|Interview with Godfrey Boyle who in the mid eighties led the Energy Research Unit at the Open University.
Was the Milton Keynes Energy Cost Index your project and how was it operated and what effect did it have on the Energy World Exhibition.
No it wasn't in fact it was originally devised by Jake Chapman, who is another professor here at the Open University who is in the Systems Department. He is someone who in fact took leave of absence from the OU to run a company called National Energy Services, that was part of the National Energy Foundation, that in turn set up the Energy World project. And it was basically Jake's idea - I think anyway - I think it was his idea, to set up this Milton Keynes Energy Cost Index. Although in fact it wasn't just him no I remember now it was also another guy called John Doggart who was an architect who now works for Energy Conscious Design. He is one of the principles of Energy Conscious Design, which is a sort of solar architecture partnership. It was they who I think, devised the MKECI which in fact has gone on to become part of what's called the Standardised Assessment Procedure which is basically the governments energy index for rating housing in terms of its energy efficiency.
What was your role and input into Energy World back in the middle eighties.
Well I was directing/co-directing the Energy Research Unit here at the Open University and in the mid eighties we were approached by Inter Solar which is a company in Britain that installs solar electric panels all over the world. They had applied for an EEC grant to install this system and in fact we at one point wanted them to install it somewhere else but that's a digression. They ended up installing it at Energy World and they wanted a monitoring contractor to monitor the results and convey those results to the European Communities Energy Directorate who were responsible for giving the grant for the system. The total cost of the system I think was about as much as £570,000 pounds altogether, and the EEC grant was about half of that or maybe even more I think. Anyway it's customary in these projects to have an academic institution or somebody with some reputation to verify that the installation produced what the makers said it produced and so we were commissioned to and did install a monitoring system in the garage at Shenley Lodge. Here we had a computer, sensors, wind speed monitoring equipment, solar measuring equipment and things called data loggers that recorded on tape what happened. We also recruited a research fellow called Andreas Dubois who came to work here for two years to do the monitoring of that, and we finally produced a report in 1989 of the results of our monitoring of that project. I wasn't really involved in any other project in Energy World apart from the wind turbine and the nine photovoltaic houses that I've told you about.
Do you have statistical data on how effective the monitoring system at Shenley Lodge was.
Well I mean I think it's not so much the question of how effective the monitoring system was it's how effective the energy system was or are you talking about the monitoring system for the entirety of Shenley Lodge or just for the project that we worked on?
Well probably just the project you worked on.
Okay for the project that we worked on, yes indeed we had more data that you could shake a stick at about our project. I'll say to you now the wind turbine operated so infrequently because the wind speed in Milton Keynes is very - very low, this was perfectly predictable from the start that it would give a very low output really relatively speaking. There were lots of teething troubles and technical difficulties, which were mainly caused, because the main company implementing the project, didn't put enough substantial resources into sorting them out. They didn't give it the very high priority that it really required to install and then de-bug properly the system and make it run well. So in fact in a nutshell the results of our monitoring showed that it produced probably substantially less energy than it should have done in theory, there's no reason why it shouldn't have produced more it just wasn't properly maintained and well installed. I can't remember off hand I don't actually remember the numbers now, but overall in a nutshell the results were disappointing.
Is the monitoring still in existence today and if so is it being carried out in new buildings.
Well I know that the monitoring of our project is no longer in existence, we were required to monitor it for two years and then the equipment was taken out, so the wind turbine and photovoltaic housing project isn't being monitored. I'd be surprised if many or any of the other projects are still being monitored some of them were probably monitored for several years though I don't frankly quite remember for how long. Alan Horton would probably know because he was the one responsible for the overall monitoring of the site and I think as I said to you that the Building Research establishment should have the data somewhere. As regards new houses I think it's probably being done in a sort of ad hoc basis, as say new energy efficient houses are put up. There are some, I think Robin Roy will tell you about, some that he's had dealings with there is a scheme in Shenley - I've forgotten the name of it a much more recent scheme and I'm pretty sure it will be monitored. I don't think there is a routine monitoring of the whole of an estate or anything like that but they're are sporadic exercises in monitoring of particular developments going on.
