Energy

Heat policy and advice – The future we need now

As noted in the first and the second post, and seen from recent news, heating our homes is a financial and social challenge for many. It is wrapped up in notions of fairness or lack of it, comfort and family, as well as the impact on the environment. Having moved from wood and coal to natural gas, heating our homes using gas boilers is still a major source of direct carbon dioxide emissions which in 2019 stood at 85 million tonnes, that’s 17% of total UK greenhouse gasses emissions. At 3.7 MtCO2e, the Residential Buildings sector accounted for 10% of Welsh emissions in 2019. Given how leaky and old houses are in Wales and the rest of the UK, it is no surprise we continuously feel cold while energy bills keep going up.

Decarbonisation of heat, that is removal of gas as its main fuel, is, therefore, one of the most important climate actions we can take. The UK Committee for Climate Changes noted that between now and 2050, emissions from residential buildings need to fall to zero at a rate of 3.4% per year based on current emission levels. But, as authors of The pathway to net-zero heating in the UK 2021 brief (UK Energy Research Centre) observed, the current pace of decarbonisation (largely due to efficiency programmes and regulation in the period 2002-2012), would get us to zero emissions from buildings in 235 years and fall far short of meeting the 2050 target.

Source: The pathway to net zero heating in the UK 2021 brief

Since the publication of the brief, there has been little progress in the UK with regards to decabonisation of heat. This month, the House of Commons Committee has issued a report setting out the considerable challenges that lie ahead in the transition to decarbonised domestic heating and makes recommendations about the steps which need to be taken for the Government to meet its own targets for the decarbonisation of domestic heating. It is one of those punchy reports full of data and evidence highlighting the slow and inadequate response of the UK central government in enabling decarbonisation. At the same time, the report offers hope and a fresh perspective on the matter of heat because it focuses on all aspects of heat discussed in this series.

On the eve of the report, Darren Jones, Chair of BEIS aptly noted that

As the Government decides on financial help for customers with the cost of their energy bills, they must also come forward with a replacement for the Green Homes Grant. Action is needed to improve insulation and energy efficiency in our homes and to step up the pace in delivering low carbon heating systems, at a lower cost to households than today. Ministers can’t simply leave this to the market – Government should tackle the cost of heating our homes in the round and bring forward joined-up policies that address these issues together. Decarbonising heat in our homes will require engineers who know how to install low carbon heating systems in every community across the country. The Government should work with industry and trade unions to support a low carbon heating apprenticeship programme and ensure existing workers get access to re-skilling courses that will support their transition to the new green jobs of the future.”

Although decarbonisation of heat is undoubtedly a complex process, the past developments (see the second post about the move from town to natural gas) tell us that socio-technological transitions can be made possible when multiple actors are fully mobilised. However, unlike earlier, the current transition is said to cost too much for taxpayers, the industry, and the government to muster. Does that mean that heat policy has hit the dead end? We do not think so. There is still hope to avoid multiple catastrophes if attention is paid to the physical, human, and environmental aspects of heat, as ignoring them will only derail any progress.

One important caveat though is that no geographical area is the same and so policies and national scenarios need to reflect that. For example, as part of the Zero2050 South Wales project, UKERC researchers worked with National Grid to investigate possible pathways for decarbonising heat in cities in South Wales, and noted that the share of different low carbon technologies under the same decarbonisation scenario is different for each city due to variations in housing stock and their characteristics in terms of the number of houses located in heat dense areas of the cities, and space availability of buildings.

What we have learned

Is it just about the technology? Is It about our habits? Feelings?  What can be done?

Here at Cynnal Cymru we recognise that technology alone really cannot solve all of the problems. It will solves some, but not all. We advocate that to reduce emissions and respond to climate change, policymakers need to engage businesses and communities to do their bit because knowledge and technology alone, however well delivered, does not shift behaviour. Knowledge and information campaigns work only if they are in tandem with initiatives that really engage the people most affected and allow them to see the changes that need to happen (for example in retrofitted ‘show homes’). In order to succeed, target audiences also need to trust those who are giving these messages and be able to see the benefits in making changes to their lives or their businesses. We also agree with the key message from commentators on this topic: first, insulation, then roll out of low carbon alternatives, while enabling (not just informing) the change in behaviour. Perhaps later other technologies can come in to support the decarbonisation. It is not one or the other, but rather more of many

This is why in our training, consultancy, and facilitation work we focus on actions, in particular, the steps organisations can take to enable others to do their bit. We also connect people with experts in their field, like the Active Building Centre, and point to information that can help.

Coming back to the question of what we can do about it

If you can afford insulation, do it immediately. The longer you leave it, the more heat you waste.  his might be easiest when thinking of renovating a house that you just bought or as part of a bigger home improvement project – but even if you find yourself in different circumstances, the benefits of action will outweigh the inconvenience.

If you cannot afford insulation you might be eligible for an ECO grant or localised grants. More information is available through Warm Wales.

If you are renting and you have no agency over insulation, check EPC standard for your home first because if it is low, you may ask your landlord to take new measures, or talk to council. Given that the report by the House of Commons Committee on decarbonisation of heat calls on Ministers to set out what measures are being considered to assist tenants who rent their homes in managing the transition to low carbon heating with their landlords, you may hopefully see changes in policy.

