Sunday, 24 November 2019

Threat to Solar

The current government have removed most of the incentives for installing your own renewable electricity generators and in addition have increased the tax on new installations. This goes against all of their talk of tackling climate change. Under their watch micro wind generation has all but stopped and there is a risk solar will go the same way. Each roof top solar installation saves an average of 26 tons of CO2 emissions over its lifetime and if installed on the roofs of all new homes, would make a significant impact on our countries carbon footprint.

The tax rate on domestic coal is 5% The tax rate on domestic solar has been raised to 20%

The then environment secretary, Michael Gove, agreed that there was a climate emergency, but said he did not like the idea of declaring one. Telegraph

In April this year the MCS feed in tariff ended. The feed in tariff was intended as a reducing payment that would encourage solar installations while reducing year-on-year as the price of installation dropped due to economies of scale.

Payments were set by OFGEN each year with the payment having two elements, one payment was based on generation (the total electricity produced weather used or exported to the national grid) and a second payment for the amount exported.

Due to the lack of smart metering at the time the scheme started, the amount exported was deemed to be half of that generated. The amount paid was an index linked rate set yearly by OFGEN.

You could argue that it had done its job. Solar installation prices had come down to such an extent that they could payback their initial investment within a reasonable period of time without the need for incentives.

However, solar installations of a size suitable for most homes will produce more than they require at certain times of the year. At this point, the excess generated electricity is fed into the grid.

The government failed to provide a replacement for the feed in tariff, so it is currently up to your electricity provider to set a value on the electricity you supply them.

It is planned to set a minimum rate in January, but smaller electricity providers are exempt and the rate is likely to be considerably lower than the amount we pay to receive electricity into our homes.

Secondly, until October this year, solar panels had a VAT rate of 5%. The same rate as domestic fuel like gas, oil or coal. This has now been raised to 20%. This one piece of legislation will probably put an end to solar installations in the UK

This legislation was passed on 25 June 2019, the same day the UK House of Commons passed legislation to commit the UK to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The rate increase was claimed to bring us in to line with EU rule, however this does not seem to be the case. The lower rate of VAT on solar had been discussed in 2016 and was deemed to meet EU tax rules at that point. Nothing has changed and yet here we are.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Quick ! Solar !

I have been asked a few times recently, is it still worth getting Solar installed at home on your roof. I have gathered the data and completed the calculations, The answer still seems to be yes.

Despite the current governments lack-lustre support of micro renewable generation and the almost complete decimation of the micro wind generation market, a micro solar installation still looks like it will pay the initial outlay back within a reasonable time.

The following link will take you to a simple calculator for returns from solar installations based on average prices recorded as part of the official MCS certification process.

Based on our estimates, a 4kW installation (the average size) would cost about £7264 and pay for itself in about 10 years. The total value of savings over 25 years is an estimated £35,385 and over 26 tons of CO2.

Friday, 15 November 2019


Personal Annual Carbon Allowance

At RenSMART, we have been working to offer a set of applications to enable individuals or households to calculate, track and reduce their carbon footprint, but this is not much use if you do not know what your carbon footprint, ideally, should be.

As part of this process, we have developed the concept of a personal carbon allowance. An annual carbon allowance based on traceable scientific sources.

A personal annual carbon allowance (PACA) is the amount of carbon dioxide or equivalent gasses (CO2e) a person should aim to reduce themselves to generating in a given year.

In the case of a RenSMART PACA, we propose a voluntary allowance that people sign up to and track.
There are four steps to realising this:
  1. Calculating a baseline level. The amount you generate now.
  2. Calculating the maximum you could generate to stay within a target. We are aiming at maximum 1.5C rise in temperature by 2030.
  3. Finding changes in behaviour that would meet that target.
  4. Measuring the CO2 generated or mitigated to show whether you are on target.

Old idea, new format.

Personal carbon allowances are not a new idea. They have been floated many times before, but have not been implemented. The reasons are no doubt many, complex and varied [2].

One implementation suggestion from 2013 [1] was to take all of the CO2 generated in the UK and share it out with children taking half of an adult share. The calculations showed that sharing the CO2 emissions, generated at that time by the UK, would set each adults allowance at  4336 kgCO2 / year and each child's to 2168 kgCO2 / year. The suggestion was that the allowance would be reduced each year to meet an agreed target, with those over producing paying to offset and those under producing getting a payment.

We have chosen to go with the simplest methodology we can for calculating a PACA. Take the target global carbon emissions to attain the goal of keeping the global temperature at a safe level. Divide this by the number of humans on the planet.

Calculation of the PACA

  • 2020 target = 38.4 GtCO2e / year
  • 2020 World Population estimate 7.87 billion
  • Suggested PACA for 2020 38.4 billion / 8.87 billion = 4.892 t = 4892 kg CO2 per year = 1 PACA
You will find our sources and calculations on the PACA page.

