Introduction - Energy conservation
Energy conservation refers to the variety of methods by which the use of all types of energy, but in particular electricity and motor vehicle fuels, is limited or reduced. It may be achieved by:
- greater efficiency - for example, more economic fuel consumption in motor vehicles, cavity wall and roof instulation, and low-energy light bulbs in the home
- the use of alternative sources of energy that are less wasteful or are renewable
The UK Sustainable Development Strategy recognises that everyone has the right to clean, healthy and safe environment. This can be achieved by reducing pollution. The use of non-renewables such as fossil fuels cannot be stopped overnight, but they can be used more efficently and sustainably, and the development of alternatives should be used to help phase them out. The UK Sustainable Development Strategy recognises the need to develop more environmentally-friendly transport, energy production and waste management schemes.
The UK governments 2007 White Paper on energy set out a range of energy conservation initiatives, including:
- the introduction of 'smart' electricity meters using real-time displays in peoples homes by 2010 so that people can see how much electricty they are using.
- tougher environmental standards for new-build homes and other products.
- working with industry to phase out inefficient goods, such as televisions with energy-consuming standby modes.
- tripling the amount of electricity produced from renewable sources by 2015.
- setting up the worlds first carbon trading scheme for large companies and organisations, such as banks, supermarkets and local authorities.
- providing £20 million of funding for public procurement of low-carbon vehicles and £35 million for green transport research.
Designing homes for sustainabilty
In 2004 more than a quater of the UKs carbon dioxide emissions came from energy used in the home. The government's code for Sustainable Homes was introduced to provide guildlines for the design and construction of new sustainable homes. The code is intended as a single national stardard industry. It will complement the system of Energy Performance Certificates, introduced in 2007, which provide key information about energy efficiency and carbon performance of the home. Although compliance with the code is voluntary, the governement intends to make it mandatory in 2016. Zero carbon homes costing less than £500,000 will be exempt from stamp duty.
The code measure sustainabilty of a home against the following design catergories:
- energy use and carbon dioxide emissions
- water use
- use of materials
- surface water runoff
- waste production
- health and well being
The code will ensure the following benefits to the environments:
- reduced greenhouse gas emissions
- better adaptation to climate change
- reduced overall impact on the environment
To be awarded the highest-level status according to the code, a home will have to produce zero carbon dioxide emissions fron all energy use. This could be achieved by:
- improving thermal efficiency of the walls, windows and roof by using more instulation or triple glazed windows
- istalling a high-effiency condensing boiler or being part of a district heating systems such as the one set up by Southampton District Council.
- carefully designing the fabric of the to reduce heat loss between the inner and outer walls
- using low and zero carbon technologies, such as solar panels, biomass boilers, wind turbines and combined heat and power systems. Electricty taken from the National grid would have to be replaced by low or zero carbon-generated energy so that over the course of a year the net emissions were zero
- installation of energy efficient dimestic appliances and lighting
- improved daylighting by fitting larger windows
- using environmentally friendly building material
In June 2007 the UK government proposed the building of five eco-towns, each with upto 100,000 homes. The first eco-villages announced by the English Partnerships Regeneration Agency are to be constructed on brownfield sites at Hanham Hall in Bristol and Glebe Road in Peterborough. These settlements will feature solar and wind power and will use district heating systems.
Designing workplaces for sustainability
Businesses are under pressure to reduce thier carbon footprints and thier unstainable energy use. There are a number of ways that businesses can be run more sustainably, such as car sharing schemes and incentives to encourage employees to work from home.
The Carbon Trust is working with businesses and the public sector in the UK to help cut carbon emissions. It provides practical expertise and resources, including funding.