Sunday, 31 October 2010

The world according to David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough answers questions from readers in today's Observer. He says he's against waste, he's an ardent recycler, he has low-energy lightbulbs, he wears a pullover rather than turning on the electric heater, and he's installing solar panels. His reply to one question sums up his philosophy.

Q: I work in a secondary school. What one thing would you most like us to impress upon young people's minds? Sylvia Greaves, learning mentor in a secondary school, Huddersfield

A: That we are part of the animal world. We are part of the natural world.


Watch Sir David Attenborough at this year's Ashden Awards.

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Friday, 29 October 2010

Mike set to save £500-£600 on gas and electricity

The story so far: three years ago Mike Pepler, our UK Awards Manager, and his wife Tracy, bought an eight-acre wood. This year they bought a house. Now they are heating the house with the logs from the wood.

Since this is the last day of Energy Saving Week we've asked Mike to update us on progress, now he's been in his new house a few weeks. It's going so well, he reckons this year he'll save more than £500 on gas and electricity bills.

Mike writes:

We’ve had our woodburner and solar thermal installation running for a month now, and the loft insulation has been complete for a few weeks as well, so how’s it going?

The good news is that the house certainly isn’t cold. After a bit of experimentation we’ve figured out how to set the stove to burn slowly overnight when it’s cold, and then in the morning there’s a few embers glowing so it can be quickly got back up to full heat if it’s needed.

We’ve found that as the house faces almost south, there’s a lot of solar gain on sunny days, reducing the need to light the woodburner, even on relatively cold days.

The solar thermal is working well, getting the tank up to 70C on sunny days, and pre-heating the water at the bottom of the tank to 30C even on somewhat cloudy days. Combined with the heat input from the stove, there’s been no shortage of hot water.

We’re pleased with the way the heat from the stove is circulating through the house, both by convection and using the radiators. Although the main thermosyphon (or gravity) loop is to the hot water cylinder and bathroom radiator, quite a bit of heat can also thermosyphon to the radiators, which are all controlled by thermostatic valves. This has meant that we haven’t needed to turn on the central heating pump.

Now that we’re only using gas for the hob on the cooker, daily usage has dropped to under 1kWh, which should lead to an annual bill of £25 at most.

When it comes to electricity, the main guzzlers in the house are the fridge and freezer, although both are A+ rated. We chose a “larder fridge” (i.e. no ice box), as this improves efficiency a lot, and our freezer is a slimline version that opens on the top, as this is much more efficient than having a door on the front, which lets the cold air spill out every time you open it. All our lighting is low-energy CFL bulbs, and our computers are energy-efficient laptops. Oh, and we don’t have a TV, though we do use the BBC iPlayer. The upshot of all this is that our electricity usage so far has been a bit over 3kWh a day, so annual usage will hopefully be between 1200 and 1500 kWh, resulting in an annual bill of around £200.

Overall, if our gas and electricity costs come in at a bit over £200, this will be significantly less than the average of perhaps £7-800 for a household like ours.

Of course, we still need to get the wood for our woodburner, and although we’re not buying that, we do have to work hard to get to it, but at least that’s something we enjoy. We’re currently cutting wood for use in two year’s time, after it’s properly seasoned. It’ll be great to see the trees we’re coppicing now growing back next year as well.

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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Top energy scientists answer 'toughest' questions

The Guardian has invited readers to post questions on peak oil, wind power, nuclear power and other subjects for a panel of six of the world's leading energy scientists. Readers questions - so far - are here. One of the questions in the list is really two questions, and the second half of the question is a tough one:


Do you think storage is the solution to managing the energy balance and if so what type of energy storage mechanism will dominate the future landscape of the electricity networks?

Is there a tougher one?

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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

How to turn a small, cold, dark house into a SuperHome

As part of Energy Saving Week, Juliet Heller, the Ashden Awards Media and PR Manager, writes about moving to Essex and converting an Edwardian terraced house that had felt "small, cold and dark" into an officially-accredited SuperHome. The aim was to show how green an old house could be.


In this post, Juliet explains the range of issues addressed and the measures taken: from solar thermal gain, efficient wood burning stove, solar hot water and insulation to secondary heating and water use.

The post also explains what a SuperHome is, the benefits of a low-carbon home, and what more there still is to do.

The story so far
After many years in London, Ian Daglish and Juliet Heller, with their young son Callum, decided to go rural and adopt a low carbon lifestyle. In 2003 they moved into Tollesbury, a village on the Blackwater estuary in Essex. This vibrant working community which has a population of around 3,000 people has a history steeped in fishing and farming. Juliet writes:

At the heart of our relocation was a dream to buy a period house where we could implement sustainable design and technology on a low budget. A few years later we found the ideal property: a small terraced dwelling, exactly 100 years old, situated on a quiet, rural lane on the village edge, surrounded by fields and farm land.

The eco scheme
The house met our main criteria: it required a complete refurbishment and it had a South facing aspect.

Typically Edwardian, the main house has a square footprint with a two storey rear addition. The ground floor was divided into a living room, dining room and kitchen with a 60s extension at the rear to house a bathroom and toilet. It felt small, cold and dark, but that was soon to change dramatically.

The refurbishment project was managed by Ian, who's an experienced building contractor with an engineering background and longstanding interest in sustainability. Ian’s aim was to contradict a prevailing belief that older properties could not be “green” and demonstrate that they could be made super energy efficient - at an affordable price.

The scheme for the house involved re-designing the ground floor to make it completely open plan, and installing extensive glazing on the rear, to bring more light and warm sun into the house. It also included a loft conversion to accommodate a guest room and office.

The house was planned and equipped to be as energy efficient as possible, using insulation, renewable energy and smart environmental design. Within four months the refurbishment was complete and the three of us moved into an attractive, light and spacious new home.

Creating a ‘SuperHome’
We undertook a range of measures to reduce the carbon impact of the house:

Solar thermal gain: passive solar gain occurs when a house benefits from the internal heat generated by the low sun during winter months. The open plan design and installation of glazing on the South facing elevation heat the house through the natural power of the sun, at zero cost.

Efficient wood burning stove: the wood burning stove is integral to the scheme. The original chimney breast was widened to allow for a 10 kilowatt convection stove. With the open plan design, its heat radiates and warms the whole house, and the temperature can be regulated by opening or closing bedroom doors. Only seasoned, locally-sourced hardwoods are used.

Solar hot water: solar panels on the kitchen roof are South-facing and during April to October they provide at least 90% of the household’s hot water.

Insulation: insulation was installed during the loft conversion thus removing a large cold area within the house. Unusually for a property of its age, the house had cavity walls. Once this had been established, all four houses in the terrace were able to benefit from cavity wall insulation.

Electricity consumption: all domestic appliances are A-rated for energy efficiency and clothes are dried outside. The majority of the lights throughout the house are low energy, and less efficient overhead halogen lights are used as little as possible. We track the energy consumption with an OWL energy monitor, switching off lights and appliances when they are not needed.

Secondary heating: an oil condensing boiler (there is no gas in the village) was fitted for back up heating and hot water but is not required during summer months. At colder times of year the wood stove, passive solar gain and solar water heating heat the house and water.

Water: as 30% of domestic water consumption goes down the pan, a dual flush toilet was a must. The family opts for showers instead of baths as they consume a fraction of water. An unforeseen benefit was a sealed well in the back garden previously used to supply the terrace for domestic needs and is now used to water the plants.

What are the benefits of a low carbon home?
The house is warm and comfortable to live in, as well as bright and airy thanks to the building design and the harnessing of the natural heat of the sun. It also requires very little electricity, water and fuel, as the yearly bills confirm. With such low electricity and water use, the utility companies were initially regularly in contact to check whether the meters were accurate!

The combination of the wood burner acting as the household’s primary heat source, and the use of solar hot water, annual heating bills have been slashed by more than 75% compared with an equivalent house.

More to do
Next year we hope to install high-efficiency sash windows and a new sealed front door to further draught-proof the house.

Another aim is to replace all overhead halogen lighting in the living area and loft with efficient LED lights.

What is a “SuperHome”?
Having reduced its CO2 emissions by 62%, in 2009, the house achieved SuperHome status from the Sustainable Energy Academy and National Energy Foundation who together run the Old Home SuperHome Project, an alliance of exemplar low carbon homes across the UK.

Each SuperHome has been assessed for a range of energy efficiency criteria and found to have reduced its carbon footprint by over 60% compared to an equivalent home of its age and size. SuperHome owners hold regular open home days to encourage other home owners to take energy saving steps, helping the UK move towards its target to cut carbon emissions by 34% by 2020.

About us
Ian Daglish is a building consultant specialising in sustainable building refurbishments, with over 20 years’ experience as a building contractor. He has studied for an MSc in sustainable building from the Centre for Alternative Technology, the world’s leading centre for pioneering sustainable technologies.

Juliet Heller is a writer and communications consultant specialising in the environment and sustainable energy. See www.julietheller.co.uk. To arrange a visit or discuss ideas, email Juliet@julietheller.co.uk

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When electricity boards went on the offensive


This week is Energy Saving Week, so it's maybe appropriate that BBC4 has launched a three-part series, which shows how it is we came to use the amount of electricity we do.

The Secret Life of the National Grid is a three-part series that charts the development of Britain's national electricity grid and "how it sparked modern Britain into being - transforming our landscape, our politics and our lives".

Last night's programme showed how the Grid was established. Next week's programme shows how, once the Grid was established, great efforts were made to encourage people to use as much electricity as possible.

So electricity boards went on the offensive and actively promoted electrical appliances - particularly high current ones such as cookers and immersion heaters. Electricity showrooms became a fixture on high streets to entice the British to use electricity in their homes.

The series continues on 2nd and 9th November. (Pic: Greenpeace)

Read the Ashden Awards report Power to our neighbourhoods: towards integrated local sustainable energy solutions.

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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Gamesa invests €150 million in offshore wind in UK

Yesterday morning, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said, "I want us to be a world leader in offshore wind energy."

A few hours later, the Spanish company, Gamesa, announced plans to base the worldwide centre of its offshore business in the UK, investing up to €150 million through 2014.

Gamesa will also create a wind turbine blade manufacturing plant, a turbine assembly plant and associated R&D centre, port logistics and operation and maintenance services at different locations across the UK.

The British Ambassador to Spain, Giles Paxman, blogs today that this is:

a terrific vote of confidence in the UK’s future leadership in wind energy.

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Energy Saving Week: Ashden winners tackle energy-saving in businesses

Global Action Plan - 2008 Ashden Award winner
It's Energy Saving Week, and we're highlighting how Ashden winners are saving energy. Yesterday we looked at community-based initiatives, today it's energy-saving in businesses.

Ashden winners have been helping businesses to save millions and cut carbon emissions. ENWORKS in the North West has worked with over 10,000 companies since 2002. By helping businesses to use its online resource efficiency toolkit, it can show how new installations, changes in manufacturing processes, or behaviour changes, can impact on carbon emissions and competitiveness. ENWORKS is currently helping businesses with annual cost savings of £117 million and savings of 855,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Global Action Plan (GAP) encourages behaviour change within the workplace by enabling businesses to develop their own energy-savvy teams called ‘Environment Champions’. Usually, around 20 staff work with GAP to understand where and how energy is used within the company, before creating a plan for tackling it.

