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Task 1

When people think of energy they think of it as something that has to paid for, and is transient: it flows into the house, is used up and then leaves. It is somehow separate to the house – if you moved house you would open a new energy account and start paying for a new supply. One of the first things that people do when moving in to a new house is take a meter reading.

Ralitsa uses the phrase 'embodied energy' in her work.

“People don’t actually consume energy, they consume the services that provide energy”

What does that mean in practice?

Many communities are working through what has been called an ‘energy transition’. They have been looking at changing the way that they use energy. There are grants available in many locations to install solar panels. These will continue to provide energy for many years to come, and the important difference here is that these are part of the house itself. This means that when people move on, they leave the panels behind. The energy they produce is contributed to the national grid, but does not nessarily reduce the bill that the house owner receives. So what is the incentive to have the panels fitted?

What would be the ‘benefits’ of having solar panels fitted on south facing rooves of all the houses in your street?

These changes are being brought about by the rising costs of energy, and the acceptance that we may have passed the ‘peak’ of oil production, and oil reserves are finite (they will not last for ever).

Why is it important that we think long term when it comes to energy?

You could explore how solar panels work and the benefits of those compared to other forms of energy generation.

Task 2

Think about the following tasks.

Consider how you can do them now, and how you might do them in the future when energy prices are significantly higher. Of course all these changes to behaviour could also be done now and reduce the family’s energy bill, but people often tend to choose convenience.

  • Cooking a meal for the family

  • Travelling to work or school

  • Playing a game inside with friends

  • Doing the main weekly shopping

  • Doing homework

  • Travelling to holiday destination

  • Exchanging news with family who are abroad

  • Keeping warm on a chilly autumn evening

Suggest some energy-reducing strategies for doing these tasks

Suggest two other activities where energy could be saved by changing behaviour.

Task 3

Energy futures are a major part of Ralitsa’s work, indeed the fact that this will be ongoing during her life (and that of the students) means that it is going to be a long term project.

You are going to send an e-mail to your future self.

This can be done using the website Future Me.

The UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (note the important connection that has been made there) has some useful advice for exploring future energy.

Write a letter describing your current use of energy and what you are doing to reduce it.
Think about home, transport, school, holidays and other places that you use energy.

Extension Questions

Further questions that could be asked:

  • What is meant by the term ‘energy security’?

  • What is a transition town?

  • What is ‘Peak Oil’?

  • What is meant by the term ‘fuel poverty’?

Additional suggestions:

  • Contact a local power station and see if there is someone who can come in to speak to students or alternatively arrange a visit

  •  It may be that there is a wind farm being planned locally which could also be the focus of an investigation

  • Scan the local papers for energy stories that are linked to the local area

  • Do an Energy Rating survey of housing in your town, related to the age of particular houses or estates. Which areas score the best? What house improvements have the most impact on energy? If there is new housing being built see if you can find out about the energy saving features that are part of the construction

Some of these features can be retro-fitted into housing and Ralitsa found that this was the case in Bulgaria.

  • Research the ‘Transition Town’ movement and how this related to energy savings, and a move to alternative energy sources and related reductions in energy e.g. the town of Modbury which has banned plastic bags

  • The recent Nick Crane BBC series ‘Town’ visited Totnes, which is one of the towns to kick off the Transition Town movement.