Monthly Archives: August 2010

Just how environmentally friendly are electric vehicles?


Because they produce no exhaust gases in operation electric vehicles (EVs)
are seen as the eco-friendly alternative to conventional gas-fueled cars.
While zero-local emissions is clearly a big plus, other factors contributing
to the overall environmental impact of EVs are often overlooked – namely the
manufacture, usage and disposal of the batteries used to store the
electrical energy and the sources of power used to charge them. Now, for the
first time, a team of scientists from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for
Materials Testing and Research (or EMPA) have made a detailed life cycle
assessment or ecobalance of the type of lithium-ion batteries most
frequently used in EVs, to see if they really are as environmentally
friendly as their manufacturers would have us believe.

Fuel source is the key

The investigation shows that, if the power used to charge the battery is not
derived from purely hydroelectric sources, then it is primarily the
operation of the EV that has an environmental impact, exactly as is the case
with conventionally fueled vehicles. In other words, the size of the
environmental footprint depends on which sources of power are used to “fuel”
the EV. Contrary to initial expectations that the manufacture of the
batteries could negate the advantages of electric drive vehicles, the Li-ion
battery itself was actually found to have a limited effect.

The team calculated the ecological footprints of electric cars fitted with
Li-ion batteries, taking into account factors such as those associated with
the production of individual parts, the operation of the vehicle during its
lifetime, all the way through to the scrapping of the vehicles and the
disposal of the remains. The electric vehicles evaluated were equivalent in
size and performance to a VW Golf, and the power used to charge the
batteries was assumed to be derived from sources representing an average
European electricity mix – that is, a mixture of atomic, coal-fired and
hydroelectric power stations.

For comparison the team used a new petrol-engined car, meeting the Euro 5
emission regulations. It consumes on average 5.2 liters (1.37 U.S. gallons)
per 100km (62 miles) when put through the new European Driving Cycle (NEDC),
a value significantly lower than the European average. In this respect,
therefore, the conventional vehicle belongs to the best of its class on the


The study shows that the electric car’s Li-ion battery drive is in fact only
a moderate environmental burden. At most only 15 per cent of the total
burden can be ascribed to the battery (including its manufacture,
maintenance and disposal). Half of this figure, that is about 7.5 per cent
of the total environmental burden, occurs during the refining and
manufacture of the battery’s raw materials, copper and aluminum. The
production of the lithium, in the other hand, is responsible for only 2.3
per cent of the total.

“Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries are not as bad as previously assumed,”
according to Dominic Notter, coauthor of the study which has just been
published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The outlook is not as rosy when one looks at the operation of an electric
vehicle over an expected lifetime of 150,000 kilometers (93,205 miles). The
greatest ecological impact is caused by the regular recharging of the
battery, that is, the “fuel” of the e-car. Topping-up with electricity
sourced from a mixture of atomic, coal-fired and hydroelectric power
stations, as is usual in Europe, results in three times as much pollution as
from the Li-ion battery alone. If the electricity is generated exclusively
by coal-fired power stations, the ecobalance worsens by another 13 per cent.
If, on the other hand, the power is purely hydroelectric, then this figure
improves by no less than 40 per cent.

The EMPA team concluded that a petrol-engined car must consume between three
and four liters per 100km (or about 70mpg) in order to be as environmentally
friendly as the electric car studied, powered with Li-ion batteries and
charged with a typical European electricity mix.


The Bloom Box is the future of energy


Silicon Valley startup Bloom Energy has invented what some are calling the
power plant in a box, a little square shape device which is about the size
of a brick is said to be able to power an entire home.

With the Bloom Box You’ll generate your own electricity wirelessly with out
the need for addition equipment in the home, Bloom Energy ultimate goal with
the box is to get rid of the need for big power plants

and transmission line grids. Co-founder and chief executive, K.R. Sridhar,
while working as a director of the Space Technologies Laboratory at the
University of Arizona, was approached by NASA and asked him to find a way to
make life sustainable on Mars. The first project his lab came up with was a
device that would use solar power and Martian water to drive a reactor cell that generated oxygen to breathe
and hydrogen to power vehicles, from that came the Bloom Box.
Breakthrough technology that will revolutionize the way we think of energy

The Bloom Box is a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that uses liquid or gaseous
hydrocarbons (such as gasoline, diesel or propane produced from fossil or
bio sources) to generate electricity on the site where it will be used,
According to the company, a single cell (one 100mm × 100mm metal alloy plate
between two ceramic layers) generates 25 watts. In an interview with CBS, company co-founder K.R. Sridhar was asked about
whether the box is intended to replace the utility companies he responded by
saying, “The Bloom box is intended to replace the grid…for its customers.
It’s cheaper than the grid, it’s cleaner than the grid.” So far the small
startup claims to have 20 large corporations as customers testing Bloom
boxes in California. FedEx, Walmart, Google to name a few are all on board. Many skeptics would point out the fact that fuel cells have underdelivered
on their promise over the years but the company is worried and is very
confident about their device. “Our system can use fossil fuels like natural
gas. Our system can use renewable fuels like landfill gas, bio-gas,” Sridhar
said in an interview, Bloom’s corporate boxes cost about $700,000 to
$800,000 and have a three- to five-year payback period, the company
estimates. As the device begins the mass production phase each home sized
Bloom device will cost under $3000, “We are twice as efficient as the U.S.
national grid, which means we can produce the same amount of electricity for
half the fuel and half the carbon footprint,” Sridhar says.