We especially like the energy bike which GAP loans to companies for awareness-raising events (pic). You get to feel - through the burn in your thighs - just how much energy it takes to light a bulb, run a laptop or play an ipod. GAP has worked with over 70 companies and trained 1,200 people, influencing 86,000 staff and saving around 9,300 CO2 tonnes a year.

You can find out about the energy saving work of all of our Award winners from our website. Tomorrow we'll be hearing from members of the Ashden team who are saving energy by refurbishing their homes.

More on Energy Saving Week
Obama says energy efficiency will get US "quarter of the way"
Ashden winners tackle energy saving in the community
This week is Energy Saving Week

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Three simple energy-saving steps could save £2 billion

The latest research for the Energy Saving Trust claims that UK householders could save more than £2 billion every year by taking three simple energy-saving steps.

The report says that if every UK householder that was able to went and insulated their cavity walls and lofts up to 270mm, replaced old fashioned bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and turned their appliances off standby, owners would not only save hundreds of pounds a year on their fuel bills but also cut nearly 10 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to taking almost 3.5 million cars off UK roads.

More on Energy Saving Week
Obama says energy efficiency will get US "quarter of the way"
Winners tackle energy saving in the community
This week is Energy Saving Week

Hat-tip: Edie.

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Obama says energy efficiency will get US "quarter of the way there"

This week is Energy Efficiency Week. In this interview with National Journal, President Obama argues that whatever you think about climate change, energy efficiency still makes sense.

So my approach to Republicans would be to say, "Regardless of what you think about climate change, here are a bunch of things that are smart to do. It will save consumers money, it will save the country as much money going into foreign oil imports, so let’s concentrate on things that we just know are smart to do." If we do that, we can probably get a quarter of the way there in terms of where we need to be in terms of carbon emissions.


(Hat-tip: DotEarth)

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South Africa plans biggest solar plant in world

South Africa unveils plans for world's biggest solar power plant. Giant mirrors and solar panels in Northern Cape would reduce carbon emissions and generate one-tenth of the country's energy needs. The government says the Northern Cape province is among the sunniest 3 percent of regions in the world with minimal cloud or rain.

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Monday, 25 October 2010

Energy Saving Week: how Ashden winners tackle energy saving in communities

Marches Energy Agency - 2009 Ashden Award winner
This week is Energy Saving Week, so it's a good time to ask the question: how do you stimulate change across communities and businesses to make real reductions in energy use?


Ashden winners have been grappling with this issue and producing innovative results. Take the 2010 winner Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, an impressive example of community-led change. The Trust was bought out by the community in 1997, and its efforts have led to a staggering 47% reduction in energy use.

They’ve achieved this by producing about 90% of their own electricity through renewables, offering incentives to install insulation and other energy-saving measures in the home, and, crucially, getting the community to monitor and keep their energy use below 5kW in homes and 10kW in businesses.

Communities also play a big role in the work of 2009 winner Marches Energy Agency (pic). They followed the Low Carbon Communities programme which helps communities to understand the issues (through fairs and presentations), and then to pursue, with access to grants and technical assistance, clear carbon-reduction targets. This has led to 1,400 technical installations in homes, businesses and community buildings across six local areas saving around 1,715 tonnes of CO2 (about 5% of the overall community use).

Tomorrow we profile two Ashden winners who work to reduce the energy use of businesses. Over the rest of this week, we’ll be writing more about the experiences of members of the Ashden awards team who are retrofitting their homes.

See also:
A trip to the Isle of Eigg

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Sunday, 24 October 2010

100 objects in 5 minutes with solar lantern at 4 mins 50 secs

This blog has probably run more posts than any other blog on the 100th object in A History of The World. But then, these 100 objects stretch back from the Olduvai stone chopping tool, made two million years ago, to the solar-powered lantern, made this year, and illustrated by an Ashden Award winner.

For those who missed the series, you can watch the five-minute version here, with the solar lantern coming in seconds before the end.

If you have more than five minutes, you can read our other posts here:

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This week is "Energy Saving Week"


This week is Energy Saving Week. At the Energy Saving Trust - which helps people be more energy efficient in their homes and save money on their energy bills - they are going to concentrate on one area of energy efficiency each day:

Monday 25th Launch day
Tuesday 26th Insulation
Wednesday 27th Generate your own energy
Thursday 28th Energy saving products
Friday 29th Transport

This blog will also be hearing about energy efficiency from members of the Ashden Awards team. There will be reports and photographs from both Mike's eco-refurbishment of his new home and Juliet's success in turning her Edwardian terraced house in Essex, which had "felt small, cold and dark", into a SuperHome. We'll also hear about Sarah's visit over the weekend to another SuperHome, this one belonging to John Doggart, chairman of the Sustainable Energy Academy, an Ashden Award winner in 2009.


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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Climate hawks


"Planetarians", "decarbonists", "sustainablists", "transitionists", "green patriots" ... David Roberts at Grist wants a new name to describe a significant group of people who support clean energy and action on climate change, but don't want to be labelled as environmentalists. As he sees it,

there are plenty of people who understand climate change and support clean energy but do not share the rest of the ideological and sociocultural commitments that define environmentalism as historically understood in the U.S.

He's come up with another term: "climate hawks".

See seven pages of comments that follow.

[Crosspost.]

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Friday, 22 October 2010

Nick Stern says solar power can free communities from corrupt practices

Carla Jones, from the Ashden Awards communications team, writes about this morning's 100th Object

I’ve been aware of the impressive health and economic benefits of off-grid solar lamps. But what struck me this morning from Lord Stern’s comments was the idea that solar energy can bring political empowerment.


