Sunday, 18 January 2009

Fast forward: Orders accelerate for £125,000 electrical car

Simon EvansSunday, 18 January 2009

The credit crunch is hitting the average punter hard but an order book of more than 120 for the electrically powered Lightning car, which costs around £125,000, suggests some people still have cash to splash.
The backers of the "green" car, which was unveiled last year and does 0 to 60 in less than four seconds, said it was in talks with a number of Middle-Eastern investors to start production next year. Chris Dell, managing director of the Lightning Car Company, said he was in the "due diligence phase" with a potential investor.
"We haven't really marketed the car yet because we are still a while off production, but early interest is ahead of expectation," he said. "We're terribly British about this, so we don't want to promise something we cannot deliver. That's proved the death of so many companies in the past."

'Environmental revolution' promised by David Cameron

An "environmental revolution" in energy policy under a Conservative government would save the average household £160 a year from the cost of electricity and gas, David Cameron has promised.

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent Last Updated: 7:43AM GMT 17 Jan 2009

The Conservatives outlined plans to modernise the national grid to deliver power more cheaply, subsidise home insulation projects, and make more use of green technologies including electric cars and off-shore windfarms.
Publishing his party's "Plan for a Low Carbon Economy," Mr Cameron said that changes in the way that Britain generates, distributes and consumes electricity will save families significant amounts of money as well as benefiting the environment.
The centrepiece of the Tory plan is a major investment in the national electricity grid to make it an "electricity internet" for distributing power in the cheapest and most efficient way.
Under the Tory plan, every house would be fitted with a smart meter, allowing households to buy electricity from the network at periods of low usage for the lowest price.
For example, the power to charge household appliances could be bought during the night, when usage is lowest.
The new network and a system of "feed-in tariffs" would also allow those houses fitted with wind turbines and solar panels to sell their excess power into the network and use the revenue to cut their power bills.
The Tories also propose a new household "entitlement" to insulation and other energy efficiency improvements worth up to £6,500. Recipients would pay for the work in increased fuel bills over time, but the Tories said the net saving on power use would more than cover the increase.
Among the other pledges in the Tory energy strategy are: a new national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid cars; allowing producers to use methane from farm and food wastes to power domestic heating gas heating; and new planning laws and financial support for wind and wave power generation in a new network of 'Marine Energy Parks'.
Greater energy efficiency and an increase in UK power generation would cut the average home's power bills by £160 per year, the Tories claimed.
Greg Clark, the Conservative shadow climate change secretary, said: "No longer will we need to be overly dependent on imported fossil fuels from unstable countries.
"Instead our electricity and heating will come from a wider range of more dependable and renewable sources, which will encourage innovative energy sources to be developed. This will help guarantee our energy security, reduce our carbon emissions and do all we can to protect the future."

This is our chance to save manufacturing

The Sunday Times
January 18, 2009

Ed Gillespie, writer and co-founder of Futerra Sustainability Communications
WE are at the crossroads. Britain has a poor track record of bringing environmental products to market, but the current crisis is an opportunity for us to step back from being a service-sector economy and return to manufacturing, which is more sustainable and better for the country.
The main areas will be energy, transport and construction. There’s no doubt that political courage will be needed – car manufacturers have been resisting efforts to be more sustainable for many years. There will be a lot of lobbying against government initiatives.
Most people know about the environmental crisis we are facing – and also acept that we need to build a more productive economy. Whole sectors will have to change. Altering our homes to make them more energy efficient and harnessing wind and marine technology, and generating local energy, will keep a lot of the workforce occupied for many years.

Long haul food can produce lower carbon emissions than local produce

Buying locally produced food can produce more greenhouse gases than buying products transported long distances to customers' doors, a new study has revealed.

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent Last Updated: 11:48PM GMT 17 Jan 2009

The researchers compared all carbon emissions from the fuel and energy used in each supply chain

