Category: Energy (Page 1 of 6)

Why should you become a Sustainability Champion Assistant?

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant, supporting the King’s Energy Team.

With a new academic year approaching, you may be thinking about how you can get involved in sustainability at King’s. While many students come to university eagerly anticipating joining societies, less think about volunteering. I’ll be honest, I was one of them. When I became a Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), I had little idea of what it would entail. But here I am to explain why you should become an SCA for King’s Energy.

Clock volunteering hours

Did you know that at KCL you can log your volunteering hours on an online portal for an award? You could receive a bronze, silver or gold award for your efforts which is not only a personal pat on the back but would also be viewed favourably when included on your CV. It should be noted that you can mix-and-match volunteering experiences so you won’t only be reliant on King’s Energy, but over an academic year, you can easily attain a Gold award just through being a Sustainability Champion.

Learn new things

I’ll be honest, when I was allocated to King’s Energy, I whipped out the old CGP GCSE Physics revision guide to refresh my knowledge. However, prepare to be surprised. You will work with experts in the field who have extensive experience working in their field. I’ve been working with the Energy Team for 6 months, and I feel like a bonafide expert already, so you’ll be surprised how quickly and easily you will pick up information. Another thing that may surprise you is just how versatile the topic of energy is and how it links with so many different things around us.

Gain experience doing something you love

No, I don’t mean energy. We don’t expect you to love energy (although you may just fall in love with it along the way), but you likely have a skill that we are looking for. For me, that skill is writing. I love writing but it is so difficult to gain experience in a low-pressure environment. Enter King’s Energy. Whether your skill is writing, social media marketing or team management, there is a role for you here.

Make a positive impact

How could I ignore this one? As I mentioned, energy is all-encompassing, and it’s becoming an increasingly important issue in the modern world. Not only will being an SCA enable you to learn more about this crucial matter, but you will also be raising awareness and spreading that knowledge in an impartial, non-political way. In other words, you will play a vital role in the education of climate issues and, in doing so, help protect the future of our planet.

There you have it – my top four reasons to become an SCA!

The Sustainability Champions Assistant programme is an opportunity open to all King’s students to help the King’s Sustainability Team deliver the Staff Sustainability Champions programme. Find out more here

Mason’s experience working with King’s Energy

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Those of you who are regular readers of our weekly blog posts may notice the same name every week next to the title – that’s me. You may be questioning what I actually do, why I volunteer for King’s Energy and how I keep churning out these posts – or not. But I will tell you anyway.

To be completely honest, I didn’t sign up to volunteer as a sustainability champion because I was particularly passionate about being an ecowarrior. In fact, I didn’t even sign up at all. My girlfriend signed me up because she felt some volunteering experience would look good on my CV. I must confess, I wasn’t pleased. I interpreted that I would be collecting rubbish in my already limited spare time. When I was assigned to King’s Energy, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. To give you some background info, I studied History as my BA and Politics and Contemporary History as my MA – nothing “sciency” and very little to do with energy.

But I attended the first meeting with the team, consisting of two permanent members plus whichever sustainability champions have been coerced into joining. When I started, there were two of us. Neither of us knew a thing about energy. You would think it is quite over-awing being dropped in a call with two people who work and have extensive experience in the field, but they’re completely normal people who are relaxed and accommodating, creating a laid-back, low-pressure environment. Additionally, they had no initial expectations of us. Instead, they allowed us to establish what roles we wanted to take on – enabling us to play to our strengths. Finally, the role did not involve hours of scouring the beach for litter. Instead, I spent an hour a week partaking in our virtual team meetings and around the same time researching and writing blog posts.

When it comes to this part of the role, you agree as a team what the post will be about, but the content and how you write it is entirely up to you. There is also the opportunity to create graphics for social media, but if you were to see some of my attempts, you would understand why I stuck to writing. In terms of researching and writing posts, as I mentioned, it is not terribly time-consuming, and it is actually interesting. Energy is not just about telling people to turn the lights off; it covers how it is generated, the impacts of this and educates you on how energy affects your life. It is a topic of huge importance, and quite simply, there is no better place to educate yourself on this than working with King’s Energy.

Six months on from being forcibly signed up, I am here advocating the role. As my girlfriend initially suggested, it will take pride of place on my CV, but it has been so much more than that. I have gained valuable writing experience and been exposed to a potential future career.

