How much energy does the county of Herefordshire use today ?
Based on these figures, at a nominal cost of 10p per kWh of delivered energy, the county of Herefordshire spends at least –
£500 MILLION per year on energy.
Now imagine what our economy could be like if we can retain at least some of the money in local hands.
From the grid on demand, this is our most versatile form of energy. It gives us light to extend our useful day and powers our domestic machinery to free us from repetitive drudgery. Today it is the driving force of our information and communications systems allowing us to learn about the world beyond the wildest imaginings of a century ago and brings us a barrage of distractions to entertain us. To see the history of where our electricity comes from and how long these resources may last go here.
Despite it’s ubiquity and versatility, electricity is yet very expensive to store, batteries demand exotic materials which impose an environmental burden at all stages of their life. Often a surplus of electrical energy is best stored in another form, such as pumped storage.
To replace the always-on grid at present day levels of use would present a huge challenge to any renewable and sustainable technology.
From BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2011 www.BP.com
Since the discovery of natural gas ( methane) below the North Sea, gas has become the UK fuel of choice for heating our homes, workplaces and public buildings. It burns cleanly, giving just Carbon dioxide and water vapour with no solid residues.
This very cleanliness has also made it a fuel of choice for generating electricity, as a gas fired power station can be “fired up” relatively quickly to respond to hourly changes in demand. The lack of solid residues also allows gas stations to operate at very high efficiencies, with combined cycle plant extracting the majority of energy theoretically available from the fuel.
Because there is no production cost beyond capture and delivery gas has historically been very cheap to the UK market; but as supplies become harder to extract, dirtier and diminishing; the UK now depends on a trans-European network of supplies traded on global markets. Prices rise sharply in response to significant events such as the Tsunami damage in Japan.
The use of gas is a good measure of the demand for energy in the form of heat. To replace this with a renewable source of heat remains challenging and demands that we examine waste, as well as considering more efficient ways of using diminishing supplies of heating fuels. As Herefordshire has many homes and businesses beyond the gas grid the county has an opportunity and an urgent need to develop sustainable solutions to heat loads.
We all know only too well how we depend on our cars to get around, especially in this county where a quarter of the population live in rural ares with poor public transport. But despite being a producer of both basic and high quality foodstuffs, we are also locked in to a nationwide system which uses the roads to collect, sort and deliver the food we eat every day.
Our use of private cars uses much more energy than we use as grid electricity in the home. Some say that electric cars are the answer to the diminishing supply and rising price of oil; but if we do this we will need to massively increase the production of electricity if we expect to carry on using cars as we today.
Because the supply of road fuels is based on global demand, it inevitably leads to a transfer of negotiable wealth to those in control of the resource, as can be seen in the spending power of the Gulf States and the difference between developing nations with their own supplies and without. For a hundred years we have been involved in wars over access to supplies of oil and there is no prospect of this changing as reserves are exhausted in the near future.
Whilst much of the cash price we pay for our fuels is collected as tax by the UK government, (some of which comes back) this still means that hundreds of millions of pounds leave the county every year.
This group includes energy and fuels used by the government not listed elsewhere, solid fuels like coal and wood, and fuels used in agriculture. The data do not permit finer study of this rather large amount of energy, but as agriculture is a major industry in the county this data reflects the huge energy inputs to modern farming and suggests that our basic food supply is truly dependant on imported fuels.
Solid fuels are one of the options available for heating homes with no gas, as are LPG (Butane and Propane) and heavy oil. It is these homes which are most vulnerable to changes in the price of fuels as individuals are unable to bargain for better prices. Private tenants in this class of housing are most likely to be in fuel poverty or to suffer from inadequate heating.
Use of wood for heating homes is both timeless and seen by many as an important future contribution. At present the majority of Herefordshire woods are not managed to produce fuel, despite historic use as feedstock for metal working, so they only contribute a small fraction of their potential. The economic value of the “beer money” fire wood industry is not known.