Smart metering technology specialist Sentec was this week congratulated by Her Majesty the Queen at a reception for Queen's Award winners at Buckingham Palace, following its Queen's Award for Enterprise success. Sentec received the prestigious award in the International Trade category for exceptional overseas earnings.

The Cambridge-based company was represented by chief executive officer, Dr Mark England, and technology developer Harshul Mehta. The Sentec representatives were greeted by Her Majesty at the reception on 19 July.

Sentec received the award in recognition of its exceptional growth over the last three years, during which time the company more than trebled its overseas earnings to £4.3m.

Dr Mark England commented: "We were honoured to meet the Queen at this very special occasion. Winning the Queen's Award for Enterprise is a testament to all the hard work the whole team at Sentec has put into growing the company and sustaining its reputation for excellence worldwide. We are proud to see the effort and world class level of expertise that we have put into creating commercially successful projects recognised in this way."

Sentec's growth was achieved by implementing a successful market strategy that involves licensing selected partners and providing them with support during product development and continuing consultancy services. As a result, Sentec technology is now included in almost half (approximately five million) of the smart electricity meters currently installed in the USA and in 7.7 million meters in total. Sentec is also continuing its commitment to the advancement of smart metering closer to home, with a licensing agreement with OnStream, a National Grid company, to bring Sentec's flagship Mobius current sensor technology to the UK smart electric meter market.


Marking the continued success of its voltage optimisation device in the UK, VPhase has been granted a European voltage control patent from the European Patent Office.

The new patent, identified as European patent number 1913454, has also been granted in New Zealand and the USA. Once translated in all 30 countries designated in the European application, the patent will have been granted in 34 countries in total including Russia and South Africa.

VPhase CEO Dr Lee Juby comments: "This patent recognises the way VPhase helps consumers reduce energy wastage and carbon emissions in the home, whilst significantly cutting electricity bills. This approval will help drive the business forward within the wider European domain, allowing homes across Europe to benefit as well."


The VPhase voltage optimisation device, which launched earlier this year, delivers money and energy savings across the home, without requiring a change in lifestyle or electricity supplier.


The low-cost unit uses voltage optimisation technology to reduce the incoming voltage and manage it to a stable level, normally 220V in the UK. This eliminates ‘over voltage,' which is often a costly and unnecessary waste of energy and ensures many electrical appliances use less electricity and cost less to run, as well as cutting carbon emissions.

VPhase is working with a number of major UK utilities to introduce VPhase units into homes nationwide, and it is currently being tested in Scottish and Southern Electric (SSE) customer homes, under the UK Government's Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) scheme, to determine the lifetime carbon dioxide savings of the device.

A careful operation to lift a three-and-a-half-tonne redundant transformer by crane across the front of Westminster Abbey took place on Wednesday 18 August.

EDF Energy Networks moved the transformer from its site under the floor of College Hall, the medieval dining room in the Deanery Courtyard at Westminster Abbey. A new substation to replace the existing one was installed around the corner underground in Dean's Yard earlier this year.

The investment will see an upgrade to the equipment that provides power to many properties in that area of London and will also increase the reliability of supplies.

Early on Wednesday morning the crane lifted the transformer measuring 6ft square, and other associated electrical equipment. At its highest point, the equipment was lifted 35 feet over the front of the Abbey. Then lifted onto a flat-bed lorry and taken away.

Westminster Abbey asked EDF Energy Networks to move the substation, which had been there since the 1960s.

EDF Energy Networks project manager Gary Drinkeld said: "This was a complex project given the historic nature of the site. The substation played a vital part in the distribution of electricity to many properties in that area of London and we have a responsibility to our many customers to find a suitable site nearby so we can continue to provide a reliable electricity supply for customers in the area. We are working closely with Westminster Abbey to make sure the move runs smoothly and successfully."

The Abbey is one of the more unusual sites to house one of EDF Energy Network's 66,000 substations and is possibly the only one which has an ancient arched doorway leading to it.

