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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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RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By Ringold on 11/29/2007 5:03:49 PM , Rating: 3
You did a good job, don't need me here. I blew all my energy in a different thread :P

I disagree - what you are advocating is economic inefficiency, and I don't understand how that can raise the standard of living. Imagine a country that employs a team of workers that digs ditches and another that fills them in. Sure, both teams are getting paid, but where is the value that is creating that can pay for the salaries? Someone's got to pay for that.

That's what I heard from him too, and it's entirely wrong. The way to create jobs, and wealth, is to increase the productivity of labor by getting more work done (or making work easier for an equivalent unit of output), not less. More goods can then be supplied at a given price level, making everybody better off, and firms can afford to pay their employees more to reward this higher productivity. With more cash in their pockets, they can then, of course, buy more goods, and a more varied basket of goods, thereby creating jobs.

A community of 100 people, all subsistence farmers.

Fred figures out how to improve the plough such that it breaks the dirt easier, allowing oxen to work faster.

At first, Fred can only afford to quit farming himself, selling his land to another farmer. Before long, Fred hires a couple fellow farmers to help manufacture these ploughs for everyone else.

Now 5 people are, lets say, are now decently paid industrial workers, 95 are farmers, and everybody is able to eat more with increased crop yields.

One of the farmers now see's an opportunity; he got lucky, bought a plough, has more excess profits, but sees other farmers can't afford to buy a plough. Jake opens the Bank of Example.

Before long, Jake is taking so many deposits, he hires a couple hands..

Fast forward 200 years, and you've got about what America looks like; 95 post-industrial age workers and 5 farmers, everybody living fantastically well by comparison.

One can also see this happening in slow motion globally by looking at the productivity of an American farmer compared to farmers in, say, Africa. American farmers are probably about 100 times more productive at a minimum compared to most of Africa, where most people toil in the fields, though I'd have to drag out statistics to be exact.

On the other hand, lowering productivity of labor across an economy lowers the output of the economy (that should be straightforward); goods are more expensive and supplied at lower quantities, making workers worse off. As productivity drops off, firms lay off workers as profit turns toward loss, and unemployed workers consume even less then the employed ones, exacerbating the downturn. This is why recessions are self-sustaining to a degree; the loss of one highly-paid job can mean the loss of 2 - 3 more lower paying service jobs in a local community.

If I haven't explained it enough for the OP now then I give up, time for a sandwich.

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