Low Carbon Network Archive
With more people taking an interest in understanding their own carbon emissions, the latest meeting of the Buckland Low Carbon Network focused on sharing ideas on simple ways to estimate your own household carbon footprint.
We heard that over the last 15 years, most of the reductions achieved in the UK’s carbon emissions have come from the shift to renewable power generation, and from less carbon-intensive industry, but that there has been little progress in reducing our household carbon emissions. We heard that we are unlikely to be able to achieve our national targets for reducing our carbon emissions unless we make much faster progress in reducing our household emissions. The average UK household is responsible for 10-12 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, and this will need to come down to 6-7 tonnes per year by 2030 if we are to hit our national targets.
With this in mind, we looked at the five big drivers of carbon emissions, that account for more than 80% of household emissions for most households – heating (by gas or oil), cars (petrol or diesel), electricity (from the grid), air travel, and emissions generated in producing and transporting the food that we buy. The meeting explored simple ways of estimating your own household’s carbon emissions from each of these five sources, to compare to the national average.
Finally, we looked at the options for achieving a step change reduction in our own household carbon footprint, and how we could simply estimate the impact of different options in our own context. Participants shared their experiences so far, and what they are considering as next steps. We discussed how our households might plan to transition to a more sustainable basis over the next 8 years to 2030.
Options for reducing energy bills and emissions – 18th October 2022
With the rapid rise of energy prices in recent months, our latest meeting of the Buckland Low Carbon Network focused on reducing our household energy bills and carbon emissions at the same time.
We shared ideas on simple steps that could be taken to reduce household energy consumption without significant investment.
We also heard that the big increases in energy prices are making it a much more attractive option to invest to reduce our household energy consumption (for those who can afford it), with a much shorter payback period for investments. The options fall into two main groups:
* Investing to improve household insulation, to reduce heating bills (walls, roof, windows, floors, etc.)
* Investing to generate some of your own energy (eg renewable heating, solar panels, solar water heating)
Information was shared on typical installation costs for each of these options, and typical annual savings in both energy costs and carbon emissions.
We were fortunate to be joined by Jason Rivolta of local roofing and insulation company About Roofing, who shared with us information on recent developments in insulation options for houses, and to hear the experiences of local residents who have undertaken some of these steps.
A visit to Koya – 28th June 2022
With spiralling energy prices, energy efficiency is on everyone’s mind at present, and with this in mind, the June meeting of Buckland Low Carbon Network focused on the energy efficiency of our houses.
in the recently published annual report from the government’s independent climate change committee, they were particularly concerned about the slow rate of progress on making our homes more energy efficient, and on converting to heat our homes with renewable heating, where we are not making progress at the pace that is needed to meet our national carbon reduction goals for 2030.
We have a national system which rates the energy efficiency of our houses on a scale of A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). About half of households already have an Energy Performance Certificate, which provides this rating – you can check this online for your own property (or any other property you would like to compare to) at https://www.gov.uk/find-energy-certificate. We have a national target set by the government of getting 89% of houses up to a rating of C or above by 2035 (from 42% now). Some property agents are now forecasting that the energy efficiency of houses is likely to become an increasing factor in house values over the next ten years.
In Buckland, many of our houses are older, and most are rated D or E, with some at F. For many of us, this means that heating our house is likely to be not only increasingly expensive, but also the largest single factor in our own carbon emissions.
With this in mind, our June meeting was kindly hosted by Melvin and Sandy Starling, who (as far as we know) have the only house in Buckland so far with the coveted A rating for energy efficiency. This gave us the opportunity to see what can be achieved in a modern house with high standards of insulation, and to hear about the major impact it has on reducing energy bills and reducing carbon footprint. As most of us will not be considering the option of rebuilding our house to a modern design, we also discussed the cost and carbon reductions that can be achieved by improving insulation in existing houses, and the potential of renewable heating systems such as heat pumps to achieve further major reductions in our carbon footprint.
Electric Bikes – 15th February 2022
We heard from several local residents with electric bikes, and who use them for a diverse range of journeys, including commuting to work (locally), visiting local friends, getting to Dorking or Reigate station, leisure trips to the pub, small shopping trips, and even transporting around young children/grandchildren. They noted also benefits compared to riding a normal bike, including a much easier cycle (especially for those of us with dodgy knees or hips), and not arriving at your destination sweaty and needing to change.
We discussed alternatives to the A25 for cycling into Dorking and Reigate, and the limitations of local cycleways, and heard about possible future improvements to make our roads more cycle-friendly. Those interested in cycling were encouraged to participate in the upcoming consultation on local transport options.