The findings contradict the belief that buying local food is the best option for the environment and cast doubt on the attention being paid to the "food miles" accumulated by food.
Researchers at Exeter University compared the carbon dioxide emissions of organic vegetables from local farm shops with mass produced organic vegetables delivered to customers' doors as part of a large scale vegetable box scheme.
They found that if consumers had to make a round trip by car of more than four miles to visit their local farm shop, the carbon emissions produced were greater than the mass produced vegetables that had been kept in cold storage and transported by heavy goods vehicle.
The researchers compared all carbon emissions from the fuel and energy used in each supply chain. As both methods used organic farming the farming practices were deemed to be the same.
David Coley, from the centre for energy and environment at Exeter University who led the research, said there was a need for the concept of food miles to be abandoned for a broader approach that also takes into account the sustainability of production.
He said: "We have found that if a customer drives a round trip distance of more than four miles in order to purchase their organic vegetables, their carbon emissions are likely to be greater than the emissions from the system of cold storage, packing, transport to a regional hub and final transport to customer's doorstep used by large-scale vegetable box suppliers.
"This suggests that with regard to such emissions, some of the ideas behind localism in the food sector may need to be revisited."
The researchers found that food grown in the south east of Britain and then distributed through one of the country's major vegetable box schemes travelled an average of 223 miles more than food bought from local farm shops.
They found the average delivery produced 3lbs of carbon dioxide while if a consumer drove four miles to their local farm shop they would produce 3.4lbs of carbon dioxide.
The research, which was funded by both the Department for Business and Regulatory Reform and Riverford Organics, a major organic vegetable box distributor, is due to be published in the journal of Food Policy.
It comes as major supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer and Tesco, have started to label fresh produce flown from abroad.
Recent research, however, has revealed that even products shipped from the other side of the world can emit fewer greenhouse gases than British equivalents. Lamb produced in New Zealand, for example, produces four times less carbon dioxide even after travelling 11,000 miles to British supermarkets, compared with British produced lamb.
Figures from a study at Lincoln University also revealed that both dairy products and apples imported from New Zealand had less of an effect on the environment than those produced in the UK.
Professor Caroline Saunders, who led that research, said: "Food miles are a very simplistic concept, but it is misleading as it does not consider the total energy use, especially in the production of the product."

Green light for a boom in jobs

The Sunday Times
January 18, 2009

Up to 1m people could soon be employed in environmentally friendly technology and services
Karen Bartlett

Sleek, black and curva-ceous – Christopher Pett’s top selling Reee chair is the epitome of stripped-down modern design. It is aimed at the cafĂ© market, and many of the chair’s occupants will be unaware that they have encountered the materials before: the black plastic back and seat are made from recycled Sony Playstations.
Pett opened Pli Design in Dul-wich, London, in 2003 when he gave up his career in event management to handcraft environmentally friendly furniture with none of the exorbitant costs – or clunky appearance – usually associated with the tag. Now a period of rapid expansion has led to a full order book and a product range that includes bamboo coffee tables and a “grass” series of chairs and units constructed from a special wood-free straw composite that has a consistency similar to chipboard.
Pett said he didn’t expect to be at the forefront of a wave of new green jobs. “I just wanted to manufacture my own products and thought there could be a sustainable way of doing that in styles that also looked good. I’m still suspicious of the idea of a green community – our clients include entertainment producers in London, Notting-ham housewives and Brighton bankers. There is a seed of ‘greenness’ but it has yet to spread coherently.”
Despite this, Pli Design exemplifies the growth of the green-collar sector heralded by Gordon Brown, David Cam-eron, Barack Obama and the United Nations as the future source of employment for millions in recession-hit western countries that have seen traditional areas of manufacturing stripped to the bone and shipped overseas. President-elect Obama recently promised to create 5m new jobs for Americans making solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and wind turbines. Jobs, he stressed, that “cannot be outsourced”. This month business secretary Peter Mandelson claimed that 800,000 UK workers were employed in jobs associated with the green sector, a figure he estimated would rise to more than 1m. The Green New Deal will be at the heart of economic rejuvenation.
“The market for green-collar jobs is huge,” said Neil Bentley of the CBI employers’ organisation. “The issue is whether the government can provide a clear steer on how to make the transition to a low-carbon economy. Without that policy framework, business will not have the confidence to invest.”
Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) agrees. The NEF is the think-tank that coined the phrase New Green Deal, which was quickly seized on across the political spectrum. “It is about making a transition from a throwaway consumption society to longevity, maintenance and repair. We need long-term energy security in this country, we need a transport infrastruc-ture that reflects the fact that in 2020 we will have reached the point where oil production can no longer meet demand. And a green revolution will be employment-intensive. We need lots of people to physically make that transition happen.”
Simms believes that reform of the financial system is at the heart of moving ahead. “The financial system should be there to support a productive economy, not have us dancing to its tune. Because of the recent crisis the government now has the levers to influence banks in terms of investing in areas like renewable energy.”
Three years ago Alice Chapple left such a financial career in the City to work on sustainable investments for the Forum for the Future, a group that campaigns for sustainable development. “I had worked on a lot of issues concerning the developing world, so the path was fairly straightforward for me. Now I work on clean technology, micro finance and how to make carbon markets work. It’s an example of how you can be, say, an accountant and move into the environmental sector without losing your skills and expertise.”
Leaving business to work for the Forum for the Future presented Chapple with the challenge of how to ensure that her voice was still heard in the corporate world. More personally, she said: “My husband was a bit disappointed that we no longer had a City salary, and my children would like nicer holidays. But I think they accept that a happy mother is better than a rich mother . . . most of the time.”
Chapple is confident that her mixture of skills and experience means that new career challenges will be available if she continues to work in the environmental sector. Though some analysts have compared the boom in green jobs with the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s, Chapple said the green-collar job market was likely to continue growing because a large-scale global response to climate change and energy concerns was unavoidable.
The issue for many is not if that global response will come, but whether Britain has an adequately skilled workforce to take advantage of the opportunity. Recent British innovations in renewable energy have been taken up by Scandinavia, Holland and Germany, where government regulation and subsidies are considered more encouraging. Though Britain is well placed in sectors that include marine and wind technology, experts admit that in the medium term British green-collar jobs may be more brawn than brain – loft laggers rather than nuclear engineers.
“Skills and education are crucial. Government should be concentrating on science in schools to make this work,” said the CBI’s Bentley. “It is also important to understand that not all the jobs created will be new. Many will involve the ‘greening’ of existing jobs. As companies and the public sector have to conform to new regulations, all jobs, including those in finance and sales, will involve taking green factors into consideration.”
AT Pli Design, Pett said the reason for his success was often overlooked – it was that he had integrated the green economy into good business practice. “We don’t lecture, and we don’t ask people to buy our furniture because it is environmentally friendly. We have done well because our products are nice to look at, comfortable to use – and they literally don’t cost the Earth.”

