Russell Jones asks whether a whole day of electricity produced without burning a single lump of coal spells out the end of an era for the nation.
Last Friday, 21st April 2017 was a very special day for the UK as the country generated a whole day of electricity without needing to use coal-fired power stations.
This landmark moment is the first working day in since 1882, when the first public coal-fired generating plant opened in London when no coal has been needed to help supply power to the nation – as reported by many news outlets such as the BBC and the Financial Times.
Whilst low demand for electricity in the week after the Easter holiday is quite normal and Friday’s are the day of the working week with the lowest power demand, this move away from what has been a bedrock of the UK’s energy production since the start of the industrial revolution is a real achievement.
This shows how the nation’s energy system is changing to embrace low-carbon electricity production through the use of nuclear, solar panels, wind turbines and a switch from coal to biomass and gas-powered stations.
In 2016, the government reported that it was working to phase out the last coal plants by 2025 in an effort to cut overall carbon emissions.
As we move towards low carbon power generation, renewable technologies such as air source heat pumps become even more viable and attractive.
So it looks like we are really starting to see a greening of the electricity grid which is tremendous news for renewable technologies such as heat pumps, which consume electricity but use it to maximise renewable heating for our homes.
Earlier this year, we produced an infographic looking at the history of home heating so I’m delighted to see that we are starting to enter the last phase of that and set the scene for a low-carbon power generating grid, feeding low-carbon heating systems – all of which will help minimise energy bills for homeowners and aid the country as we strive to meet stringent carbon reduction targets.
We look forward to discussing this more on The Hub over the next few years as we strive to move towards a truly zero-carbon society.
At Mitsubishi Electric, we also love to discuss this topic over on our Green Gateway Twitter page, so please join the conversation.
Russell Jones is PR & Communications Manager for Mitsubishi Electric Living Environment Systems in the UK.
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We’re all users of a home, whether we own it, rent it, or just occupy it and ensuring we have a comfortable and warm home environment is now seen as an expectation of modern life.
But it hasn’t always been possible to take a warm home for granted and things haven’t always been as easy as they are today.
Since the days when early man first discovered fire and used it to keep the ‘cave’ warm and the wolves from the door, we have found ways to refine how we use that flame.
From the wood-burning days through to the industrialisation of the Victorian age and the introduction of coal, lighting a fire has been the main source of heat for the home.
Until the turn of the 20th Century therefore, this open flame in a home wasn’t just for aesthetics – or to make you feel Hygge it was the only option available and for those petticoat wearing Victorian women, the hazard of accidental death from fire was a very real threat.
In the 1930’s, we started to see the introduction of electric forms of heating, and the introduction of a gas network from the 1950’s and 60’s, saw this fuel start to dominate the world of domestic heating.
However, it wasn’t until the 1970’s and 80’s that we started to see an increase in central heating, predominantly using gas boilers and this still remains the standard for most.
But a reliance on fossil fuels; gas, coal and oil will soon need to become history because as we all know, we cannot continue like this.
So what does the future of our home heating and hot water look like?
As a heat pump manufacturer, you would expect us to promote air source systems but we are not the only ones saying it – The UK government has already recognised that heat pumps have a major role to play in keeping our homes warm and cosy well into the future.
By extracting and harvesting ‘free’ heat energy from the outdoor air, heat pumps are recognised as renewable and qualify for government incentives in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
This is designed to offset the slightly higher capital costs of investing in renewables and is starting to have a significant impact on the traditional heating market as more people accept that they have to play their part.
At the moment, this is also taking the form of adding a heat pump to an existing heating system but as pressure on new housebuilders grows to clearly demonstrate they are delivering sustainable homes for the future, the government fully expects heat pumps to become the norm for home heating.
The other important factor to consider is that as the nation ‘greens’ production of energy with the increased use of wind, solar and even tidal energy production, then heat pumps become even greener.
So, the history of home heating has been an interesting journey so far but has relied predominantly on burning something to produce heat – a large part of which is often wasted up a chimney or flue.