Abriox has upgraded the lightning protection on its remote corrosion monitoring solutions for pipelines, with the help of the lightning test consultancy services of Cobham Technical Services. The degree of protection of the system against high energy surges has been substantially enhanced by a development exercise incorporating advice on the nature of coupling between lightning power surges and ground-based equipment, and characterisation studies including destructive testing.

The protection has been implemented on Abriox's Merlin cathodic protection (CP) monitor. This telemetry-based instrument is one of the most widely used field devices for remotely monitoring the anti-corrosion CP systems that are installed on pipelines, storage tanks and other buried metal infrastructure used in onshore oil and gas networks.

"Pipelines are a significant attractor for lightning, and in some regions of the world strikes can occur frequently. We've always had lightning protection on our corrosion monitor, but the only feedback we ever got on how it performed in the real world tended to be when a burnt-out unit arrived back from the field," says Jason Hanlon, technical director of Abriox. "How much energy was present, what the shape of the energy surge was, whether it arrived directly or indirectly remained a mystery - and we decided it would be a good idea to better understand the risk by talking with lightning experts."

Abriox has its design centre in the UK, and after investigating the high voltage testing market, selected UK-based Cobham Technical Services, because its lightning unit is one of a tiny number of organisations in the world that specialise in lightning testing and consultancy and is able to give practical advice, rather than simply testing against standards.

An initial review considered the particular installation conditions and environments of the Merlin CP monitor, and a typical catastrophic field failure. A destructive test at Cobham's test facility in Abingdon was performed. It became clear the corrosion monitor was most likely dealing with power surges that arrived following direct strikes on the pipeline itself, or the supply to the electrical rectifiers that provide the impressed-current cathodic protection system. Unlike some of the areas that Cobham works in - particularly aircraft protection - there are no standard lightning test waveforms for this type of nearby strike to ground-based equipment, but that did not prevent Cobham from creating a representative waveform specifically for this testing purpose.

The destructive test exercise also demonstrated to Abriox that some of the external lightning surge protection devices originally selected for use with Merlin did not actually perform in the way the manufacturer's datasheet indicated. Although other aspects of the Merlin design provided a good degree of protection, the Abriox designers sought further improvement.

After the exercise, Abriox gained a better understanding of the nature and energy levels of lightning-related power surges, and decided to re-engineer the system to increase the protection level. This exercise involved both uprating the surge protection circuitry, using different components and changing the physical layout of parts of the embedded electronics system.

To speed the design phase, Abriox constructed its own simple low-power generator that could provide a high voltage pulse, to test switching times and clamping characteristics. However, when the final protection design was settled on, Abriox took a monitor to Cobham to fully characterise its performance against lightning pulses.

Cobham subjected the equipment to increasing levels of lightning strikes using a range of pulse shapes and durations that represented the kind of surges that would be experienced in typical installation scenarios. The revised protection worked perfectly, and continued to operate successfully beyond its target energy level protection rating corresponding to a 12 kA transient waveform. Cobham used a 30 kA-rated generator to test the equipment, and in the very final test step, the strike energy was increased to the maximum. Although this destroyed the front-end protection circuitry, the Merlin monitor itself survived and continued to function.

"With Cobham's help, we now know exactly what our lightning protection system is capable of," adds Jason Hanlon of Abriox. "It's impossible to protect against every conceivable lightning strike, but we know that our equipment will be resilient when faced with the majority of the real-world energy surges that could be encountered."

"This particular project was very interesting. Our understanding of the nature of the lightning threat means that we were able to simulate the type of waveform expected by Abriox's monitor in the field," says Dan Brown of Cobham Technical Services. "This type of pipeline installation makes it highly likely that power surges arrive indirectly, from the pipe or power supply, making it important to consider protection for the design as a whole - rather than just the system inputs. It's easy to blow up a device in our lab; what's more of a challenge is to do it in a representative way."


Reading is to become the first place in the country to implement a new community recycling initiative which will see volunteers help to collect low-energy light bulbs for recycling.

The initiative aims to engage ‘recycling champions' up and down the UK who will take responsibility for collecting used low-energy light bulbs for recycling in their local area.

