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COUNCILS URGED TO USE SOLAR POWER

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Despite the unpredictable summer weather, the UK enjoys enough sunshine to make solar power a reality for most peop...
Despite the unpredictable summer weather, the UK enjoys enough sunshine to make solar power a reality for most people. The Energy Saving Trust is urging councils to promote the use of solar power within their communities to help alleviate the effects of climate change.

In particular, councils should promote the use of solar energy in domestic households - for tasks such as heating water according to Eoin Lees, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust.

Solar powered water heating systems collect energy from the sun and heat water for use in homes, other buildings and swimming pools. A solar water heating system could supply about 50 per cent of a households hot water requirements.

Under the Home Energy Conservation Act (HECA), councils have an obligation to improve domestic energy efficiency by 30 per cent over the next 10-15 years.

On average the UK receives over a thousand kWh of solar energy per m2 every year. It is estimated that 7.5 million homes in the UK could make use of solar power to heat water. Currently nearly a quarter of all energy used by households is used on heating water - contributing to 6 per cent of the total energy use in the UK.

The Energy Saving Trust is recommending a number of ways that councils can promote solar power at a local level. Councils should:

* Lead the uptake of solar power by installing solar water heaters in council buildings and place them in highly visible locations, drawing attention to heating water through solar power

* Work in partnership with selected local plumbers and installers to negotiate bulk discount prices

* Offer loans or cash-backs to persuade people to invest or offer to rent systems to householders with the rental charge based on the cost savings resulting from reduced bills

* Co-ordinate a training and registration scheme for plumbers to ensure that there are a number of appropriately trained people to install the new equipment

* Run a solar club - to provide support, training and discounted products to those wanting to install solar water heaters themselves.

Mr Lees said:

'Councils have a key role to play in leading efforts to save energy and tackle climate change at a local level. Heating water using solar power is the easiest and most affordable way of harnessing the sun's power and reducing the reliance on fossil fuels.

'By improving access to information about solar power and approved installers and offering payment incentives - as well as fitting solar water heating systems in their own buildings, councils can do much to increase the uptake of such systems locally and make a contribution.'

Lewes DC chief executive John Crawford said:

'At Lewes DC we are very keen to promote renewable energy, as part of our Home Energy Conservation Act and EMAS responsibilities. We take an active part by 'doing our bit' and encouraging householders to install solar energy.

'The heat and sun scheme encourages householders to install solar water heating systems by offering grants of£250. The scheme has been very successful and nearly 100 houses in East Sussex now have hot water heated by the sun.

'We would like to encourage all local authorities to consider such schemes and the significant benefits in terms of the environment they can have.'

Further examples of best practice can be found at the Energy Saving Trust's website.

Notes

1. A number of councils are already using and promoting the use of solar power to heat water.

- Lewes DC is leading a scheme with other local councils to promote solar water heating alongside more traditional insulation measures. To date almost 100 solar systems have been installed

- Leicester City Council has introduced a scheme to promote solar water heating by offering systems on a rental basis, with rent linked to savings on gas/electricity bills

- Kirklees MBC and Calderdale MBC's 'Simply Solar Scheme' aims establish a solar economy in the area by training local plumbers to install solar systems and establish a quality assured solar base

- Six councils in Oxfordshire - led by South Oxfordshire DC and Vale of White Horse DC are joining forces to offer discounted solar water heating systems local households on a professionally installed or DIY basis.

2. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) was set up after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, to help reduce CO2 emissions in the UK. It is a non-profit organisation funded by governments and the private sector.

3. Practical Help www.practical.help.org.uk or Practical Help telephone 0870 241 2089 is a new service provided by the Energy Saving Trust providing local authorities with information, advice, funding and support on energy efficiency and environmentally friendly transport.

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