As well as being a more practical solution for the world’s rural communities, off-grid and local energy can also free people from the possibility of corruption.

Lord Stern (pictured) told Neil MacGregor:

“One of the great things about solar power is freedom from the grid. In many parts of the world, particularly the developing world, particularly South Asia and Africa, it is extremely unreliable.

Also the energy is unreliable from the point of view of interventions from corrupt people – it’s all too easy to flick a switch and turn off your energy supply and then demand payment to put it back on.

With solar power you can organise it yourself, you’re in control. So it’s really empowering relative to relying on the grid system”

It's one more way that solar energy allows people within rural communities to take control over their own lives.

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In one hour from the sun, we get enough energy for a year

Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review, explains to Neil MacGregor the potential of the solar panel and why we are on the verge of a new industrial revolution.

"One of the great advantages of solar energy is that as far as we humans are concerned, it's almost limitless. Why? Because in one hour we get as much energy from the sun on the earth as we use right across the planet in one year. And further, the cost of accessing that limitless supply of energy is really crashing down. Just in the last couple of years, the cost of a solar panel has fallen by about half."

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100th Object introduces us to "the noise of a new day"

Sarah Butler-Sloss, founder director of the Ashden Awards, says this morning's broadcast about the 100th Object brought a fresh perspective to how we think about solar energy.

Today's programme rightly stressed the importance and benefits that solar energy can bring to the 1.6 million people without access to electricity, in terms of improvements to health, education and livelihoods. It also made clear the freedom and independence that this technology brings.

But what the programme brought us, most of all, was a really fresh and exciting perspective. It was very powerful to hear Nicholas Stern say that we are at the start of a new industrial revolution. It was also fascinating to hear how myths from around the world show how humans have always dreamt of storing energy from the sun.


And it was very moving, after having been reminded how much solar energy could achieve today, to hear the recording of the sun, and to have it described as "the noise of a new day". Let's hope that it is.

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100th object reminds us of extraordinary amount the semiconductor transistor has done for 21st century life

Anne Wheldon, Senior Advisor for the Ashden Awards, writes

Neil MacGregor couldn’t have made a better choice for his 100th object than the solar panel with lamp and charger, not just for what it does, but for what it stands for.

The solar cell is the younger sister of the semiconductor transistor, the key invention that started the semiconductor industry. For me, the solar panel stands for all the science and technology which has gone into the semiconductor industry, providing the computers, mobile phones, communications and entertainment that are 21st century life.

Already solar cells are powering crucial parts of the semiconductor world, from communications satellites to lamps and chargers. And now there are real signs that solar will move from niche to bulk power supply.

pic: John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956 for their invention of the semiconductor transistor.

See also 100th Object going "to change the way we think", After today's 99th object, one more to go, From 100th Object to 100s of solar projects, What the Twitterverse thinks of 100th Object, 100th Object: "a story worthy of this generation", Solar-powered lamp revealed as 100th Object, Tomorrow’s vote on 100th object keeps solar in the news, Solar lamp an icon in social entrepreneurship and Will solar powered lamp be 100th object?

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100th object going "to change the way we think"

In an hour's time, the British Museum director Neil MacGregor will give the last of his 100 talks in A History of the World. The 100th object is the solar-powered lantern.

A History of the World, or AHOW, has not focussed on the history of conflict, or the clash of personalities, but on the history of things, how things influence one another, and how those things have changed the way we live. It's global, generous, and disarming.

The statistics bear this out. Half of the 10 million downloads have been from outside the UK.

At the very start we learnt about the Olduvai stone-chopping tool (picture) the oldest humanly-made object in the British Museum. The choice of the solar-powered lantern is entirely consistent with that early choice. Last week, Neil MacGregor said the idea of capturing the sun is:

"the oldest myth of every culture in the world. You can take the sun and use it whenever you want. The myths in Ancient Egypt, and every culture, are now reality ... We felt that this was a kind of tool that – like the stone chopping tool – is really going to change lives, to change the way we think and the way we are."

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Thursday, 21 October 2010

After today's 99th object, one more to go

The 96th object in A History of the World in a 100 Objects was a Russian Revolutionary plate. The 97th object was a David Hockney print showing two men in bed. The 98th object was the Throne of Weapons made out of guns. The 99th object was a credit card.

Tomorrow at 9.45am, and then again at 7.45pm, the British Museum's director Neil MacGregor will discuss the 100th object, the solar-powered lantern, and the future of renewable, non-polluting energy that has the potential to liberate the developing world.

On this blog tomorrow, we will have comments about the broadcast from Ashden Awards' founder director, Sarah Butler-Sloss, senior adviser Anne Wheldon, and other members of the Ashden team. We'll also round-up what others are saying on blogs and tweets about the 100th Object.

See also From 100th Object to 100s of solar projects, What the Twitterverse thinks of 100th Object, 100th Object: "a story worthy of this generation", Solar-powered lamp revealed as 100th Object, Tomorrow’s vote on 100th object keeps solar in the news, Solar lamp an icon in social entrepreneurship and Will solar powered lamp be 100th object?

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Decc fares better than Defra in CSR 2010

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) takes one of the smallest overall cuts of just 5% per year with nuclear power, green energy and climate change initiatives escaping relatively unharmed.


The self-proclaimed "greenest government ever" will deliver the third biggest cut in day-to-day spending to its environment department, the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra), with a cut in resource spending of 8% a year, or 29% by the end of the spending review period.

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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Nef, WWF and Green Alliance respond to CSR cuts

The New Economics Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund and the Green Alliance have responded online to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne's defence of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Nef believes the Government is seriously underestimating the benefit that greater investment in renewable energy industry could provide.

