How the UK Government is going to cut carbon one building at a time and what we can all learn
The UK Government has just launched their Green Deal earlier this month. It’s the UK’s largest attempt to retro fit homes with insulation and Green technologies. The Governments aim is to cut carbon output by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, it’s a big ask and can’t be achieved by policy alone. The Governments aim is to get 14 million homes upgraded through the initiative.
How are they going to achieve this? Well there is one big incentive to kick things off: no upfront costs to the home or business owner. This will hopefully get people motivated, because apathy is rampant when it comes to Green Technologies. If I said to you that you could save £80/$100 per year by insulating your loft properly you’d probably say yes—but that means clearing out my loft, and that’s a pain!
With constant changes in lifestyle and behavior, there needs to be a motivation or incentive to drive the project forward. Luckily we have created international Gas and Oil markets that keep driving the cost of domestic gas and oil higher and higher; swaying the nay saiers is therefore becoming easier. Everyone understands the simple concept of saving money and finding cheaper alternatives.
What the UK Government has recently realized is you cannot just offer subsidies to energy created by solar panels. They attempted this, and all that happened is the middle classes cashed in on selling the Government back green electricity. What is needed first is to look at the fabric of the buildings to make sure they have the highest standards of insulation possible, before you start to look at micro power generation.
All buildings that want to be part of the Green Deal have to go through an assessment to see what insulation is present and how the building is used by the occupiers. Insulation has come on leaps and bounds over the past decade and the energy savings can be huge. If you are thinking about installing green technology, first think about insulation. You can save money by not turning on your air conditioning or heating because you have properly insulated your building.
You can’t see insulation, and it isn’t sexy. This is the fundamental problem that we all have to get over. You are going to have to pay for something that will save you money and be a good return on investment over the longer term, a bit like servicing your car. The best way to assess your home is to start at the top and work down:
- Lofts, they should be properly insulated with at least 28 cm of insulation above the ceilings.
- Walls, internal walls should have dense insulation between the otter plaster board skins.
- External walls can either be rendered in an insulating skin or cladding. You can also insulate external walls form the inside if you have a listed or historic building
- Windows should be at least double glazed with the most energy efficient glass you can buy.
- External doors should be composites of dense insulation foam and fiberglass skins.
- Flooring should be looked at and consider under-floor heating if the building is undergoing major renovations.
Micro Power Generation
Once you have got over the initial costs of properly insulating your home or business, you can turn to how the building is heated and lit. The use of the building and its geographic location will determine what kind of technology you should install.
For example in sunny climates solar panels can be a massive boon. A good application for solar panels would be a school building, as power is used and generated at the same time throughout the day. For cooler climates there have been some excellent progress in both ‘air source’ heat pumps and ‘ground source’ heat pumps, which use the ambient air/ground temperature to generate electricity and are not dependent on the sun.
At the end of all this are two major questions you have to ask yourself: am I going to make enough savings by employing these technologies to justify their expense? And secondly, do I think global costs for fossil fuels are going to rise in the future?
If you can work out the costs and savings and answer the two questions above, then the Green Deal Initiative’s central premise can be applied by anyone, anywhere in the world. Costs for Green technologies, like solar panels, have halved in recent years so these technologies are becoming more and more attractive to the majority of society.
Hopefully this article has given you an insight into a Government initiative that can be copied on a building by building application and has given you some ideas for your home or business.
Sohaib writes for the Green Deal Initiative, a website dedicated to simplifying the UK Governments rather complicated Green Deal. When he isn’t around promoting the installation of green technologies, you’ll find him backpacking around Europe’s craziest destinations.