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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 diablofish on 11/30/2007 8:52:54 AM , Rating: 3
I don't call it a subsidy; I call it an incentive to the consumer to adopt new (better) technology. You write ad nauseum about how the free market works. Yet if the government didn't "subsidize" many technology projects over the years, where would innovation lie? Would we have entered the nuclear age? Space exploration? AIDS research? Where would computer research be if not for the government funding development of computers for the Navy? There are countless examples over the years of where government has subsidized technologies - some of them useful and some of them dubious.

Even private businesses have subsidized energy efficient technology. For example, Xcel energy offers rebates to customers who buy energy efficient appliances and air conditioners.

And there is regulation. Lots of it. For example, refrigerants are regulated because they might contribute to global warming. More efficient refrigerants (R-12, even R-22) are being replaced with less efficient (R-134A, et al) refrigerants because of the potential effects that they have on the atmosphere. This causes manufacturing costs to rise, equipment sizes and weights to generally increase, and doesn't easily enable increased energy efficiency. But regulation does force more innovation, to a degree. You can see this in the ever-increasing efficiency ratings on such equipment despite the less efficient refrigerants that are required to be used. In a true free market, there would be no regulation.

Everyone has an agenda, not just environmentalists. To single out environmentalists as "having an agenda" ignores the agenda of everyone else which may or may not be in the best interest of something other than their pocketbook.

"If analysis really shows that consumers aren't demanding it on their own, then we should then look at why not rather than coercing them."

I guess this is where we disagree fundamentally. I don't think consumers truly make choices: marketing "coerces" (I think provides an incentive might be a better way to put it) people into making choices and believing they made a choice. If that weren't at least partially true, no one would care whether you wore Prada or Wal-Mart jeans and all jeans would cost the same since they are all made in essentially the same manner. And no one would want to hire Michael Jordan or Peyton Manning to pitch their products.

Tax breaks to spur innovation and develop technologies that are ultimately beneficial to the consumer (and possibly to the environment) are a good means to achieve the goal: lowering energy consumption. But I do agree that it shouldn't be the singular approach to solving the problem.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By diablofish on 11/30/2007 9:12:17 AM , Rating: 2
I'd just like to add that consumers are "demanding" green technologies:

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By mdogs444 on 11/30/2007 9:29:56 AM , Rating: 2
Technically, that article was about builders who build & promote "green" giving their opinion on what the market will want in 5-10yrs.

In no way does that give any concrete statistics of what the consumer actually wants right now.

Im not trying to discredit your promotion of "green" building, beecause im sure in some ways its useful - only if it can be obtained cheaper than the current methods - but the fact is that article did nothing to show viable consumer statistics, but rather estimated consumer statistics for 5-10 yrs down the road by the people who are trying to sell them "green". Seems the people giving their opinions have an awful good reason to be biased.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By diablofish on 11/30/2007 9:50:34 AM , Rating: 2
No, the article is by a business journal that identifies new trends in many marketplaces. I work in the industry, and many of my clients are asking for green design.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By mdogs444 on 11/30/2007 9:55:36 AM , Rating: 2
I understand that - but the article was based on a council for green builders - not actual consumers. The statistics shown are a hypothetical estimate for future trends - not a current trend in the marketplace.

Because man of your clients are asking for a green design, does not mean that consumers as a whole are requesting a green design. Thats all im trying to say.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By diablofish on 11/30/2007 10:01:00 AM , Rating: 2
So my clients aren't consumers? I'm confused.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By mdogs444 on 11/30/2007 10:03:30 AM , Rating: 2
I didnt say that, so stop the spin.

What I'm saying is its not accurate to take a small segment of people, and turn them into the word "Consumers" as suggesting that this is nationwide, and that most people are building "greener" homes.

Its fine to label a small group as a small group...but to spin a small group, into "consumers" as a whole, is inaccurate.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By diablofish on 11/30/2007 10:16:03 AM , Rating: 2
OK, so the rapid acceleration and acceptance of programs like LEED doesn't indicate rapid growth? More and more people and businesses (consumers) asking for green buildings doesn't indicate growth? To me, it does. The fact that we're constantly hiring new people here because of the overwhelming interest in green design is another indicator that the market is demanding more green and sustainable design. It also tells me that going green doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to cost jobs; it can, and does, create them.