WWF says the £1bn for a green investment bank falls far short of what leading economists have called for; it is at most only a quarter of what will be required.


Green Alliance says the Government has has yet to follow through on its commitment to set up a powerful Green Investment Bank, a fund with no ability to raise money on the financial markets would be too small to make an impact.

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Energy efficiency now key consideration for new homes

More than three quarters of home owners say energy efficiency is a key consideration when looking for a new home. It had once been a "neutral issue", but now “energy efficiency is creeping up the wish-list for house buyers”.

See also Siberian swans focus minds on winter
Mike insulates the roof

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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Siberian swans focus minds on winter insulation

Second Nature - 2005 Ashden Award winner
Today's Daily Telegraph carries the picture of Siberian swans who arrived in Britain at the weekend. Their arrival is taken as a sign that we're in for Arctic conditions.

Time to think, then, of heating and home insulation. When you consider we need to retrofit 12,500 homes a week to meet our government targets by 2050 we need to act swiftly and at scale to treat our housing stock.

Gloustershire Warm and Well, have taken the imperative and approached the neediest in the community, offering discounts and even free insulation to those on low incomes. Kirklees council have worked impressively across entire areas engaging community groups and offering cavity wall and loft insulation work. For those with an interest in alternative insulation, Second Nature have developed thermafleece made from sheep’s wool. This innovative product is safer to handle, has a breathable structure and a significantly lower embodied energy. Finally, Kensa Engineering and Geothermal International make it evident that renewable sources of heating, such as through ground source heat pumps, are important counterparts to staying warm through the winter.

Meanwhile, in his latest blog about his own eco-refurbishment, Ashden's UK manager Mike Pepler has wisely just put in the roof insulation. You can read his step-by-step guide here.

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Monday, 18 October 2010

Action on biodiversity must address multiple issues

As the Convention on Biodiversity opens in Japan, the common theme in the media coverage is the interconnectedness of the environmental problems we are facing: climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss and deforestation all impact on one another.

It's vital to focus attention on finding practical solutions that tackle multiple issues. In today's Guardian, George Monbiot considers the draft declaration on biodiversity and decries the absence of any co-ordinated practical pledges.

See also: Andrew Marr says this issue hasn't got its Al Gore

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Action-packed day of blogging about water

Friday’s Blog Action Day – where the subject was water – had 5656 blogs from 143 countries reaching 40 million readers. This blog contributed with:


Blog Action Day: Power Through Water, For Twitter users, the hashtag is #BAD10. Check out a live feed of #BAD10 posts.

For last year's Blog Action Day on climate change, Svati Bhogle, from TIDE, a 2008 Ashden Award winner, wrote about "the efficient use of energy, as different from abuse in the developed world and misuse in the developing world."

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Friday, 15 October 2010

Blog Action Day | Power through water

ITDG East Africa - 2004 Ashden Award winner
Our winners are ingenious in their use of the water in rivers and streams to provide a renewable source of electricity, lighting homes, improving businesses and empowering communities. From providing security to rural communities in Southern Brazil, replacing dwindling firewood supplies in Pakistan or electrifying remote communities on the slopes of Mount Kenya, the local mini-hydro projects installed by Ashden winners unequivocally demonstrate the power in water.

See also: Ram pumps provide water for 50,000 people
Surfing 4,623 blogs on water
Treadle pumps bring water to nearly 4m people
4,482 bloggers writing on one topic: water
Blog action day announces water as this year's topic
For Twitter users, the hashtag is #BAD10. Check out a live feed of #BAD10 posts.

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Blog Action Day | Ram pumps provide fresh water for 50,000 people

AID Foundation: 2007 Ashden Award winner
When you live on steep hillside it is tough to access clean water. Long climbs up from the valleys mean that water use is limited to cooking and drinking with little left over for crops. The Alternative Indigenous Development (AID) Foundation, however, has changed that for communities in Negros in the Philippines. The ram pumps that AID Foundation installs use the power of the water flowing in the spring, stream or river to lift a small fraction of the water up to the villages where it is needed. More crops now grow and the villagers are healthier due to better hygiene – all without the use of fossil fuels. 170 ram pumps have now been installed in 151 villages, bringing fresh water to 50,000 people. AIDFI won an Ashden Award in 2007 and this year a finalist for BBC World Challenge.

See also: Surfing 4,623 blogs on water
Treadle pumps bring water to nearly 4m people
4,482 bloggers writing on one topic: water
Blog action day announces water as this year's topic
For Twitter users, the hashtag is #BAD10. Check out a live feed of #BAD10 posts.

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Surfing 4,623 blogs on water

Well now it's 4,623 bloggers reaching 34 million readers.


You can read some really scary facts about water. Or you can watch the story of bottled water. Or you can get tips about using vegetable water for cooking rice. Or you can learn about the daily search for water from an indigenous blogger in Balochistan, Pakistan.

Or you can read the vicar's wife on the relationship between drinking water and sewers. Or a Foreign Office mandarin on rain water catchment tanks in Kenya (maji ni uhai means 'water is life' in Swahili).

Or you can see how a picture of a woman in a bottle illustrates how this issue hits women hardest. Or you can follow the stats about #BAD10. Or hear about five water movies. Or get advice for gardeners.

And that's only 10 of the blogs out there. There's another 4,613 to go.

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Treadle pumps bring water to nearly 4m people

IDE India - 2006 Ashden Award winner
The demand for better irrigation in India is huge. 98 million farmers are smallholders and most only grow one crop a year, watered by the monsoon. For small farmers diesel pumps are too expensive meaning that any irrigation is slow and carried out by hand. In response, IDEI has set up a distribution system for their low-cost (US$30-US$42) treadle pump which have transformed the lives of smallholders in India.