In reality though, it’s quite scary to see how slow things have changed. It’s only now that the clock to a low carbon future really is ticking so we have to pull together to ensure we pick up the pace and move with the times.
More carpet waste in the UK was diverted from landfill in 2016 with 142,000 tonnes that were reused, recycled or recovered for energy, according to latest Carpet Recycling UK figures.
This 14% increase on 2015 (125,000 tonnes) represents a diversion rate of 35% – up from just 2% in 9 years. Around 400,000 tonnes of waste carpet arise each year in the UK.
Energy recovery increased by 35% compared to 2015 as the use of carpets as a renewable fuel source in cement kilns continues to replace fossil fuels in this growing sector. A 50% increase in capacity for municipal energy-from-waste facilities over the past two years has also contributed to greater use of carpet waste in renewable electricity and energy generation.
Commenting on their latest achievements, CRUK Director Laurance Bird acknowledged ‘outstanding support’ from core funders and members who want to ‘make their businesses more sustainable’. CRUK’s core funders are Cormar Carpets, Lifestyle Floors/Headlam, Desso, ege, Milliken, Balsan and Marlings.
Laurance commented: “These core funders lead the industry in demonstrating extended producer responsibility for carpet throughout its lifecycle. Thanks to their commitment and support, we are continuing to advance sustainability within this sector and drive growth in recycling capacity.”
Interest in recycling carpets is strong, he revealed, with more than 500 enquiries handled by the CRUK team in 2016; reflecting greater awareness generally that carpet can avoid being landfilled.
Carpets are made from natural and synthetic fibres, which still have a value once the carpet is no longer wanted; they can be used in a wide range of applications from sports surfaces to insulation.
CRUK’s membership has also reached a record high with 97 members from across the carpet recycling supply chain, including manufacturers, raw material suppliers, recyclers, retailers and machine manufacturers.
“Particularly, growth in membership has been stimulated by increased interest from retailers and flooring contractors to recycle their carpet waste and reduce their disposal costs compared to landfill. They have also used their achievements and CRUK membership to promote business sustainability activities to their customers,” continued Laurance.
Entrepreneurial investment and innovation in recycling carpets continues with several firms developing processes to recover valuable fibres, such as polypropylene and wool. These fibres can be recycled into various new products, including equestrian surfaces, textile felts and plastics. In 2016, CRUK member Anglo Recycling launched their Growfelt range of horticultural growing media and Emerald Trading, also a CRUK member, introduced their Fibre It equestrian surface products.
Laurance added: “Increasingly, businesses, householders and local authorities are looking
for better alternatives for the recycling of unwanted carpet materials. We are proud of our achievements and appreciate the wide-ranging support that is helping to ensure the growing demand for carpet recycling services is met.”
CRUK will be recognising its members’ innovations, successes and sharing information on latest developments and recycling technologies at its 2017 Annual Conference and Awards event to be held on Wednesday June 21st at Aston Villa Football Club in Birmingham.
This new concept in building integrated photovoltaics combines renewable energy generation with a glass laminate design to enable the PV cell to blend sympathetically into the fabric of the existing building.
The PV system was integrated into a canopy running the entire 145m length of the new kennel block, with the canopy incorporating several changes of height along the length of the installation. Not only were the BIPV panels able to meet load requirements, the size of the panels allowed them to be seamlessly incorporated into the architect’s initial design brief and vision.
Ablaze Green Energy Solutions Ltd, the main contractor for the installation, commissioned Romag to produce a specification for both BIPV panels and more traditional glass units. 1800mmx1200mm BIPV panels were selected which achieved the required electricity generation performance characteristics.
In addition, traditional glass sections were produced as ‘in-fills’ for sloping canopy sections where the canopy height was required to change. ‘Dummy’ panels were also incorporated once the required energy generation target yield was achieved through the BIPV units.
Steve Rose, Director at Ablaze, said: “Romag met our requirement to use a UK based, well-established and highly regarded company for this significant investment. The entire system was initially designed with the Romag product in mind to ensure everything went smoothly together.
“A recent visit to site revealed that the system has already produced nearly 50% of the expected annual yield in just over four months of operation, the PV element is already proving to be highly effective.”
