The Tories "Green New Deal"?

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The Tories "Green New Deal"?

Postby chris » Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:43 am

From The Guardian, 16 January 2009:

The Conservative green paper, The Low Carbon Economy, includes an entitlement of up to £6,500 to reduce overall energy use in homes by insulating homes and making them more energy efficient. The money would not be given to householders directly - instead energy companies would insulate homes at no cost to the people living in them and recoup the cost through energy bills. The bills need not rise, however, as the new insulation would reduce energy use.


Other initiatives proposed in the paper include:

  • creating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid cars
  • replacing up to 50% of gas used to heat homes with biogas - methane produced by the anaerobic digestion of farm and food waste
  • testing new ways to harness renewable energy from waves and tides in a network of large-scale marine energy research parks, funded by £50m from the Marine Renewable Energy Deployment Fund
  • incentivising the National Grid to construct a new network of undersea direct current (DC) cables, enabling offshore renewable energy to be transmitted over large distance, eg from Scotland to the south east
  • decentralising power production into small-scale local power plants by introducing feed-in tariffs. These guarantee a premium for electricity that is generated and fed into the national grid by consumers
  • establishing a national nuclear waste site to deal with residue from older power stations and also pave the way for new nuclear build.
Combined heat and power plants (CHP) also get an important role – the Tories want to give councils the power to establish local heating networks. CHP plants are far more efficient than conventional power stations because they harness heat that is normally wasted, by piping it to industrial or domestic users.

George Monbiot's response includes, 16 January 2009:

There are some major gaps in the plans explained by Cameron this afternoon and in the document his party has just published. They reflect his party's continued fetishisation of micro-generation. The Conservatives favour expensive and grossly inefficient systems like rooftop wind turbines and solar panels because its members hate onshore wind farms, which are much cheaper and more efficient. My heart sank when Cameron extolled Germany's decentralised energy revolution: doesn't he know that the half-million solar roofs that country has installed supply only 0.4% of its electricity?

His enthusiasm for domestic combined heat and power (CHP) plants is disappointing for another reason: the likely carbon savings produced by replacing your boiler with a heat and power plant top out at around 15%. This is tiny by comparison to the cuts required, and locks in fossil fuel use for the 20 or 30 years until the machine dies. The only sensible CHP schemes, which the Conservatives also support, are industrial projects big enough to make carbon capture and storage viable.

I'm intrigued by his plans to use biogas to supply 50% of all the heat our homes use. Is this possible? Is there enough of it? I hope so, because he has no other viable plan for decarbonising the domestic heat supply.

The policy document talks of using a Maglev or TGV-type system for a high-speed rail link from the north of the country to the south, but the provisional figures I have seen suggest that their fuel use is similar to that of airliners. The Spanish AVE train might be a better model, but we need to see some hard numbers before deciding whether or not this kind of railway will really cut emissions.

The biggest disappointment in both the document and the interview was the lack of a clear statement on coal-burning power stations.

More detail on how the insulation might be funded,16 January 2009:

The Tories have picked up on one of the key recommendations in the UKGBC's report and suggested overcoming the cost by giving the householder an "entitlement" to energy efficiency measures, up to £6,500 in value. Everyone would be able to upgrade their home without using their own money. The cost of the work is paid back over time via their energy bill, but because their energy bills are so much lower, the householder is never out of pocket. They actually save money from the moment the work is done.

A basic package (£1,700) of cavity wall insulation, new boiler controls and loft insulation in a 3-bed semi would reduce energy bills by about £160 a year. A more comprehensive package (£6,000) would also cover solid wall and suspended wooden floor insulation, and bills would reduce by about £145 a year.

To make the maths add up, the financing of the work, and the repayment, is spread over 25 years. Because people move home and move energy supplier, the "entitlement" would need to be attached to the property – not the individual. There will be legal obstacles to overcome if that is going to happen, although I don't think those are insurmountable.

So, basically the £6.5k is like a mortgage that it attached to the house, repaid over 25 years and managed by the power utilities rather than a grant from the Government...

Also the "smart grid" appears to be the method that will be used for rationing electricity...

But it's clearly a small step in the right direction, too little and not without lots of problems, George Monbiot said this at the start of his article on it:

You have to pinch yourself. Three years ago, when my book Heat was published, critics lined up to tell me that the plans it contained were "unfeasible", "unviable", "too expensive" and "politically impossible". Now these ideas, none of which were mine alone – such as a smart grid used to transmit information between appliances and electricity suppliers, offshore energy parks connected to the grid with high-voltage DC cables, universal grants for insulation, a low-carbon heat grid – have become so mainstream that they've been adopted as policy by the Conservative party.

For more details see The Tories web site... (I can't believe I'm linking to this site... :roll:)
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