Sunday, 29 June 2008

"I'd like to support renewable energy, but..."

Energy use in the home is hugely significant to your carbon footprint and accounts for around 25% of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions. Of this 25% total, three quarters is due to heating (by electricity, gas, oil or solid fuels). So, what is important in reducing your home's energy requirements are three factors:
  • Reduce the amount of energy you use - especially for heating
  • Increase insulation - on the building and you
  • Use renewable energy
The first measure after energy saving is very simple - change your electricity supply to a renewable tariff, such as Good Energy or Ecotricity. This a very simple action, it will cost you very little extra (if anything) and will drastically reduce your carbon footprint. And, as the price of fossil fuels rises, so renewable energy becomes even more cost effective.

What gets more exciting, and is more appropriate for Transition, is to become energy independent. The Energy Saving Trust gives a good overview of all the different types of renewables and what grants are available to support home installations.

So what are the costs like? It varies massively and depends on what you want. Solar panels, for example, are less cost effective than solar water heaters - but you can only heat water with hot water tubes (like the ones pictured).

But what is more interesting is this concept of "payback" on renewable energy installments for homes. If you buy a new car, laptop, kettle, fridge, have a holiday, meal out - does payback come in to the equation? No. Of course, some renewable energy technologies are significant investments, but so are cars, home improvements and many electrical appliances. Rather than ask about payback periods (based on current prices for energy) there are bigger questions to ask:
  • Will it improve the value of your property? Probably yes - to at least the value of the installation
  • What will happen to the price of fossil fuels? Increase significantly as the effects of Peak Oil hit home
  • Will it give you energy independence? Depends what you install, but to a certain degree, yes
  • Will it give you greater resilience? Yes, which frees you from forces beyond your control - political, market, physical
The Community Energy Plus website is a useful resource. Transition Scilly will be doing more on renewable energy in the near future - checkback here for details.

No comments: