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Methane Emissions

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and the majority of methane entering the atmosphere is man-made. The major contributor is fossel fuels, where methane is released during all the stages of extraction, transportation and refinement. The exploration and production of unconventional gas (fracking for methane) in the UK is going to make the present situation worse. At the moment the fracking industry is struggling to get established and facing much stiffer opposition from communities than they expected. Fracking in the UK is a bad idea for many reasons, not least the increases in methane that will inevitably be released into the atmosphere.

Because of the much more intense nature of the shale gas extraction process it is associated with much more negative impacts than conventional drilling. These include leaking methane, water contamination, air pollution, radioactive contamination, massive industrialisation of the landscape, worsening climate change and earthquakes. Severe health effects in people and animals are beginning to mount areas where shale gas extraction is widespread.

We should all oppose fracking and do what we can to support the local anti-fracking groups that are protecting our health and the environment.

Methane levels have more than doubled over the last 150 years. This is because of human activities like fossil fuel use and intensive farming.2Before the Industrial Revolution, natural sinks kept methane levels in a safe range.

Humans are creating methane emissions a lot faster than the Earth can remove them. Which has increased global methane levels. During the last 800,000 years, methane concentrations have always varied between 350-800 ppb. Since the Industrial Revolution, methane levels have become much higher. So much so that they are now 2.5 times larger.3 4

Methane Emissions: Human Sources

Since the Industrial Revolution, human sources of methane emissions have been growing. Fossil fuel production and intensive livestock farming have caused the current increase methane levels. Together these two sources are responsible for 60% of all human methane emissions. Other sources include landfills and waste (16%), biomass burning (11%), rice agriculture (9%) as well as biofuels (4%).1

Figure 1:Human-related sources create the majority of total methane emissions, the 3 main sources are: fossil fuel mining/distribution, livestock farming and landfills.Source: Bousquet, P. et al. (2006). Contribution of anthropogenic and natural sources to atmospheric methane variability.

Fossil fuel production, distribution and use

The largest human source is from the production, distribution and combustion of fossil fuels. This creates 33% of human methane emissions.1

Methane emissions get produced wherever there are fossil fuels. It gets released whenever fossil fuels get extracted from the earth. Whether it is natural gas (which is in most part methane), coal or petroleum. More methane gets released during any type of handling, transportation (pipeline, truck delivery, etc.) or refinement of fossil fuels. Finally some methane is also produced during fossil fuel combustion.

By using fossil fuels, you contribute to the most important source of methane emissions. Fossil fuel production, distribution and use creates 110 million tonnes of methane per year.1

A large part of methane emissions get caused by natural gas. Methane is the main component of natural gas. So leakage throughout this industry releases methane straight into the atmosphere. This includes the extraction, processing and transportation of natural gas.

Coal is another important source of methane emissions. In coal formation, pockets of methane get trapped around and within the rock. Coal mining related activities (extraction, crushing, distribution, etc.) release some of this trapped methane. Methane gets emitted from active underground and surface mines as well as abandoned ones.

Oil wells can also have methane deposits that get released during drilling and extraction. The refinement, transportation and storage of oil is also a source of methane emissions.

Incomplete combustion of fossil fuels also produces methane emissions. No combustion process is one hundred percent efficient. So when fossil fuels get used to make electricity, heat or power cars these all produce methane.

Livestock farming

An important source of methane emissions is from enteric fermentation in farm animals. This creates 27% of human methane emissions.1 Animals like cows, sheep and goats are examples of ruminant animals. During their normal digestion process they create large amounts of methane. Enteric fermentation occurs because of microorganisms in the stomach of these animals. This creates methane as a by-product that is either exhaled by the animal or released via flatus.

Because humans raise these animals for food, their emissions are human-related. This is why the meat that we eat everyday has a huge impact on total methane emissions. Livestock farming creates 90 million tonnes of methane per year.1

Livestock related emissions has grown because of the large growth of livestock populations worldwide. Livestock production has seen large growth since the 1960s. With beef production more than doubling during this time.5

Landfills and waste

Another important human source of methane emissions is from landfills and waste. Methane gets generated by the decomposition of solid waste in landfills. This also happens with animal and human waste streams. This accounts for 16% of human methane emissions. Landfills and waste produces 55 million tonnes of methane per year.1

Landfills and open garbage dumps are full of organic matter. Our garbage contains things like food scraps, newspapers, cut grass and leaves. Every time new garbage comes in it gets pilled over the old garbage that was already there. The organic matter in our garbage gets trapped in conditions where there is no oxygen. This provides excellent conditions for methane producing microbes. They will break down the waste, which produces large amounts of methane emissions. Even after a landfill gets closed, bacteria will continue to decompose the buried waste. Which will emit methane for years.

