Welcome to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)'s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP)'s blog. The DECC YAP is a group of young people aged between 15 and 25 from all over the UK, with a wide-range of backgrounds, from academia to activism.

Our aim is to inform everyone and anyone about DECC's activities and likewise to help DECC understand and take into account the concerns of young people. We are a medium of consultancy and conversation. Much of our work looks at finding a 'Pathway to 2050', reviewing how energy with be supplied and used in the next four decades, so follow us and join us on the journey!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

BBC documentary on the National Grid

The BBC this week screened the first episode of the new series, 'The Secret Life of the National Grid'. Members of the Youth Advisory Panel visited the National Grid this month - a blog post will soon follow - and the grid will be key in our forthcoming report. Check out the programme here.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Hinkley Point Visit: Initial Reaction

Tom, Zach, Kash and Alice at Taunton Railway Station
Aakash, Alice, Kirsty, Zach and myself (Tom) today visited Hinkley Point nuclear power station, near Bridgwater, Somerset. The site itself is split into Hinkley Point A - a plant out of use and now owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA), in the process of being decommissioned by contractors Magnox South - and Hinkley Point B, owned by British Energy, itself owned by EDF and Centrica, and still operational. Both offered very different aspects of nuclear power, and were invaluable for us to see. I'll tease you with a few details about the visit, but a more complete post will follow.

Hinkley Point B is a massive station housing two reactors, powering one million homes. It employs seven-hundred people and provides a huge boost to the local economy, but as environmentalists and young people, we wondered at what cost? Although nuclear power has relatively low carbon emissions per unit generated, the lasting legacy of nuclear waste worried all of us - is it ethical to leave hugely hazardous waste for our descendants to deal with thousands of years into the future? Over time standards and spending may slip, and a catastrophic accident could ensue. The reactor itself appeared rigourously safe - we felt reassured that an incident like that at Chernobyl would never be allowed to happen - but can we guarantee some body will exist for thousands of years to deal with this waste?

More to follow shortly. We were not allowed to take pictures in or around the site, so photos are of us in the train station and taxi, unexcitingly!

Kash is worried about sprouting extra fingers if exposed to radiation before the visit, and Alice is disgusted at Kirsty's happiness.

Friday, 15 October 2010

A Beginner’s Guide To Retrofitting

On 27th September, Kirsty, Zach and I met up in trendy Notting Hill to visit a nice Victorian terraced house … with a difference. This particularly house has been stripped out inside and made as green as modern technology will allow.

Set in a conservation area (which means the outside of the house has to stay looking the same), Octavia Housing won government funding through Retrofit for the Future to convert the 170 year old property at 100 Princedale Road to PassivHaus standards. The grant was for £175,000 – but the house was uninhabitable and just to get it up to living standards would have needed £125,000, so this only needed £50,000 extra. The German system uses intelligent engineering to make the house virtually air tight – across the whole house, if you added up the minute gaps, you’d scarcely reach the surface area of a £1 coin. That’s quite small compared with draughty windows and letterboxes across the country!

So we went to take a look round (in really embarrassing high-viz jackets and hard hats).

This sealed approach means that there is a 94% reduction in energy needed to heat the house. 94%!!! That’s massive. And it means that there is an 87% reduction in carbon emissions. Amazing. It achieves this by insulating all the walls with a sandwich of chipboard, foam glass (a bit like fibreglass but looks like plastic foam) and plasterboard. It’s a serious 15cm sandwich. And that foam glass also covers anything like beams or supports leading to the outside and might conduct heat outside. It means that overall, less than 0.1 watts per metre are lost to the outside – normally it would be 0.35 watts lost per metre.

All sorts of clever technology inside reduces carbon emissions – solar water heater, and an air to air heat exchanger which heats (or cools in the summer) air coming in from outside and circulates the old air out and the new air in. That exchanger has a filter that needs changed every couple of years … it phones you when it needs changed! Everything is as simple as possible with one switch for the whole system, and cheaper than a conventional gas central heating system to maintain.

We were really impressed and all left wanting to live there. But the big hope would be that costs could come down, and incentives could be provided to allow everyone to retrofit their home. With that much energy to be saved, it has to be a good idea!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

DRAX Power Station

Panelists Mairi McInnes,Zachary Confino & Michael Furey accompanied by the wonderful Kirsty Schneeberger visit Drax Power Station, Doncaster, 13th October 2010.