The Sustainability Champions Assistant programme is an opportunity open to all King’s students to help the King’s Sustainability Team deliver the Staff Sustainability Champions programme. Find out more here

What would happen if we covered the Sahara Desert with solar panels?

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

In last week’s blog post, we alluded to the idea of covering the Sahara Desert with solar panels. While some of you may have had this idea before, others may have spent the past week captivated and wondering why it hasn’t been done yet. Well, aside from the fact that we simply don’t need that much energy, as we mentioned last week, there are several other reasons why we won’t do it. Read on to find out.

Why is this even an idea?

The Sahara Desert is one of the most exposed places on Earth to the sun’s rays. So, the idea is that if we could gather all that energy, we could power the world. In reality, we would harvest so much more energy than we could ever possibly need. According to Forbes, solar panels covering a surface of around 335km2 would actually be enough to power the world – this would cover just 1.2% of the Sahara Desert.

What would happen?

Outside of electricity generation, this could have several consequences. First, the light colour of the Saharan sand serves the purpose of reflecting the sun’s light and heat back into the air. By covering this, we would be ensuring that more sunlight is absorbed, thus prompting a rise in ground temperature. Warmer air then rises to higher altitudes and condenses as clouds that will then fall as rain, completely transforming the desert as we know it.

Why is this an issue?

The planet works based on a series of well-balanced systems, and this could completely upset the apple cart. The Amazon Rainforest, for example, is reliant on the mineral-rich sands blown from the Sahara for nutrients. Without these, the Amazon will not receive enough nutrients to survive, and its downfall could be accelerated. Furthermore, the increased heat in the desert won’t end there. It will be transported worldwide through weather systems, resulting in less rainfall for the Amazon and more unstable weather in regions such as North America or Asia.

What’s the silver lining?

We don’t need 100% of the Sahara to be covered in solar panels. Even 20%, which is the amount that would kickstart these impacts, is not needed. Instead, a series of smaller solar farms covering 1.2% of the surface should be enough to generate enough electricity without having such extreme impacts on the environment.

But is it feasible?

It is probably not realistic to expect political cohesion and economic investment to quickly make such a concept a reality. However, if projects such as the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex in Morocco continue to show good results, there is no reason why a series of independent projects cannot be set up over a longer time period that could meet our energy needs.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy: The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

We’ve all wondered if it’s possible to cover the Sahara Desert in giant solar panels to resolve our renewable energy issue. No doubt you will have seen utopian constructions of what this could look like. For instance, David Attenborough’s A Life on our Planet provided an example of how a future powered by renewable energy could look. But in Morocco, that future is already here, and they’ve taken that interest in Sahara solar panels seriously too. Check out this image of the world’s largest concentrated solar power project, the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex:

When was it built?

Construction began in May 2013. There have since been two expansion productions also commissioned, one in 2018 and one in 2019. It was funded by the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy at the cost of a cool $3.9 billion, though this funding came from several investors, including the World Bank.

How does it work?

Here’s the cool part! Noor I uses Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) to produce energy. Essentially, this means that a series of mirrors divert sunlight into something that retains that energy to be used later. The unique part about Noor I is that it uses molten salt to store energy, meaning that energy collected during the day can also be released at night.

The complex has upgraded on this for Noor II and III, which can store energy for up to 8 hours. Noor II uses a slightly different technology: parabolic troughs, or concave mirrors to the rest of us, to reflect the sun’s rays. Noor III, meanwhile, has a solar tower that collects the energy reflected from the mirrors (pictured).

Finally, Noor IV, which has not yet been commissioned, will use photovoltaic panels as we know them, so we will be one step closer to finding out what will happen if we fill the world’s hottest places with solar panels.

How much energy does it produce?

Noor I alone produces 370GwH per annum, with Noor II producing 600GwH and Noor III 500GwH and combined, they cover 6,178 acres. To put that into context, global energy usage was 171,240TwH in 2019. It would seem then that Noor is just a drop in the ocean, but consider that the Sahara Desert is 2.273 billion acres. It would take 116.5 Noor’s to supply the world with renewable energy based on 2019 demand, which would require 719,674 acres of the Sahara… Now, that really is just a grain of sand.

A couple drawbacks and limitations include the need to regularly clean the solar panels (even more so because of the sandy environment), which requires large amounts of water and the challenge of transporting power over great distances and political will.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy: “Big Battery” Technology

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

In last week’s blog post, we discussed the UK’s challenges when it comes to adopting renewable energy. One of these is combatting intermittency and increasing the efficiency of wind and solar power. The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a potential solution: batteries. No, not the Duracell Bunny. Big batteries. Batteries for storing energy. Intrigued? Read on to discover more.