Wastewater from domestic, municipal and industrial sources can also produce methane emissions. Wastewater can be either released, stored or sent for treatment to remove contaminants. As with landfills, if the decay of organic material in wastewater happens without oxygen then this will create methane.

Livestock farming at even a modest scale will have to manage large amounts of manure daily. This is usually managed by using large waste treatment systems and holding tanks. In many of these systems methane gets produced because they promote anaerobic conditions.

Biomass burning

Biomass burning causes a large amount of methane emissions. Biomass is material from living or dead organic matter. Incomplete burning of biomass creates methane emissions. Huge amounts can get produced during large scale burning. This creates 11% of human methane emissions.1

Large open fires get used by humans to destroy crop waste and clear land for agricultural or other uses. Natural wildfires can contribute to this. But the great majority of biomass burning gets caused by human beings. Biomass burning creates 38 million tonnes of methane per year.1

Rice agriculture

Another large human source of methane emissions is from rice agriculture. Paddy fields for rice production are man-made wetlands. They have high moisture content, are oxygen depletion and have ample organic material. This creates a great environment for methane producing microbes that decompose the organic matter.

Some of the methane produced gets absorbed by methane-consuming microorganisms. But the vast majority gets released into the atmosphere. Due to the swamp-like environment of rice fields, this crop creates 9% of human methane emissions. Rice agriculture creates 31 million tonnes of methane per year.1


Each year biofuels produce 12 million tonnes of methane, making it a significant source. Any biomass used to produce energy for domestic or purposes counts as a biofuel. Incomplete biofuel combustion leads to the production of methane. This creates 4% of human methane emissions.1

An estimated 80% of biofuels get used for domestic cooking, heating, and lighting. Often in open cooking fires burning wood, agricultural waste, or animal dung. This is the single largest contributor to global biofuel emissions.6 Almost half of the world’s population, about 2.7 billion people, use solid biofuels to cook and heat their homes on a daily basis. Most are poor, and live in developing countries.7

18% of biofuels get used by low technology enterprises such as brick or tile making kilns, restaurants, etc. The balance of the biofuels get consumed for transportation uses.6

Community Energy England Conference Report 2017

The Voice of the Community Sector

Community Energy England was established in 2014 as a not for profit organisation, set up to provide a voice for the community energy sector and help create the conditions within which community energy can flourish.

Community Energy England Conference 2017

The conference was well attended with lots of enthusiastic and knowledgeable speakers and delegates. I will circulate links to the session presentations when I receive them or see them on the CEE website. I also have some handouts which I will circulate. Meanwhile a few bullet points from the sessions and people I met.

Co-op Energy

David Bird gave a presentation on the energy supplier established by The Midcounties Co-operative. They are keen to enter PPA’s with community energy groups, offering simpler and longer agreements.

Community Energy England State of the Sector Report

  • We contributed to the survey on which the report was based.
  • 222 organisations with 121 MW capacity and 265 GWh of electricity generated.
  • £190m invested in 269 projects and £620k community benefit distributed.
  • 127 staff employed.

Renewable Energy Association

Nina Skorupska gave an interesting scene-setting address.

  • Carbon reduction and renewable programme driven by Climate Change Act 2008 (aims for 57% reduction in CO2 output by 2030) and EU Renewable Energy Directive (15% renewable energy by 2020) but concerns about direction of UK Govt policy and impact of Brexit.
  • Progress being made in reaching target for electricity generation but much more progress needed on buildings and transport.
  • 125,000 people employed in renewable energy sector in UK.
  • BEIS and Ofgem support the idea of a smarter more flexible approach to energy generation and distribution, but much clearer strategy needed for creation of a decentralised energy distribution network and market reform to reduce the power of the large energy supply companies.

Carbon Co-op Manchester

  • Involved in Nobel Grid, a Europe wide study aimed at encouraging clean energy generation, fair distribution of the benefits of electricity distribution, and smart meter and smart grid technologies.
  • Activities in Greater Manchester include Bury Community Hydro (with local network), Biomass Energy Co-op (using coffee grounds) and their own energy efficiency programme.
  • Encouraged that Centrica are pulling out of large scale electricity generation, and the dynamism and collective approach of the Community Energy Movement.
  • Every Home Matters (the Bonfield Review into energy efficiency in homes) delayed by lack of direction by government. Statistics show that the number of UK households being helped by government to improve their energy use fell 75 per cent since 2012.

