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Rugeley coal plant to be transformed into a sustainable village

Rugeley coal plant to be transformed into a sustainable village


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Rugeley coal plant to be transformed into a sustainable village” was written by Adam Vaughan, for theguardian.com on Monday 19th November 2018 13.01 UTC

An old coal power station is set to be transformed into a “sustainable village” of 2,000 homes powered by solar panels, in the biggest redevelopment yet of a former UK power plant.

French firm Engie said it had decided against selling off the Rugeley site in Staffordshire and would instead build super efficient houses on the 139-hectare site as part of its bid to “move beyond energy”.

Half of the energy required by the new homes will come from green sources, predominantly solar, which will be fitted on rooftops, in a field and even floating on a lake.

The company is planning for 10 megawatts of solar capacity in total, equivalent to one of the UK’s smaller solar farms.

Batteries will be used across the site, both in homes and at a communal power storage facility, to balance out electricity supply and demand.

The firm is also claiming the homes will be so efficient they will use nearly a third less energy than average new builds. Heating will come not from gas boilers but electric devices such as heat pumps.

Rugeley power station cooling towers at night.
Rugeley power station cooling towers at night. Photograph: Northern Nights Photography/Alamy

Wilfrid Petrie, Engie UK’s chief executive, said: “We are positioning ourselves as going beyond energy into place-making. It’s an example of us closing down our coal power plant and, instead of selling off the land, we’ve decided to regenerate it ourselves.”

Rugeley, which stopped generating electricity in the summer of 2016, is one of several coal plants to close in recent years due to economic pressures and environmental regulations.

There are seven operational coal power stations left in the UK, but all are due to shut by a government deadline of 2025, raising questions over what happens to the sizeable parcels of land afterwards.

While some energy companies are hoping to build gas plants on or adjacent to the old coal sites, others will need to be decommissioned for other uses.

In Shropshire, regeneration firm Harworth is planning to turn the 97-hectare brownfield site of a former power station into a development of homes and commercial units.

Engie said it was eyeing other sites around the country. “There’s a list of similar sites, which we are looking at. It’s not in the hundreds, but there are several,” Petrie said.

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Peter Atherton, an analyst at Cornwall Insight, said putting local electricity generation at the heart of new housing projects was almost becoming a prerequisite for developers to get through planning.

“It is the way of the future. There is no doubt large scale housing developments going forward are going to have some form of local generation because it is all the craze,” he said.

Around 30% of the Rugeley project will be classified affordable homes, though it is not clear how much the green energy measures and high building standards will add to the upfront cost of the properties.

Consultation on the scheme starts this month, with construction due to start next year and demolition of the former coal plant – including the cooling towers – due to finish in 2020, with plans for the first people to move in the year after.

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£60m ‘greenery drive’ to plant 10m trees in England

£60m ‘greenery drive’ to plant 10m trees in England


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “£60m ‘greenery drive’ to plant 10m trees in England” was written by Adam Vaughan, for The Guardian on Monday 29th October 2018 18.40 UTC

More than 10m trees will be planted across England with the injection of £60m of new funding over five years, as part of what the government billed as its “drive to preserve the country’s greenery”.

The bulk of the money, £50m, will pay landowners for planting trees that lock up carbon, which observers said raised questions over how accessible those woodlands would be to the public. That fund, the Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme, should pay for 10m trees.

The other £10m will be targeted at planting in cities and towns and should fund at least 100,000 more trees.

The Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, said the money was a step in the right direction in terms of tackling climate change and wildlife losses, but not enough in total. “The problem is greater than just having the funds to deliver increased tree-planting,” said Abi Bunker, the group’s director of conservation.

The government said it would also back a study into the possibility of creating a new “Great Thames Park” in the Thames estuary, which experts have said could be ready by 2020. Ministers have pledged to plant 11m trees between 2017 and 2022, approximately the same number that were planted under the five years of the coalition.

England’s tree-planting record is poor compared with other European countries. About 1.6m trees were planted in England with government support in the 2017-18 financial year, covering 895 hectares. By comparison, Scotland planted 7,100 hectares in the same period.

Conservationists have pointed out that because England’s 120m ash trees are threatened by ash dieback, a deadly fungus that arrived in 2012, the country is on track to suffer a net loss of trees over the next five years. The mix of species to be planted under the government’s new funding announcement will be decided at a later date.

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Will the Labrador energy switcher make you switch suppliers?

Will the Labrador energy switcher make you switch suppliers?


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Will the Labrador energy switcher make you switch suppliers?” was written by Adam Vaughan, for The Guardian on Sunday 11th March 2018 16.13 UTC

A device that plugs into a home broadband router and automatically switches supplier when cheaper deals become available is set to revolutionise the home energy market.

The launch of Labrador comes as more and more people are changing their energy companies.

The company’s free service is primarily targeted at the growing number of households which have smart meters, which automate readings. More than 8m have been installed in the UK so far, and energy suppliers have to offer one to every home in the UK by the end of 2020.

Unlike conventional price comparison sites, which require people to actively search for a better deal and input their details and energy use, Labrador will automatically switch people’s accounts when it finds a cheaper tariff.

Jane Lucy, founder and CEO of Labrador, said: “We’re not about behaviour change: we assume consumer lethargy will remain.”

Flipper is a similar service that launched in 2016, relying on accessing a customer’s energy bills, which might be estimated. Labrador believes it will be more accurate, as it use a device that plugs into a customer’s broadband router and talks wirelessly to their smart meters, taking readings direct from them.

While Flipper charges an annual £25 fee, Labrador makes its money like a switching site, by being paid an acquisition fee by suppliers.

Lucy said she expected customers would be switched 1-3 times a year and save on average £300 a year. They are given the choice to tailor their preferences, for example, to just green energy tariffs.

The company has signed up about 500 customers since a soft launch in February, but aims to take 3% of the switching market within five years. In the future the company may branch out into home automation and helping consumers identify individual energy-guzzling appliances, Lucy said.

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