If you are working in the social housing sector, do not rely only on the provision of information to tenants to reduce energy consumption. Tenants need to be listened to, their concerns answered, and live examples of what’s possible through retrofit are needed in the community. If engaging your tenants in these conversations is challenging, consider reading the latest account by a journalist whose childhood was dominated by poverty, damp clothes, and stigma.

If you are a business and you are struggling paying bills, check the guidance by OFGEM as to what can be done immediately, but also use this challenge as an opportunity to plan your decarbonisation strategy.

If you would like to have a say about the Welsh Government’s proposals for the next iteration of the Warm Homes Programme, go to the cosultation page or attend workshops by National Energy Action (NEA) Cymru.

In closing we want to state our view: Nobody should feel cold and stigmatised for living in a leaky home and future generations should not be the ones fixing up the problem of heat. It is up to the current generation to fix this issue by calling on governments to deliver on their policies while doing all that’s in their power to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

To switch on the heating, or not? – a surprisingly complex question

On cold, wet and windy days a bike ride to work seems impossible. Damp shoes and clothes seem too much to contend with and wrapping up in a blanket on a Zoom call seems too unprofessional. Whether in the office or at home, the temptation to reach for the electric heater grows as the gas prices are rising and central heating under-performs. “To switch on the heating, or not” is the question that many people across the Northern hemisphere are asking themselves.

Here at Cynnal Cymru we recognise these challenges as we too battle between the need for comfort and the feeling of warmth versus our knowledge about climate change. We know from the 6th Carbon budget by the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC), that direct building CO₂ emissions were 85 MtCO₂ in 2019, which account for 17% of total UK GHG emission. This was mostly from our homes (77%), followed by commercial buildings (14%) and public buildings (9%). The reason behind these figures is simple – it is our demand for hot water and heating. 74% of this demand in buildings is met by natural gas, and 10% by petroleum, with smaller amounts of other fuels such as coal and biomass.

To reduce total emissions, the ways in which we heat and use our buildings must be addressed. Recommendations from the CCC include changing behaviour (use less, lower the temperature), increasing building efficiency (insulation), and introducing low carbon heat (air source or ground heat pumps, hydrogen, low carbon district heating etc). The topic of heat then sits at the core of what we at Cynnal Cymru care about, not just professionally but personally too.

Over the last few months, we took part in an unintentional social experiment, because the building we are located in was undergoing a renovation of its central heating. We wore our thickest jumpers, we made many hot drinks, and despite all efforts, eventually, we turned to the electric heaters knowing perfectly well their economic and environmental cost.

This lack of heat got us talking about comfort, habits, energy, renewables, ways to keep warm, and insulation. We knew well that to reduce carbon emissions and to protect future generations, we need to do our bit around heat –which, in reality, may well mean getting used to feeling colder while waiting for a zero-carbon alternative to arrive. But how might this impact on those other fundamental human feelings and needs – for warmth, security and comfort? And what does this mean for the changes that we need to make as a society?

To delve deeper into these questions – and to explore the challenges and opportunities that Wales faces for warm homes and decarbonisation – Dr Karolina Rucinska, our Sustainability Advisor, set out on a research journey that will be shared over the coming weeks. We start with the basics – what is heat?

Heat is moving

If you are grumbling about how cold your house is despite having the radiators on, it is because heat, if it can escape, will always do so. However hard you try, the hot stuff will eventually become cold because the world we live in is governed by the uncompromising laws of thermodynamics. ‘Heat in motion’, Chris Woodford explains in Atoms under the floorboards (2016, Bloomsbury Publishing), ‘is another way to describe thermodynamics, which explains things like how cars waste energy, why power stations need such stupendous cooling towers, why cows have damp noses and dogs dangle out their tongues – and even why Arctic musk oxen spend so much time standing still in the snow.’

While the first law is concerned with energy loss, the second law of thermodynamics is concerned with the movement of heat, always from hot to cold and never the other way round. So, cold stuff is simply the lack of heat, while heat is stuff that always wants to go where there is less of it. Sounds weird, but effectively this is what is happening in our homes. Heat moves around and is, as it were, always on the go, so to make your home cosy, you are effectively trying to heat up every atom in everything that is inside. This takes huge effort and of course energy. If you are using different heaters that store heat and give it away at different rates, then you might wait hours if not days to feel cosy, while all that heat continues to slosh around and move.

This physical side of heat points to one thing: if you want to keep your house cosy, you must insulate it. Without insulation, heat will always escape regardless of how you warm it up. Before you look up low carbon alternatives to your boiler, invest in insulation.

If only it was that easy….

The UK has some of the oldest and most leaky housing stock in Europe. According to the Independent review on decarbonising Welsh homes, 32% of the Welsh housing stock was built before 1919, when there were no construction standards in terms of thermal performance. Research by the Cardiff University School of Architecture showed that the average energy performance (EPC) rating of the Welsh housing stock is a ‘D’ rating*, which raises the incidences of fuel poverty. 43% of people living in private rented accommodation are living in houses built before 1919.