We were joined by Ben Swindell from Specialized Bikes, who told us a little more about the wide range of good electric bikes now available for different purposes and at prices ranging from £1000 to £5000, with ranges between 20 and 80 miles between charges. He noted that there are now good local cycle shops with expertise on electric bikes, who can advise on what bike would best suit your needs and budget, let you “test ride” bikes to see if you like them, and can advise on maintenance.
Based on 3-4 local trips a week by electric bike instead of a car, we heard that an electric bike might do 1500 miles a year, saving around £400 pa in petrol, and result in carbon savings of about 400 kg pa (about 5% of the typical carbon footprint per person in the UK).
The network was launched at the start of 2021 and during its launch year hosted a series of virtual meetings:
- In February, we held our first meeting, which focused on the topic of Renewable Heating, and in particular heat pumps. We had a useful briefing on the options, and drew on the experience of four households in Buckland who have installed air source heat pumps or ground source heat pumps. (We’ d be happy to share information from this meeting with anyone who is interested, but was not able to make the meeting.)
- A month later our second meeting focused on Green Energy Suppliers. We considered questions what is a green energy supplier, does it really make any difference if you sign up with a green energy supplier, whether all green energy suppliers are the same, or whether some are greener than others?
- The focus of our 3rd meeting, held on 22nd June, was Domestic Solar Energy. We had an interesting and informative presentation from Will Clemson, who runs a Brockham-based solar energy business, with additional input from Jerry Hamilton, a Brockham resident who is responsible for Tesla UK’s home battery business.
- At our 4th meeting, held on Tuesday 14th September, we focused on Electric Cars; for those who are considering getting an electric car, and would like to know more about the practicalities, costs, and carbon impact. We heard from three members of the local community with experience of running electric cars. We shared experience of what it is like to drive an electric car, and of the practicalities of charging them, both for everyday use, and for long journeys.
For fuller reports of the four meetings scroll to continue reading …
Electric Cars – 14th September 2021 – 4th meeting
Our fourth meeting focused on electric cars, for those who are considering getting an electric car, and would like to know more about the practicalities, costs, and carbon impact. With 10% of all new car sales in the UK now being electric (now outselling both hybrids and diesel), the topic is of growing interest. We heard from three members of the local community with experience of running electric cars.
We shared experience of what it is like to drive an electric car, and of the practicalities of charging them, both for everyday use, and for long journeys.
For most owners, the vast majority of charging is done on their home charger, and we heard that costs of home charging can be as low as 1p per mile when charging overnight on off-peak tariff (compared to 12-18p per mile for a petrol car). Owners also shared their experience of the practicalities of doing long journeys in electric cars, noting that the new generation of electric cars (with a range of over 200 miles), and the spread of rapid public charging points (with over 5000 now installed in the UK), make this a much more practical experience, that may take no longer than a similar journey in a conventional car.
We looked at research on the relative costs of electric and petrol cars, noting that electric cars are still significantly more expensive to buy, but that their running costs are much lower – primarily due to lower fuel costs, lower repairs and maintenance costs, and no road tax. Most recent studies now indicate that for an average driver, the total costs of ownership over 4 years are now very similar to an equivalent conventional car.
The main environmental benefit of electric cars is that they have no damaging exhaust emissions, so help to reduce both CO2 and air pollution. We reviewed research comparing the total lifecycle emissions of electric cars and petrol cars (ie including the cost of production and disposal of the car, and the costs of producing and transporting the energy they use), and heard that total lifecycle CO2 emissions are around 40% of a petrol car, if using a green energy supplier at home. For most households, this will be the second biggest thing they can do to reduce their carbon impact (behind switching to renewable heating).
Finally, we heard that an electric car might be less suitable for people with only on-street parking at home, for people who do a very low mileage, and for people who need to tow a trailer or caravan.
If any Buckland residents would like further information on this topic, please feel free to contact contact Ken Caldwell.
Domestic Solar Energy – 22nd June 2021 – 3rd meeting
We had an interesting and informative presentation from Will Clemson, who runs a Brockham-based solar energy business, with additional input from Jerry Hamilton, a Brockham resident who is responsible for Tesla UK’s home battery business
Will explained that the main government subsidies for installing solar panels had now been discontinued, as the cost of solar panels has fallen to more commercially viable levels. He noted that this means that most people who are installing domestic solar panels now are motivated by a desire to use greener energy and/or to save money on their electricity bills. Recurring savings from solar panels now come mainly from savings on grid energy used, and partly from payment for surplus energy fed into the grid.