The technology uses ‘foot power’ to pump water for crop irrigation. IDEI have even developed ‘drip’ irrigation systems– a way of making the very best use of limited water supplies through targeting it at very specific areas. Farmers can now grow two or even three crops a year and incomes in some areas have doubled. IDEI have installed over 750,000 treadle pumps bringing benefits to nearly four million people.

You can find out more about the technology behind treadle pumps from our website and watch IDEI's film on our YouTube page.

See also: 4,482 bloggers writing on one topic: water
Blog action day announces water as this year's topic
For Twitter users, the hashtag is #BAD10. Check out a live feed of #BAD10 posts.

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4,482 bloggers writing on one topic: water

Today is Blog Action Day 2010, when 4,482 bloggers (so far) from 133 countries will be blogging about a single topic to their 33 million readers. This year the subject is water.

We'll be blogging throughout the day about the best blogs, best tweets, and best practice, and sharing - along the way - the stories of Ashden Award winners in hydro and water pumping.

For Twitter users, the hashtag is #BAD10. Check out a live feed of #BAD10 posts.

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

From 100th Object to 100s of solar projects

REDP - 2008 Ashden Award winner
Today's news that the solar lamp and charger was the 100th Object was a terrific boost for those of us who see the enormous potential for local renewable energy solutions across the developing world.

Each year we are amazed by the excellence of business models and improved technologies used to bring solar power to the world’s poorest and the most remote parts of the world. This year was no exception. In 2010 we rewarded the work of TECNOSOL for providing solar powered electricity throughout rural Nicaragua, the Rural Energy Foundation for developing and strengthening the solar energy supply chain across sub-Saharan Africa and d.light design for making low cost, high quality, durable solar lanterns available to people in developing countries that have never had access to modern light.

Our winners are working in every sense to build a sustainable infrastructure and the local expertise to ensure modern energy can be accessed by rural communities. From training solar technicians and bringing affordable lighting to communities in Ethiopia, providing affordable solar power for small businesses in India to providing micro-finance for solar home systems.

We're delighted BBC Radio Four has recognised the power of solar in their ‘History of the World’.

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100th Object: "a story worthy of this generation"

Neil MacGregor on why he picked the solar-powered lamp

"One object alone cannot definitively sum up the world in 2010 but the aspiration to make clean, affordable power available to the most remote communities through the natural power of the sun is a story worthy of this generation."

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What the twitterverse thinks of 100th Object

One twitterer last night suggested the Chile rescue capsule be included as a last-minute entry on the short list for the 100th Object. But at 7.45am the solar-powered lamp was announced as the winner. The reaction in the twitterverse was largely positive. Some twitterers were "inexplicably annoyed" that it wasn't the mobile phone. But the mobile has been included in the British Museum display. And as Anne points out

All the great things you can do with a mobile phone don't work unless you have a power supply to charge the battery, and solar can provide that power anywhere.


Here are some of the reactions. For non-twitterers, AHOW stands for A History of the World.

@dmh10 Excellent choice - the solar powered lamp is that 100th item in #AHOW

@maccalarena Ok, phew - it's the solar powered lamp. And a mobile phone. #AHOW

@nigelcsmith First time I've heard a round of applause for a lamp #ahow

@bridgetmck @britishmuseum Thanks for choosing a solar object as the 100th #AHOW Hope BBC knows we're hungry for them to cover climate solutions #cach

@nikstanbridge I have one of these! RT @BBCRadio4: Unveiled @R4Today, the 100th #AHOW object: a solar-powered charger

@SamCrome The #AHOW British Museum 100th object is solar-powered lamp! Very pleased with this; fitting end to a fantastic series

@MattPByrne So the100th #ahow object is a solar-powered lamp representing global environmental sustainability - good choice I think

@Michael1952 The 100th object in History of the World in 100 Objects unveiled http://bbc.in/HOW100 I totally agree choice is 100% on the money ! #ahow

@Richardpagett RT @BBCRadio4: Solar panels like the #AHOW 100th object will power access to knowledge for the world's poorest

and - a view shared by this office today -

@ascorbic I think A History of the World in 100 Objects might just be the greatest radio show of the millennium. #100objects #AHOW

Follow AshdenAwards on Twitter.

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100th object offers solution to two of our biggest problems


Latest: Neil MacGregor on why he picked the solar-powered lamp

Update: Watch the video as Neil MacGregor explains to Evan Davis why the solar-powered lamp was the 100th object.

Evan Davis says

I have to say, in my view, absolutely right to pick an object or objects that are relevant to the whole world, not just the West.

Sarah Butler-Sloss, founder-director of the Ashden Awards, says

It's great news that the solar lantern is the 100th object. It's a small object that represents a solution to two of our biggest global problems: climate change and poverty.

How we tackle climate change and how we reduce poverty are vital questions to address if we are going to survive the 21st Century. Clean renewable energy has to be the energy of the future and affordable, accessible energy is crucial for ending poverty. This 100th object meets both those challenges.

Ashden's Senior Advisor, Anne Wheldon, says

I thought that the solar lantern was up against stiff competition with the mobile phone, particularly now that phones mean banking and the internet as well as calls and SMS. But Neil MacGregor was so right. All the great things you can do with a mobile phone don't work unless you have a power supply to charge the battery, and solar can provide that power anywhere.


See also Solar-powered lamp revealed as 100th Object, Tomorrow’s vote on 100th object keeps solar in the news, Solar lamp an icon in social entrepreneurship and Will solar powered lamp be 100th object?

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Solar-powered lamp revealed as 100th Object

The British Museum has just revealed the object that will conclude A History of the World - a lamp with the power to enhance lives the world over. The 100th object had to be


an object that tells the story of the ingenuity and the challenges that shape humanity in the 21st century.

The result was announced on the Today programme at 7.45am this morning by the British Museum's director Neil MacGregor. He said:

We are still making things that change the world and change the way we are ... What solar power does is give a whole range of people power over their lives.


Update: Watch the video as Neil MacGregor explains to Evan Davis why the solar-powered lamp was the 100th object. Evan Davis ends

I have to say, in my view, absolutely right to pick an object or objects that are relevant to the whole world, not just the West.

See also Tomorrow’s vote on 100th object keeps solar in the news, Solar lamp an icon in social entrepreneurship and Will solar powered lamp be 100th object?

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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Tomorrow's vote on 100th Object keeps solar in the news

The fifth of the five contenders for the 100th Object in A History of the World in 100 Objects was announced today: the pestle and mortar. The other four are a football shirt, a mobile phone, an Antarctic suit and - the one we're all rooting for - the solar-powered lamp and charger.


As its example of a solar-powered lamp and charger, the BBC's website features the D.light Nova Model. The 2010 Ashden Gold Award went to D.light Design for their work in bringing solar power to rural communities across the developing world.

It's been a newsworthy couple of weeks for solar. President Obama announced he was going to put solar panels back on the White House roof. President Nasheed of the Maldives personally installed solar panels on the roof of his residence. And this week in Los Angeles, there is the Solar Power International 2010. One CEO there says

The solar industry is wrapping up its most successful year ever. Solar is now the fastest growing energy industry in the U.S., employing nearly 100,000 Americans

Today's Guardian carries the news that installation levels in the UK are hitting five times what they were in 2009.

The name of the 100th object will be announced on Radio 4 tomorrow and feature in the broadcast on 22 October.

Pic. Ned Tozun from D.light Design receives his 2010 Ashden Award from Sir David Attenborough

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Six days to go for international awards deadline

A big thanks to the websites and tweeters who have spread our call for entries for the 2011 Ashden Awards. We now have less than a week left for international entries (deadline 19th October) and less than two weeks for UK entries (deadline 26th October). For UK entries, click here. For international entries, click here.

For the UK awards, thanks to (among others) Transition Network, IFV News, Fundraising.co.uk, Sustainability West Midlands, Keep Wales Tidy, Education Executive and Energy Saving Trust. For the international awards, thanks to (among others) REEEP, GVEP, SEED International, International Union for Conservation of Nature, PCIA, Scidev.net, Renewable Energy Focus, News from Africa and on Twitter thanks to (among others) @CleanEnergyOrg, @REfocusmag, @Stevebenvirotec, @NEW_FRONTIERS, @GreenFutures, @WelHatCouncil, @vphase, @LifeSizeMedia, @EnergySvgTrust, @paulbrichardson, @richgreenhouse, @GroundworkLON, @groundworkuk, @simonredding, @centre_alt_tech, @LBSecoschools, @ArchitypeUK, @NEW_FRONTIERS, @LearnFromNature, @kimtrapese, @groundworkuk, @ogunte, @wpartnerships and @Lovechaweng.


Thanks also to those who have spread the word through mail-outs and e-bulletins.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Solar lamp an "icon in social entrepreneurship"

The public has come up with 23 pages of suggestions for the 100th object in A History of the World in 100 Objects.

These range from the iPhone ("epitomises our hyper-connected reality") to the washing machine ("liberated western women from domestic duties") to the plastic water bottle ("symbol of our wastefulness").

The solar-powered lamp is one of the four (out of five) contenders that have so far been selected by the series makers for the shortlist.

One of the most recent comments on the BBC's blog - from Elaine Khoo in Singapore - supports the specific example of the D.light solar-powered lamp.

it is an icon of the gravitational shift of social entrepreneurship - the focus of designing for consumers at the bottom of the pyramid which even the Fortune 500s are scrambling to get right.

One of this year's Ashden Award winners, D.Light has already sold over 220,000 units in over 30 countries via a network of rural entrepreneurs.

The 100th object will be announced on Thursday.

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Will solar-powered lamp be 100th object of the world?

The solar-powered lamp and charger has been chosen as the fourth contender for the 100th Object of the World.

On Radio 4 this morning, the Today presenter Evan Davis inspected "a plastic and metal object that's about 15 centimetres by 10 centimetres".


The British Museum curator Ben Roberts told Davis that one and half billion people don't have access to electricity and the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change. This small handheld object "actually addresses these global problems". Roberts explained that this small solar-powered lamp and charger could generate 100 hours of light. As the British Museum's blogger writes today,

As long as the sun shines, this object provides. It’s a life-changer and not just for a few of us. It could alter and secure the existence of billions.

The other three contenders to have been nominated are: a football shirt, a mobile phone and Antarctic clothing. The 100th object in A History of the World in 100 Objects will be announced on Thursday.

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Monday, 11 October 2010

Architype scoops top award for designing sustainable school

Architype has once again been recognised nationally for its outstanding work in sustainable design. It has scooped the RIBA Sorrell Foundation Schools Award for the ‘exceptional’ St Luke’s Primary School in Wolverhampton.

Founder Director of the Ashden Awards, Sarah Butler-Sloss said:
“It is fantastic to see Architype recognised again for its ground-breaking work in sustainable design. We hope others can learn from these excellent architects and replicate their work in future new school builds.”

The St Luke’s school is an exemplar of Architype’s commitment to low carbon energy sources and sustainable building materials. A biomass boiler provides under floor heating whilst the school’s insulation is made from treated newspaper. What is impressive about the St Luke’s project is not just the energy saving credentials of the building itself but the engagement and education it encourages for sustainability within a new generation. The eco-awareness of the young users is evident in this short film made by pupils about the new build.