What is “big battery” technology?

Think of your phone battery. You plug it into the mains, it charges, and the charge is retained for a period of time. The theory here is very similar. Instead of having periods of over-and undersupply, renewable energy can instead be stored in large-scale battery facilities. It can then be fed back into the grid.

What are the advantages?

The main advantage of “big battery” technology is that they minimise energy wastage, making investments in renewables far more attractive. Batteries can even out the energy harvested by renewables over the year, so your household isn’t dependent on 365 days of sun. In addition, if you have one in your own home, the energy will be stored rather than returned to the grid, decreasing your reliance on the grid and reducing the stress on the grid itself. Another advantage is that even with limited capacity, battery storage can be used to power homes via the grid in emergencies or in times of power outages instead of using natural gas.

Is it available already?

Yes and no. This technology is available for home use (for those who generate their own electricity) but is not yet widely available on an industrial scale. However, that is changing. California, for example, has a 300-megawatt lithium-ion battery already up and running and another 100-megawatt battery due to become operational this year. Because of these initiatives, more funding is being allocated to developing this technology.

What about the UK?

The UK and Europe as a whole have been a little slower to become convinced by the merits of this technology, and so there are no fully operational battery storage facilities in the UK yet. However, the development of several facilities is underway. The largest of these is in Essex, on the Thames Estuary, where InterGen has gained planning permission for a 320MW site at the cost of £200m. It will also have the potential for further expansion, up to 1.3GW. This would make it ten times the size of other projects also underway in the UK and able to power over half a million homes in the event of a power outage.

So, “big battery” technology really is just big batteries. It remains to be seen just how effective they are in the long term. Still, it seems a crucial element of transitioning to renewable energy sources will be to store this energy when there is no demand for it, and batteries are currently one of the best ways to do so.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy: The renewable energy challenge and the National Grid

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

We’ve given a lot of information on this blog recently about renewable energy and how commendable it is that the UK (and King’s, of course) are in the process of switching to renewable sources. However, this cannot happen overnight, and it does put considerable strain on the existing energy network as we go through the transition. So that got us thinking – how many people actually know how all this works? The answer is hopefully everyone who has read this post, so read on to find out!

How is electricity generated?

As you will probably know, energy is typically generated by producing steam. This steam then turns a turbine, which in turn powers a generator and boom we have electricity. Although there are other methods to turn those turbines (falling water, wind, etc.), steam remains by far the most popular.

How does the National Grid work?

The National Grid is a system of power lines, pipelines, interconnectors and storage facilities. Once the energy is generated, the role of the National Grid is to deliver it to homes around the UK. Within the network, many Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) distribute the electricity locally where and when needed.

What is the challenge with renewables?

Official demand for renewable energy is increasing, and it poses a monumental challenge to the National Grid. As such, not only does the Grid require regular and costly maintenance, but it is now being upgraded on a never-before-seen scale. In addition to this, the demand for energy itself is also greater than ever. Since September, this has led to the National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) issuing four Electricity Margin Notices (EMNs). These are essentially warnings that there is not enough reserve energy to guarantee continued supply. To put that into context, one such notice was issued in the UK over the previous four years.

What is the solution?

Half of the problem is demand, so if we as individuals can reduce our energy demand even slightly, we will also reduce the pressure on the Grid itself. Besides this, some other technical solutions may become viable in the future, for example, battery storage. These are currently available in your home, and if you generate your own electricity (one to bear in mind for the future), they are a worthwhile investment. However, using them on a large scale is not yet feasible, though this would go some way towards having a permanent baseline. Reciprocating engine generator technology and black-start gas turbines are other technological advancements that could also support this.

In short, we all like things to be done quickly, but in the world of energy, the transition to renewables is a slow and complicated process. In the short term, we can all do our part by reducing our consumption, easing the pressure on the National Grid and making the renewable transition far smoother.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy: The Climate Change Committee 2021 Progress Report – Findings and Recommendations

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Welcome back to the King’s Energy blog post! Last week the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published their 2021 Progress Report to Parliament – read on to see what they found and their recommendations for the future.

