Your carbon footprint is how much carbon dioxide (CO2) you use through energy consumption in your home and when you travel. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is thought to be one of the main greenhouse gases which are causing changes to our climate.
Most of the energy generated in the UK comes from non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal, gas and the uranium used in our nuclear power stations. Our transport needs are almost exclusively fuelled by petrol and diesel which are derived from oil.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain tides and geothermal heat which are renewable (will not run out). Unlike fossil fuels they produce little or no additional carbon dioxide (CO2).
Generally speaking, there are two types of renewable energy technology.
- Technologies that make electricity (hydro power, wind, solar photovoltaic panels)
- Technologies that make heat (solar thermal, biomass boilers)
Other technologies, such as heat pumps also utilise the heat generated by the sun to generate hot water and space heating for buildings. Heat pumps work by absorbing the heat contained in either the air, ground or water (such as a lake). Heat pumps work in the same way as a fridge but in reverse. Although they take advantage of the heat generated by the sun (which warms the air, water or ground) they tend to be called ‘low carbon technologies’ because they require electricity to work. Heat pumps are generally very efficient ways of heating a property with between £2 and £4 of heat generated for every £1 of electricity used.
Combined heat and power (CHP) technology is used to generate both heat and electricity through the combustion of a fuel. This can include the burning of both renewable and fossil fuels that turns a turbine which generates electricity. The real benefit of a CHP unit is that it also captures the heat that is generated by the combustion of the fuel. The fuel used in a CHP can be either a fossil fuel (such as natural gas) or from a renewable source such as wood. Some CHP units are powered from refuse derived fuel or anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion uses the gas generated from bacteria that digests food matter and farm slurry. Some CHP plants use fuel that is derived from residual waste. In all cases, CHP offers a more efficient way of generating energy generated by the combustion of fuel is utilised rather than wasted.
There are a range of new financial mechanisms that have been created to support the uptake of renewable energy. The main mechanisms are:
- Renewable Obligations Certificates: these cover large scale projects over 5 MW
- Feed in Tariff: this supports electricity generating renewable energy technology
- Renewable Heat incentive: this supports heat generating renewable and low carbon technologies
- Renewable Heat Premium Payment: to help you afford renewable technologies for your home
The energy saving trust website contains a vast amount of information about the different types of renewable energy technology and how these can be integrated into the home.
We are developing a series of resources over the next few months to help you negotiate the complexities of renewable energy technologies, the financial implications and provide you with support to identify opportunities for community owned projects.
Latest resources added: