BSRIA and ECA working together in order to keep the lights on!

BSRIA is pleased to be working alongside the ECA at this important event

BSRIA is pleased to be working alongside the ECA at this important event

Ofgem has sounded serious warning bells about UK’s generating margin falling from about 14% to sub 4% levels around 2016. Ed Milliband’s statement of a Labour Government freezing energy bills could hardly come at a worse moment and could in fact result in a greater likelihood of brown or blackouts.  View event details and book on-line.

Major investment is needed in the electricity network and the new wave of nuclear power stations recently announced will not come online until at least 2020. The debate over alternative fuels like shale gas still needs to be had, to assess its suitability and impact on the future of UK energy. And whilst standby generation may seem an easy option and undoubtedly this will form part of the solution, it also needs to be highlighted that it cannot necessarily be relied on as a last-minute solution, for when the crunch comes, fuel will be in high demand and availability will plummet.

So where does that leave the rest of us? There are few benefits to a power outage; the only redeeming effects being an increase in self-reliance and a chance for the standby power industry to shine.

The risks to business is high, even more so due to the current lack of awareness and most may well have no contingency plan to keep their businesses running. Companies face disruption through possible loss of process and equipment failure.

BSRIA is pleased to be working alongside the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA). Our forthcoming event at Central Hall in London looks at the scale of the problem of reduced electricity supply capacity at peak times in the coming years. We look to identify solutions that can be adopted in order to reduce the risk to the core business and also the support needed for building owner operators, facilities mangers, contractors and service providers to allow them to provide the maximum provision during challenging times.

This event is free to BSRIA and ECA members, but also open to a wider audience.

View the full programme and book on-line

ECA members are able to book free by emailing their free payment code to events@bsria.co.uk.

Testing of Solid Fuel Stoves

Dr Arnold Teekarem, Head of Combustion at BSRIA

Dr Arnold Teekaram, Head of Combustion at BSRIA

Stoves manufacturers are now CE marking their appliances under The Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 (CPR) having successfully completed the CE marking tests at BSRIA on a purpose built facility.  The facility was UKAS assessed this year in accordance with BS EN ISO/IEC 17025 “General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories”  to become an Accredited and Notified Test laboratory for testing Solid Fuel Stoves  The automated test facility which has a unique data acquisition system for recording real time data such as flue gas emissions, 300 trihedron wall and floor temperatures, flue draught and the fuel load enables both the thermal performance and smoke emissions tests to be carried out on free standing stoves designed to burn wood and mineral fuels.

Thermal Performance and Safety tests

In accordance with BS EN 13240: 2001 +A2:2004 “Room heaters fired by solid fuel-requirements and test methods” BSRIA is able to offer clients the following tests on residentially non mechanical stoves (intermittent and continuous burning) for various types of solid fuels

  •  Thermal performance tests including thermal heat output and efficiency
  • Safety tests- These include operation of appliance to determine the safe combustible distance from the stove to any combustible material
  • Emissions of combustion products
  • Checks to determine whether the materials, design and construction requirements of the appliance comply with the requirements of the standard
  • Checks to determine whether the installation and operating instructions of the appliance comply with the requirements of the standard
  • Checks to determine whether the marking information given on the appliance comply with the requirements of the standard
Thermal performance test facility

Thermal performance test facility

Fundamental to achieving optimum thermal performance of the stove under test are a number of variables.  These include achieving the correct combustion air settings – the appliance air controls must be adjusted accordingly to optimize the flue gas temperature, CO2 and CO levels within the flue gases whist at the same time achieving the optimum burning rate.  Unnecessary variations in the test conditions such as the flue draught can significantly affect the burning rate and thermal performance of the appliance. The test standards require a flue draught of 12 ± 2 Pa for thermal performance test at nominal heat output for appliances up to 25 kW.  For temperature safety tests, the flue draught must be maintained at 15 +2/0 Pa for appliances with a nominal heat output of up to 25 kW.  The test rig is automated to give good controllability of the test conditions within the limits imposed by the test standard.   Minimizing variations in the moisture content of the test fuel is an important parameter that is important both for repeatability of the test results and achieving optimum combustion performance. This variable is also controlled using internal quality control procedures, careful selection of the test fuel and measurement of the moisture content before the tests.