The Guardian reports that, nine in 10 households rely on gas boilers, and lots of gas boilers need lots of gas: UK households consume more of it than almost all of their European peers, at around twice the EU average. With the price of gas going up and energy companies going down, heating leaky homes feels wasteful if they continue to be not insulated well enough to counter that physical side of heat. Between 2012 and 2019 the number of home insulation installations actually dropped by 95%. National Energy Action (NEA), the national fuel poverty charity, has noted that at that rate it would take nearly a century to properly insulate all of the current fuel-poor homes in the country. The statistics are eye-opening indeed. They are clearly telling policy makers and businesses that to significantly reduce carbon emissions from buildings by 2050, actions have to be taken now. But there is something about heat that speaks not to reason and data, but to feeling, an embodied feeling.

Heat is us

Like houses, our bodies too are governed by thermodynamics. Heat escapes our bodies and even after vigorous exercise, we eventually cool down. We give away heat, which we feel immediately, and we want to do something about it, immediately. But we cannot wait years and decades until housing stock is less leaky. We can put on the warmest jumpers to almost insulate our bodies as we would with our houses, but nothing will stop us from eventually feeling cold again. At some point we will need to, despite all that we know about the costs of gas and leaky houses, warm ourselves up. We are all taking temporary and readily available solutions simply because it is cold.

The problem though is that the embodied feeling is not experienced, which in turn perhaps influences our motivation and ability to act, for ourselves and others. Illness, age, cardiovascular system, place, and even norms, as research suggests, dictate how our bodies experience heat or lack thereof. If you have had a disagreement with your family or co-workers about the “right” temperature settings, then you will know what I am talking about.

Heat is suddenly a societal thing. It unites us as well as divides us. How one experiences heat or the lack of it, and what one does about it, also reveals something, unknowingly, about us. Which is why, heating our homes or not, it is about us too. It is a personal, deeply private and emotional thing. As researchers, Erin Roberts and Karen Henwood, from Cardiff University observed, heating is not just about thermal performance of a house, but about thermal comfort. It evokes the feeling of belonging, of feeling safe, of feeling looked after. It brings up the good memories of being with a family and sadly, bad memories of coming home after school with radiators off because parents, often despite being in work, cannot afford high energy bills. Heating can then become, unfairly, a social stigma and a social divide.

Heat is incredibly complex then, as it touches on our most intimate and most sacred parts of our lives, lives which, just like our housing stock, are governed by laws of thermodynamics. Our attention to these laws and insights, or lack of it, will influence future heating actions and policy.

Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing a series of articles to explore the challenges and opportunities it poses for equality, decarbonisation and social transformation.

*Properties are given an energy-efficiency grade between A and G, with A being the best – i.e., most energy-efficient – and G being the worst.

Person with a mug staring into a window

When switching the heating on is still not an option for many

In 2019, 13.4% of households in the UK, that’s 3.8 million households, were classed as fuel poor. In Wales, households that spend more than 10% of their income on energy, would be referred to as fuel poor. The three main drivers behind fuel poverty are low incomes, the low energy efficiency of homes, and high energy prices. However, the picture is far more complex and challenging to analyse because, as research by Groves et al. suggests, fuel poverty is to with households being caught in between numerous disabling conditions. For example, households, where older people or people with disabilities live, may need to spend significantly more on space heating or on powering assistive technologies. Constraints on adaptability can also be because of the material fabric of homes. A lack of adequate insulation or of double glazing can significantly reduce the efficiency of heating systems, for instance. But constraints on households’ choices can also come from external conditions. These are often social in nature, such as the relationships between tenants and private landlords, or the use by utility companies of prepayment meters and higher tariffs for consumers on low incomes.   

Fuel poverty is not just about the inability to keep warm, but rather being unable to make a difference, which is the real issue here. People feel not just cold physically but they feel stigmatised. Heating and energy bills bring on anxiety, rather than comfort and cosiness. Providing households with information to reduce energy consumption are least likely to make an impact, this is because there are too many disabling conditions and therefore too much anxiety associated with this topic. 

To change one’s behaviour, there must be plenty of enabling conditions for the desired change to happen along with progressive policies. More on this point, in the third part of the All about heat series.  

Heat is environment  

Fur, wool, houses, wood and coal burners, warm food, and eventually central or district heating – these are the artifacts or, if you like, evidence of humans trying to stay warm. It is our history really – an epic effort to feel warm enough, to see while it is dark, and to put machines and cars into motion.   

In a brilliantly titled, Energies: An Illustrated Guide to the Biosphere and Civilization (1999, MIT Press), Vaclav Smil takes the reader on a journey through natural resources showing how they were used, what impact they had on the growth of cities, and environment. For example, pre-industrial civilisation depended on wood, straw, charcoal as raw materials to build houses and as material for smelting.  Here is how Smil described the scale of that demand. 

 “A large Wooden Age city in a colder climate (in Northern Europe or in North China) would have consumed at least 20–30 W/m2 of its built-up area, mainly for heating and cooking, and also for manufactures ranging from blacksmithing to firing of tiles. Consequently, the power density of sustainable forest growth in temperate climates was commonly equal to less than one and rarely more than 2 percent of the power density of urban energy consumption—and the cities required nearby areas anywhere between fifty to two hundred times their size to satisfy their thermal energy needs”. 

