Zero Carbon Solar?
Is the ASA in the slow lane / the dark / the lodge?
Choose your un-illuminated (sic) metaphor.
Solar Zero Carbon Background.
Even though, after the REAL Code cravenly failed to do so, UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) eventually succeeded in getting the Solar Trade Association’s Chairman, Howard Johns, and many other solar thermal suppliers to stop false-claiming, on behalf of the Solar Trade Association, that traditionally built mains pumped solar water heating systems were zero carbon or virtually zerocarbon in operation, (video) nevertheless, the ASA has some pretty big answering to do. Here are three areas…
1/ Zero Carbon Solar Technology: imminent ban?
First of all, and this is the big-biggy, ASA seem to be on the brink of banning our corporate strapline, which is “zero carbon solar”. Let’s look at the evidence.
- According to an academic “life cycle analysis” study by Bath University, (copy available on request) Solar PV breaks even and then goes FAR beyond its embodied carbon by as much as a factor of 6 during its whole life. Even better still, for PV pumped solar thermal, they say the carbon recovery figure is 20 times. Wow! Clearly both technologies are far better than zero carbon. In fact Zero Carbon is an understatement. So what? Well, the ASA default to the widest possible “whole of life” analysis in their rules and under these rules we are correct in saying zero carbon. So ASA even ignored their own rules in banning zero carbon.
- And of course, the UK Government’s department of Communities and Local Government have a commitment to “Zero Carbon Homes“. (more evidence available on request) These homes have been defined since spring 2011 as having zero carbon emissions over a year. Surely if UK are to have zero carbon homes, UK must have zero carbon (or better than zero carbon) technologies such as solar operating within them. ASA can’t sensibly ban zero carbon solar without banning zero carbon homes. But ASA aren’t bothered about this potential misalignment, though. Will builders be banned from selling Zero Carbon (defined as CSH level 6) homes even though these terms are acceptable common terms under UK building regulations?
- Furthermore, government supported technical documentation surrounding zero carbon homes from the Zero Carbon Hub (again, copies available on request) specifically refer to both solar PV and PV pumped solar thermal as being Zero Carbon Technologies. But ASA have set this information aside, apparently because some time ago the ASA rejected a “zero carbon” claim by a major gas company which used carbon offsetting to deliver this net carbon balance. Setting aside the fact that solar technology is a technology, any not a fuel and not a fossil fuel, at that, it looks as if ASA are keener to uphold precedent than to be reasonable and forward-looking.
We are hoping that ASA will be prepared to look once again at their high-stakes zero carbon solar ban.
If we win the right to say solar is zero carbon then it will be a MASSIVE win for the whole solar industry.
A loss would set us all back a long way.
Of course, a win would be good for the wider environment, because the uptake of zero carbon solar will rise.
Naturally, the electricity-guzzling heat-pump industry do NOT want clear blue water to exist between their low(ish) carbon technologies and anything that could reasonably be called zero carbon: it would expose their Achilles’ Heel. Is this Zero Carbon war really an inter-technology fight for life, in the context of £860M of RHI funding, with ASA being the new battleground?
Update of 9 December: We are in correspondence with ASA about the possibility of an independent review.
2/ Secretive about nothing?
Secondly, despite a request to disclose, yesterday the ASA conspicuously failed to declare whether their staff are subject to any influence from vested interests such as freemasonry. Stonewalling like this is par for the course for Britain’s monopolistic industry regulators, much as MCS have repeatedly failed to disclose. I had asked about freemasonry because I was considering an appeal via ASA procedures, and there have been several recent masonic overtones, including a public blackballing on twitter by a masonic industry figure with links to the STA leadership, followed by Gideon Richards, the MCS Chair summarily throwing me off the MCS solar thermal committee (which is chaired by an apparent, freemason, Chris Roberts) without any right of appeal and my being throw out of the AGM of the STA, despite having submitted clean-uop motions that I was hoping to be allowed to speak to (video). Will the ASA please come clean on freemasonry? I am just seeking reassurance.
Update of 9 December: ASA have now supplied some reassurance, that “the final adjudication within this matter was not subject to Masonic influence.” But ASA refused point blank to supply any details of safeguards or of how they reached this conclusion, despite reminders.
3/ A zero carbon con trick which nearly took place under ASA’s nose.
Finally, how did the ASA nearly let STA Vice Chair Company, Worcester Bosch, almost get away with covering up the nasty CO2 emissions associated with the mains powered pumps which it uses to run its traditionally built (my apologies to Ma Ramotswe) solar water heating systems? Some cute stooge working for Worcester Bosch had pulled a very clever but virtually inconspicuous mathematical trick on ASA called “rounding to the nearest 100 kg of CO2” , which would have, geniusly, reduced to zero (!) the carbon impact of the pump in a carbon budget calculation. I pointed out this stunt just in time, just before ASA would have OK’d Worcester Bosch’s dodgy calculation, which, if it had got past them would have zero carbonised their mains pumped technology, even though it pollutes during every moment of its operation. Why had ASA not picked up this trick? Why did I have to pick it up for them? Are ASA competent?
I wonder if I will get another “Barry you are on your own, mate, this phone call does not exist” chummy communication from their apparently masonic head of “Sustainability” for blogging this.
Update of 9 December: Nothing yet.
I hope this is interesting. We have been ordered by STA and MCS to do loads of censorship of our site and of our tweets. We have refused to do so, so as punishment for bringing the industry into disrepute, apparently we will be formally kicked out of the STA by the end of 2012.
Pass this story on now, please!
Sunny regards from Barry.
PS Should you want to compliment the ASA on their genius, here is their contacts page.
Written and published by -
Genfit - 0844 567 9032