Romag is a UK pioneer in BIPV, with over 15 years’ experience in this market as well as over 70 years of glass laminating experience and expertise. Romag was established in 1943 and has built a strong reputation around the globe for manufacturing high quality bespoke photovoltaic laminates in a range of shapes and sizes to meet individual client aspirations. Projects for the installation of skylights, facades, windows, covered walkways, spandrel panels and roof lights are regularly undertaken by Romag.
German company pioneers new methanisation model, using microorganisms, which can balance peaks in energy supply from renewables such as wind and solar.
In future, around five per cent of the UK’s gas consumption could come from power-to-gas plants.
Two pilot projects in Germany are already proving the concept.
At Ecobuild 2014 Viessmann will be presenting its power-to-gas solution for addressing the peaks in power generation from weather-dependant renewable energy sources.
Viessmann, one of the world’s leading sustainable heating systems manufacturers, believes its model for storing excess power in the gas grid can pave the way for the UK’s successful transition from conventional to renewable fuels.
“Power-to-gas is a flexible and highly efficient method for converting excess renewable electricity and converting it into methane,” says Christian Engelke, Viessmann’s technical director.
“Excess electricity from wind farms or PV installation can be used to produce hydrogen. The Viessmann methanisation process creates 100 per cent methane which can then be transported and stored into the existing gas grid.
“We believe the methanisation of excess power will make it possible for such power-to-gas plants to contribute to at least five per cent of the UK’s gas requirement. This is also the plan in Germany where the goal is to provide 60 billion kWh of biomethane gas by 2020. This will release the burden of inconsistent supply on the electricity grid and conventional power stations.
At present surplus energy generated by the UK’s offshore wind farms cannot be stored or transported elsewhere, forcing the government to sometimes take the highly controversial step of paying wind farm operators to shut down.
Unless greater investment is made in technologies which address the way we heat our homes, most often using gas, says Viessmann, it is hard to see how the UK will be able to meet its emissions reduction goal of 80 per cent by 2050.
By contrast, the German natural gas grid has immense storage capacities. There the production of synthetic methane through power-to-gas technology is presenting real opportunities that Viessmann is already helping to develop.
The company’s pioneering research and development work in this field is being conducted by Viessmann Group company, MicrobEnergy. It has designed pilot installations at Viessmann’s headquarters in Allendorf, Germany, and at a municipal sewage plant that have demonstrated the practicality and efficiency of storing excess power in the gas grid.
Viessmann will be exhibiting information on the process at Ecobuild 2014, explaining the inherent suitability of its power to gas model to the UK due to the country’s heavy reliance on its own gas grid.
“Weather-dependent renewable energy sources, such as wind and the sun, inevitably lead to peaks in power generation and inconsistent supply ,” adds Engelke. “As the proportion of renewables in the energy mix grows bigger, however, innovative storage technologies will become increasingly important.”
Power-to-gas involves converting excess power into hydrogen by means of electrolysis. This is followed by what is known as the methanisation stage, during which highly specialised microorganisms convert hydrogen and carbon directly into pure methane.
The microorganisms function at ambient pressure and temperature, and there are no special requirements regarding the purity of the source gases . The required CO2 can be sourced from industrial processes, biogas plants or even the surrounding air.
The synthetic methane obtained in this way can either be held in a gas storage facility and converted into electricity with a CHP unit as required, or can be injected directly into the natural gas grid.
Engelke continues: “The development of a green and sustainable gas is one of Viessmann’s key goals. If countries like the UK are to produce as much 80 per cent of their electricity from green, low-carbon renewable sources, then wind and solar clearly have to become the dominant components of the energy mix.
“In an energy market dominated by big central fossil-fuelled power plants, production can be planned and responsive. With increased dependence on renewables, production is subject to weather conditions and only able to meet energy demand at a local level and for short periods.
“A power-to-gas and storage solution means power generated by renewables can be stored and later released according to demand at a national level. Creating a link between the electricity grid and natural gas grids is therefore an important condition for the successful transition from conventional to renewable fuels.”