Throughout the centuries, the demand for the smelting of iron created many deforested landscapes. England’s early adoption of coke, Smil argued, is easy to understand: A single early eighteenth-century furnace consumed annually a circle of forest with a radius of about four kilometers.  He went on to say that, “if American ironmakers had not switched to coke after 1870, by 1900 they would have consumed annually enough forest to fill a square whose side would be the distance between Boston and Philadelphia”. 

But earlier centuries pale in comparison to the impact of coal and oil. The impact is to do not only with the emissions and pollution coming directly from the processes of extraction and burning, but it is also to do with the emission coming from all of the new sectors of industry and economy powered by the energy generated by coal, oil, and gas.

Domestic life has been transformed by gas and electricity, and it is really difficult to undo that transformation. As noted earlier, wearing lots of layers for long periods of time is not comfortable for us humans.  And yet, the idea of switching the heating and gas cooker on is relatively recent. No household would be able to do so, if the infrastructure was not built, or appropriate appliances were designed. In fact, in the 1960s the UK underwent an incredible project to convert appliances from town gas (manufactured gas from coal and oil) to natural gas (gas extracted from seabed and ground) and to fully establish it as a go-to solution for heating. The project involved converting 13.5 million domestic and 650 thousand commercial and industrial consumers and took 10 years to complete. Special training schools were established to train staff (engineers, installers, sellers, admin) to make the transition happen. It required incredible coordination, planning, and establishment of numerous organisations. The Office of the Budget Responsibility reports that moving 13 million properties to natural gas involved the 12 regional gas boards, parts of the industry (to make new appliances or the parts necessary to convert existing ones), contractors (to enter people’s homes and carry out the conversions), public relations (to sell the idea) and the public (to embrace it). The Government took a central coordinating role, with time nationalised Gas Council giving the state direct control of the required investment. It was not an easy project and as Stathis Arapostathis, Peter J.G. Pearson, and Timothy J. Foxon noted,  the conditions to change to different types of heating and regulatory regimes were enabled. So, to switch to low carbon heating alternatives or lower energy consumption, the processes must also be done such they enable everyone to do their bit. But, as the Office goes on to say, the costs of transitioning to net zero heat (heat pumps and hydrogen) are far greater than before.

In the next and the last post in this series, Dr Karolina Rucinska will turn to the role of policy in dealing with fuel poverty and decarbonisation before summing it all.

Low Carbon Engineering – A Look Into The Future

As a teacher or trainer, one hopes to inspire students but it is often the case when working in adult education, that the teacher is inspired as much (if not more) by the students as they are by you.

Such was the case when I delivered Carbon Literacy training to a group of post-graduate researchers in Cardiff University’s School of Engineering.

The students were either holders of a doctorate or on their way to receiving one and several of them were lecturers. So, I was a little daunted by the challenge of designing a training programme for them that would respect their level of knowledge and intellectual ability. The more a group of adults know however, the less the teacher or trainer needs to do in terms of knowledge transfer. The students bring the knowledge, and the trainer has to facilitate the sharing of that knowledge.

So I set the group a task of developing a mini lecture on the question, “Can we engineer our way out of the climate crisis?” Colleagues within the group had a wide degree of specialist knowledge covering topics such as; electricity grids, low carbon gas, low emission vehicles, psychology, waste management, and carbon reduction management. They worked in four teams to design an answer to the question and present their response.

Two of the teams addressed the issue at a high level, identifying the need for social, economic and cultural changes while the other two looked at specific engineering solutions. Here is a summary of what I learned from them.

Firstly, let us start with specific engineering solutions.

There are a range of geo-engineering options available – (See image above courtesy of Lahiru Jayasuriya and Riccardo Maddalena). These include ocean fertilisation to boost plankton growth, ground level reflectors to replace albedo lost when ice melts, cloud seeding and at the extreme end – orbiting reflectors to send solar thermal radiation back into space before it reaches Earth. These are known as “direct interventions.”

“Indirect interventions” include carbon capture-storage, smart grids and renewable energy sources coupled with hydrogen as an energy vector and storage medium.

An innovation that may prove to be very important is to create ammonia (NH3) by electrolysing water using power generated by renewable sources such as wind and solar. Ammonia is a colourless gas which can be chilled and compressed into a liquid. It is used as a fertiliser but is also a waste product in many industrial processes. Ammonia can act as a carrier of hydrogen or be used directly as a fuel but in the latter case, it produces high levels of nitrous oxides which are greenhouse gasses. Engineers are researching ways to decouple ammonia use from such emissions. Existing gas turbines would also need to be converted in order to use ammonia as a fuel.

Another exciting area of research is “smart local energy systems”. In these, energy is produced and supplied from a variety of disaggregated point sources rather than from a few large generators such as nuclear, coal or gas power stations. The gas and electricity supply grids work together, mediated by SMART technology. In this scenario, small local producers of energy can trade with peers, waste heat is no longer wasted, and things that use energy can moderate their demand in line with price and supply fluctuations. Consumers of energy are no longer passive recipients but become an important element by, for example, choosing when and how they require and use energy. A smart grid would be a major cultural shift but it is already being widely discussed and elements of it piloted.

