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Topic Title: Engineering Electricity Market Reform
Topic Summary: What role should engineers play in electricity and other energy market reforms?
Created On: 23 July 2012 03:22 PM
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 27 October 2012 09:11 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: jarathoon
In Russia the poorest generally pay the least for their energy. In Britain the poorest generally pay the most. There are plenty of things we do better than the Russians, but this is not one of them, especially now energy prices are rising so fast. As energy prices continue to soar, pressure to ditch these regressive pricing regimes will mount.

Surely it is better to help the poor to earn more money instead of keeping them on charity handouts?
The trouble is DECC has never been very interested or very good at thinking from the consumers point of view (especially the poorer consumer). That's why there was nothing in the draft energy bill to address issues like this. I hope a short dose of 'advanced management' from the 1st November will help them start to address this deficiency.

Maybe they are better at it than you give them credit for, after all we do not see many people out on the street protesting about their fuel bills. When you go on about the 'poorer' consumers how many are there and what are their reasons for being poor? Maybe we need to work on fixing those reasons!

Regards.
 27 October 2012 09:15 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: poo
When Mrs Thatcher came to power she was very pro nuclear. She said she wanted to build one nuclear power station for every year she was in power. She was in power about 10 years and one nuclear power station was started. (Sizewell B)

You will however note there were some other things she did which were in the national interest. As I recall she also got Ronald to assist on one of them.

Regards.
 28 October 2012 01:13 PM
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jarathoon

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Originally posted by: westonpa

Maybe they are better at it than you give them credit for, after all we do not see many people out on the street protesting about their fuel bills. When you go on about the 'poorer' consumers how many are there and what are their reasons for being poor? Maybe we need to work on fixing those reasons!

Regards.


As energy bills become higher relative to rents, the government can always choose to hide this new problem using housing benefit or some other welfare spending.

Perhaps the reason we don't see problems is because this and previous governments have actively engaged in hiding them, thus preventing the engineering community from engaging with them, in order to find better ways of addressing them properly. Just a thought.

Your question supposes governments can somehow separate lower income groups into more than one category, such as the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. Who is deserving of our charity (or indeed handouts from the public exchequer) is much easier for individuals to decide, than governments, as we all tend to come to different ethically defensible conclusions on this.

I must admit when I give money to a beggar on the street I always try to asertain whether or not they will use my money properly i.e. not spend it on drink or drugs - but this is very difficult to asertain - and many beggars are accomplished liars. In his autobiography Charles Babbage relates how he went to the extreme of following beggars he had given charity to, to find out if they were telling him the truth or not. I don't think many people go this far nowadays.

I am not trying to persuade the government to add more subsidies to the system, although I admit my comment did read like that. In hindsight I agree it is far too simplistic to say the Russians do a better job than us in this regard full stop. The issues of welfare, charity and philanthropy are complex and very difficult for any one person to express coherently and rationally.

However I don't really think subsidies like housing benefit are any sort of solution long term. It allows the government to cover up real engineering or economic problems that need addressing, like a shortage of housing or the high price of land. The total cost of housing benefit is around £20 billion per year, all of which ends up in landlords pockets. There may exist ways of using this money to better effect.

I would prefer to see some sort of market driven engineering solution to these problems. I would prefer to see new cheaper no frills (perhaps including some useage restrictions or constaints) energy deals for the poorest, rather than extra government subsidies. Whether the range of market offerings can increase to emulate what has happened in the discount supermarket sector, with the arrival of Lidl and Aldi for example, is as yet unclear.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 28 October 2012 02:32 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: jarathoon
I would prefer to see some sort of market driven engineering solution to these problems. I would prefer to see new cheaper no frills (perhaps including some useage restrictions or constaints) energy deals for the poorest, rather than extra government subsidies. Whether the range of market offerings can increase to emulate what has happened in the discount supermarket sector, with the arrival of Lidl and Aldi for example, is as yet unclear.