About Viessmann Limited
Viessmann Limited is part of the Viessmann Group of Companies which is one of the leading international manufacturers of heating systems. Founded in 1917, the family business is overseen by the chairmanship of Managing Partner Dr. Martin Viessmann. The Group has annual turnover of EUR 1.89 billion and employs a staff of approximately 10,600. Viessmann’s comprehensive product range encompasses all fuel types and applications, allowing it to deliver high quality, efficient and fully integrated solutions. With an output range of 1.5 to 120,000 kW, Viessmann offers oil and gas-fired boilers, solar thermal and photovoltaics, combined heat and power modules (CHP), ground, air and water sourced heat pumps and biomass boilers.
This company , founded in 2012 and a spin-off business of Schmack Biogas, specialises in biogas technology and microbiology. From its base in Schwandorf, Germany, it develops, produces and sells microbiological products, methanisation technologies and process control systems.
Two Euroheat Energy Cabins have been installed at a large Buddhist retreat in Ledbury, Herefordshire, helping the centre and its community to enjoy a greener, more cost effective future with returns under the RHI of over £1m.
The site’s heating and hot water is now provided by two Euroheat Energy Cabins – biomass heating in a pre-fabricated box. This was deemed the most suitable solution for both end-users and installers as the cabins arrived on site, ready to plumb-in, wire-up and go, saving a considerable amount of time and cost. In some cases, the cabins can also negate planning issues, which is ideal for period buildings, such as Coddington Court.
Coddington Court architect, Tim Crosskey, explained: “Previously the site, which was a former school, had been run on oil – something we were keen to move away from favouring a more renewable technology, such as biomass.
“Initially we made contact with Euroheat via our digger driver who told us about another project he was working on with them, and once we heard about the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), biomass seemed the perfect solution and stacked up financially. We anticipate just a seven to eight year payback period on our initial investment, which is great!”
Simon Holden, co-founder of Euroheat, added: “Each Energy Cabin is home to a HDG Compact 200, 194kW pellet boiler, which qualify individually for just under £22,000 over a 20 year period, equating to nearly £440,000 per boiler over the RHI’s lifetime. On top of this, each system is eligible to an additional 3% per annum thanks to the Retail Price Index (RPI), bumping the figures up to nearly £590,000 earning Coddington Court well over a £1 million – a very attractive incentive. In addition to the boilers, each Energy Cabin includes a 4,000 litre accumulator, FRA-PSS pellet feed system and a TBZ80 pellet vacuum transfer system.”
The site has undergone a huge refurbishment project over the last year in order to establish a central resource for the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community. The centre has been transformed to provide accommodation, men’s and women’s communities, a library, and retreat and study facilities for up to 100 people, visitor’s accommodation and extensive gardens.
Sean Green, Senior Product Manager for Baxi Commercial, whose brand names include Andrews Water Heaters, Potterton Commercial and Baxi-SenerTec UK, considers the energy saving choices open to leisure and recreational establishments in an age of increasing heating bills.
As energy bills rise, the operators of communal buildings such as sports or leisure facilities will be concerned to take whatever steps are possible to reduce energy costs. A main concern will be the building services systems, which may well account for half of a building energy demand. The first and perhaps easiest action will be to ensure that energy using equipment is only switched on and drawing power when actually needed. Once this is done, facility managers will need to turn their attention to the considerable degree to which they are able to influence the provision and best use of the power on which building services systems rely.
Firstly, the amount of utility power being used can be reduced and the shortfall drawn from an alternative power source at considerably less expense, without needing the permission of the generating body. Secondly, the efficiency of the way in which energy is used can be improved without reducing the effective operation of equipment and systems. This welcome ability of individual energy users to be able to exercise such control is a consequence of the UK commitment to dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 and the EU policy aim of achieving a 20% reduction in energy use and a 20% increase in the use of renewable energy, both by 2020.
