A fascinating news item in a specialist TV program on ABC TV last week held out a very pleasing prospect which could prove a major weapon in the world’s struggle to slow down the pace of global warming - or more particularly the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
In the City of London in England, one man has been given the task of helping reduce its carbon emissions and providing the necessary energy to allow the city to continue functioning while reducing its carbon emissions by 60% by the year 2025. This would seem an impossible task and yet engineer, Alan Jones has been given this task and has accepted it. His previous work on providing sustainable energy for the city of Woking gave him the necessary credentials to be saddled with this job.
At Woking Alan Jones arranged for the construction of 80 individual “in house” power stations which have made Woking independent of power from the national grid. Electric generators operate using natural gas and heat from this operation is piped underground to supply heating, hot water to nearby residences as well as the building itself. In addition the total roof area of the building is covered with the very latest in solar electric panels. So the whole building is Combined Heat and Power station - plus a large carpark. In fact, however, generating electricity and heat together within the city is not new, Manhattan was set up with CHP (or combined heat and power) in the late 19th century, but when modern, centralised power stations were invented, CHP was quietly abandoned – and the city was linked to the grid.
In energy terms, though, massive centralised power stations are far less efficient.since more than two thirds of the energy produced is lost to the atmosphere as heat – with further losses over the grid. They just generate electricity, throw the heat away, and the gas companies and/or oil companies provide fuel for people’s boilers. So not only are they throwing energy away they’re using another lot of energy to do something that could have been done from the waste heat. It’s just a complete waste of energy and one of the primary causes of climate change.
The town of Woking is now producing 80% of its own energy. And in just 10 years it had dropped its CO2 emissions by a mind-boggling 77%
The goal for London’s climate change action plan is to take twenty five percent of its energy supply off the grid and onto decentralised energy by 2025, and more than fifty percent by 2050. A huge changeover to decentralised energy. Planning permission now requires that all new developments in London have to include 20 %, decentralised, on site renewable power. But London’s action plan also tackles retrofitting – which you need in a city that’s packed with historical treasures.
Of all the measures in the city of Londons’ climate action plan – transport, homes, new buildings - CHP generation of heat and power is the one that can actually deliver on the 60 - 80% carbon reductions required. Its like an energy revolution. It’s almost like comparing the mobile phone to the landline.
Finally, as if the massive job of installing hundreds of CHP stations was not enough challenge, Allan Jones and his team identified through their climate change action plan that probably their largest renewable energy resource currently untapped is restaurant food and organic waste, vegetable peelings. If all the organic waste in London were converted to biogas and fed into the CHP units, there’s enough to power 2 million homes – that’s over half the homes in London. So waste disposal now becomes power generation.
It is hoped that London’s call to arms will go down in history as the thing that motivates the rest of the world into a wider survival reflex.
Allan Jones: “If the cities all do the same things as London, that’s how you could tackle climate change. While federal governments are still talking about it, cities can get on and do it.”
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