With regards to market driven solutions we already have one to a large extent whereas in Russia it is in reality state controlled. We 6 major energy companies who more or less offer energy at about the same cost, so to speak. If there were 8, 9, 10 or even 20 who is to say their costs would be any less and would you then admit to a total mess and resign if they were not? How many car insurance companies are there and how is the competition with regards to that? All the policies are about the same cost it is just that different ones have different things in them and some companies offer discounts to attact certain groups of people....not too dissimilar from all the different energy tarrifs. We have 6 companies and just maybe what they are offering is the best solution, because after all they are private companies and so also need to make a profit. Free market does not exist as we know the banks were not allowed to fail and when large companies stock prices plummet their shares are suspended rather than let them continue down such that people can snap them up at bargain prices. The market it always controlled to a certain extent and so getting the balance correct is not easy.

Why should poor people get the low energy costs? In comparison to Richard Branson, for example, most of us are poor. When people are in genuine hardship they are assessed and receive help through the state as our welfare system is on the whole pretty decent, albeit of course not perfect. If energy costs are low people naturally start to waste it and when they are high people start to think of ways to improve efficiencies so maybe you need to consider that maybe the government is using that as a tool but without being able to advertise it due to the uproar it may cause. If you want to reduce traffic on the roads then either build more roads, which actually leads to more traffic, or else allow plenty of traffic jams in which case more people start to find work locally rather than travel and hey presto traffic levels start to drop. However, not so easy to advertise that type of policy as it does not get people elected.

Lidl and Aldi have not made that much difference to the big supermarkets and let's be honest they made their own way into market to compete with the big boys and without any government help......market driven as you often suggest. Before Aldi and Lidl there were other supermarkets.

Most of what you suggest is general headline grabbing type ideas but is without any substance or detail to back it up. It is easy to make such suggestions, opposition parties do it all the time, but when it comes to the detail these ideas start to have their own issues which were not thought through.

If you want to suggest such ideas then back it up with some well thought out detail, how this competition will work, how it will drive down prices, who is ready to then come in and start these companies and where they will get their money from, how will they then put in place the neccessary infrastructure and what you will then do to ensure that those already in place will not then gradually fail and leave gaps which need to be filled.....as happened with the rail infrastructure.

Regards.
 30 October 2012 04:50 PM
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jcm256

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JAPAN IN, GERMANY OUT

Hitachi, by contrast, has begun to seek overseas opportunities to sell their nuclear technology to, including Britain, Central Europe and the Middle East.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/...-idUKBRE89T0B420121030
 30 October 2012 05:51 PM
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jarathoon

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Originally posted by: jcm256

JAPAN IN, GERMANY OUT

Hitachi, by contrast, has begun to seek overseas opportunities to sell their nuclear technology to, including Britain, Central Europe and the Middle East.



Before you get too enthusiastic I will give you two equations

DECC + GE-Hitachi ABWR (with control rods pushing up from below) = Yes Please (Short lived celebrations - "The nuclear renaissance is back on track again");

ONR + GE-Hitachi ABWR (with control rods pushing up from below) = Little enthusiasm (with 4 years plus of regulatory treacle ahead in the GDA assessment process);

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A...boiling_water_reactor

Even though the NRC in America have licensed the design, I don't think there are any more proposals to build one following the cancellation of the TEPCO led South Texas Project in April 2011 (guess why?)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Texas_Project

Post-Fukushima I think there is very little chance of the ABWR design getting through the UK GDA Assessment without major design changes being requested. This will be expensive and time consuming and increases the likelyhood that GE-Hitachi will pull out at some stage further down the track.

By paying too much for Horizon (if we believe the stories) I now wonder if GE-Hitachi are in part trying to buy themselves some political leverage (at DECC) in regards to a future order to build their prototype plutonium burning PRISM fast reactor at Sellafield. The problem here is that the PRISM reactor has to built with two new reprocessing plants one for the input plutonium and one for the output waste. Serious money.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 10 November 2012 10:39 AM
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acsinuk

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Have just been looking at the DECC policy on the renewable energy obligation RO and the certificates ROC's that are issued by Ofgem. There is a huge loophole in that the certificates refer to installed capacity rather than actual performance certification.
This means that reliability of the energy source 24/7 are not addressed fully but only on an average basis at best. This will encourage investment in unreliable solar or wind-power rather than the capital intensive nuclear or reliable tidal power options that should surely be pursued with urgently.
CliveS
 26 November 2012 08:44 PM
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JonathanHill

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http://viewer.zmags.com/public.../8d7ac3f8#/8d7ac3f8/8

Interesting reflections and recollections from Gossage in the November edition of Electrical Review.

