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Britain's homes and workplaces would become mini-power stations generating huge amounts of electricity and making the UK the leading nation in the fight against climate change, if the vision laid out in a new report becomes reality.
The current, outdated electricity system is so inefficient that two-thirds of the energy in the fuel is wasted before it gets used at homes and workplaces, according to the report released today by Greenpeace.
The huge loss of energy, enough to heat all the buildings and all the water in the UK, occurs because the large power stations far from our cities that make our electricity discard an enormous amount of heat through chimneys, while more power is lost transporting the energy long distances through power lines.
The report, Decentralising Power: An Energy Revolution For The 21st Century, argues that a reform of the electricity system is urgently needed to end this environmentally destructive wastage - the power sector is the single greatest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions. The solution is to generate electricity close to where it is needed, or 'decentralise' it.
A decentralised energy system would see everyday buildings playing host to devices such as solar panels, small wind turbines and combined heat and power boilers, which generate electricity as well as providing heat and hot water. The electricity created would be used directly by the house or workplace, and the surplus would be fed into a local network. This electricity would then be locally distributed, avoiding the significant loss that occurs when electricity is transported long distances.