Stoney families in new BBC documentary

Kate Humble presents the Great Big Energy Saving Challenge''pics `Alan Peebles
Kate Humble presents the Great Big Energy Saving Challenge''pics `Alan Peebles
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Six families in Stonehaven are the subject of a new BBC Scotland programme which examines the challenges of energy saving.

The programme-makers challenged the families to cut the amount of electricity and gas they used by 30 per cent within just three weeks.

Given this was during a very chilly April in the North-east of Scotland, this was no small challenge but the production provided assistance from engineering expert Marty Jopson and energy expert Lucy Conway, who lives completely off grid on the remote Scottish isle of Eigg.

All of the isle’s electricity is generated from renewable sources so Lucy knows a thing or two about energy saving.

As well as energy advice, insulation measures and thermal imaging to find energy leaks, the families also had fun with a raft of bicycles wired up to an electric generator to illustrate how much physical energy it takes to make electricity.

The home measures were monitored by state of the art devices in each house and the experiment and its results were scrutinised by Dr Alan Owen, director of sustainable practice at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

Presenter Kate Humble said:  “This project featured ordinary families in a street that could be anywhere in the UK.

‘‘They weren’t eco- warriors and, like so many of us, really had no idea how to go about saving energy in a way that they could live with comfortably long-term.

‘‘That’s what made this programme different. No one was installing solar panels on the roof or triple glazing. They weren’t making any really dramatic changes but everyone, including me, was amazed by what they achieved.

‘‘It was a truly inspirational project and, if it can work for them, it can work for all of us. ”

As part of the challenge, each of the families agreed to have a state-of-the-art energy monitor installed in their homes to record their usage any one time and the results were then scrutinised by Dr Owen.

It was his job to work out which families were saving energy and who were the biggest gas guzzlers.

Dr Owen said: “This was a great programme to be involved in as I think people will be very surprised at how much of an impact changing simple things around the house can have on your energy usage.

“It’s not rocket science, it is the usual things that people can do to cut down their energy usage, but when taken all together they can make a huge difference.”

He explained: “Draughtproof your doors, windows and loft panels; change your light bulbs to energy saving ones. Anything you are not using, turn it off. Blinds reflect sunlight so think about how you can better use solar energy to heat the space in your house. If you’re feeling a bit cold, the answer is not necessarily to just turn the heating up - go and put on a jumper.’’

Dr Owen recently warned that the grim picture of a nation without power depicted in Channel 4 programme ‘Blackout’ might be closer than we think if we continue to consume resources at our current rate.

“In a few years’ time, the UK loses 20% to 30% of its existing power generation capacity,” he said.

“That’s because a number of power stations are going offline largely owing to emissions regulations. We all need to learn to use less so that our society continues to function on what’s available rather than just assuming that we will always have more.

“While this experiment only involved six households in one town in Scotland, if a similar exercise was done on a UK scale, people would start to see a larger impact. The price of energy is related to demand – if demand reduced, it would likely lead to a drop in price.”