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Jonno
 29 November 2012 11:27 AM
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jarathoon

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A Good Day to Bury a Bad Bill? or

A Good Day to Smuggle Out a Bad and Incomplete Bill? or

Another Example of Incompetence at DECC?

You decide...

The Energy Bill is to be published today, the same day as the Leverson Report goes public.

Forget about any serious media analysis and coverage of the new energy bill then.

Was this Engineered or a Mistake on DECC's part?

I really hope that the DECC political strategists are not attempting to smuggle out a bad and unfinished bill under the radar of public scrutiny, when the media is quite rightly concentrating on the Leverson report.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 29 November 2012 01:03 PM
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jarathoon

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The Energy Bill is about to be published. DECC's press Release is here

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/cont...n12_151/pn12_151.aspx

When published on the internet the energy bill will be available here

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/

I am not sure if the secondary legislation will be published today, and if it isn't, when any of it will in fact appear for the first time. Independent analysts won't be able to properly evaluate the the economic and energy security impact of the bill, relative to other possible policy senarios, until this secondary legislation is fully published. The last thing DECC seems want is well informed independent scrutiny.

DECC now wants Royal Assent sometime in 2013, rather than first quarter 2014 under its previous plans. The original Energy bill was just designed to be a highly flexible template for moving most of the actual important detail into secondary legislation. It remains to be seen if the new energy bill is drafted in the same way.

They've added an 'Electricity Demand Reduction Consultation' which will close on 31st January 2013.

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/cont...dr_cons/edr_cons.aspx

Nothing on Demand Response yet then.

DECC wants to run its first capacity market auction in 2014, so it doesn't look like demand response will have any part to play in the capacity market to start with.

Rather than estimating exactly how consumer and company energy bills might rise, DECC simply vaguely compare the effects of the new proposed EMR reforms against 'existing policy instruments' in a rather unconvincing way.

"As a result of the EMR reforms, average household electricity bills are estimated to be around 5 to 9% lower over the period 2016 to 2030, compared to what they would be if a decarbonisation intensity of 100gCO2/kWh were achieved in 2030 through existing policy instruments."

I personally think CfD's are a way of prematurely ramping up the build rate of highly uneconomic energy generation assets, so I obviously think the above statement is completely wrong. Denmark having pioneered the CfD system for energy infrastucture investment, now has some of the highest energy prices in Europe. DECC appears to want the UK to follow their lead under its sole controlling hand.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 29 November 2012 01:18 PM
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jarathoon

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Energy bill is here

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/energy.html

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James Arathoon
 30 November 2012 01:10 AM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Interesting to see how the BBC Handled the energy bill on the 10pm News. They interviewed two 'experts' to get their thoughts on the Bill. The first was an investment banker from a firm called 'Climate Change Capital' who thought the Bill was super. The second 'expert' was from the 'Green Alliance' who thought the Bill didn't go far enough in setting a CO2 cap. How's that for that for unbiased impartial reporting? No one to speak up for consumers who will pay for all of this 'green' energy? No informed experts like James to point out that this Bill is just a blank cheque for the nuclear and windfarm industries? No one to ask the obvious questions about why all this expense is necessary given the lack of warming this century and the UKs negligible impact on global CO2 emissions? A completely unquestioning acceptance by the journalists who are supposed to hold the government to account. And to top it off, they followed the Energy Bill item with a scaremongering report on new research which purports to show Greenland ice sheet melt is 'worse than we thought', despite sea level rise having been a constant 3mm/yr for hundreds of years and having dropped recently. It's a shame Leveson didn't look into the BBC's unethical, one-sided and irresponsible reporting on climate change and the great green energy swindle.