The way in which these targets are to be achieved is dependent on the direct involvement of energy producers, energy using product manufacturers and individual energy users. Although objectives are clear, the practical implementation of the measures designed to aid their achievement is causing confusion. This is being brought about partly by the present widespread economic difficulties, partly by the not unfamiliar stifling effect of bureaucracy and partly by the complexities of obtaining EU member state cooperation.
Grid power production is being fundamentally changed, with power stations converting to the use of alternative energy sources to reduce the previous high dependency on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the cost of implementing this necessary and ongoing transformation is high and is leading to unwelcome increases in utility fuel bills. To help counter these costs, individual energy users are offered inducements to microgenerate their own power, using renewable energy sources. But full implementation of the supporting incentive schemes is suffering delay and obstruction due to lack of funding and bureaucratic complexity, resulting in take up running at only 10% of expectations.
Procrastination on the part of legislators is also a hindrance. A package of measures to govern the energy efficiency of products and the energy performance of buildings, with supporting labelling requirements, is considerably overdue. With some exceptions, these provisions will ensure that when a building system is refurbished or replaced, only products that attain the necessary standard may be used. As a result, building energy efficiency will improve, but these important measures will not come fully into force until 2015.
It is against this confusing background that building operators and facilities managers are faced with making far reaching decisions about their long term energy use. In some instances the information influencing those decisions is so unclear that no progress is yet possible. In others, uncertainty is causing hesitation and delay. But there are some considerations that are not affected by economic difficulties, bureaucratic hindrance or legislative dawdling.
Locally generated power based on renewable sources will generally use latent energy freely available in the environment. There are no production or delivery costs, only the cost of energy capture and conversion at the individual location. Significantly, the heating industry can supply proven solutions across a range of renewable technologies to enable their integration in new build and retro-fit applications. Another cost effective and well established alternative option is CHP (Combined Heat and Power). Most suitable for a building with a simultaneous electricity and heat demand consistently through the year, this technology generates electricity that can meet all or part of the building’s needs in place of grid power, as well as generating useful heat to service the building heating system. Of no less importance, leading manufacturers in the heating industry can provide condensing technology boilers and water heaters that fully comply with the known energy efficiency standards due to be given regulatory authority in 2015.
These absolutes, based on using or generating ‘free’ energy and maximising its efficient use, ensure enduring lower grid energy bills. The negative issues that distract from these certainties will be resolved, requiring only the full clarification, implementation and more enthusiastic application of incentive schemes, together with the formalisation of product and building energy performance standards. Consequently, the operators of many sports and leisure facilities have not delayed, but taken safe and cost effective action that will not be invalidated when the outstanding issues are resolved.
Oakham School, Rutland, a prestigious independent co-educational day and boarding school, has a wide range of sporting facilities, including 40 acres of games pitches and a dedicated sports centre incorporating a 25m indoor pool. Refurbishment of the heating system serving the swimming pool and sports hall was a challenge, bearing in mind the constant demand of the swimming pool for heat. The chosen solution was to use CHP technology to provide heat for the pool and to generate electricity to power the swimming pool, sports hall and several classrooms in the centre’s upper story, with the domestic hot water needs being met by a condensing technology water heater.
The chosen mini-CHP unit acts as lead boiler, supplemented by two condensing boilers that have high energy efficiency and ultra low NOx emission levels. The existing pressure-jet cast iron boiler is retained and programmed to operate at peak demand during low external temperatures. The selected condensing water heater services all the showers and wash hand basins in the changing rooms. The CHP unit runs continuously, with an electricity output of 5.5 kWe and a minimum heat output of 12.5 kWth, having a design life of some 80,000 hours. During the first ten months following its installation, the CHP unit ran for a total of 6,529 hours and generated 35,909 kWh of electricity and 89,867 kWh of heat, representing a significant saving in running costs and carbon emission.
The new Oswestry Leisure Centre has a range of facilities and offers a variety of activities for all ages, with, amongst other things, a strong commitment to carbon reduction. Designed in compliance with Shropshire County Council sustainability policy, the Centre incorporates a number of renewable technologies to minimize both carbon footprint and running costs. The performance specification for the building’s mechanical services included a solar thermal water heating system to supply pre-heated water to a water heater and accompanying storage vessel. This system supplies all the domestic hot water for the building, serving 38 showers, 40 wash hand basins, three cleaners’ sinks and two tea room sinks.
