Feeds

New Microgeneration report - what it actually says

Home fires burning won't keep the lights on

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Analysis A new report on possibilities for deployment of low-carbon microgeneration machinery in British homes was published yesterday, and has scored big ink. But most of the coverage has ignored the three main messages of the report.

These are fairly simple. Firstly, according to the report, microgeneration in the UK is going absolutely nowhere without massive government backing - in the form of multibillion-pound subsidies, or regulations which would in effect place multibillion-pound levies on homeowners. Secondly, the report's authors conclude that with such massive backing microgeneration might reduce the UK's carbon emissions by as much as a few per cent; though in most scenarios the saving would be less than 1 per cent.

Finally and most importantly, however, the report notes that any success in delivery of lower-carbon national grid electricity would render most forms of microgeneration pointless. Given a halving of the carbon burden of grid 'leccy, widespread takeup of home power machinery would no longer reduce the UK's carbon emissions but actually increase them. (It's important to note that headline-worthy but marginally useful microgen kit such as rooftop wind turbines and solar cells formed only a small part of the calculations.)

The document in question is called The Growth Potential for Microgeneration in England, Wales and Scotland, and it can be downloaded in full here (big pdf). It was produced by consulting engineers Element Energy and was paid for by UK national and local government, the Micropower Council, several power companies, the Energy Saving Trust and the Renewable Energy Foundation.

It won't pay unless we all pay

The report's authors, having done their economic projections into the future, don't see any serious takeup of microgeneration without heavy government backing - to the tune of billions each year.

Subsidy schemes which achieve a widespread penetration of microgeneration have cumulative subsidy costs in the tens of billions by 2030 ... expectations of technology cost reductions appear necessary but insufficient to promote substantial consumer uptake of microgeneration. In the absence of changes to the fundamental energy economics, microgeneration technologies will require a supportive policy framework ... Even with relatively optimistic cost reduction projections up to 2050, microgeneration technologies will struggle to compete for consumers without policy support.

In particular, the most pure and righteous green home power technologies - rooftop wind turbines and solar-electric panels - require huge subsidies, several times the consumer price of electricity, to make them worth installing. Even then, most home users need loans to afford them; and the loans must be cheap or the revenue from selling high-priced subsidised power to the grid still won't cover the payments. Home windmills and solar-cell panels didn't produce enough power to seriously affect carbon emissions in any of the scenarios modelled. But there are many other kinds of microgen equipment, and it was these which seemed likeliest to be successful.

Keeping the home fires burning

Especially attractive in some scenarios are Combined Heat and Power (CHP) installations. Many Brits nowadays heat their homes and water using gas boilers, wasting a good deal of the energy they buy even with the most modern kit. Gas CHP plants cost a lot more than a combi boiler, but generate 'leccy as well as heat; wasting less overall, and so saving money over time. In future, CHP plants might use fuel cells rather than relatively ordinary options such as gas motor or Stirling-engine powered generators.

Making "cautious" assumptions about fuel-cell CHP - which isn't yet available for home use - the report's authors thought it could be brought down to the same kind of price as a combi boiler by using a within-the-realms-of-possibility subsidy regime. This meant that CHP, and particularly fuel-cell CHP, tended to dominate the future microgen projections. Like windmills or solar cells, CHP plants would sell electricity back to the grid if it wasn't immediately required. The difference is that CHP generates a lot more power.

Another crafty option for the parsimonious home owner is heat pumps, which work just like a fridge. Instead of making their insides cold and dumping heat into the kitchen, however, they make the air outside a house (or the ground beneath it) colder, and dump the heat into your radiators or your hot water system. The electricity required to drive the heat pumps is potentially much cheaper than a normal heating bill; but, again, the upfront costs are so large as to discourage most people.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.