These ‘champions' will be responsible for collecting the used light bulbs in specially designed collection containers which can be placed in community locations of their choice. The waste light bulbs will then be taken to a central collection facility by the volunteers, ready for collection and responsible recycling.

The initiative has been created through a partnership between Recolight, the specialist WEEE compliance scheme for the lighting industry, and CoBRA (Community Bulb Recycling Alliance).

The government phase out of traditional incandescent light bulbs means low-energy light bulbs will be sold in increasingly large quantities. Low-energy light bulbs have to be recycled correctly because they contain a tiny amount of mercury. This is usually no more than 4mg and is not damaging to health, but can damage the environment in large quantities.

Reading Borough Council has stepped forward to be the first local authority to implement the scheme. The Council is now urging potential volunteers who would be willing to give up some of their time and perform the role of ‘recycling champions' to come forward.

Warren Swaine, lead councillor for environment and sustainability, said: "A lot of attention has been given to recycling schemes that are aimed at stopping climate change or reducing landfill but there are some items should be recycled simply because it is the right thing to do. We want to recycle as many different materials as possible and explore innovative ways of achieving that and this is a good example of that approach. I'd ask anyone who thinks it's important to keep hazardous materials out of our household waste to sign up to this trail blazing idea."


Commenting on the scheme, Recolight CEO Nigel Harvey said; "This is a really important community initiative to keep a hazardous waste stream out of landfill. Recycling low-energy light bulbs is often overlooked but it's just as important as properly recycling a fridge or TV. Our specially designed collection containers will be visible in convenient community locations for the public to easily use."

CoBRA creator Mark David Hatwood said; "We hope that the low-energy light bulb collection scheme can prove to be as successful as the battery scheme which collected over 35 tonnes of batteries in just two years in one county alone. Anyone interested can sign up as a volunteer online at and they will be sent a collection container and a transportation box. We'll also sort out all the health and safety requirements for them."

Following the launch of Recolight's nationwide scheme on 1 September, Waste and Recycling Minister Lord Henley said; "Energy efficient bulbs save energy, carbon and money but it is essential that people recycle them when they reach the end of their life. This initiative will enable people to take responsibility for light bulb recycling in their community and make the facilities much more widely available for householders to do so."

The Recolight container, called the Bulbstore Mini, was specially designed by students at the Open University and has been independently tested. It features an internal ramp system which stops the bulbs knocking into each other and breaking. What's more, the recycling container itself is re-usable and recyclable.

The CoBRA website has been designed to minimise the amount of paperwork volunteers are required to complete whilst ensuring that all the necessary health and safety regulations are complied with.

The scheme is now live in Reading and anyone interested in becoming a volunteer should email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 0845 601 7749.

Recolight, the UK's WEEE compliance scheme for the lighting industry, has triumphed at the Rushlight Awards winning the Waste Management Award for its low-energy light bulb collection solutions the Bulbstore Mini and Bulbstore Maxi.

The Rushlight Awards are a celebration of furthering environmental technology and innovation in the UK covering sectors as varied as renewable energy, clean fuels, energy efficiency, green products and services, waste, and environmental management. The Waste Management Award recognises the most environmentally effective resource collection, separation and handling arrangements for the whole waste cycle, and the judging panel especially commended Recolight for its collection solutions for low-energy light bulbs.

Nigel Harvey, Recolight chief executive said; "We are very proud and pleased to have won this award. It is recognition of all the hard work and dedication put in by the team to expand our consumer collection network and ultimately increase recycling rates of low-energy light bulbs."

Sentec, the smart grid specialist and product development company, has won the Green Enterprise Award at the inaugural 2011 Entrepreneur Country awards. Held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London on 1 February, the winners were selected by a panel of expert industry judges.

The awards were created to recognise the success, innovation, and achievements of UK businesses and the entrepreneurial leadership behind them. The prestigious Green Enterprise Award was awarded to Sentec following a nomination from Greenbang editor, Dan Ilett, in recognition of the company's significant contribution to the development of green sector technologies.