Energy Use in 2020

Global energy use fell by 4% in 2020 compared to 2019 levels, mostly accounted for by significant declines in more “advanced” economies. In addition to this welcome decline, the energy we are using has become cleaner as we are also becoming gradually less reliant on fossil fuels as an energy source. According to the report, oil use has fallen by 9% – predominantly due to less demand for oil for transport. Electricity demand also decreased, meaning coal consumption fell by 4%, while gas usage also fell by 2%. However, these figures do not tell the full story. Not only has electricity demand fell, but 29% of the electricity used derived from renewable sources – that’s a 27% increase on 2019 levels. To put that into context, that is the largest growth rate on record, and it means that the total low-carbon generation share is now 39%.

Forecast for 2021

All of that sounds great, so what’s the catch? Well, these figures have been impacted in no uncertain terms by the pandemic and, with the effects of that expected to die down (fingers crossed) over the next year, the CCC are not so optimistic for 2021. They expect energy usage to bounce back, rising 4.5% in 2021, which would bring it 0.5% above 2019 levels. Equally, CO2 emissions are expected to rise by around 5%, falling just short of 2019 levels. However, there remains significant uncertainty about these predictions as it depends on the course of the pandemic and how countries recover from it.

Future Recommendations

Among their 32 pages of recommendations, the CCC advise Parliament of the following when it comes to energy:

  • Consult on reforms to electricity pricing to remove disincentives to electrification by 2022.
  • Consider the introduction of a carbon tax aimed at curbing rising emissions from energy from waste by 2022.
  • Create a clear incentive for manufacturing facilities to switch to low-carbon energy sources by 2023.
  • Improve the collection and reporting of industrial decarbonisation data to allow for progress to be monitored more effectively, particularly on energy and resource efficiency by 2022.
  • Provide a stable long-term policy framework to support sustained energy efficiency and heat pump growth as a priority.
  • Implement improvements to the Energy Performance Certificate by 2022.
  • Improve the consumer charging experience and making smart charging accessible, appealing and cost-effective for as many electric vehicle users as possible as a priority.

So there you have it. In short, progress has been made over the past couple of years. Still, we have a duty as individuals to build back from the pandemic in a more energy-conscious way. At the same time, we are also reliant on the authorities to commit to the changes listed moving forward. Read the Climate Change Committee’s 2021 Report to Parliament here.

 

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy – Transport and energy: what’s the link?

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

London is famed for its red double-decker buses, but those of you with a keen eye may have noticed that some of these are turning green… According to Transport for London (TfL), London’s 9,500-strong bus fleet attracts a daily ridership of 6 million people on a weekday across 673 routes. In this blog, we explore the link between transport and energy and what is being done to reduce emissions in this area.

The relationship between transport and energy

It is simply impossible to talk about energy without mentioning transport. The transport sector was responsible for over 24% of global emissions in 2016, and this figure has been growing year on year. In the UK specifically, this number peaked in 2007 before a slight decline but has been rising again since 2013. The root cause of the problem is unquestionably road vehicles, which account for 72% of global transport emissions.

The concern with transport is not limited to vehicle emissions either. The transport sector is heavily reliant on oil as an energy source, with over 53% of global primary oil consumption in 2010 being used to meet 94% of the total transport energy demand. The good news? This reliance seems to be decreasing. Energy consumption by the transport sector has shrunk to 31% in the years since. There is, however, still a long way to go.

What is being done?

In London, the focus has very much been on targeting these road vehicles. You may have heard of certain initiatives such as the Congestion Charge Zone, the phasing out of diesel taxis or “Ultra-Low Emission Zones”. While these have had a positive impact, more action is needed, and more action has been promised.

Mayor Sadiq Kahn has committed to ensuring 80% of all Londoner’s trips be made by foot, bicycle or public transport by 2041. To achieve this, there are plans to expand the cycle network and continue to enforce “Ultra-Low Emission Zones” and building on the Toxicity Charge (T-Charge). This would include incorporating central London into a “Zero-Emission Zone” by 2025 to be expanded to a London-wide zone by 2050. Additionally, from next year all new double-decker buses will be hybrid, electric or hydrogen, while it is hoped that the entire bus fleet will be completely emission-free by 2037.

What can you do?

As a London resident, you can do your bit by avoiding driving in the city (although we’re sure not many students plan on driving around London). Of course, we would encourage walking or cycling (though always carry an umbrella!) for short distances, and public transport for longer ones.

What is King’s doing?

Tune in to our #TakeoverTuesday tomorrow (Tuesday 29 June) on the King’s Sustainability Instagram. We will be filling you in on what King’s is doing to help.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy: Smart homes – how energy-saving are they?