Here's some more statistics that show a 1 year growth of LEED projects of 50%:

In addition, 75% of AIA members have been at least trained in LEED. Why would architecture firms go through the expense of training their employees (these classes cost hundreds of dollars and the exam is $300 to take) if there were not growing interest in green design?

Would you agree that a 50% increase in LEED projects in one year indicates significant growth and growing interest in building green? To me, it certainly shows that there is a growing interest in green design practices.

Consumers come in all quantities, shapes, and sizes; I'm not spinning anything so please stop accusing me of that. I didn't say an overwhelming majority of consumers, I said my clients are consumers. That's it.

I'm trying to understand why you don't think green design is rapidly expanding. I've given some evidence (from business journals and my own experience as a design professional) and directed people to other websites in other posts, yet you offer nothing to suggest that green design isn't growing in popularity and expanding rapidly.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By mdogs444 on 11/30/2007 11:37:11 AM , Rating: 2
I understand that its expanding, and I think thats great. Im just indicating that the rate of growth is not comprable to the majority of consumers.

Typically when people use plain words to simulate statistics, they are doing so by popular majority. For example, if you were to say that "voters are against the XXXX bill", it would be assumed that a poll of all voters were taken and popular majority are against the bill. Now, if they were to change that and say "1000 voters in the Minneapolis area are against the bill", it would in no way indicate that the popular majority of all voters are against the bill, but rather a small group of voters.

So in response to your questions in the final paragraph, I am not questioning that green practices are expanding rapidly in many areas, and are growing in popularity - I am not in this field, so I am not here to justify your statistics. All I am saying is that the groups in your first article were biased in saying that 50% of consumers will be green in 5-10 years, but im not saying they may not be right...but what i am saying is not right is your broad statement that "consumers are demanding green" because that it not necessarily the case. Certain people may be demanding green, and other people may be going green without really caring one way or the other. Either way, it does not provide numbers, but generalizations, and the level of demand cannot be proven.

Im not questioning your expertise or knowledge of green, but as a business analyst, I am questioning the statistics, biases, and general wording often used in stating your claim.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By diablofish on 11/30/2007 11:59:33 AM , Rating: 2
The rate of growth in the past year has been 50%! I'm pretty sure AMD or any other company would LOVE to achieve a growth rate of 50%!

And yes, consumers (maybe not all of them, but more and more of them) are certainly demanding green. I've just illustrated that more and more of them are, in fact, demanding green. And the marketplace is responding in kind by providing more and more green products.

And I did provide numbers: go to and look at the number of buildings that were LEED certified, silver, gold, or platinum in 2002 compared to today. Then think about the hundreds of manufacturers who supplied materials that are green to each of those projects. Then consider the billions of dollars in wages that were paid out to the contractors who built them green. The market for green has exploded in the past five years.

Five years ago, very few of the big manufacturer's offered "green" equipment. Now, I'm constantly inundated with marketing brochures advocating new products that save energy, are manufactured in ways to earn LEED points.

Majorities are not typically created overnight. But given how the market has exploded and continues to grow it's going to be the majority in a relatively short amount of time.

Remember at one time very few people had a PC. Now, many, many, many more have one. But the demand for them in the first years was there and grew from there. It's the same trend in green design: a few people wanted it at first. But as the benefits of energy and cost savings become more and more apparent, more and more people want it.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By diablofish on 11/30/2007 12:06:00 PM , Rating: 2
As someone who has an MBA, I'm familiar with statistics as well. I don't recall ever posting that X number of people or X percentage of people wanted green. What I posted, rather clearly I thought, was that the market is expanding and what is driving the market expansion is the desires of the consumer.

I can't speak to the predictions they've made because I wasn't in the room when they made them, but knowing how USGBC operates, I'm sure those numbers weren't pulled from thin air: they are in all likelihood based on numbers and trending from those numbers.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By Spuke on 11/30/2007 4:46:32 PM , Rating: 2
but knowing how USGBC operates, I'm sure those numbers weren't pulled from thin air: they are in all likelihood based on numbers and trending from those numbers.
He didn't say or imply the numbers were false go back and reread. Try taking some deep breaths this time.

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