CE marking of stoves became mandatory from the 01 July 2013 and under the CPR, manufacturers products are now required to demonstrate compliance with the above tests by having the appliance tested by a Notified Test Laboratory.  These tests are summarized within annex ZA.1 of the standard.  Manufacturers are also required to implement their own factory production control (FPC) procedures under the current attestation level 3 for room heaters fired by solid fuels.

Smoke Emissions Tests

In addition to the above, BSRIA is also now able to offer DEFRA smoke emissions tests on appliances seeking exemption for

Smoke emission measurement

Smoke emission measurement

burning unauthorized fuel in smoke control areas within the UK (section 21 of the Clean Air Act 1993).  The state of the art test facility uses the dilution tunnel approach with isokinetic sampling of the flue gases, an approach which is also used by some European test houses.  Tests are conducted in accordance with PD 6434, BS 3841 Parts 1 & 2 and the Richardo -AEA Test Protocol issue 3.0.  Because of the variation in the smoke emission between tests, multiple tests are conducted at high heat output as well as reduced heat output.  As the smoke emission rate is dependent on the size of the stove (volume of its firebox), its air controls which affects its combustion performance and the fuel used, the measured heat output at each load must also be reported.  If appliances are fundamentally different in their designs, then individual smoke tests are also required. The exception to this are appliances with cosmetic changes to the exterior.

The smoke emission rate can also be affected by the manner in which the appliance is refuelled.  If the firebed is not established i.e. if there is insufficient burning material to cause the new fuel charge to ignite within a reasonable period or if the appliance is overloaded with a new fuel charge, excessive smoke can occur.  Care has to be therefore taken during the tests to avoid such adverse operating conditions that can cause the stove to unnecessary fail the smoke emission tests.

The iso-kinetic method of sampling the smoke emission within the dilution tunnel used by BSRIA is an accurate and representative method of determining the smoke emission rate from appliances burning wood and mineral fuels. In this technique, the velocity of

Data Acquisition System

Data Acquisition System

the sampled gases within the sampling nozzle is maintained the same as that of the mainstream flue gases within the dilution tunnel.  The specialist instrumentation used for sampling is an automatic gravimetric sampler which continually adjusts the sample volume flow rate and hence the flue gas velocity in the smoke sampling nozzle.

In tests conducted at BSRIA, iso-kinetic sampling has been consistently maintained during the tests.  The maximum isokinetic deviation on the velocity is around 0.8% compared to 2.5% which is required in the test standard.

BSRIA’s smoke emission test results are expressed in grams/hour to enable comparison with the permitted smoke emission rate given in BS PD 6463 and represent the average smoke emission rate taken over the test cycle which is typically 45 minutes to an hour. Alternatively the smoke emission rate can be expressed in mg/m3 at a reference oxygen content of 13% in the undiluted flue.

Opacity measurements are also taken during the tests to detect the peaks in the smoke emissions during refuelling and de-ashing.

Further information on testing of stoves and other types of solid fuel appliances can be obtained by contacting Dr Arnold Teekaram, Head of Combustion BSRIA Tel 01344-465538 or by e-mail at arnold.teekaram@bsria.co.uk or by visiting BSRIA web site http://www.bsria.co.uk/services/testing/standard-testing/solid-fuel-stoves/

What happens when the lights go out?

In July we posted a blog about whether the lights will go out in the UK. This blog discussed the startling fact that the peak demand on our electricity supply network is perilously close to the supply capacity. With this comes the real risk that consumers will be exposed to outages “blackouts” and voltage dips “brownouts”. There is debate about whether this could happen, Datamonitor’s director of energy and utilities research and analysis, Neil Atkinson has commented that in practice the lights won’t go out in the UK or at least not for a long time, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried or ignore the problem all together. He states that the Government hasn’t put sufficient contingency plans in place for the future of the UK’s supply and demand, that the Green Deal and the dwindling hopes of Nuclear power aren’t enough.

