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An older model home which has gone energy-efficient conversion into a green alter-ego.  (Source: University of Oxford)
One of the oldest and most venerable universities in the world is looking to help homeowners take a chunk out of a very new problem

The University of Oxford is helping households both reduce their energy bills and reduce the CO2 needed to generate their energy, by as much as 80%.  Oxford revealed the framework of the plan to the public, and it is already creating much excitement and interest.

Central to the plan are Oxford's suggestions of government financial incentives for homeowners and higher efficiency standards on household appliances.

Brenda Boardman, a senior research fellow at Oxford University, authored the report and points that homeowners choosing to adopt the plan wouldn't just be acting altruistically -- they would be saving £425 each year -- enough say, buy that new iPhone, pick up a PS3, or snag a couple of Wiis (if you could find any!).

DailyTech recently reported that UK legislators had adopted the ambitious drive for emissions to be cut by 60% of 1990 levels by 2050.  Oxford's plan is even more ambitious.  Ms. Boardman states, "The bill calls for at least a 60% reduction, which is great, but this report shows that you can get an 80% cut in the domestic sector by 2050."

The UK government has stated its intention of making every new home zero-carbon emissions by 2016, even promising to possibly ban energy-hungry plasma TVs.  However, even if this is accomplished, Boardman points out, in 2050 over 80% of people will be living in homes in homes that had already been built, so the need for reform in existing housing is essential.

Ms. Boardman went on to state that if the government wants any hope of reaching its emissions goals, then changing and modernizing home usage was an essential step.  She explains, "It is crucial because it is large. Depending on what year's measurements you use, it accounts for about 25-27% of all the UK's carbon emissions."

The precise details of the plan are as follows:

  1. The housing sector would be legal bound to cut emissions by 3.8% a year, starting in 2008 (if adopted).
  2. Build more densely concentrated homes, chiefly in urban areas, to cut car use and increase adoption of micro-generator systems.
  3. A large program of tax breaks, including taxes for installing energy efficient insulation and reduced taxes on energy efficient goods and appliances.
  4. Develop a database to track fuel efficiency across the UK and target poverty afflicted areas with additional financial assistance.
  5. Have government sponsored home analysis program which delivers efficiency certificates to homeowners looking to make improvements and gives them suggestions for various potential activities to improve the property.

In an interview with BBC News, Ms. Boardman explained the practicality of the plan, saying, "The technologies are already there.  People know about cavity wall insulation, double glazing and more efficient boilers and lighting.  We are trying to give a framework to government policy so everybody will realize this is important and what we have to do in our homes to help with climate change mitigation."

One promising idea discussed in the report is micro generation.  The concept, which can be applied equally well to businesses and large homes involves using small electric generators and heaters, typically combined to local power and heat production and take stress of the power and gas grids.  By making the production local, energy use can be cut nearly 20%.

Carbon Trust, an environmental analyst has done a study on currently implementations and after exhaustive research feels that there is definitive evidence that this local production delivers tremendous benefits.  Their representative stated, "Our analysis of more than 30,000 days worth of data shows that micro CHP can deliver significant CO2 savings for small businesses and certain types of housing. However, if the market for this exciting technology is to develop, it needs a policy framework which provides appropriate incentives to target applications which offer worthwhile carbon savings."

A recent study showed the majority of people worldwide were willing to make lifestyle changes to help the environment -- so Oxford's plan just might work.  While Britain's emissions goals seem lofty, perhaps with Oxford University's plan, the nation will have a shot of reaching them, and even put a few dollars back into homeowners' pockets in the process.

Ms. Boardman's main study can be viewed here (PDF) and an additional paper by her released this year on energy efficiency and emissions achievability can be viewed here (PDF).

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The future: In Dubai
By Ringold on 11/29/2007 2:07:30 PM , Rating: 2
I always have posted that I look forward to Earth resembling Coruscant. Setting aside environmental concerns, and looking at it from the perspective of efficient use of limited land area in major urban areas, Coruscant's model seems best -- and Dubai is clearly on its way.

Note any one of the massive buildings reaching in to the sky, almost like the citadel in Half Life 2, which include all manner of things inside; dozens of resteraunts, hotels, resorts, tons of office space, various stores as in a shopping mall, and yes, condo's and apartments.

I generally like having a home, but I'd love having a primary residence in such a building; put on a suit, walk to an elevator, and a couple minutes later I'm at work.

Then I could just have a second residence out somewhere nice and quiet for when I want to get away -- but for the rest of the year, my travel expense is roughly zero; if my massive building doesn't have what I need, the one across the street probably will. It wouldn't be for everybody; therefore, we also need flying cars to fly in from the suburbs! ;)

That's what we need here in America, but I'd imagine England could use it even more, what with being stuck on a relatively small island.

RE: The future: In Dubai
By Ringold on 11/29/2007 2:16:28 PM , Rating: 2
I had, of course, this one in mind:

RE: The future: In Dubai
By Spuke on 11/29/2007 3:47:45 PM , Rating: 2
Looks pretty cool and city folks wouldn't mind something like that at all. I, on the other hand, don't like being right on top of other people so I live in the suburbs. Although, when I retire I may do it just for a change of scenery.

RE: The future: In Dubai
By TomZ on 11/29/07, Rating: 0
RE: The future: In Dubai
By Ringold on 11/29/2007 6:06:31 PM , Rating: 1
I agree with your sentiments entirely, really. If the cost savings were sufficient, though, I'd do it, but .. I was trying to not sound like a stereotype, but I'd only do it if I had that second home I talked about to retreat to after the work week was done. ;)

That's from off my back porch. I'm not in it full time yet, and being born in Florida I have no concept of what it'll be like to try to commute from there to work when I am there. If it's really nasty in the winter, I may have to go with a small place closer to work, but that place, which is in the middle of absolutely no where (near Nashville, IN), is nice and quiet. I don't even like to fish, I just liked the view.

The other picture would be mom. Environmentalists, blame her for raising me. :P

RE: The future: In Dubai
By diablofish on 11/30/2007 11:39:22 AM , Rating: 2
I'd miss Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Pyramids, the Great Wall, being able to fish in the middle of nowhere, and the other great wide open spaces tremendously if that ever happened. I miss the chirping of the birds, the splash of a fish jumping out of the water, and the silence of watching the stars in a place where you can actually see them.

I really hope we don't turn Earth into Coruscant.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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