The UK is going greener

Electricity usage has been falling in the UK since 2002. Meanwhile, the grid has been getting cleaner by the year.

Wind, solar and hydro made up 27.5% of the UKs energy mix in 2020.

Go back 10 years to 2010 and that figure was only 6%.

You can take a deeper dive into the data by exploring the UK Electric Insights – provided by Drax.

The Dumbest Experiment in Human History

We’re using less energy and burning fewer fossil fuels, which is definitely a good thing! Every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of clean, renewable energy generated is a step in the right direction and a step away from what Elon Musk coinedthe dumbest experiment in human history“.

Even today, we still burn a lot of fossil fuels and other carbon emitters. Given climate change is now more pressing than ever, the drive for efficiency has never been more important.

So the scene is set: every kWh of consumption we can avoid is positive for the planet.

Energy Labels

From March 2021, you’ll start to see changes to appliance energy efficiency rating labels in the UK – and also across Europe. The old label will be phased out, being replaced with a new simpler one, aiming to promote higher standards of efficiency.

Each appliance type has its own label with additional info. For example, the TV label includes screen size, and the energy consumption of HDR mode. The label for fridges has a decibel rating (so you can compare noise levels) as well as the storage capacity.

The most noticeable difference is in the efficiency ratings. These have been simplified to an A to G scale. Before the range was A+++ to G-, which added complexity – especially as not all the labels were displayed on the chart!

Old UK Energy Label
The old UK energy label
New UK Energy Label
The new UK energy label

The new A to G label also has significantly stricter criteria – as it should if we’re to achieve our climate targets!

With every year, technology develops and efficiency improves – appliances need less power to do the same thing. As such we need to hold appliances to a higher standard. It’s worth remembering, this isn’t only good for the planet, it’s also good for your pocket. Buying a more efficient device which uses less energy will also save you money on energy bills!

If you bought a fridge in 2019 with an A+++ rating, that’d now be rated a B or C in the 2021 label.

If everyone stopped buying G rated products, manufacturers would stop making them. If more people buy A rated product, manufactures will put more research and development into making their products even more efficient – maybe forcing another label change! 😂

Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, Recycle, Replace

You can help by knowing and using your “Rs”!

  • Reduce usage where you can – turn off the TV instead of leaving it in standby mode
  • Reuse your existing fridge, TV or washing machine – if you don’t need a new one, don’t buy one!
  • Repair what you’ve got before looking for something new
  • Recycle or Repurpose the appliance you have so it can have a second life – upcycle where you can
  • Replace it with an energy efficient one – and only if you can’t do the other “Rs”

So next time you need a new appliance, check the “Rs” to see if you really do need a new one, and if you do, look out for the new energy efficiency label and use it to help you pick the most efficient one 🙂

The Future of Solar Energy

Sol-Term

Travelling Through Morocco

20 years ago my father retired from work, and to celebrate he gave me and my brothers £1000 each. I went to university and sat next to my buddy Sam, and asked her if she fancied going to spend the money on a holiday. I skateboarded to my favourite travel agents and booked flights to Morocco.

6 weeks, a long road trip. We divided the remaining money into daily allowance, $20 US per day. Not really enough. Well enough to eat, or travel, but not eat and travel. So on days that we travelled we only ate once, and on other days we ate twice. Not a lot though.

Anyway we wanted to go and see the sahara. We went from Casablanca via Radat and Meknes, down through Azru and all the way to Merzuga. It’s quite a thing to see. Then to Ouarzazate.

Now the Marocco of 20 years ago is not the country of today. And we were poor. We did not have enough money to take the national bus lines, we took the local buses, no windows, animals on the roof tied into canvas bags, goats inside. Today Ouarzazate is a world leader in solar energy.

Desert Solar Energy

Morocco wants to become a world leader in solar energy production. The development that is underway and newly online will eventually provide 20% of the country’s energy needs. It will be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world. The mirror technology it uses is different from the photovoltaic panels that we see on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down.

The system uses mirrors to heat an oil, known as heat transfer solution (HTF). Each parabolic mirror is 12 metres high and focussed on a steel pipeline carrying HTF that is warmed to 393C. It then goes into a heat transfer plant, is mixed with water that turns into steam and drives turbines.

In order to operate after dark excess heat is used to turn sand molten, the heat being released overnight allowing the plant to function for a few hours longer, and the plan is that in a couple of years time it will be able to operate 24 hours a day.

Distribution

If Morocco becomes self sufficient through solar wind and hydro, they will look towards exporting. There have been several projects involving laying power lines from North Africa into europe (Libia to italy comes to mind) but as far as I know nothing is currently operational.

For more details check out this article in the Guardian.

Continuity in Renewable Energy

air

Renewable Energy

Here at Technology Bloggers we are all great fans of renewable energy developments, so I was extremely interested in a project that has just received funding on the Northern Irish coast.

As we all know there are problems with wind and tidal electricity generation, not least due to the weather, lack of wind, sun and sea swell being the obvious thoughts. But developers have an interesting proposal that may work towards alleviating some of these problems.

The idea is to use excess power to compress air and store it in huge caverns underground, to then use it to drive turbines when the wind drops. Sounds like a great idea, but of course there are always pros and contras for these things.

The caverns have to be mined, about 1.5 km below ground, and this will be done using a salt water erosion process. Simply put, a bore is drilled down, water pumped in that will circulate as if in a bottle, erode the surrounding rock salt and be washed out of a drain hole into the sea. The salt solution that comes out with then disperse into the wider sea.

When the cavern is ready, wind turbines will be used to force air into them, which can then be released in a controlled manner to turn turbines on days when you couldn’t dry a handkerchief in the back garden.

Environmental Concerns

So it sounds great, but there are of course those who argue that it is not a good idea. What will the impact be of pumping all of this salt solution into the sea? I think everyone concerned realizes that it will kill wildlife over an area, but how big that area might be, how long it will take to recover and how much damage it will do seems to be under debate.

Some locals suggest that it might lead to an industrial wasteland.

More is explained on this BBC report. Once again a new and possibly extremely positive power development brings the many complexities surrounding renewable energy sources. Issues of responsibility loom large, as do issues of public engagement and risk.

One to follow.