Edited: 30 November 2012 at 01:19 AM by Ipayyoursalary
 30 November 2012 11:13 AM
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jarathoon

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BBC report was about measurements made and brought to together to gove a more accurate indication of icesheet changes in the last few decades.

There was no assessment of a series of uncertain what ifs and no future predictions making use of the measurment work were included. I didn't find it to be a particularly scaremongering report.

Where groups like this work to reduce the level of uncertainty in our measurements like this I welcome it.

The thing that I am stressing most is that we cannot solve our problems if politicians are advised incorrectly and end up, in effect, denying economic and engineering realities.

There needs to be some government help in rolling out new energy technologies and there always have to be the early adopters willing to take a punt. However if the government forces the extensive roll-out of technologies before they are ready for the mainstream and before we have fully assessed all the knock on implications of doing this then vast amount of money can be wasted unnecessarily.

We have just had our 1930's solid walled semi insulated with 90mm external insulation on the gable end side wall and thinner internal insulation front and back. This was not done under the green deal.

These technologies have been tested and work and now are ready for the mainstream. Costs will substantially reduce if enough extra people are trained up to install them. However the green deal interest rates need to be set lower, perhaps to a fixed rate (using bonds) of one or two percent above Bank of England base rates rather than the 7 percent currently being suggested by DECC.

The payback on this will be faster than any other investment the consumer or government can make at the moment.

It is important that all our engineering options are compared properly for cost and that DECC officials are not wined and dined into taking the most expensive path, rather than the cheapest.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/envi...senior-civil-servants

Electricity useage can be substantially reduced as well if businesses start rolling out a new wave of energy saving computers based on ARM cores and efficently coded operating systems. More and more LED lighting is now being installed and this trend will only continue. All we need is some low level energy saving incentives in place for a short while to help us avoid having to build too many new power stations in the next 5 to 10 years.

We will then have a bit more time to develop and to reduce the costs of rolling-out low-carbon generation assets, including off-shore wind turbines, with long lasting cabling systems (>50 years) and reusable foundations. Ultimately private investors should decide independently of government when the time is right for a more extensive roll out.

Making targets too ambitious now is completely counter-productive and we will end up in a series of engineering cul-de-sac's that are very difficult and costly to escape from (like the existing third generation nuclear power station designs).

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 30 November 2012 12:16 PM
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OMS

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We have just had our 1930's solid walled semi insulated with 90mm external insulation on the gable end side wall and thinner internal insulation front and back. This was not done under the green deal.


Why didn't you go for say 200mm or 300mm all round James - you have nothing like enough and what you do have has effectively decoupled all that valuable mass of structure at the front and back from the living space. If we are facing an age of fuel uncertainty and/or you wish to minimise your consumption of that fuel for fiscal or environmental reasons, your choice today will be costing a lot more to remedy in the future

Nothing personal here - just a comment on actually how difficult the process is - even for engineers who are used to making evaluations based on several competing factors.

Effectively, you've just driven down the same cul-de-sac's you were warning about earlier. At some point, you may well end up regretting it

Regards

OMS

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Failure is always an option
 30 November 2012 01:13 PM
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jarathoon

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Originally posted by: OMS

We have just had our 1930's solid walled semi insulated with 90mm external insulation on the gable end side wall and thinner internal insulation front and back. This was not done under the green deal.


Why didn't you go for say 200mm or 300mm all round James - you have nothing like enough and what you do have has effectively decoupled all that valuable mass of structure at the front and back from the living space. If we are facing an age of fuel uncertainty and/or you wish to minimise your consumption of that fuel for fiscal or environmental reasons, your choice today will be costing a lot more to remedy in the future

Nothing personal here - just a comment on actually how difficult the process is - even for engineers who are used to making evaluations based on several competing factors.