Carbon capture and storage could reduce current emissions by 12% by stripping the carbon dioxide from industrial exhausts and storing it under ground. Coal, a high carbon substance, adsorbs carbon dioxide molecules onto its surface. The coal still sitting in the seams of the south Wales coalfield is particularly reactive in this respect – CO2 sticks readily to Welsh coal! This means that south Wales could be an important area for carbon storage. The alternative approach is to pump the gas into the voids left by oil and natural gas extraction but storage in coal seams is more stable.

These are just some examples of engineering solutions to the climate crisis but are they enough on their own?

The answer is a clear no.

To begin with, there are and will be a variety of interests that resist changes no matter how effective the engineering solutions can be. Engineers today must engage not only with clients but with politicians and the general public. They have to be able to advocate their science and particular technical solutions in a political and cultural context in order to build alliances that will overcome vested interests and irrational resistance but at the same time, the engineering solution itself will have to respect cultural and social concerns and be flexible enough to deal with these. Engineers, like other scientists, have to embrace interdisciplinary working practices. The education of engineers has to anticipate this by encouraging independent thinking and integrated design. The problem is that much of engineering research is funded by industry to achieve a very specific outcome strongly tied to economic efficiency and functionality.

The group agreed that the days when engineering could simply bolt something on are over. End of pipe solutions are no longer sufficient for the degree of challenge we face. We need to change the amount and the way we consume resources and engineers, like designers, have to be part of the process right from the beginning. I have become aware myself of the shift in thinking that has occurred in civil engineering over the last thirty years, proving that change can happen.

If the young men and women I met through this Carbon Literacy course are typical of their profession then I am heartened that we can change our world for the better. They can clearly explain their research interests with passion but also articulate the relevance of their research in a social, cultural and economic context. Much of their research takes place within the FLEXIS programme – a £24 million research initiative that is directed to developing energy systems, building on the research success of Welsh universities, to provide solutions of global relevance.

If you would like to know more about specific technologies mentioned above or engage with the FLEXIS programme then please contact Karolina Rucinska FLEXIS Project Development officer atinfo@flexis.wales or visit the FLEXIS website. 

If you would like to read what FLEXIS thought about the Carbon Literacy training you can do so here.

Further information on specific technologies can be requested via Karolina as follows;

Ammonia as a fuel – Syed Mashruk, Gas Turbine Research Centre

Smart grids – Dr. Muditha Abeysekera, Lecturer in multi-vector energy systems

Carbon Capture and storage in South Wales Coalfield – Dr Renato Zagorscak, Geoenvironmental Research Centre

This workshop was sponsored by the Early Career Researchers Fund from the School of Engineering, Cardiff University. Find more information about research at Cardiff School of Engineering.

Sustainable Academy Awards 2019 shortlist announced

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We are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2019 Sustainable Academy Awards – celebrating sustainability excellence, innovation and leadership from across Wales. 24 finalists across eight categories have been chosen by our expert judging panel to go through to the public vote.

The Awards recognise the amazing people, projects and initiatives that are contributing towards the seven National Well-being Goals and the five Ways of Working described in the Well-being Future Generations Act.

Our judging panel included Rhodri Thomas, Cynnal Cymru; Rhys Jones, Renewable UK; Angharad Davies on behalf of EDF Energy; Nia Lloyd, Keep Wales Tidy; Ruth Marks, WCVA; David Brown ARUP and Petranka Maleva, Future Generations Commissioners Office.

The judges were particularly looking for projects and initiatives that clearly delivered on the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations Act as well as looking for examples that captured the imagination by going above and beyond.

Public Vote is now open!

Now it is over to you the public to help decide who will be this years winners. The public vote will count towards 60% of the overall score and the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Thursday 28 November.

We hope you will be inspired by by our 24 finalists and please take the time to vote for your favourites in each category.

You can vote for your favourites until Wednesday 06 November.

 

Outstanding Renewable Energy – Sponsored by Welsh Government

  • BCB International Ltd – FIREDRAGON as a sustainable Ethanol based solid fuel
  • Innogy – Mynydd y Gwair Wind Farm
  • Egni Coop – Community owned solar

Outstanding Social Enterprise

  • Credu Charity Ltd – SeaQuest Coastal Science and Education Programme
  • Greenstream Flooring
  • RCMA Social Enterprise – Real Food! Real Life!

Sustainable Business

  • The Digital Pattern Library – accessible, sustainable fashion for all
  • Dyfi Distillery – Bringing gin production close to home
  • Oseng-Rees reflection – artisan interiors and architectural installations

Sustainable Community – Sponsored EDF

  • Sustainable Community at Cardiff Met University
  • Under the Bridge – Milford Youth Matters
  • Recycle4charity – Pembrokeshire Care, Share and Give

Sustainable Education or Training

  • Black Mountains Land Use Partnership – Mountain and Moorland Ambassadors
  • Severn Wye Energy Agency – Our Future’s People
  • Size of Wales & WCIA – MockCOP

Sustainable Procurement or Supply Chain – Sponsored ARUP

  • ARIA Bridal – Designing in sustainability from the start
  • Aberystwyth University – BEACON More taste, less salt, healthier lives
  • WRAP Cymru – Public Sector Sustainable Procurement Project

Sustainable Venue or Space – Sponsored by CECA Wales

  • Newydd Housing Association / Eggseeds -The Solar Powered Bench
  • LINC Cymru – Growing Green Spaces
  • SPECIFIC, Swansea University / BIPVco – Active Buildings

Sustainability Champion

  • Rachel Roberts
  • Meleri Davies
  • Paul Allen

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Top Tips for creating an Award-winning entry for the new Sustainable Academy Awards

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With only a few weeks left to apply for the Sustainable Academy Awards, we’ve put together a few words of encouragement and advice from one of our judges, to help you create that Award-winning entry.