Network Innovation for Communities

This Ofgem funded programme for engaging community groups in looking at new ways to encourage consumers to reduce and change pattern of energy use was widely criticised by delegates for for lack of focus and clear outcomes, and wasting the time of CE groups, particularly as new renewable schemes often end up funding network improvements to allow schemes to be connected to the grid. More effective to target large industrial users to change patterns of use and to invest in a programme of network reinforcements and storage.

Raising Finance for Community Energy

  • Josh Brewer of Ethex, an ethical investment company spoke about some of the projects they have raised finance for and their research “understanding the positive investor”.
  • 19.5 m people in the uk interested in positive investment.
  • 58% of investment in renewables comes from local area.
  • Need to keep investors informed and be realistic about returns.
  • Jonathon Hick of Social and Sustainable Capital spoke about their role in providing gap funding for renewable projects: short term up front funding or as part of a broad mix of funding.
  • Opportunities in projects with PPA with host building, battery storage and community buyouts of commercial solar farms.
  • Challenge in declining wholesale energy prices.

Brighton Energy C-op

Very active group with many large projects and full time staff. Will Cottrell gave one of the closing addresses and I also spoke to Matt Brown on his work on large scale solar projects with Genfit. Amongst other things Will spoke about their project to power electric buses from solar panels on the roof of the bus station (the solar panels funded by a combination of crowd-funding and m+s grant; buses funded by £250k bond issue) and the work on issue of solar panel kits and arranging solar workshops at a local anti-fracking camp

BHA Hydro Network 2017-06-26

Conference on 29th June, but £275 to attend.

LED Lighting

Met someone from Durham County Council who has run projects on this and I will email him for more informnation.

Stephen Savory Chester Community Energy 26/06/17

Report from Community Energy Seminar 17/18th January 2017

Image result for images of Trafford Hall, Chester

Community Energy Thinktank Trafford Hall 17/18th January 2017

Session 1 :Community Energy and Government Strategy

Becky Willis (Lancaster Uni and Green Alliance)-

  • Need to engage people in carbon reduction
  • Future of energy- networked, local

Patrick Allcorn (Dept of Business Energy Industry and Science)

  • Govt priority is secure, affordable, clean energy
  • Does not think CE has added significantly to energy generation, but has a role in local demand reduction
  • Funds available: £400m from European fund and £640m from ECO.

Dave Gittins (Severn on Wye Energy based in Wales)

  • More support for renewable in Wales: loans and grants available through Local Energy Support Network; Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
  • Hydro scheme in Bethesda North Wales selling energy direct to local residents.

Emma Bridge (Community Energy England)

  • Optimistic about future for CE: currently 150MW capacity installed and £100m community investment raised.
  • Sector becoming more diverse: pilot studies being done on electricity storage and LED lighting.
  • Survey of CE organisations being launched later this year.
  • Lots of info available on the Community Energy Hub
  • Community Energy Fortnight starts 24th June


Energy Efficiency/ Fuel Poverty

There was a lot of discussion around the work that CE organisations are doing and can do to encourage households to reduce energy use and to help those affected by fuel poverty. It was recognised that these are related fields but with different goals, as those in fuel poverty with a fixed amount to spend on fuel may benefit from having a warmer home rather than reduced energy use.

Carbon Co-op in Greater Manchester aim to achieve comprehensive retrofit measures which will result in 50% plus energy savings, however they charge £500 for an assessment and measures can cost £10,000 plus so limited to those with strong interest and access to capital or loan, unless grants are available (they have found ECO funding difficult to access). Other groups and organisations are working with local communities and Housing Associations to address issues of Fuel Poverty, often through Home Energy Visits resulting in simpler measures such as energy advice, switching supplier, loft insulation or a new boiler.

Lessons learnt:

  • Carbon Co-op did not find area based leafleting successful; prefer wider publicity eg through local radio to reach those who want to do something.
  • Those in greatest fuel poverty are often vulnerable households who have other support needs.
  • Behaviour change can result in significant energy savings but can be difficult to achieve sustained improvements.
  • Need to establish householder motivation: carbon saving/ comfort/ health benefits/ fuel cost savings.
  • Locally based “Energy Champions” are most effective but need appropriate training.
  • Ashton Heyes achieved 25% reduction in energy use mainly through education
  • Householders may have specific agenda eg help with repairs or boiler controls or understanding energy bills. Need to resolve these first.
  • Some groups and organisations are working with other charities and organisations eg Age Concern, CAB, GP’s. Other partners may include local Housing Associations and Universities.
  • Potential to work with faith groups, schools, groups such as WI to publicise and encourage discussion of energy issues.
  • Strict focus on energy may turn people off but can combine with other things they may be interested in eg growing food, healthy cooking/ eating, health and wellbeing.
  • Private rented property the worst insulated but hard to reach. In Wales, and I think in London, there is a plan for registration of private landlords where by 2018 they would have to meet a minimum EPC energy rating. Needed elsewhere!