Government needs to offer better support

The Sunday Times
January 18, 2009

Kim Stoddart, managing director of Green Rocket, an environmental communications agency
TERMS like Green New Deal and green-collar workforce can be overused. People are almost desensitised to those words now because of what we call “greenwash” – the flood of PR that companies use to inflate their green credentials. People are increasingly savvy to those sort of claims now, and companies should exercise caution. Modesty is sometimes the best option. This is also true for the government. People will listen to Gordon Brown’s statement about new green jobs and ask if entirely new jobs are being created.
What the sector needs is strong leadership. The government has to understand that most green businesses are small, and they are struggling. I am not seeing much creativity from the government in supporting those businesses. Its approach to financing and grants has been stop-start, and this makes life difficult for many small enterprises.

British executives lack the skills to lead the way

The Sunday Times
January 18, 2009

Andrew Molony, founder of
GREEN JOBS are the fastest-growing part of the market – it’s where everyone wants to work at the moment. The appeal is partly cultural; you can work in this area, have a social conscience and be seen as progressive. More importantly, it is stable. Nobody expects the bubble to burst.
At the executive level, Britain is lagging behind. British executives don’t have the skills in this area to take the top jobs and we are seeing a lot of them going to people from Scandinavia and other parts of Europe where they are about 15 years ahead of us. The experience they have in terms of corporate thinking, and at an engineering level in renewable energy, just can’t be replicated in Britain.
For executives who want to move over to work in the green sector it’s crucial that they demonstrate some kind of commitment to environmental issues. If you go for an interview, you will be asked. Use the skills you have and pair them up with a proven green track record.

Wind power boost aired

Scottish power plans to nearly double the size of the largest onshore wind farm in Europe. The utility has requested planning approval to expand the number of turbines at its £300m Whitelee wind farm on the Eaglesham Moor south of Glasgow to 221. If approved the site would generate 614Mw of electricity, enough for 340,000 homes. So far the utility has installed 102 turbines of 140 that have been granted consent at the site. Its latest request for another 45 follows an initial application, still being considered, for an additional 36.
The first phase of the project will begin operations this summer and is a centrepiece of the company’s drive to have more than 1GW of wind power by the end of next year. It is thought that the Scottish authorities will approve the expansion. Planning consent is the single biggest stumbling block for onshore farms.