Rockwell Automation, part of a $4.8 billion global automation, power, control and information solutions provider, is further supporting the drive to recruit new talent into the UK engineering sector by extending its new Advanced Apprentices in Engineering programme with the announcement of more posts starting in September 2011.

The continuing relationship with Milton Keynes College to offer another two new apprenticeships at Rockwell Automation this year follows the successful intake of three during 2010.

Recolight, a specialist WEEE compliance scheme for gas discharge lamps, has announced it has funded the recycling of 100 million lamps since it commenced operations in July 2007. This figure represents more than a third of a tonne of mercury which would otherwise have entered landfill[1], and cements Recolight's reputation as a unique force in WEEE compliance.

Nigel Harvey, Recolight's chief executive, said; ""Reaching the 100 million mark is a significant achievement - not just for Recolight, but for the lighting industry as a whole. The dedication of our collection points and environmentally aware contractors, as well as the vital support of our members, have all contributed to our success.

"Through Recolight, the lighting industry is arguably responsible for recycling more items of WEEE than any other UK industry sector, As the UK's specialist lamp compliance scheme, we are continually looking at ways to increase recycling rates and raise awareness of the need to recycle."

Saft's batteries will provide the energy storage at the heart of Eltek Valere's hybrid telecom power systems that are currently being rolled out to 80 mobile telecom sites across Nigeria.

These co-location sites are being provided for Nigeria's wireless operators on a fully managed leased basis, and QOS (quality of service) is absolutely vital in this competitive market. The Eltek Valere and Saft hybrid power systems will therefore play a crucial role in ensuring the close to 100% uptime demanded by customers leasing the new sites.

Hybrid power systems are ideally suited for applications in the developing world, where they ensure continuous, energy-efficient operation of off-grid mobile base transceiver tations (BTSs) while delivering major savings in fuel costs and significant reductions in carbon emissions. Eltek Valere is initially targeting its hybrid solution at Nigeria, since it is the most important market in the African continent with over 77 million mobile subscribers (source: Nigerian Communication Commission), and successful trials have already been carried out at sites in Lagos.

National Grid, owner and operator of the gas National Transmission System (NTS) for Great Britain, is installing Alcad Vantex rechargeable nickel-based batteries in a programme to upgrade the DC power backup systems at some of its gas compressor stations. The Vantex batteries, developed specifically to ensure maximum reliability and optimum TCO (total cost of ownership) in stationary industrial installations, will support vital control and safety functions at the compressor stations in the event of a loss of mains power.

National Grid has 25 compressor stations in Great Britain that boost gas pressure up to 85 bar to increase transmission capacity and move gas through the pipelines. They are driven either by industrial gas turbines fuelled by gas taken from the pipeline or by electrical compressors.

The recent government announcement of a review of the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) payments has seen a flurry of worried solar companies clambering to condemn energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne, and predicting a gloomy future for the solar energy market.

However, Ploughcroft MD, Chris Hopkins, believes most companies are missing the point. As a key leader of solar discussion for the roofing industry and now a voice for solar roofing for the solar industry, Chris spoke at the Yorkshire and Humber Microgeneration Partnership Conference in Harrogate held on 31 March.

Hopkins used this platform to highlight his views on the announcement stating: "The whole purpose of the Feed-In-Tariff for solar technology was to encourage homeowners, fuel poor community projects and small commercial property owners to generate their own electricity during the day and export any excess to the grid. Conversely, large investors from overseas were seeing this as a route into the UK market and siphoning funds that were meant for the UK homeowner. I am pleased a step has been taken to stop this."

The review's aim was to reduce the number of solar farms and large scale solar installations claiming the F-I-T funds that are intended for homes, communities and small businesses. The review has resulted in the government's decision to reduce the subsidy on any installations over 50 kWh by 70%.

Hopkins added; "At Ploughcroft we wholeheartedly agree with this announcement. On the contrary to this I would have liked to see a clause in the review that stated should the investor of a large system, such as a factory, be able to produce evidence that they needed the majority of the electricity being used, then a larger F-I-T be authorized. Perhaps this is something the government could look to add in the future as it would encourage Britain to become a greener nation."