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Archive for the ‘other stuff’ Category

In the previous post, I described the characteristics we’d want to see in a competitive heat market. In short, we want many heat networks of varying sizes to function as markets that are fast, efficient, accessible, cheap and decentralised. I also tried to show that simply copying the electricity market for heat is a bad idea.

So what model should we adopt? In this post, I propose a new model based on blockchains, the technical innovation that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether.

 

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pllWith the election looming, it’s time to nail your colours to the mast. Ain’t no purdah round here, so here’s my contribution…

If I were Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my mission would be to put us firmly on the path to zero carbon heat and electricity. Only by doing this will we meet our legally binding promise to decarbonise the UK economy and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

As you’ll see, I also wouldn’t get too hung up on where my remit officially stopped.

To get back on the path, we’ll need to radically improve energy efficiency, develop our ability to shift electricity demand, enable renewables to meet the bulk of our electricity requirements, and rapidly develop our district heating market.

First: ramp up energy efficiency

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…or “How to end dogma-driven design”

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Building design professionals are often driven by theories and ideology rather than facts. But whether we’re talking about heat networks or air-tightness, photovoltaics or passive ventilation, design decisions should be based on data, not dogma. It’s time to stop arguing, start measuring and learn from the results.

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When your opinions change, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’ve held the new view all along. For example, there’s been plenty of historical revisionism in the aftermath of the financial crash of 2008, where commentators have convinced themselves they’d seen it coming.

More prosaically, when it comes to low carbon energy you find an uncanny alignment between the products people sell and their views on the best means of lowering carbon. People who work for heat pump companies believe that the electrification of heat is a necessity. Those who sell solar know that PV is essential for curing the UK’s energy woes.

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The-Master-Switch-Wu-Tim-9780307269935I recently met with the CTO of a new electricity supplier, set to enter the market later this year. During the conversation he suggested a book called The Master Switch by Tim Wu. I picked up a copy and have brought it away on holiday. I’m just getting stuck in, so I’ll reserve judgement, but one particular passage struck a chord:

…just as you are what you eat, how and what you think depends on what information you are exposed to. How do you hear the voice of political leaders? Whose pain do you feel? And where do your aspirations, your dreams of good living, come from? All these are the products of the information environment.

In a world drowning in content, your attention is the scarcest commodity of all. Organisations spend billions trying to access the sensory channels by which your brain takes in information, even if it’s only for a moment. That might be all it takes to nudge you into a purchase or a point of view. As a human being in the 21st century West, you have to guard these channels carefully by deliberately choosing the sources of information that you’ll spend your precious attention on.

Once you’ve done your best to choose good sources of information, you still have to think critically about the messages. Swallow them whole and before you know it you might hear yourself espousing a viewpoint you didn’t form yourself. Or driving a Range Rover. Or inexplicably sporting a beard.

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When sifting through the long tail of news and analysis content on the web, you can find your expectations diminished in the face of a huge amount of mediocre material. I recently did a clean out of my RSS feeds because I realised that several of them had become more of an obligation rather than a source of good information.

And then, as has just happened to me, occasionally you find a diamond. In this case, not just a shiny rock, but a real diamond.

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