Nudge psychology

Rather than an enforced PACA that has been suggested in the past, we would like to introduce a PACA that people can sign up to. Rather that wave a statutory stick, threatening taxation on using more than your allowance, we would like to offer a voluntary nudge.

As an example of an energy saving nudge, we have created a service called economyGREEN. It provides a 24 hour renewable energy forecast and a companion app provides advice on when to use your washing machine etc. when renewable energy generation is at its highest. You can find further details on the economyGREEN web page.

Calculating a Base Level

We intend to take the best methodologies and calculations available to calculate an individuals current CO2e footprint. We will make the methodology publicly available for scrutiny and reuse, with an agile update process taken from the software industry to constantly improve its accuracy.
This we intend to develop as an open source project, freely available for anyone to use and include in their own projects.

Making Changes

We will make a set of tools available to individuals and organisations. We will offer applications to help people to keep track of their progress towards the goals they have chosen.
Our first, very modest tool, is called economyGREEN [5] and helps people to use electricity when its carbon intensity is at its lowest (when the largest amount of it is from renewable sources)

Keeping Score

RenSMART will offer an online service to keep track, like a fitness tracker but for carbon emissions.
Again, we propose to make this software open source. Free for anyone to use or contribute to.

Changing the PACA

Our methodology will be evidence based and list the sources used. We will openly discuss the decisions made, justify them and where improvements are found, apply them.
We will update the suggested PACA every six months to keep to a target CO2 level and maximum temperature rise.





[4] :-)


Tuesday, 12 November 2019

economyGREEN app demo available

We now have a demo version of the economyGREEN web app available for you to try. Click on the image to load it in your browser. It is restricted to only one model of washing machine and only has a small selection of devices.

Alternatively use this QR code to open it on your phone:

If you like it, please pledge your support through our Kickstarter page and tell your friends and family. We don't have long until the Kickstarter campaign ends.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

And I could drive 12,000 more

Just a quick update on my electric car.
My 12,000 mile service for my Nissan Leaf has arrived.
Since getting it in February, the only problem I have had was a puncture. It is a dream to drive.
The service cost about £160 and was completed in half a day. Nissan gave it a clean and sent me a video of the service inspection.
My electricity bill has gone up a lot, but is a big saving on my old deisel bill and carbon footprint.
One other change I have made is working from home a couple of days a week. A small change that will make a big impact on my carbon footprint.

The EconomyGREEN Tag

Having developed the economyGREEN 24 hour clock, I wanted to develop a simpler way to make use of the information it provides.
I felt that if I made the information available in as simple a form as possible and available at the time when I need it, I would be able to act on it more easily and would therefore be more likely to use it in my daily life.

The economyGREEN clock gives you a 24 hour forecast of carbon intensity of electricity throughout the current day. If at 10am you plan to put on a washing load and 20% of the UKs electricity is from renewable generation, but at 11am that will rise to 30%, running your washing at 11am will be the greener choice.
Most washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers have an option to delay starting for a period of time. If I looked at the economyGREEN clock before I set off a washing load and set it to start when the UK grid electricity is at its greenest, I could reduce my carbon footprint.
 However, opening the economyGREEN clock web page every time I want to do some washing, use the tumble dryer or set off the dishwasher and find the greenest time to run the load is not something I am going to sustainably add to my daily routines.

Thinking about this problem reminded me of nudge psychology. The idea that you add small queues at the place where you take an action can nudge you to make a better one. To implement this, I would need to display the best time to run a washing load on the washing machine, tumble drier or dishwasher. That would be expensive and, with all the technology required, not very green.
Then I thought, how about using people's phones. Most of us carry them around with us at all times, and here is a ready made screen that could display the greenest delay time.
I experimented with bar codes, location tracking and QR codes, but the process it required me to follow was far too complicated for me to use regularly.
Then I rememberd some work I had done with NFC tags. These are small tags that you can tap your phone on and will then transfer some data that they hold to your phone. One thing they can transfer is a link to a web page.
Using a programmable NFC tag, I created a link to my web site that contains a unique identifier. 
I have created a web app that can link the identifier to your make and model of device.
When you receive a tag, you stick it on, or near your device. Tap your phone on it for the first time, and you are prompted to select your appliances make and model. You tag is now ready.
The next time you tap your phone on the tag, the device name and model is displayed, and the delay reqired for the greenest electricity given.
Using the economyGREEN forecast, information about your device make and model and the washing program you intend to run, the web app calculates the delay needed to run your load at the greenest time.

Now I want to make these tags and devices available to anyone else who wants to use economyGREEN.

I have started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of 1000 tags. This requires several thousand pounds in funding, but reduces the cost of the programmed tags to a reasonable amount.

Our Kickstarter page

In the future, I would like to expand economyGREEN to include other countries and to support more devices and get it included as an automated option in smart appliances.

Please do follow my progress in Kickstarter and maybe buy a few tags to try. (For yourself, friends and family)