As always we are looking for outstanding individuals, projects or initiatives that are helping to deliver at least one of the seven national goals of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, contributing to the environmental, social, cultural and economic sustainability of life in Wales.

Our 2017 winners had some truly inspirational stories to tell with applications coming in lots of different shapes and sizes. From Down To Earth’s focus on integrating eco-building and natural materials to boost mental wellbeing to the resource efficient Our Space project where social enterprise Green Stream Flooring and large private company Orangebox collaborated with Public Health Wales to furnish a new large office space using upcycled and recycled materials and to the Griffiths’ Sustainability Challenge where one of our leading, home-grown private sector companies massively reduce carbon emissions, improved staff well-being and involved the community in their efforts to leave a lasting positive legacy each time they complete a project.

This year, the awards have expanded: in partnership with Renewable UK Cymru we now present the Sustainable Academy Awards. The new partnership will ensure that award winners not only receive due recognition for their efforts but that they join a growing community of organisations and people who are building a more resilient, wiser, kinder, prosperous and healthier Wales.

Top tips on Writing a Winning Application

Cynnal Cymru Sustainability Consultant and judge, Rhodri Thomas, shares some of his top tops when writing your application:

Tell us what you have you changed as a result of your actions. What has made a real difference to your organisation, environment or your community.

Provide facts and figures to back up your application. This can include financial savings or carbon cutting. If it’s a visual change, consider including before and after photos that help demonstrate how something has improved. Graphs are welcome.

Remember to include the big and the little things. As well as the high impact achievements make sure you capture the smaller things that have had a positive effect. Also try to include the surprising or unintended results that have made a difference.

Keep your answers concise and to the point – The judges have hundreds of entries to read so keep it simple and focus on the highlighting the key achievements of the project to really grab the judges’ attention. Try to use plain English, avoiding specialist jargon or over technical descriptions.

Sustainability is all about long-term thinking, so your submission can be part of a much bigger project. The key criteria is that your project has reached a significant milestone in the last year which has already created change.

Always keep in mind the Five Ways of Working outlined in the Application Guidance pack.

 

Sustainable Academy Awards

All the information on the Awards and how to apply can be found on our new www.sustainableacademy.wales website.

Applications need to be submitted by the deadline of Friday 08 September 2017.

You can also find the Awards on twitter @wales_academy and at @academi_cymru[:]

Welsh Government Consultation on petroleum extraction policy in Wales

[:en]A Welsh Government consultation on Petroleum Extraction Policy in Wales has been launched. The consultation runs until the 25th of September and Welsh Government wants to know your views on the proposal.

“Following the Wales Act 2017 Welsh Ministers will take over responsibility for licensing onshore petroleum extraction from the UK Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) on the 1st October 2018. The new petroleum licensing powers have provided an opportunity to consider what should be our approach to petroleum extraction in Wales, for now and future generations.   As a new area of responsibility for the Welsh Government, we commissioned a review of the evidence in 2017 to inform our future policy towards petroleum extraction.”

This  consultation seeks your views on that evidence and Welsh Government’s proposed future policy on petroleum extraction, including fracking.

More information can be found on the Welsh Government website: Petroleum extraction policy in Wales[:]

New awards put Welsh sustainability on a world-class stage – Sustainable Academy Awards launched

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A new awards ceremony aimed at the sustainability and green energy sectors has been announced today.  The Sustainable Academy Awards will take place on 29 November in the iconic and low-carbon Principality Stadium in Cardiff and are a collaboration between Cynnal Cymru and RenewableUK Cymru.

The event builds on the success of the Wales Green Energy Awards and the Sustain Wales Awards and will celebrate sustainability excellence, innovation and leadership across Wales.  The Awards recognise work being done by individuals, community groups and the public sector, as well as small and large businesses.

Wales & West Utilities has already been confirmed as the headline sponsor of the event with Welsh Government sponsoring the Outstanding Renewable Energy Project, and Natural Resources Wales sponsoring the Sustainability Champion.

Mari Arthur, Director of Cynnal Cymru, said:

“The Sustainable Academy is an exciting new initiative, founded by Cynnal Cymru and RenewableUK Cymru to bring together expertise from across the sustainability and green energy sectors in Wales.  The Awards are my favourite event each year as we recognise the contribution being made by different sectors to make Wales a sustainable nation, working as one to deliver on the Wellbeing of the Future Generations and Environment Acts.”

 

David Clubb, Director of RenewableUK Cymru, said:

“It’s no coincidence that the stadium, host for world-leading acts, superb entertainment and moments of high drama over the years, has been selected as the venue for these new awards. We anticipate a huge level of interest, and a fabulous event on the day.”

 

Steven Edwards, Director of Regulation and Commercial at Wales & West Utilities, said:

“We’re working hard to deliver a future energy system that is affordable, reliable and sustainable for the communities we serve.  So we’re delighted to be the headline sponsor of the Sustainable Academy awards – a wonderful opportunity to recognise and celebrate the hard work being done by so many individuals and organisations, and it is an honour to be part of that.”

 

The nine categories are:

●     Sustainability Champion sponsored by Natural Resources Wales

●     Outstanding Renewable Energy Project sponsored by Welsh Government

●     Sustainable Space

●     Sustainable Business

●     Sustainable Innovation in the Public Sector

●     Sustainable Community

●     Innovation in Sustainable Procurement or Supply Chain

●     Outstanding Social Enterprise

●     Sustainable Education or Training

 

Sustainable Academy Wales – Applications

Further information about entry criteria is on the Sustainable Academy Awards web site – www.sustainableacademy.wales – together with details of how to enter.

Entries should be submitted by midnight on Monday 10 September.  Three entries per category will be shortlisted to be put to the public vote.

These votes will be added to the results from a panel of independent judges to decide the winners.  The judges’ decision is final.  Shortlisted entries will be informed shortly after the closing date and winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 29 November 2018 in the Principality Stadium.


There are still opportunities to sponsor categories and various aspects of the event.  To find out more details about what is available, please get in contact with awards@cynnalcymru.com[:]

Have your say on Cardiff’s Transport and Clean Air Green Paper

[:en]Cynnal Cymru has recently been involved in a very interesting project; helping Cardiff Council develop a clean air and transport green paper. In the research phase we talked to a number of experts, attended and staged several relevant events and did a lot of reading. It is clear to us that we are at the dawn of a new technological age. What isn’t so clear is how market forces, legislation and people’s behaviour will interact in response to the technology on offer.

The current Cardiff Council cabinet has laudable ambitions to decarbonise transport in the city. Admittedly this is in part driven by legal pressures to achieve higher levels of air quality but the ambition is also driven by a genuine commitment to improve the health and well-being of residents and visitors.

There is a growing body of practice across the globe which shows how municipal governments can transform the urban environment, creating city centres in which active travel dominates. This necessitates a considerable degree of behavioural and cultural change. It is not surprising that some people are unsettled. Some of the big ideas proposed by Cardiff Council, most notably the suggestion – and at the green paper stage it is only a suggestion – of a charging clean air zone, will no doubt surprise and alarm some people. Residents and visitors have to bear in mind however that if the city is fined for not improving its air quality, that economic penalty will have wide repercussions. Some kind of change is unavoidable. The weight of evidence from around Europe and the wider world compels the city to act or get left behind. Bristol, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Birmingham, Liverpool and many other cities are implementing plans to increase active travel, reduce car travel and improve air quality.

It has been a fascinating journey for us; horizon-scanning, working our way through the knowledge base, collaborating with senior officers and elected members. There are many exciting initiatives happening across the UK; from journey planning apps, integrated ticketing systems, electric and hydrogen busses, electric and fuel cell cars, local smart grids, electro-push freight bikes, pedestrianisation of city centres, last mile delivery hubs, through to the headline-grabbing world of “driverless cars” and “connected autonomous vehicles”.

How much of this will be seen on the streets of Cardiff any time soon is largely dependent on the response of the public and businesses to the green paper as much as it is on the successful roll-out of the south Wales metro concept. We suggest that the current Green Paper consultation is a rare chance for you, our members, to endorse some pretty radical ideas for our capital city. Here’s how you can have your say….

Changing how we move around a growing city

“We all know Cardiff’s transport network needs to change. Too many of us have been stuck in traffic trying to drop off our children, or late for work because the bus didn’t turn up, and whilst a growing number want to walk or cycle, the facilities to do so are often inadequate.

There is also now a more alarming and pressing matter. Pollution levels in Cardiff are now damaging our health. Improving the air we breathe has become a matter of life or death. The latest figures from Public Health Wales suggest that the number of death per year that can be attributed to poor air quality has increased to over 225 across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. With Cardiff growing faster than any other UK city outside of London and projected to grow by more than every other local authority in Wales combined it is essential that action be taken before it is too late.

This Green Paper sets out our big ideas of changes we could make that we believe would improve transport and air quality in our city. They are all possible but we want to have a conversation with the people of Cardiff about the issues, and how changes could impact their lives because, ultimately, we will all need to shape our future together.”

Cllr Caro Wild, Cabinet Member for Transport and Strategic Planning

The consultation on this Green Paper closes on the 1st July 2018.[:]

Car Futures Wales – evolution to EVs

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On the 15th February we co-hosted an important two-part event with our member Arup at their offices in Cardiff Bay.

The aim of the event was to enable policy makers, researchers, manufacturers, service providers, journalists, campaigners and concerned citizens to debate the future of cars and to draw some key recommendations for decision makers in all sectors.