Effectively, you've just driven down the same cul-de-sac's you were warning about earlier. At some point, you may well end up regretting it

Regards

OMS


It is tempting to think that you should only invest in insulation if it is done to the extreme of what is technically possible. However doing what we have done is much better than leaving things as they were. You always have to make some sort of property by property cost benefit analysis though. And everyone will come to different conclusions on this. Don't be ridiculous! 200 to 300 mm external would really rebate the windows and make them look really odd. Also the light coming into the house would be reduced, especially on the smaller side windows.

The thermal mass of the large side solid wall is alone plenty enough to keep the whole house temperature stable for most of the day at the moment without switching the heating on (even during the recent cold weather). This was a really great suprise to me, I didn't expect such a big effect with external insulation on just one solid wall.

In the front bays there was very little thermal mass to protect anyway, just lots of heat loss. The front of the house would have been very expensive to insulate externally and we would have ended up with a ugly step between our house and next doors.

And the back is south facing so in summer the internal insulation will help to keep the top rooms cooler. On the south face the extreme temperature cycling we get would inevitably reduce the lifetime of any external insulation relative to that on the gable end.

The costs of fitting are proportional to surface area covered and internal insulation, although less effective is much cheaper per square metre. Extra external insulation can always be fitted front and back later if energy prices continue to carry on rising; by that time the next door neighbours may want to do the same and the costs will be lower.

We are on a road with cheaper insulation options available to us further down the road as these products go mass market, and more options emerge. I don't think this qualifies as a cul-de-sac.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 30 November 2012 02:42 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Originally posted by: jarathoon
BBC report was about measurements made and brought to together to gove a more accurate indication of icesheet changes in the last few decades.

There was no assessment of a series of uncertain what ifs and no future predictions making use of the measurment work were included. I didn't find it to be a particularly scaremongering report.

Where groups like this work to reduce the level of uncertainty in our measurements like this I welcome.

James, why do you think the BBC chose to broadcast an item on this inconsequential piece of research at this particular time? Immediately after an item on the Energy Bill - introducing a raft of new green taxes and subsidies? Can't you tell when you're being fed a narrative James? Sold a pup? Encouraged to drink the kool aid? The scaremongering ice report was meant to combat any feelings of scepticism or hostility the viewers might be feeling about getting fleeced by a load of sanctimonious greens. At least it's all for a good cause eh? If we pay enough green taxes then perhaps the ice will stop melting in a couple of hundred years time eh? Pure propaganda. And the BBC are so good at it that apparently intelligent people don't even realise when they're being brainwashed.
 30 November 2012 02:52 PM
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OMS

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Originally posted by: jarathoon

Originally posted by: OMS



We have just had our 1930's solid walled semi insulated with 90mm external insulation on the gable end side wall and thinner internal insulation front and back. This was not done under the green deal.


Why didn't you go for say 200mm or 300mm all round James - you have nothing like enough and what you do have has effectively decoupled all that valuable mass of structure at the front and back from the living space. If we are facing an age of fuel uncertainty and/or you wish to minimise your consumption of that fuel for fiscal or environmental reasons, your choice today will be costing a lot more to remedy in the future

Nothing personal here - just a comment on actually how difficult the process is - even for engineers who are used to making evaluations based on several competing factors.

Effectively, you've just driven down the same cul-de-sac's you were warning about earlier. At some point, you may well end up regretting it

Regards

OMS




It is tempting to think that you should only invest in insulation if it is done to the extreme of what is technically possible.

not really - there is an economic balance - I simply mentiond that what's economic today changes due to fuel cost.

However doing what we have done is much better than leaving things as they were.

Mmm - adding insulation to insulation isn't that easy - extra layers fixed back to the substrate create extra thermal bridges - practicably, you probably end up ripping it off and starting again

You always have to make some sort of property by property cost benefit analysis though. And everyone will come to different conclusions on this. Don't be ridiculous! 200 to 300 mm external would really rebate the windows and make them look really odd.

Well, think about the physics - wouldn't you replant the windows in the thermal envelope rather than leave them where they are

Also the light coming into the house would be reduced, especially on the smaller side windows.

