Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cool the Shop!

The following was sent through to me by Peter Hale of Climate Concern.

I hope that many of you, like me, comment politely to staff when you encounter excessive heating (or air-conditioning) in shops. Ditto cafes, libraries, offices, schools, council buildings. The winter season is coming!

Shop staff's clothing is a good indicator as to whether the owners have any interest in saving heat. I had a conversation with a thin-bloused senior woman assistant at a local Boots the Chemist store last winter (probably the warmest shop in the town at the time):
"It isn't half warm in here."
"You have your coat on."
"Yes, customers do!"
"We have to look after our staff."
"You can wear jackets or your fleeces."
"Ah (concentrating hard), I think we did have some somewhere."

I had a "bad shop day" a few weeks ago:
At a Co-op "Local Store": near the check-out, they have a large hot pie cabinet with an open front, nearly three feet square, with a continuous flow of heat through and out. I first noticed this over two years ago and commented to the "Energy & Environment Manager" at the Manchester head office, who agreed it seemed unsatisfactory. Nothing's changed. I said to the young man on the check-out: "This seems such a waste of heat - it must be heating the shop?". He answered: "Yes, we have to keep the air conditioning up high." (!)

Then, a large independent "Home & Garden" store: it was freezing cold inside with large air conditioning units buzzing away on the walls. When I suggested to the manager that he could save money by turning it down, a well-heeled looking woman customer overheard and said "Oh no, I like it; it's lovely to be in shops with cold air." Some people still don't get it.

"Close the Door" campaign
And then there are open doors! The amount of energy wasted by shops in heating the street must be enormous. If a shop door looks permanently open on cold days, you can politely suggest they might close it. If you are grouped with others, you can join the "Close the Door" campaign:

This splendid and well-organised effort was started by three women in Cambridge and has a growing number of towns involved. The idea is to engage with shop managers and also to build an awareness among shoppers that a closed door is good, using stickers and other local publicity.
My own Climate Action group in Northallerton has joined and will be engaging with shop managers (doors closed or open) in the coming months, hopefully also involving discussion of other energy-saving possibilities.

Lip Service to less Business Travel
It has for long bugged me that while many of us are trying to reduce our carbon emissions, for all the green claims, so many businesses and their employees don't seem to give energy saving a thought and are effectively working against our efforts.

The latest annual Barclaycard Business Travel Survey found that while large numbers of companies had environmental policies in place covering travel, just 1% of those interviewed had reduced the amount they travelled in the previous year. 40% of the 238 company chairmen surveyed said tackling the environmental impact of travel was the government's job.

Concentrated Solar Power
One of the best hopes for large scale renewable electricity is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). This is the focussing of the sun's rays by multiple mirrors on to a water-filled tower to produce steam to run turbine-generators. CSP installations already exist in the US and Spain with many others being planned. The big one is the "Desertec" project to generate up to 100GW of electricity in the North Africa and Middle East deserts, much of it feeding Europe via a DC cable network (which loses less energy to heat - 3% per 1000km). The project has been developed by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation, is supported by politicians in many countries, and has been presented to the European Parliament. The power output could be combined with other forms of renewable energy around the EU and transmitted via a European super-grid.

CSP is a mature technology, is cheaper than solar pv, energy can easily be stored (heat retained in tanks of salt water), can be combined with desalination for local fresh water, and is fast to build at 2 to 3 years from granting of licence. By 2011/12, current known contracts should provide 9GW globally, and if current expansion continues at a conservative rate, 200GW could be online by 2020 (for comparison, current total installed UK generating capacity is 74GW, Drax 4GW). Some argue that CSP is a realistic alternative to nuclear energy as an established and proven technology.

Patio heaters help save energy
B&Q's leaflet "How To Use Outdoor Heaters More Efficiently" includes the advice: "Always turn down your interior heating appliances when you go outside and turn off lights and TVs". Must be good sense!

Two Sceptics Less
It isn't just advances in science and Exxon shareholder pressure that is diminishing climate scepticism. Political need also forces U-turns:
Boris Johnson, who has written sceptical articles and previously said that anxiety over climate change was "partly a religious phenomenon", now supports Ken Livingstone's existing carbon emissions reduction targets for London. "When the facts change, you change your mind," he said.
Sarah Palin told a reporter last December: "I'm not an Al Gore doom-and-gloom environmentalist blaming the changes in our climate on human activity." Now it's: "I'm attributing some of man's activities to potentially causing some of the changes in the climate right now." Well, what a surprise, considering that John McCain has for long been a leading campaigner with his own CC bill.
Hope you all feel you are making progress in reducing emissions and seeing those around you doing similarly?!


Peter Hale
Climate Concern UK
tel 01325 378452

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