Many Analysts and Energy Brokers
are predicting that Bloom could do very well in U.S. states that subsidize
alternative energy technologies, such as California, New York, and
Connecticut. We have to wait and see what impact the Bloom Box will have on
our ever growing need for energy. Bloom boxes will power not just our
richest companies, but remote villages in Africa and all our houses said


UK, Norway to collaborate on energy exchange


The UK and Norwegian governments have agreed to team up on a common energy
strategy including both conventional and alternative energy.

As per both the government’s strategy, UK will serve as a key gas consumer
with Norway acting as a natural gas supplier, according to

Both the governments highlighted the importance of natural gas by saying
that it is a key component of energy security and further stated that they
will jointly work on ways to prepare for any emergency gas supply

commercial gas companies in the region are planning to set up offshore
storage facilities to hold natural gas.

The UK and Norwegian governments stressed that North Sea resources could
spawn growth in a green energy sector.

The joint statement also said that North Sea wind energy projects could
provide a cheap energy source through bilateral technology sharing.

UK government’s regulator of natural gas and electricity, London’s Office of
Gas and Electricity Markets, said that the region faces a gas crisis by


Commercial LED Lighting – The Top 10 Business Benefits of Commercial LED Lights


When we talk about energy efficiency nowadays we cant go by without
mentioning LED lights. Over the past few years Commercial
LED Lighting has become the most cost effective commercial lighting
system capable of generating savings of up to 90% on business electricity


Rising energy prices may lead to problems but also opportunities


Following one of the driest summers on record, the return of the rain has
slowed the progress of harvest across Yorkshire. Yield reports appear to
vary significantly according to land type and localised rainfall with
lighter land suffering the most. Recent crop prices are offering a decent
return compared to the spring when wheat was trading below £100. Wheat has
recently risen sharply to £170 per tonne for May delivery; albeit
temporarily, due mainly to the Russian government announcing a ban on wheat
exports making trading somewhat of a lottery. Currently, spot prices are in the region of £140 per tonne and the prospect
of fixing into £120 per tonne ex farm for November next year has tempted
many growers to take advantage of the buoyant trade.

While the rain may be a relief to livestock farmers faced with rising forage
costs and limited grass supplies, it means increased drying and energy cost
for arable farmers. This leads onto discussing energy usage, costs and new
legislation which will impact on farmers and businesses.

The prospect of rising energy costs, especially electricity, is encouraging
farmers to control or reduce energy costs through more efficient systems.
This may be through improved grain drying systems, temperature controlled
pig and poultry units, temperature controlled potato stores or cooling milk.

In addition, new legislation resulting from the UK’s Carbon Reduction
Commitment will create further burdens. Part of the legislation requires all
businesses including farmers that have used half
hourly metering from 2008 to the present to register with the Carbon
Reduction Commitment and complete an information disclosure by September 30.

Half hourly meters have a 00 displayed in the profile type box in the top
left hand corner. This is also on your electricity bill, labelled
electricity supply number. Those who don’t comply may be subject to a fine
of £500 per meter that is not disclosed. Further pressure to reduce energy
consumption and accurately calculate and record carbon emissions is
inevitable but there are some positives. The Carbon Trust is offering interest-free unsecured loans for between
£3,000 and £20,000 depending on the size of the overall investment and the
type of energy and this will be a big incentive for farmers struggling to
access credit and finance. Through the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA)
scheme any investment made for energy efficient equipment or improving the
efficiency of existing equipment is 100 per cent allowable against taxable
profit in the first year. With careful planning farmers will be able to benefit from the carbon trust
loan and ECA scheme as many investments increase energy efficiency.

The loan can be used for a wide range of projects including upgrading grain
drying systems, crop store insulation, milk cooling facilities and heat
exchange systems on poultry sheds.

One of the most effective ways of reducing energy costs and carbon emissions
is by producing renewable electricity through wind, hydro, solar biogas or
heat exchange which can provide income.


Anaerobic digestion offers farmers food for thought


The UK’s emerging anaerobic digestion (AD) industry was thrust into the
limelight this week after two major new projects that promise to demonstrate
the viability of the waste-to-energy technology were unveiled.

First up, energy firm Farmgen broke ground on the first in a wave of
anaerobic digestion plants, designed to provide farmers with an additional
revenue stream from “energy farming”.

The £2.5m project at Carr Farm in Warton, Preston will be the first AD plant
built under Farmgen’s proposed £30m UK-wide investment programme. Local
crops will be used to create biogas that will generate 1MW of
commercial electricity, which will
then be exported to the national grid.

Farmgen said that it also plans to build a second £2.5m plant in Silloth,
Cumbria later this year and is preparing planning applications for sites in
Lancashire and Staffordshire.

The coalition government has earmarked the accelerated roll out of AD plants
as a key part of its renewable energy strategy and last month launched a
consultation designed to assess how new policies could help increase support
for the emerging sector.

Under the existing feed-in tariff scheme, farmers or businesses installing
AD systems generating up to 500 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year are eligible for
payments of 11.5p per kWh, while those installing larger systems producing
500kWh to 5MW receive 9p per kWh.

Industry insiders have warned that the rates are not currently high enough
to drive the widespread roll out of AD plants and have been calling on the
government to increase in the incentive.

In related news, airport operator BAA announced yesterday that it has signed
a deal with food management firm Vertal that will see travellers food and
drink waste turned into fertiliser for use on local farms.

The company said that food waste from Heathrow’s daily 180,000 passengers
will be collected separately and sent to Vertal’s recycling facility in
South London where it will be composted within 72 hours.

It added that it hoped the initiative would save carbon emissions equivalent
to around half a million air miles.

Vertal founder and managing director Leon Mekitarian said he hoped the deal
would encourage other firms with large amounts of food waste to invest in
composting technology to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Our accelerated composting technology is significantly more carbon positive
than any other process,” he said. “And as the market matures and new
legislation comes on stream, that’s becoming a very important business


UK energy price hike could send data center offshore


A number of companies operating data centers in the UK could end up moving
abroad if the UK Government’s proposal to increase
business electricity charges for
businesses by up to 43 percent by 2020 end up being approved.

Both data center operators and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI),
which represents the private sector in Britain, have said they are concerned
the proposal could end up costing not only jobs but competitiveness in a
number of industries that rely on fast and reliant low-latency data center

But it may not be as bad as it seems, according to London City data center
operator City Lifeline managing director Roger Keenan.

“Not all data centers are the same, and they don’t exist for the same
reason,” Keenan said.

“Some data centers need a lot of computation power (and therefore electrical
power) but have little need to communicate with the outside world. This
might be geological computation, with lots of number crunching, little
communications and few staff. These kinds of data centers may leave the UK.”

Keenan said he believes data centers that are communications heavy or
latency critical such as ‘algo traders’ or telephone calling-card companies
that need myriad diverse connections at low cost to all parts of the world
will remain in the UK, and close to London.

CBI senior policy advisor for energy Murray Birt said the CBI has asked the
British Government to work fast on finalising its plans for energy price
hikes so that businesses, especially those that are more energy intensive,
such as data centers, can finalise goals to become more energy efficient and
reach key government carbon reduction commitments.

According to the Environmental Agency, less than half the number of
companies required to register for the new Carbon Reduction Scheme in the UK
have, and the deadline is close -30 September this year. “We want the government to try and simplify its energy policy,” Birt said.
“The price hikes are likely to be here to stay due to the world commodity
price for natural gas, oil and coal, but we do anticipate that these price
will actually end up being slightly less than what is forecast for now.”

Birt said the CBI’s main concern is those industries where energy is a key
component of their cost, such as the commercial data center. He said
businesses operating data centers will not realise much change in pricing,
due to the small percentage of cost it already equates to for an enterprise
such as large banks, and other entepriees running their own data centers.



Business Electricity VAT Levels


Business VAT

What rate of business VAT should I be charged for my gas or electricity? VAT for business consumers of energy is generally in line with standard VAT
rates, and is normally charged at 17.5%. However, some businesses will meet
the Deminimis requirements of using an average of 33 kWh per day, and then
you would be billed at 5%.

How is VAT Deminimis applied to electricity?

Supplies of not more than an average of 33 kWh per day (1,000 kWh per month)
of transmitted electricity to one customer at any one of his premises, are
billed at 5% VAT. This quantitative limit applies whether the bill is based
on a meter reading by either the supplier, the customer or on an estimate.

How is VAT Deminimis Applied to Gas?

Supplies of not more than an average of 5 therms or 145 kWh per day (150
therms or 4,397 kWh per month) of piped gas to one customer at any one of
his premises are billed at 5% VAT. This quantitative limit applies whether
the bill is based on a meter reading by either the supplier, the customer or
on an estimate.

What criteria does my business need to meet for VAT to be levied at 5%?

To qualify for VAT exemption the site has to be either: * For domestic use * A building, or part of a building, which consists of a dwelling or
number of dwellings * A building, or part of a building, used for a residential purpose * A home or other institution providing residential accommodation
for children * A home or other institution providing residential accommodation
with personal care for persons in need of personal care by reason of old
age, disablement, past or present dependence on alcohol or drugs or past or
present medical disorder * A hospice * A residential accommodation for students or school pupils * Residential accommodation for members of any of the armed forces * A monastery, nunnery or similar establishment * An institution which is the sole or main residence of at least 90%
of its residents * Except use as a hospital, a prison or similar institution, a
hotel, inn or similar establishment * Self catering holiday accommodation * A caravan * A houseboat * A charity otherwise than in the course of furtherance of a
business * Where there is a supply of goods or services partly for domestic
or charitable endeavours * If at least 60% of the goods or services qualify (meet the
aforementioned criteria the whole shall be treated as meeting the criteria)