Action - Energy

Energy is behind everything we do - it's required to grow the food we eat and to clothe us. We need it to build our houses, to keep us warm in winter and to cool us down in summer. And we use it to travel to where we'd like to be (the grass is always greener on the other side, after all).

Fossil Fuels

Burning stuff to keep warm is nothing new - humans have been doing it for a long time. What has changed over the past couple of hundred years is both what we burn, and how much of it we burn (a lot). Much of the burning is used to keep our homes, offices and factories warm...but ironically much of the buring is also used to cool us down - by generating the electricity required to power air conditioners.

The trouble with burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is that doing so releases CO2 into the atmosphere; CO2 acts like a blanket around our planet. Like on a bed, a blanket of the right thickness is great...but if the blanket is too thick it's not pleasant and you start to sweat; that's essentially what's happening to the planet. We've gone from having a "Goldilocks" mixture of gases in the atmosphhere (it the planet just right - not too hot and not too cold) to having one that is overheating the earth's systems - the very systems that sustain all life. And we're effectively piling on more blankets as we continue to burn more and more fossil fuels.

But humans a nothing if not inventive, and for a long time we've had alternatives to burning stuff...

Heating and Cooling

As anyone with an electric heater or a fridge is aware, we can both heat and cool our homes using electricity - so the challenge is to generate our electricity without burning fossil fuels, and then to use that electricity as efficiently as possible for heating and cooling. And while we're at it, we should also reduce the amount of heating and cooling required - after all, the cheapest energy is the energy you don't use. In other words, insulate!

Heat pumps are like fridges in reverse (imagine taking the door off your fridge, and putting it in place of your front door with the back of the fridge - it gets hot - on the inside). Thanks to the laws of physics (these are the laws even politicians can't break) heat pumps are more than 100% efficient - put in one unit of electricity, and you can get 2-4 units of heat out.

Other electrical heating is 1-1, but if your electricity has been generated without releasing CO2 (or other pollutants) then this is still a viable option, especially if you have a house that is approaching Passive House standards, such as the Energiesprung redevelopment here in Nottingham. In addition to heat pumps, options include storage heaters, infra-red panels, and zero emission boilers.

Energy Suppliers

Humans now have various ways of generating electricity cleanly, and often this is now cheaper than using fossil fuels (and if it were not for enormous subsidies that governments hand out to oil and gas companies, even more would renewables would be cost-competitive). The cost of renewables is falling all the time and whilst, sadly, Wave and Tidal Power haven't yet seen the investment they deserver, wind turbines (onshore and offsore) and solar panels are now generating a huge proportion of the UK's electricity - cleanly and cheaply. So if you choose an electricity supplier such as Ecotricity who generate their own power from windmills, you're going to be contributing much less to the problem, and helping fund solutions. It's worth doing some research into suppliers to make sure you're not a victim of greenwash!

Solar Power

Generating your own power, for those lucky enough to be able to do so, is a great option. Few people have space for a wind turbine, but quite a lot do have a roofs onto which they can install solar panels. These have a lifespan of about 40 years and in summer can generate more than enough power for a typical home - and potentially give you free EV charging. However, in winter, there is much less sunshine and a greater demand for heat, so solar is only a part of the solution (though happily it's often sunny when the wind isn't blowing, and vice versa). Nottingham City Council has grants available in some areas for free solar installation.


Since wind and solar are intermittent (we get cloudy days, windless days, even cloudy windless days) we need ways to get around this problem - and there are literally millions of people working on this all around the world. We already have various forms of large scale storage such as pumped hydro, and more grid-scale batteries are being installed by the day. Seasonal storage remains a challenge, but some companies are working on this too. Home batteries (both electrical and heat batteries) are a part of the solution (though can be costly) and electric vehicles (EVs) now have very large batteries, so just imagine connecting that to power your home if you can park it close enough.

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