See above - also consider internal and external "splayed" reveals


The thermal mass of the large side solid wall is alone plenty enough to keep the whole house temperature stable for most of the day at the moment without switching the heating on (even during the recent cold weather). This was a really great suprise to me, I didn't expect such a big effect with external insulation on just one solid wall.

So factor in the stabilty when all the mass is coupled

In the front bays there was very little thermal mass to protect anyway, just lots of heat loss. The front of the house would have been very expensive to insulate externally and we would have ended up with a ugly step between our house and next doors.

You forgot to mention extending the roof covering


And the back is south facing so in summer the internal insulation will help to keep the top rooms cooler. On the south face the extreme temperature cycling we get would inevitably reduce the lifetime of any external insulation relative to that on the gable end.

Not really - most systems are thermally pretty stable - EWI is still a better option to denying solar gain whilst causing enough lag that the mass structure delivers that heat when you need it - ie cooler evenings can use the decrement delay of the mass radiating a low temperature to the space

The costs of fitting are proportional to surface area covered and internal insulation, although less effective is much cheaper per square metre.

Indeed - but much less proportional to the volume used - per m2, the difference in 100m or 200m is marginal

Extra external insulation can always be fitted front and back later if energy prices continue to carry on rising; by that time the next door neighbours may want to do the same and the costs will be lower.

Mmmm - did you ask them this time around then ?. You'll have made the EWI more difficult now though as you have a sandwich mass and risk of interstial condensation.

We are on a road with cheaper insulation options available to us further down the road as these products go mass market, and more options emerge. I don't think this qualifies as a cul-de-sac.

Maybe - however I suspect you'll have a bit of reversing and a few 3 point turns to make even if you don't think it's a cul-de-sac

James Arathoon


As I said James - nothing personal - it was just a point about how difficult resolving energy use really is. We all make choices

Regards

OMS

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Failure is always an option
 30 November 2012 03:47 PM
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jarathoon

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OMS,

Yes that short exchange summarises your point concerning difficulty. There are all sorts of considerations which are related to cost and asthetics and which have little to do with insulation value of the solution.

This is why I advised the IET architect to make public the full history of the engineering discussions and compromises necessary to get the Savoy Place upgrade design finalised within a reasonable budgetry limit. This might help educate others in the difficulty and multi-faceted nature of such refurbishment design problems.

Most people start off with a Rolls Royce solution, then quickly realise they can't afford it and then have to try to find some sort of rational routes to slashing costs. This will happen with the IET savoy place upgrade, in the same way it happens for everyone else with a limited budget, so not including government bodies, billionaires, investment bankers and people that carried away on Grand Designs.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 30 November 2012 04:42 PM
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jarathoon

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Ipayyoursalary,

I didn't see the BBC report as part of the news I saw it as a video short on the website. They seem to have got rid of that I first saw and replaced it with this

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20543483

I appreciate what you are saying about the editing juxtaposition.

There is definitely a sort of London based received wisdom that the BBC transmits and it annoys me quite a bit. The BBC are aware to some extent that this is happening.

Many people in the BBC are crossing over into the university sector and teaching science communications and media courses. I think this has significant impartiality dangers attached, especially if the result is media students that lack the ability and motivation to take risks and to question the status quo (especially when stories might impinge on the competence of academics or government scientists).

Personally I have my doubts that the BBC would still have the editorial courage and independence to run stories for months at a time that really go counter-culture to the established scientific viewpoint - such as had to happen over the BSE affair and the question of whether or not infected meat caused problems in humans.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 30 November 2012 04:55 PM
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OMS

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Well James, as a building services engineer and part time frustrated architect solving those sort of conflicts is generally part of my day job.

The secret to avoiding the slash and burn phase of the project is to understand the initial drivers and work to achieve the solution before you end up at the point where you hand the client a scheme he doesn't want and can't afford and you then end up in the conflict stage of redesign for no fee

Essentially, you need an intelligent client

Which I suppose summarises current energy policy

regards

OMS

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Failure is always an option
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