The array of eight glazed flat plate solar collectors required, which are Solar Key Mark Approved and mounted on the main roof, transfers maximum heat to a 900 litre, unvented twin-coil cylinder, which in turn supplies pre-heated water to a gas-fired condensing water heater linked to a 500 litre storage vessel. Solar thermal renewable energy technology, which forms the sustainable credentials of this system, together with the energy efficiency of the condensing technology water heater, provide ultra low NOx and CO2 emissions.
Refurbishment of the domestic water heating system at Premier Inn Brighton City Centre involved replacing existing water heaters located on the outside of the building. A long term solution was required that would improve the energy efficiency of the system as well as reduce running costs. Following a survey, it was decided to install new water heaters in an internal plant room on the top floor of the building to provide abundant, virtually instantaneous domestic hot water to the hotel’s 160 bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms.
To minimize disruption to guests during the installation of the four water heaters selected, the new units were positioned, with all new pipework in the plant room in place, before the system was drained down and connections made to the new distribution system. The models selected are particularly suitable for hotels and sports facilities, where the demand for water peaks at particular times of the day. The original selection brief was met, as a fast recovery rate and imaginative design, together with high efficiency and low NOx emissions levels, ensure that running costs are kept to a minimum.
The Right Track
Although water heating is perhaps the most persistent energy user in a building heating system, as energy is required to maintain water temperatures at a required level even when the taps are not running, it may not always be the biggest energy user. The type and purpose of a building will greatly influence the balance of energy demands and space heating may prove to be the greatest. To enable specific energy efficiency solutions to be selected for each function, in many locations the space heating and water heating functions are separated. In such instances, boiler energy performance will be the focus where meeting the space heating requirement uses the most energy.
For over 90 years the Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa, has provided the community with quality live theatre, which has earned a strong reputation nationally, in a succession of buildings with the most recent dating from 1968. An ageing boiler was the cause of concern, as the cost of heating front of house, backstage and bar areas was one of the biggest overheads. A high efficiency condensing boiler was selected as the replacement, to provide space heating using the existing radiator system.
The chosen boiler has inbuilt weather compensation, summer/winter changeover and time control features. Occupying considerably less space in the plant room than its predecessor, the replacement boiler offers fully modulating control for complete heating flexibility, which reduces energy bills whilst delivering ultra low NOx emissions.
One of the country’s premier visitor attractions, Warwick Castle dates back to the 13th century and regularly plays host to events ranging from medieval banquets to memorable weddings and other functions. For some three decades the heating system was reliably served by the same boilers, but time took its toll and the decision was made to replace the existing plant room system with three cast-iron boilers to serve the vintage cast-iron radiator system, as well as convectors.
The replacement units each comprise six sections and this sectional design removed any potential difficulties with access to the ground floor plant room. To minimise inconvenience to the castle’s day to day operation, the boilers were delivered and installed in a single day. These advanced units have specially designed heat-exchangers which incorporate multiple flue-ways and fins to increase the surface area, meaning that they provide seasonal efficiencies compliant with all relevant standards. A large chamber capacity ensures environmentally sound combustion and reduced CO and NOx emissions.
These examples show that the heating industry is, at this very moment, able to offer leisure, recreational and sports facility operators the means to directly influence the way in which their building energy requirements are produced, or put to the most effective use, or both. The opportunity is available now to significantly reduce building energy costs and carbon emission levels by integrating renewable energy sources, drawing on free latent energy, together with advanced high efficiency, low emission equipment.
These on-going savings begin to accrue as soon as the chosen robust and reliable changes are implemented, making totally unnecessary any delay caused by the perhaps understandable foot dragging by legislators and administrators. Even if a decision regarding the choice of a renewable energy source cannot be made, due to local considerations, energy efficient condensing technology equipment can sensibly be incorporated into building services systems, as heating and hot water units from leading manufacturers can be integrated with a renewable technology at a later date.