Since the stone age we have been increasingly addicted to energy. We use it directly to heat and light our homes, drive our cars and cook our meals. Our clothes, food and all of our possessions consumed energy when they were manufactured, packaged and transported to us, and this energy is produced at a price. We burn finite supplies of fossil fuels when there is an alternative. We emit huge volumes of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases which lead directly to climate change on our planet. At our current rate of consumption we would need 3 planets to sustain us. We have one. We are steadily reducing the chance of a sustainable future for our children, our grandchildren and yet the technology is available to move away from this ever more treacherous path. This video will focus on using solar energy to produce electricity and hot water by using solar photovoltaic technology and solar water heaters on our buildings. Technology has moved on a huge amount in recent years, alongside legislation and financial incentives for generating renewable energy. Many technologies now pay back the initial financial investment within 5 years and pay back the energy used in their manufacture within 2 or 3. With a life span often of 30 years and an eternity of sunshine we really are at the stage where these technologies are a viable option. This video is about solutions but they are only solutions if they are used. If you, I, everyone we know and everyone they know, does their bit. I hope you are watching this video because you want to be part of the movement away from our current unsustainable methods of energy production and towards a brighter future. It’s not all about conscience though. I am also going to give you cold hard engineering facts and thorough financial calculations. So why are we even discussing this in the first place? There are several independent reasons, each enough to convince us on their own but put together they are utterly irrefutable. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that warming of the climate system cannot be denied, and that there is a very high likelihood that this is as a result of human activity. These are very strong words from an international group of climate scientists and we must heed their message. Over the past 150 years global average temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees celsius, sea levels have risen and northern hemisphere snow cover has reduced. Global Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have almost doubled since the industrial revolution. The implementation of energy saving measures and movement away from our reliance on fossil fuels could restrain global temperature rises, avoiding the worst effects of climate change, compared with a potential rise of up to 6 degrees if no action is taken. Although CO2 is not the most damaging greenhouse gas in terms of global warming potential per kg, it is important to focus on because of the huge quantities we emit. In 2007 carbon dioxide made up 85% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason and for simplicity we focus on emissions of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent when comparing technologies. And just how urgent is this? So far we have pushed up global temperatures by about 0.8 C – but because of the 40 or 50 year time lag between emissions and temperature rise, the emissions already in the atmosphere commit us to an additional 0.6 degrees of warming over the coming decades. We are now dangerously close to the tipping point in the world’s climate system; the point of no return, after which truly catastrophic changes become inevitable. Unless we reverse emissions by the middle of the coming decade – 2015 – then the likelihood is that we will have forever committed the world to 2C of global warming. It means that we will trigger the irreversible melting of the Greenland, Antarctic and Arctic ice caps, that we will trigger the melting of the Alaskan and Siberian permafrost, that we will trigger the death of the world’s rainforest belt, that we will acidify the worlds oceans. The point of it all, is that if we hit 2C of global warming, then all of these ecosystem collapses will release vast amounts of further greenhouse gases triggering positive feedback and runaway climate change. The first human impacts will come in the form of steeply declining access to fresh water, as rainfall patterns change, glacier-fed rivers dry up, and rising sea levels contaminate fresh water supplies. As crops fail, deserts spread, forests burn, and coastal regions flood permanently, people will start to pack up their things in their billions and move on in search of a better life elsewhere. But where? What will ‘humanity’ mean in a world where countries which remain mostly habitable – like Britain – use most of our remaining resources fighting to keep out the starving millions who can no longer live in their own countries as a result of our lifestyles. OK, here’s the good news: None of this is inevitable – yet. This is not the time to panic, or to despair. This is the time to act – while we still can. So is that a good enough reason to seriously invest in low-carbon technologies? Personally I would say yes, but there is another reason. Oil is a finite resource. Even if we move away from the impacts of extracting and burning it we cannot escape this fact. Peak oil is the moment when we reach our maximum rate of petroleum production and move into decline. Many experts predict that peak oil- will soon be reached. Estimates vary but some predictions state that oil production will decline within the next 5 years. The USA has imported oil since 1970 after it became uneconomical to extract from its own reserves. A move from our dependence on finite fossil fuels is also essential to ensure when peak oil does happen it does not lead to problems in energy security, not to mention the global economy. In Europe, our resource use has constantly increased over the past 30 years and our dependence on external energy resources is increasing. Globally the rate of discovery of new oil reserves is reducing and the new supplies that we do find are involving more and more expensive methods of extraction. The time of easy access to plentiful supplies of fossil fuels at low prices is over. The UK has been bound by international legislation since ratifying the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1993. This committed us to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% by 2012 based on 1990 levels and to publish national emission inventories of greenhouse gases on a regular basis. More recently the Climate Change Act came into force which committed us to a domestic goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050. The Stern Review (2006) reported the scientific consensus that climate change was a serious global threat and that, whilst the cost of action to avoid the worst effects would be 1% of GDP, the cost of inaction would be between 5% and 20%. In 2009 the European Union agreed its Renewable Energy Directive. This sets the UK a target requiring that 15% of energy consumption should come from renewable sources by 2020 and we will receive heavy financial penalties if we do not meet this target. The Scottish Executive have also introduced a target that renewable sources would provide for 50% of gross electricity consumption in Scotland by 2020 with an interim target of 31% by 2011. So how does that help us as individuals or companies to invest in this technology? There are actually a growing range of financial incentives. From 1st April 2010 every unit of electricity generated from home by a PhotoVoltaic system under 5MW could earn up to 41.3p per unit through the new Feed-in-Tariff. There are also plans to introduce a similar scheme for renewable heat generation from April 2011. For electricity from renewable sources householders will be paid a generation rate by the energy supplier for each KWh produced. This rate will be set for 25 years for solar photovoltaic systems to allow for long term budgeting. To encourage reduced use of energy and to diversify our grid supply, on top of this an additional 3p/ KWh will paid for each generated unit that is unused and hence is fed into the grid. Obviously, the additional benefit is that savings will also be made on energy bills! This could mean around £830 per year for a typical-sized solar electricity installation, dramatically reducing the payback period of any capital costs, making solar energy a very attractive option and raising the value of properties which are built with this nice little earner already installed! Another available incentive is the micro-generation grant. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) provides grants to public sector buildings and charities for the installation of micro generation technologies throughout the UK. The Building Research Establishment coordinates the award of grants as part of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme. Up to £1 million can be claimed per site for a maximum of three different technologies. The same organization can make several applications for different sites. Up to 50% of the cost of installing solar photovoltaics and up to 30% of the cost of solar thermal systems can be funded. Renewables Obligation Certificates, or ROCs are another way of earning money from renewable energy generation. Utility companies must currently produce 9.1% of their energy from renewable sources, rising to 15.4% by 2016. A micro-generator can currently claim different amounts of ROC’s per MWh dependent on the technology being installed, Currently 2 ROCs can be claimed for 1MWh from solar. Utility companies currently pay micro-generators £33/ROC, however this amount varies in response to market conditions. The Climate Change Levy (CCL) is an environmental tax levied on the supply of electricity and gas, amongst others. To encourage the growth of low carbon technologies, electricity generated from renewable sources is exempt from Climate Change Levy. Ofgem issues a Levy Exemption Certificate , currently worth £4.41 for each Megawatt hour (MWh) that an accredited renewable generator produces. So all in all we find ourselves in a position where we are faced with a challenge that we have created ourselves. To move away from our reliance on a finite resource, to reduce our emissions and the results of our emissions and to keep in line with international and national legislation, we have to act It makes financial, moral and just plain common sense.