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Forget fracking and shaling... is DIY energy the way forward?

It’s an ICM poll which has focused on people’s opinions about renewable energy against fossil fuels and nuclear power stations.

The headlines have focused on figures showing more people are in favour of wind turbines than gas power stations… but only in response to the question: What would you prefer if a power station was built within two miles from your front door? The survey shows elsewhere that gas is still the fuel of choice, and is preferred above the concept of relying on wind or solar energy.

But I was more intrigued with the part of the survey which went into community-owned systems. This is where residents of a village or town get together and buy their own turbine or solar farm as a co-operative. Apparently this is quite a big thing in Germany, where two thirds of their renewable energy is community owned.

Is this an area of energy saving which is being overlooked in the UK? If funding was available so that rural communities could create enough energy to virtually sustain themselves, and if similar grants were there so urban areas could invest in recycling waste heat or installing district heating systems, would we all be more aware of the energy we use? Would this cut our reliance on the National Grid?

Based on figures used in Part L and Building Regulations, the National Grid is seen to be by far the least carbon friendly fuel source available to us. For every kilowatt of electricity we use in our homes and places of work, that’s more than half a kilogram of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

That’s compared to 300 grams for a kilowatt made by burning coal, 200 grams for mains gas and just 60 grams from a typical waste heat system.

The figures for electricity are so high because the emission factor takes into account inefficiencies at the power station, turning fossil fuels into electricity, getting the energy from A to B… it all adds up.

But if a significant amount of our energy was created at a local level, using low or renewable carbon technology such as wind, water and solar farms; surely this would move us a few steps closer to becoming the energy-saving, CO2 dodging country we want to become.

In a Part L energy assessment - whether it be for a house, flat or commercial unit - community owned power stations are not considered in any way. Energy for lighting, ventilation and some heating systems must come from grid electricity.

If the findings of this study are a true reflection, and the majority of people in the UK would be willing to get behind community power systems, maybe the calculations would be changed to encourage us to invest locally instead of people thinking that the National Grid is the only option.

Would you be up for supporting a local energy producing system? I’d go for a PV farm personally… what’s your preference?  

Jon Ponting

Author: Jon Ponting

This article was published by Jon Ponting on 25.10.2012.