Sunday, 26 September 2010

Energy security

We have a power cut in the Coach House, which means no lighting (obviously) or central heating (because the boiler is controlled by electricity), or computers and internet. It highlights how much we take electricity and heating for granted, and how cut off I feel when I am unexpectedly disconnected. (Expected I can cope with.) So I am writing this on the laptop, hoping that tonight will not be too cold, and that the electrician will fix things tomorrow.

How resilient will we be at Mucknell to problems with energy supply? The biomass boiler is also controlled by electricity, so will be taken out in a power cut. The solar water heating system will be fine, as long as it is daylight (and it may incorporate an electric pump). However, electricity from the photo-voltaics won't be available, as it was not cost-effective to install an inverter to convert it from DC to AC supply for domestic use. So during a power cut, there will be no electricity available (and it probably can't be exported from the PVs either). Which makes me wonder... it might not be cost-effective to install a inverter, but might it not be justified on resilience grounds? A wood stove is being installed in the refectory, which at least will give a warm reasonably large common space, and the whole building is well-insulated, so will hopefully retain its heat well. But what about the supply of wood? The site is not large enough to supply all that will be needed, and the new trees won't be supplying for a few years. The community is joining a local co-operative, which will supply wood chips and will eventually take the cut wood.

Energy security (in the face of peak oil and climate change) is one of the problems that the Transition movement is trying to address, working at the local level to increase local resilience.  We can't rely on big government to do it for us. Ed Miliband, when Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, seemed to have grasped most of the issues and to be moving in the right direction. Chris Huhne is making some noises about renewables, but has also compromised the Lib Dem policy on no nuclear, which is disappointing.

1 comment:

  1. The solar water heating system does incorporate an electric pump, so will not be fine. The PV system has inverters, but these are on mains electricity so during a power outage we won't be able to generate our own electricity. The system gets more complicated if we wanted to be 'off grid'.