Architype won an Ashden award in 2009 for their work in the sustainable design of buildings to minimise carbon emissions. You can view a film of their Ashden Award-winning work here. For more on all our award UK winners, visit our website.

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Friday, 8 October 2010

Two Ashden winners shine in energy access report

The Fondacion Ensemble is a French foundation that brings together human development and environmental protection. Its latest newsletter (pdf here) reports on the annual lunch for the Foundation's College of Experts, where the theme of the lunch was "innovative social entrepreneurship".


One of the speakers, Olivier Kayser, is managing director of Hystra Consultancy. His company has worked with Ashoka to produce a 100-page report, Access to Energy for the Base of the Pyramid (pdf here).

The report studied 150 projects in terms of their "economic viability" and "project scalability". When it came to the lunchtime talk, Kayser decided to single out two projects for praise.

The key discovery of these projects is to have started out from a base of what the beneficiary populations can manage to pay for them and to have already researched what can be done to improve them.

The two projects were SELCO and Grameen Shakti.

Both, of course, are Ashden Award winners.

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China winning race for green jobs

SolveClimate reports that China's green jobs from solar and other cleantech industries are growing faster than the US and other countries. The Clean Edge annual report says the Chinese government spent $34.6 billion last year to propel its low-carbon economy, more than any other nation and almost double what the U.S. invested.

More on China: as latest round of UN climate talks takes place in Tianjin, China, Oneclimate.net includes films of our winners as part of their webcast from the conference.

The Ashden Awards has four winners in China: the Shaanxi Mothers for domestic biogas and lighting; DAXU for stoves designed to burn crop waste; REDP for bringing affordable high-quality solar lighting to rural China; and Aprovecho Research Center and Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer for mass-producing affordable, efficient stoves.

We welcome applicants from China for 2011. As we've tweeted

领先世界的绿色能源奖邀请您申请2011年度的奖项!

http://bit.ly/cvYCiY #China #绿 #能 #奖

Pic: DAXU employee at work making stoves that burn crop waste

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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Brazil's ex-energy minister could become 'most powerful woman in the world'

The favourite to win Brazil's election this month is Dilma Rousseff (left). The Daily Mail says this would make her the most powerful woman in the world.

Rousseff was originally Secretary of State for Energy in the state government of Rio Grande do Sol (she went on to become National Minister for Energy and Chief of Staff in Lula's government).

Two Ashden Award winners come from Rio Grande do Sol.

CRERAL supplies electricity via the grid to 6,300 mainly rural customers.

CRELUZ has built six micro hydro plants which supply electricity to an area of 12,000km2, benefiting over 80,000 people.


Rousseff has been an active advocate for getting rural customers connected to the electricity grid, and set up the funding programme from which CRELUZ benefitted.

The Ashden Awards welcomes more applicants from Brazil. As we tweeted today:

O prêmio líder mundial para energia sustentável convida candidaturas para 2011 - Please RT through Brazilian networks! http://bit.ly/bQNqR8

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Four winners in China the UN delegates should follow


The latest round of UN climate talks is taking place in Tianjin, China. Oneclimate.net is including films of some of our winners as part of their webcast from the Climate Conference.

The Ashden Awards has four winners in China: the first, in 2006, was the Shaanxi Mothers for domestic biogas and lighting. The next year's winner was DAXU for stoves designed to burn crop waste. In 2008, Renewable Energy Development Project (REDP) won for bringing affordable high-quality solar lighting to rural China. Last year's winner was the Aprovecho Research Center and Shengzhou Stove manufacturer for mass-producing affordable, efficient stoves.

As we tweeted in Mandarin earlier this week, we welcome more applicants from China.

领先世界的绿色能源奖邀请您申请2011年度的奖项!

http://bit.ly/cvYCiY #China #绿 #能 #奖

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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

‘Communities of interest’ within business is a key driver for New Green Deal

Not enough is heard about the role of individuals and communities in driving down demand or, indeed, creating their own energy for the success of the government's new 'Green Deal'. This was the key idea I took from today’s series of talks at the Energy Solutions Expo and it was the message behind the session led by Tim Lunel, of the National Energy Foundation (NEF).


Tim said communities are not just those within streets and neighbourhoods, there are also ‘communities of interest’ within organisations, businesses and charities. There's a great example of measures taken by a ‘community of interest’ at Lunel’s own organisation, NEF, which practices what it preaches: NEF's buildings reach impressive standards of energy efficiency, consuming less than half of the industry best practice level. When people come together to act, it appears, they are capable of doing more collectively than they can on their own.

Ashden Award winners are also doing just that. Take the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. Through community-led initiatives, they have managed the demand and supply of renewable energy, reducing the islanders carbon by 50%. You can download a full case study and film of their work from our website.

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Obama to put solar panels back on the White House

On June 20 1979, Jimmy Carter put 32 solar-thermal panels on the roof of the White House.


In 1986 Ronald Reagan took the panels down. It was said the roof was leaking and work needed to be done. But as Scientific American writes

By 1986, the Reagan administration had gutted the research and development budgets for renewable energy at the then-fledgling U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and eliminated tax breaks for the deployment of wind turbines and solar technologies—recommitting the nation to reliance on cheap but polluting fossil fuels, often from foreign suppliers.

Yesterday it was announced that President Obama is putting solar panels back on the White House roof.

More on this: Dot Earth hints at the influence of the Maldive President; Huffington Post suggests the decision has more import after climate change legislation died in the Senate; the New York Times' Green blog says it's part of a broader administration push to promote renewable energy; Grist says 'presidents often act first in symbols'; and Business Week says one of the criteria for the winner will be 'how well it showcases American technology, products and know-how'.

For Ashden Award winners and how solar works, see the database for case studies.

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