What would you say was the impact of Energy World locally and nationally.
I suppose it was a bit mixed, I guess that obviously the more unsuccessful and disappointing projects probably didn't have a very good affect if anything maybe even having a negative affect in that for instance, having the wind turbine there but not actually turning. After several years people kept saying well what's that wind turbine doing, why is it not running, and if anything it had a negative public relations impact on people's perception of wind energy in the UK. Unlike people who, if you visit Denmark or many other countries, you see working wind turbines and they are just part of the landscape and well, opinions differ, but I consider them to look - provided they are properly sighted - quite attractive. But in Britain this sort of solitary wind turbine sitting there not going round looking pretty bad, there were other projects I think, that worked quite well and performed quite well.
What do you think the future holds with regards to Energy efficiency both here in Milton Keynes and the UK generally, and do you think there will be perhaps something again like the Energy World exhibition.
Well energy efficiency unfortunately is still very neglected in the United Kingdom compared with other countries like Denmark and perhaps Germany and Sweden which have much higher standards of insulation and quality of construction and so on. Our buildings even despite the recent revisions to the building regulations which are supposed to impose higher standards, are still really quite mediocre energy wise, compared with other comparable countries like Denmark the best example. It's a bit of a puzzle to know why I mean the Department of Environment as it was hasn't really imposed as rigorous building standards on the industry as it could and I think should have done. It seems that the building industry in the UK is particularly conservative and particularly backward in its approach to these things, and it seems to have exercised undue influence over the civil servants and the politicians to stop any attempts to impose really good building standards.
Both our buildings and appliances are slowly getting more energy efficient. Although that's partly the benefits of the improved energy efficiency for things like lighting, refrigerators and washing machines and so on, and have been partly negated by the fact that we're having more and more of them so new appliances like you know, bread makers and micro-wave ovens etc. So energy efficiency is a bit of a moving target, equipment and appliances are getting more energy efficient i.e. using less energy for a given delivery of service, but we're installing more and more gadgets in our homes which counteracts. As in cars for instance also, cars have got more fuel efficient but we now drive them faster and we drive them further so we actually end up using the same amount of fuel. We need a combination of technical fixes and technical improvements in energy efficiency. Probably lifestyle changes too, so we don't have to commute over such long distances, so we re-organise our homes and communities so we don't have to travel so far to get to the shops and stuff and maybe we use the Internet for communicating.
We need to improve the quality of our buildings to make them much more energy efficient. It's, perfectly feasible there's no real difficulty about it it's just a question of better standards which of course if they apply to everyone that doesn't disadvantage any one builder over another builder, and what that means is that it's a level playing field for everyone. Also, imposing or encouraging much better quality control in the way they implement things in the UK. In other countries such as Switzerland for example, you practically need a PhD in building before you're allowed to put anything up, I mean I exaggerate, but only slightly, and here you know pretty much anybody can build anything and it means that you get very poor quality control. If you are going to have energy efficient buildings you do need them to be put up in a much better way than ours currently are. At worst, at best of course our builders are as good as anybody else's builders but it's just that the quality varies so enormously between the best and the worst
Sorry I didn't answer your question will there be another Energy World exhibition? I doubt if there'll be one in Milton Keynes although I suppose there could be. Milton Keynes you see benefited from the presence of the Development Corporation that had the money and the remit to do adventurous things like that, even if they didn't always do them very well. Whereas the Milton Keynes Council hasn't really got the money to fund big projects like that. Although I wouldn't be surprised if something like that happened somewhere in the UK in the future. I mean other countries have regular building exhibitions we don't seem to do that too much. We have the Ideal Homes exhibition but that's not really quite the same thing. So I think that it could and I think should happen in the UK again BUT it needs to be done well then it would be wonderful. It would need to be done over a reasonably long time scale, with very careful planning and with a decent budget to do the thing properly. It would need strong quality control over the people who were implementing it so they did it well, and if they don't do it properly the first time they would have to go back and sort it out. And with adequate monitoring to give to everybody the true results of what actually happened and how effective it really was or was not, that would be wonderful and maybe someday it will happen.