We were supported in developing the event by colleagues from the IWA, Renewable UK Cymru and the National Trust. We will be publishing a detailed report with the IWA in a few weeks.

 

Part one of the event was an invitation-only session designed to enable industry experts to provide advice for local and national government specifically on the topic of an electric vehicle charging network for Wales. Delegates debated specific points within this topic and the conclusions are summarised as follows:

1. Welsh Government finance for a charging network:

Public money should be spent where it will produce a net economic benefit and create a charging network that supports the government aims on active travel, decarbonisation, health, and economic/social equality of opportunity. The Government should be careful not to see electric vehicles as a solution or end in themselves but as one aspect of an integrated approach.

2. Enabling companies and large public bodies to convert fleets of vehicles to electric:

Corporate fleet managers are cautious about making what would be a major investment, but where business operations and the built estate is appropriate, an electric fleet would bring a considerable economic advantage. Workplace charging backed up by supply from on-site renewables has to be matched by an adequate public charging infrastructure. Pioneers need to be enabled to communicate to their peers why (and when) a switch to electric vehicles is beneficial. Local and national government can provide incentives to businesses by changes to the tax and planning systems.

3. The role of local authorities in enabling a switch to electric vehicles:

Generally, the goal of local authorities should be to encourage more active travel and public transport in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act. While there is increasing pressure on authorities to improve air quality, presiding over a switch from fossil fuel to electric or hydrogen vehicles will do nothing for the economy if levels of congestion continue at current levels. Some decisions around charging infrastructure are not within the remit of authorities and the market will evolve outcomes. Authorities can however influence the market through taxes, licences, planning permission and public procurement. Authorities have a significant role to play in switching public transport to electric or hydrogen.

4. Ensuring communities and citizens receive a net benefit from a transition to EVs:

Communities can own their own renewable energy production, particularly in rural areas. Linking this with charging points increases the potential revenue for communities. Car sharing through car clubs becomes particularly attractive if there is a co-ordination between community owned renewables, charge points and community owned electric vehicles. If this triangulation is well managed, becoming a car-free household could become viable for people on low income. There is a danger that in an interim period, the cost of buying an electric vehicle may result in less well-off households bearing the burden of the increasing costs of fossil fuel cars particularly in urban areas where clean air zones may become common. A growing electric vehicle market however will eventually bring costs down and increase the supply of cheaper second hand electric vehicles. In rural communities, the fossil fuel and hybrid car will remain important for some time until the charging infrastructure reaches a sufficient level.

5. Ensuring that infrastructure for electric vehicles can adapt to changes such as the growth in autonomous and connected vehicles:

There is a real potential that electric vehicles and large domestic storage batteries could be part of a super-grid of interconnected assets that are managed through internet technology to smooth out the peaks of demand versus supply. This would mean that cars and households could become suppliers of electricity as well as consumers. In an age of increasing autonomous (driverless) vehicles however and a greater sophistication in the business models of “mobility as a service” most citizens will not need to own a car. For 95% of the time, the vast majority of cars are idle. For most people that is a poor return on what is a massive investment. Trends suggest that younger people are less interested in owning cars and are more ready to rent the services that cars provide whether this is via Uber-style companies or car clubs. To make owning a car less attractive, you have to be able to rely on data connectivity so that when you want it, a car is available via an app on your phone. There is therefore a critical consistency between power supply, connections and the physical environment that governments have to plan for and deliver. Each of these three elements has to evolve in pace with the other: smart cars, whether autonomous or with a human driver, require smart cities and this means we have to ensure that our power supply, personal communications devices, streetscape, and vehicles operate together, supported by a robust wireless internet technology. To live in a city of autonomous vehicles and no traffic lights, you have to be confident that the communications technology will not fail.

 

In Conversation with…

Part two of the event took place in the evening as a conversation between experts from different fields. The conversation developed the themes established in the afternoon and with contributions from the audience, focused on the need to evolve a society where there were fewer cars. The benefits of electric and hydrogen vehicles were recognised but it was also emphasised that all cars place a burden on the natural environment. The social justice aspects of the electric car revolution were discussed with reference to the large capital costs of owning an electric car. The consensus appeared to be that electric car clubs, particularly when run as a social enterprise and/or associated with community owned renewables, should be enabled and encouraged as a means of improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions and congestions. There was some debate over how realistic it was to expect a major shift from fossil fuels to electric, in part because the grid is not currently configured to be able to cope with demand. One view expressed was that hybrid engines will and should continue to play a major part in the Welsh economy not least because a large number of Welsh jobs are provided by the motor manufacturing industry.

In conclusion, we should expect and we should encourage a growth in electric vehicles. They are not however a panacea for the twin evils of poor air quality and rising greenhouse gas emissions. We should plan our economy to use electric vehicles as a supporting factor in a deeper cultural shift to a service economy that involves less ownership and consumption of resources. In other words, in the future there will be fewer cars consuming fewer precious, natural resources. The cars that will exist will emit fewer greenhouse gasses and as well as consuming energy, will provide a back-up storage.

Our view is that we will see the evolution of the motor car proceed at a different pace and in a different way, depending on location. One thing we are sure of however, is that change is coming soon.[:]

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