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Community Action for our Energy Future

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Artist's impression of proposed PortZed development

The Zed Factory (Zero (fossil) Energy Development) is currently awaiting planning permission for its new PortZed zero-carbon housing development in Shoreham, East Sussex. The apartment complex is designed to be entirely self-powered and will be in the UK’s largest off-grid housing development when complete. A combination of wind turbines, solar thermal, photovoltaic cells and heavy insulation will mean the residents will live “off-grid”, independent of the electricity of the national grid as the building aims to produce all the residents’ energy needs.

For more info on PortZed click here.

Given that CO2 emissions from domestic housing account for around 27% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions, there is a massive carbon saving to be made from improving energy efficiency in homes, changing behaviour and encouraging micro-generation. In recognition of this, the previous government brought in the target that all new housing must be zero-carbon from 2016 onwards. However, this target is still to be defined by Grant Schapps, the present Minister for Housing. Developments such as PortZed are too few and far and between, a novelty rather than the norm that they must become if the government is to meet its targets.

Ultimately this type of development should be seen up and down the country on every new build, whether it be housing or commercial buildings. It isn’t though. Sooner rather than later these developments will come into their own. It’s not just about being green, being low carbon, being eco-friendly, it’s common sense. As energy prices increase and energy security becomes more of an issue, government , businesses and householders will have to be more aware of where their energy comes from and how they use it. There are numerous individuals and groups warning of the dangers of peak oil, energy security and energy affordability.  Some are even predicting rolling blackouts and power shortages in the UK in coming years as our demand for electricity is forecast to double by 2050.

Owning, controlling and understanding the energy you produce and use, such as at the PortZed developments, is one of the greatest ways of empowering people to use energy efficiently and sensibly. Electricity production at the source of consumption – giving people, communities and businesses the responsibility over their energy production helps ensure that we reduce our carbon footprints and use energy sustainably. Being in control of our own energy through a reliable, cheap and secure mix of local renewable energy sources – rather than being dependent on it getting to us through a pipeline or on a ship and transported half way across the world while its price is vulnerable to speculators, natural disasters, wars and popular uprisings – is surely the future for all our energy needs.

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