just done in terms of scaling back their reliance on feed-in tariffs.’ But what he failed to mention was that on the Tuesday at 12 o’clock while he was there, the solar sector in Germany generated more energy than the nuclear sector for the first time in its history. The lesson I got from that was there is an industry that has scaled back the feed-in tariff time when they have got up to a 12.1GW of solar capacity.

Then, I shall also repeat a previous blog for the Trolls benifit, concerning the moronic fiasco that Huhne and Barker have created by their personal malicious destruction of the UK Feed in Tariff legislation that now means the UK hasn’t got the slightest chance of achieving the 2020 EU carbon reduction directive that will result in massive financial penalties the will make the costs of any Feed in Tariff incentives look like peanuts.

Under 18 years of progressive and refined Feed in Tariff legislation in Germany the Target that Germany has for PV installation by 2020 from the 18GW today, YES 18 GIGAWATTS, is according to the BSW roadmap (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft ; Association of Solar Industry ) is 52GW. Yes , I repeat, FIFTY TWO GIGAWATTS.

I think that is actually quite impressive, and of the UK? Well, I’m sure ‘Greg Barker; The Butcher of Feed In Tariffs’ can help on this target. As for land based Solar Parks, there are about 1000+ in Germany AT THE MOMENT. In the UK? At the moment? NIL, and by 2020? NIL

I actually bothered to have a look at Europe’s renewable energy installation programme 5 years ago and it was depressing to really suddenly understand how far behind Europe Britain is in renewable investment. If anyone is really that interested then go to Intersolar Munich June 8/10, the world’s largest renewable energy exhibition and be shocked.

We could have caught up and the legislation had been put in place with the 2008 Energy Act. It was looking good, however what had not been allowed for is prats like Huhne and Barker getting into power. If the UK does not get some intelligent life into Government very quickly the country really is finished.


Paul the ‘psychic’ octopus…

Well, I now have my final prediction for the World Cup, thanks to a psychic German octopus, named Paul!

This guy is on a 100% winning prediction streak and I for one am jumping on the watery wagon. We’re involved in a World Cup game by game prediction competition at work. There are 32 players in total and right now, Claire is 3rd, after being 1st for a week or so.

I’m languishing in mid-table obscurity but hoping that ‘we’ can leap frog 2nd place (1 point in front) to get at least that 2nd place. You get points for predicting scores and the person with the most points wins £30 (£15 for second). You get 5 points for a correct score, 3 points for the right goal difference and winning team but only 1 point for predicting the winning team.

So far we’ve accumulated 90 points. I’ve actually been playing as both myself and Claire and trying to think differently for each person! So far, my ‘Claire’ side is doing much better.

So, predictions for final 2 games…

Germany to beat Uruguay for the 3rd place and Spain to beat Netherlands for the Cup! I’ve put ‘Claire’ down as a 1-1 for the Final as feel it’s going to be a tight game. The predictions at work are for the 90 mins only, but feel Spain may need extra time. I’ll be wearing my Netherlands shirt though!


Footy prediction…

It’s going to be Brazil v Argentina in the final.

For this to happen, Brazil have to beat Netherlands and probably Uruguay, and Argentina will have to beat Germany and either Spain or Portugal (arguably the hardest route).

If Argentina do win the World Cup, they would have beaten Germany (ranked 6th in the world), either Spain (ranked 2nd) or Portugal (ranked 3rd) and Brazil (ranked 1st). Either way, I can’t wait for the next few games!


Football technology…

England are out of the World Cup…

…to Germany…


Ok, almost the most inevitable event of yesterday (after the Earth continuing to spin and Roger Federer getting into the 2nd week of Wimbledon).

The interesting things which came up in both games yesterday were the errors made by the officials (ref and his assistants) + the use of technology in the game.

The first shambles was the Frank Lampard no-goal in the Germany game, even though it was at least a foot over the line. The linesman didn’t see it because he was further up the line (and there may have been a post in the way!) and the ref didn’t see it as he was in the middle of the field and being blocked by maybe 3 other players bodies.

This would have levelled the game at 2-2 and at least had an impact on the rest of the game, even if Germany probably would have spanked us in the end!

In the Atgentina v Mexico game in the evening, Carlos Tevez ‘scored’ a goal which was half a metre offside, but it was given – even though they made the wrong decision AND the replay was shown on the big screens inside the stadium and EVERYONE knew it was a bad decision!

The ref actually had visual confirmation straight away that he had made a mistake but he couldn’t use that replay to aid his decision as it is against the rules.

So, two decisions that changed the course of 2 very important games. FIFA will have to look at this again me thinks. But, there have already been a number of unequivocal statements by FIFA that there will be no introduction of goal-line (or any other) cameras to help the officials.

So far, I have heard Gary Linekar (of all people) suggesting the use of a limited number of ‘appeals’ during a game. This would be like tennis, where players can challenge a call, but they have only 3 per set. Also like Cricket where the ‘3rd umpire’ (using a very fast video replay) is used to aid the decision of the officials. This really doesn’t have a negative impact on either game and actually increases the tension and excitment!