We heard that the best aspect for solar panels is south facing, at a 35 degree angle, with nothing shading the area. This makes most south facing pitch roofs a very good location, although it was noted that east or west facing pitch roofs are also possible, but would produce around 15% less power. Panels can also be installed in a garden or on other land where there is spare space.
It was noted that solar panels mounted on pitched roofs do not normally require planning consent (with some exceptions), and that the Local Planning Authority is gradually taking a more positive approach to planning consent for solar panels in the context of its policies to reduce carbon emissions across the District. There was some discussion on the appearance of solar panels, and it was noted that they now come in matt black as well as silver, or indeed as solar roofing tiles.
We had some discussion about how to get the best out of solar panels, and Will suggested three main ways to get the best benefits out of solar panels (and thereby reduce the payback period):
- Where possible, run appliances at the times of day when panels are generating
- When generating surplus energy from solar panels, divert it into heating hot water – in summer months, this can provide most of your hot water heating needs
- Consider installing a home battery, that can store surplus solar energy when it is generated (in the morning and afternoon), so that you can use it when needed (mostly in the evenings). This can be particularly useful if you also have an electric car.
A number of members of the Network have solar panels (one or two also with a home battery), and offered to share their experiences with others in the community who might be considering installing solar energy.
Network launched – Renewable Heating (February) and Green Suppliers (March)
Following a strong response from Buckland residents to the initial proposal in the February Magazine, we are going ahead to establish the Buckland Low Carbon Network.
The aim of the network is to exchange ideas and experience amongst Buckland residents of practical ways of reducing our carbon emissions – hopefully to help inspire us all on practical and affordable steps we may consider to reduce our carbon emissions. If you are considering possible next steps, and would like to talk to someone in the community who has done it, we aim to be able to put you in touch. And we hope to run occasional events on specific topics to help inspire us all.
In February, we held our first meeting, which focused on the topic of Renewable Heating – particularly heat pumps. We had a useful briefing on the options, and drew on the experience of four households in Buckland who have installed air source heat pumps or ground source heat pumps.
A month later we focused on Green Energy Suppliers. We considered questions what is a green energy supplier, does it really make any difference if you sign up with a green energy supplier, whether all green energy suppliers are the same, or whether some are greener than others?
We’ d be happy to share information from the first two meetings anyone who is interested, but was not able to make the meeting.
Reducing Buckland’s contribution to global warming – Issued January 2021
In the last few years, we have seen a big shift in public concern about global warming, and engagement on ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Our media seems to be full of ideas (some more practical than others!) for things we can do to help the planet, but it is often hard to work out which actions will have the most impact on our greenhouse gas emissions.
Thankfully, a consensus is beginning to emerge amongst the scientists on the actions that we can take that will have the biggest impact on our greenhouse gas emissions, and it seems that for most households, the most important actions we can take (after we have insulated our homes as best we can) are to change how we power our cars and how we heat our homes. In December, the UK government announced a new national target of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030, as a step towards achieving “Net Zero” by 2050. The UK Committee on Climate Change (the body that advises the government on actions needed to meet our national carbon reduction targets) has worked out that to meet this target, we will need most households to be driving renewably powered cars and heating their homes with renewable energy by 2030.
Yet most of us are concerned about the practicalities and potential costs of moving away from fossil fuels, and are not sure whether it is a viable option for us.
Over the last few years, a growing number of communities around the UK are responding to this by creating a Low Carbon Homes network, where you can talk to people in your own community who have made the switch to renewable energy for their car or home, or taken other steps to reduce their carbon emissions at home, and learn about the pros and cons and whether it is right for you.
We’d like to test the water for whether there would be interest in creating a Low Carbon Homes network in Buckland, so would therefore like to hear from you if:
- You are interested in talking to other Buckland residents who have moved to renewable energy sources for their car or house, or taken other steps to reduce their carbon emissions in their home
- You have already moved to renewable energy sources for your car and/or house, or taken other steps to reduce your carbon emissions in your home, and would be happy to talk to other Buckland residents about your experience
- You’d like to help with this initiative in other ways
To get this started, I have offered to host a virtual open meeting for Buckland residents, for those who are interested in finding out more about options for shifting to renewable heating for your house.
I’ll share our recent experience of moving our house from gas to renewable heating (in our case, by installing an air source heat pump), and would be happy to hear from others who would be willing to share their own experience of renewable house heating.