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05 June 2008


Paul Barham

The question of how it is paid for must be addressed for any such scheme to work but we should be aware when vested interests want to backtrack or belittle efforts to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption in the built environment.

If some electrons are better than others it comes back to how they have been made to dance along the power lines - i.e. how much collateral damage has been done in the process.

Large scale renewables will not by themselves excite the number of electrons we currently ask to dance to our tune. So if we are not to remain reliant on fossil and nuclear fuels we must reduce the demands on the grid. Creating an interface for locally generated electricity and reducing demand through better insulated buildings will not square the equation but will be a move in the right direction.

Of course we still have to ask ourselves the big question: How do we make up the remaining shortfall between energy supply and demand?


I think you're missing an obvious angle on the question of on-site or off-site. It's politics and government departments.

In the face of glacial progress on large-scale renewables infrastructure (from BERR), CLG can get renewables plastered all over houses where appropriate with the stick of building regulations and the Code.

You could also argue that, in the face of climate change, we should be looking to stick renewables up wherever possible. If it's perfectly viable and appropriate to put a solar panel or biomass boiler/CHP into a development then we should make sure that happens.

A third argument for on-site is that we're not just talking about electricity - it's the old wasted heat / CHP angle.

Finally, it actually makes for a less expensive and more reliable grid infrastructure if a lot of our needs are met already on-site.

But of course off-site needs to be a big solution too, lots of sites won't be suitable for any significant energy generation and this is why the community fund idea has some mileage. It's also rather absurd to suggest that you can't draw a clear line between trading electrons whilst adding capacity to the grid, and doing nothing more than buy carbon offsetting credits for a new build. The latter is plainly missing an opportunity to put renewables in, and in the end we need them everywhere we can put them (where appropriate).

Michael Willoughby

I am with Paul, here. As indicated by the recent U-Turn on energy monitors (http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/140508.html) plus what some contacts have told me, DBERR is both in hock to the energy industry and very traditional in its beliefs about where energy should be produced and who should produce it.
DCLG, for all its faults, is better placed to steer the agenda through the built environment. The energy industry is somewhat missing through all of this; CLG's project seems to want to go around the space in the room where the missing elephant should be rather than waiting for it to lumber in. But at least it is doing something. And at least construction is, too.
But note that E.ON were involved, if peripherally, with the UKBGC report. Opening (power) lines of communication to the energy companies, convincing them that they are wanted in the debate, making people, such as us, interested in the sust built environment aware of their absence and their importance, can only be a good thing.
Construction should be proud that it is getting on with attempting to solve these problems by any means necessary rather than complaining about the impossibility of solving them. For even if these are impossible conundrums, leadership is certain to get the elephant lumbering into the front parlour better than any other alternative.

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