Funding for Energy Efficiency measures/ Energy Advice

  • ECO funding through power companies but hard to access.
  • Distribution companies (SPEN in our area) and energy suppliers may have an interest in funding demand reduction initiatives.
  • Local authority initiatives in Oldham and elsewhere have been funded through health service (CCG) .
  • Islington Council has carbon offset funding from new developments.
  • Pay as You Save: funding work from savings on fuel bills. Nationwide is now offering mortgages for energy efficiency work. Triodos Bank also offer unsecured energy efficiency loans.
  • List of other funding opportunities in resource pack which I will circulate.
  • Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships may be able to provide funding.
  • Some European funding still available and government have guaranteed funding for any grants approved before we leave the EU.

Renewables and Electricity Generation

Not as much discussion on this compared with Energy Efficiency. Many groups had experience of installing Solar PV on schools and other community buildings, however a key focus for the future is the prospect of battery storage to allow the building users to maximise use of the energy generated.

Two groups described their experience of developing Hydro-electric schemes, however the general feedback was that such schemes are technically difficult and expensive.

More information is available in the resource pack which I will circulate.

Other Initiatives/ Issues

  • One organisation in Manchester  is developing a proposal for recycling coffee grounds which can be made into fuel pellets!
  • Robin Lawler of Northwards HA emphasised the importance of carbon literacy training which they are delivering to their own staff and residents but also more widely to local businesses and organisations, to help people make more informed choices.
  • The issue of business rates for non- residential properties with solar PV or other renewable installations being increased was raised as an issue. This forms part of the current review of business rates. Ironically private schools are charities so would be exempt while state schools will be affected.
  • A significant issue for the future is the electricity distribution network which is not suited to a more decentralised model of energy generation.
  • The Carbon Trust is working with local authorities and Housing Associations on heat networks/ district heating schemes which can be effective where waste heat is generated by a nearby industrial use. Can also work with combined heat and power generation.
  • The DECC energy calculator and the Guardian National Carbon Calculator are interesting tools for looking at national energy strategy.

12 Reasons to Welcome Renewable Energy

There are plenty of reasons to embrace renewable energy to supply our future energy needs. Here are the 12 best ones I can think of.

  1. It enables the UK to meet its lawful commitments to the EU and UK parliaments.
  2. It is sustainable.
  3. It is non-polluting with minimal detrimental effects
  4. It has the support of 70% – 80% of the general public
  5. It offers assured and secure energy supply once installed, immune from financial market volatility and political machinations.
  6. It is democratic in that anybody can be a generator of electricity and secure their own supply or a group can secure a supply for their community.
  7. It is already cost effective now and will become cheaper compared to fossil fuel generation in the future.
  8. It creates more well paid jobs throughout its supply chain than fossil fuel generation.
  9. It supports the local economy more than fossil fuel generation.
  10. It increases competition between many generators and negates price fixing by a handful of dominating supply companies.
  11. It engages consumers more directly to encourage electricity demand reduction and the uptake of energy efficiency measures
  12. Its technological approach attracts a wide range of innovators to increase efficiency and reduce cost.

Join the Revolution

The future of energy is the renewable generation of electricity. In the future, burning coal or gas will be as obsolete as the steam engine. The key questions are how long will the transition to renewables take and how will renewables guarantee security of supply. The answer to these questions is not known . Some countries like Germany and Denmark are confident they can reach 85% – 95% of their total energy needs (electricity, heating and transport) from renewables by 2050. The UK has been more conservative in its target setting, committing to achieving 50% of its total energy needs from renewables  by 2050. Under the EU Renewables Directive, the UK has an intermediate target to produce 15% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2020. At the moment just over half that figure (8%) has been achieved. Most of the gains have been from electricity generation, some from heating and hardly any from transport. During the coalition government from 2010 – 2015, government policy and incentives provided investment confidence and the renewable generation industry achieved strong growth of 24% year on year. It also saw rapid growth in community energy projects and the uptake of domestic solar panels. Since the present Conservative government has been in power, this momentum has been lost as government has turned to nuclear and fracking at the expense of renewables. However, the popularity of renewables remains, as does the passion and commitment of everybody engaged in the renewables revolution, from mega corporations to a single home owner. Renewable energy’s time has come and there is no turning back the clock. The public want clean energy and the motivation, investment, technology and most of all, the enthusiasm to make it happen are all here now. Join the revolution!