Freedom to generate

Ground source is one way.

Not as imminent as it needs to be, but after three big sets of UK government proposals in the space of four days, the road to the energy-saving home which is sustainable as well as comfortable is clearer than it was.

White Papers on planning and energy (plus a new strategy for waste disposal) have set out ways of making Britain’s housing more eco-friendly. Campaigners are now focusing on calls for the planning laws to include a special category of permission for off-grid homes.

Britain’s emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal gas causing global warming, were 152 million tonnes (expressed as millions of tonnes of carbon, mtC) in 2004, and of this, emissions from the domestic building stock were 27 per cent of the total.

Most of that energy goes on heating water and heating space. (For the record, 53 per cent goes on space heating, 20 per cent on water heating, 16 per cent to power appliances such as computers and televisions, 6 per cent on lighting and 5 per cent on cooking.)

But much of that can be cut right back – as of course it will have to be if the Government is to meet its climate change target of slashing UK carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.

It can be done in two ways – by energy-saving measures in the home, and also by decentralising the electricity supply system so that power is generated locally, on a small scale, rather than at a huge power station far away, which wastes much of the energy it produces in transmission. In some places this has produced astonishing results: Woking in Surrey reduced its carbon emissions by 77.4 per cent between 1992 and 2004.

Local generation may take place in a miniature power station serving a small community, but taken to its logical conclusion, you can do it in your own home, with solar panels on your roof or even a mini-wind turbine

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