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Did 'renewable radio' top the ratings?

File:A wind turbine, radio aerial and stream at the Llyn Alaw Wind Farm - - 1317786.jpg

The story of radio has seen many innovations, from the onset of digital to broadcasting from boats. Last week, Five Live added clean energy’s notch in history, by powering itself using only low-carbon technologies for a day.

It was part of the station’s Energy Day last Thursday, which opened with the striking headline statistic that 38 per cent of people are worried about paying this winter’s heating bills, then went on to take a localised look at supply in demand in their own back yard; the piazza of BBC North in Salford.

After an assessment of the power needs for broadcasting equipment and their makeshift studio (84kWh), it was time to work out how to deliver that.

In terms of the energy sources selected, the vast majority of the energy (86 per cent) came from waste vegetable oil from the BBC canteen, treated to make biodiesel. This was to parallel the coal, gas and nuclear parts of the UK’s energy mix. The rest was provided by solar, wind, and bikes.

People just can’t resist getting the bikes out can they? That’s despite the fact our microgeneration man Ian pretty much debunked ‘pedal potential’ on the blog last year. That said, getting a lot of cycle generators lined up, with a few celeb pedallers, always makes for a good spectacle. For more info on the energy breakdown, a blog from Five Live’s production team explains more.

The station discussed a number of issues during the day, from wind farms to energy bill price hikes. You can listen to programmes from the day, and watch videos of Five Live presenters over-exerting themselves on bikes too, if you need a little light relief.

The station kept broadcasting throughout the day, which is the first point of summing up to make – not that this outcome was in any real doubt. The set-up did have its problems, like using wind power in an urban environment where it’s unlikely to be particularly successful – see our Location, location, location report on our micro-wind field trial if you want confirmation of that.

But whether you think this was the most scientific test or not, what is good news indeed is that energy issues like security of supply and decarbonisation are getting this much exposure through a mainstream broadcaster.

These are the big issues of our age, and all the nuances of energy policy need to be laid out in the open if we’re to tackle rising bills, hit our carbon reduction targets and provide the UK with the technological and economic renewal that advancing our energy infrastructure promises.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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