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

I’m sure many of you have seen adverts or promotions for some form of “smart home” technology. They are becoming increasingly popular and in-demand, but is this just because they seem like a cool idea? Or do they actually save energy? We’ve done the research for you, so read on and find out!

What are smart homes?

Simply put, smart homes are residences that use internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems, such as lighting and heating. Many new homes are being built with the capacity for them to become smart homes, while older homes can be retrospectively fitted with the right technology.

What makes them “smart”?

Smart homes allow you to monitor and control anything in your home which is linked to your WiFi. That may sound like you’re the smart one there, but smart homes do have some features which make them truly intelligent. For example, using sensors, they can tell when somebody is in a home or a room and control the lights or heating accordingly. They can also track your behavioural patterns to identify the perfect amounts of water or energy for certain activities. Based on these patterns, many smart homes will also offer you recommendations on saving energy every day. That’s truly smart.

Can they help save energy?

The simple answer is yes, but it depends on the individual. A smart home can only provide information and optimise with the tools at its disposal. It is up to the homeowner to give it more tools to use and a better environment to use them in. Put simply, if your water meter is not linked to your smart home, then it will have no impact on your water usage. It can take time to get everything hooked up and become comfortable with all the features.

What can be done to help my smart home?

Several things can be done to make homes more suitable for smart home technology, so these may well be worth looking out for when it comes to investing in your first home:

  • Insulation – A properly insulated home will make heating and cooling much easier and more energy-efficient, thereby making life much easier for a smart home.
  • LED bulbs – As we mention most weeks on this blog, LEDs use much less energy than most other types of lightbulbs. They are also extremely durable and can be easily connected to smart homes.
  • Solar panels – An expensive investment, we know. However, this one shows that while you can save energy, if your energy is still sourced from fossil fuels, for example, then the environmental benefits are minimal. Solar panels will also reduce reliance on grid electricity, and even more so if you also invest in a home battery which will retain and store any excess energy. So, if you are thinking of purchasing a smart home, think long-term and make sure your home is ready before making that investment.

So, there you have it, smart homes have the potential to be extremely effective in terms of saving energy, but much of that depends on how you use and complement it. If you have seen them advertised and dream of having one in your future home, then don’t worry; they can be really great for the planet, but you should ensure the correct infrastructure is in place before taking the plunge.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy: Some good news – Sale of halogen bulbs to be banned in the UK

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Okay, this story was run a few days ago so it’s technically not breaking news.

You may remember our article about lightbulbs, namely incandescent, halogen, fluorescent and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Last week, as part of a series of climate change plans, the UK government announced that halogen bulbs will be banned in the UK from September, and fluorescent lights will follow shortly thereafter. This new ban builds upon EU-wide rules in 2018 banning old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs.

Why are they being banned?

While halogen bulbs are one of the cheaper options on the market, costing on average £2, they do not compare favourably to other market alternatives in terms of energy. A halogen bulb uses 70W to produce 1600 lumens. That is 30W less than traditional bulbs, but around 6 times the energy usage of LEDs. Further, they have an average lifespan of just two years, so you can imagine the amount of waste generated.

Overall, halogens are no longer the most energy-efficient bulb on the market and this change will go towards helping the UK achieve its environmental goals. In fact, according to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, this move will cut 1.26 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year – equivalent to removing half a million cars from the UK’s roads.

What about Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL)?

CFL lighting will also be phased out in the new plans, by September 2023. While these were heralded for their energy efficiency when they were first introduced on the market (they are more energy-efficient than halogens, using just 25W for 1600 lumens), LEDs quickly swept in and took their place as most energy-efficient lightbulbs.

Keep an eye out when you return to the office as the CFL strip lighting may just have been replaced. Can you notice the difference?

How does this affect me?

The ban refers to the sale of the bulbs, not the owning of them – so don’t worry, your kitchen spotlights will not suddenly become illegal. Overall, the shift away from traditional lightbulbs will also save households across the UK money on their energy bills.

What is the alternative?

Our preferred alternative, and seemingly that of the UK Government, are LEDs. They use just 16W of energy to produce 1600 lumens, while they have a life span of 20+ years. Therefore, although the initial cost of LEDs can be high, they tend to save between £45 and £75 in energy over ten years. And if you’re saving money, using less energy and producing less waste, we at King’s Energy are happy.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

« Older posts