The ECA are less optimistic than Datamonitor. Bill Wright, head of energy solutions, states that the intended increasing reliance on wind power assumes that the UK as a whole will not be affected by periods of cold weather at the same time as minimum wind. This is something that has to be considered though, for if the UK were to suffer a harsh or long winter like we saw in 2012/2013 then there is a real risk that we could end up facing lights out this year or during any winter that is out of the ordinary.

Fuel poverty in England – 10 per cent, 1996 to 2011

Fuel poverty in England – 10 per cent, 1996 to 2011

There is also Ed Milliband’s pledge to freeze energy costs for customers to consider. Will this pledge speed up the process of blackouts and brownouts or it will have no impact at all? The government’s Fuel Poverty Report 2013 suggests there are already 4.8 million households in the UK that are already suffering with blackouts so Ed’s pledge won’t necessarily make any difference.

But what if it does? What will happen if the lights do go out?

BSRIA held a number of parallel workshops in June to discuss that possibility. The workshop covered the effects blackouts would have in the UK, the risks for business, the systems required, the continuity plans and what BSRIA will do. Here are some of the conclusions:

Effects of power outages

There are many potential effects that come with a long power outage. At the moment, most power outages don’t last more than an

An image of Channel 4's The Blackout

An image of Channel 4’s The Blackout

hour so there are minimal risks but the longer the outage, the more opportunity for chaos to ensue. The loss of power could lead to an increase in crime due to diminished security options e.g. alarms and security cameras leading to shops being broken into and civil disorder (a dramatization of the potential damage can be seen in Channel 4’s The Blackout). The country’s communication and transport systems would soon break down and there is a high risk to the economy due to closed businesses and lack of trade. There are few benefits to a power outage; the only redeeming effects being an increase in self-reliance and a chance for the standby power industry to shine.

Risks for business

If power outages have such an impact on society in general, then the risks to business are high as well, even more so due to the current lack of awareness in businesses. If they are unaware of the future problems, then they may well have made no contingency plan to keep their businesses running. Without a contingency plan, they face disruption to their work through either staff shortages (staff may be unable to get into work due to the breakdown of transport), or loss of process and equipment failure. If companies are dependent on computers or other technology, then they risk losing business or missing deadlines, resulting in damage to reputation and loss of profit.

Required systems and contingency plans

To help the UK prepare for the risk of future power outages, the workshop came up with some ideas for required systems and contingency plans that could help reduce the damage caused. Here are some of those. Firstly, education is key and more needs to be done to raise awareness. BSRIA is in a prime position to promote and facilitate this. Starting with the low-hanging fruit, buildings should make maximum use of natural light and ventilation to reduce base energy load. Critical areas or services need to be identified and ring-fenced to maximise the opportunity for them to run when other systems go down. There needs to be a way of controlling the amount of energy used in buildings and this is where energy services and building energy management systems could play a very important role. Incentives, such as variable tariffs from utilities, would encourage changes in consumer behaviour and more investment in smart technology. The debate over alternative fuels like shale gas needs to be had to assess its suitability and impact on the future of UK energy. Whilst standby generation may seem an easy option, and undoubtedly this will form part of the solution, it also needs to be highlighted that it cannot necessarily be relied on as a last-minute solution, for when the crunch comes, it will be in high demand and availability will plummet.

Continuity plans need to be made for a multitude of scenarios. The Government and businesses alike, need to prioritise the services

Graph taken from Bill Wright's presentation given at BSRIA Workshop

Graph taken from Bill Wright’s presentation given at BSRIA Workshop

they need most and make sure they are supported in the best possible ways. If blackouts are expected to become a regular part of our lives, then announcing them in advance will help companies to plan closures or change working hours. Companies also need to think about how their employees work; the fact is, we are highly dependent on technology like laptops and mobile phones. Without the means to recharge their batteries they quickly become redundant and we become unproductive, so companies need to think of alternative methods to keep their workforce useful – we may even have to resort to good old pen and paper!

What BSRIA could do

 From the workshops, it was suggested that BSRIA can help raise awareness and provide education on the subject. This could take a range of forms, and conferences, publications and guidance for continuity planning were just some of the activities suggested. BSRIA can also work with other organisations towards these goals to help limit the risks for everyone.

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