The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has installed photovoltaic panels on his home to promote his Draft Energy Strategy, which calls for the Capital's homebuilders, businesses and homeowners to use solar power.

The strategy, which comes into force next month, outlines targets of 10,000 domestic photovoltaic schemes and 100 installations on commercial and public buildings. Passive solar design must be included in all planning applications referred to the mayor.

Many house builders are dismayed at the enormous costs this will entail when constructing properties and some say the money would be better spent on improving the efficiency of old housing.

But the chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, Philip Sellwood, said: "Commitment from London developers and businesses, coupled with the mayor's personal and public interest in solar power, will boost the market for domestic solar installations across the country, improving the environment across Britain and globally."

The panels on the mayor's home should prevent half a tonne of CO2 from being emitted each year.

Twelve manufacturers have formed a company to manage the recycling obligations set out under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive.

The European law makes manufacturers responsible for discarded electrical and electronic consumer products and should come into effect in August 2005.

The company, called the Recycling Electrical Producers Industry Consortium, or Repic, includes firms such as Alba, Glen Dimplex, Hoover Candy and Philips. It should begin operating in spring.

The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Electrical Appliances and IntellectUK will help their member companies to establish Repic, with the Small Electrical Appliance Marketing Association offering support. The not-for-profit consortium hopes other firms will join. It is open to producers from the consumer electronics, domestic appliance and small appliance sectors. This also includes import agents and some retailers.

The government will ask all electrical producers to register as such between August this year and June 2005. The Department of Trade and Industry proposes that these producers each disclose their sales data so that market share and the subsequent responsibility for waste products be determined. In response, Repic will provide recycling services and help the authorities determine market size, so that producers do not take on unfair responsibility.

The 12 member firms will each supply £30,000 to launch the company and will provide a loan of £20,000 for two years. The founder member list will be open for any other firms to join until the end of March. There will be a founder membership fee of £10,000, with a lower rate for SMEs. After the 31 March deadline, however, the membership fee will be £30,000, or £6,000 for SMEs.

Over 200 other companies eligible to join REPIC will shortly receive a letter, which will explain the advantages of joining and invite them to sign up.

Peugeot's latest expert is available and the company says it has never been easier to own one. The new version has updated its image with a reworked front end and new interior. Added body side mouldings extending to the rear doors protect against bumps and knocks and the driver and passengers are similarly protected with three-point seatbelts and head/chest and side airbags.

The Expert is available as either a panelled van – with two load capacities of 815 and 900kg – or a five-seater combi. Two diesel engines are available: a 71bhp unit or a 110bhp HDI unit.

The HDi version has extended service intervals of 20,000 miles or two years. Peugeot claims that the reduced running costs this affords, allied with its low-rate financing, make owning an Expert easier than ever.

Exposure to devices that emit low-level magnetic fields, such as those created by hair dryers or electric razors, could damage brain DNA, according to scientists at the University of Washington.

Research also found that the damage created from brief exposure builds up over time.

Rats exposed to a 60Hz field for 24 hours showed significant DNA damage, and rats exposed for 48 hours showed even more breaks in brain cell DNA strands. The exposure also led to an increase in brain cell apoptosis - the process where a cell self-destructs because it is unable to repair itself.

The study builds on previous research and the combined findings show that the intensity of exposure can be as damaging as duration.

Henry Lai, a university research professor, and Narendra Singh, a fellow university bioengineer, both conducted the study. They believe that exposure to magnetic fields upsets the balance of iron in certain cells, creating an increase of free iron in the cell. This free iron undergoes a chemical reaction, which releases "free radicals" – charged atoms that attack cell structures such as DNA, lipids and proteins.

The scientists gave some of the rats drugs, either to neutralise free radicals or decrease free iron before exposing them to the magnetic field. As predicted, the drugs practically blocked the damaging effects. This implies that certain cells with higher iron content, such as brain cells, may be more vulnerable to damage caused by electromagnetism.

Lai does not want people to be alarmed at the findings, but he does urge some caution when electrical items are used, at least until further research is conducted.

"People should do what they can to limit their exposure to as little as possible," he said, "especially in relation to electrical appliances that are used very close to the body."

The study will be published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It can also be accessed on the internet, at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2004/6355/abstract.html.

The British Wind Energy Association says the UK wind industry will power a million homes within the next two years.

Figures released this week by the association show a series of projects totalling over 1,000MW of new capacity – representing an investment of around £1bn – will be completed in that time. This will lead to total wind power capacity of over 1,500MW by the end of 2005.

The association says 22 wind projects are due to be built this year, providing a total wind capacity of 474MW. This is four times the total capacity created last year. The new developments include that at Scroby Sands near Great Yarmouth, which is the site of the UK's second large-scale development at sea.

A survey of five major developers revealed a predicted 560MW of onshore and offshore projects being built in 2005. This would take new build over the next two years to over a gigawatt, with the wind industry supplying 1.3% of UK electricity needs.

The chief executive of BWEA, Marcus Rand, said: "2003 was the year of consents: 2004 will be the year of build."

Stephen Timms today opened Microgen's Technology Centre in Peterborough. The centre develops and tests Microgen's micro combined heat and power units, AKA microCHP or domesticCHP. It is hoped that dCHP will revolutionise the home energy market by enabling customers to produce part of their own electricity while heating their homes – thus cutting fuel bills.

DCHP also helps meet the government's energy objectives.

Timms said the government's ambitious agenda for sustainable energy was a considerable challenge in which technology such as Microgen's could play an important role.

In addition, he underlined the benefits both for householders in terms of reduced bills and for the National Grid, upon which demand could be reduced at peak times.

It is thought a dCHP unit could save a typical UK household around £150 on annual energy bills and cut CO2 emissions by 1.5 tonnes per annum.

However, developers have called for a financial kick-start through an enhanced Energy Efficiency Commitment and for social housing providers to be allowed to write-down purchase costs against tax when leasing environmental technologies like dCHP.

The emerging technology has massive potential. Interested parties may wish to attend EPN’s 2nd dCHP conference in London on 8 June.

Until 26 March, delegates can book at the "early bird" discount price of £325. After that, the price is £375 including full documentation, lunch and refreshments. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

WF Electrical says an independent survey it commissioned has found quality service from their wholesaler is top of buyers' lists.

Buyers from various sectors – from SMEs to OEMs and from colleges to government departments – were interviewed and 85% said keeping promises regarding availability and delivery times came first. A meagre 5% said low prices were important.

WF says the results endorse its values of putting service before price to achieve customer satisfaction

Angus Fraser, managing director of Hagemeyer UK (WF's parent company) explains how the company is focusing on customer service in the forthcoming March issue of Electrical Times.

A German student could face charges for stealing less than a penny's worth of electricity from a train station.

Jan Michael Ihl, a 23-year-old student, plugged his laptop computer into a socket beside an unused information stand to find out the address of a hostel in Kassel.

Within minutes, three police officers arrested him. They say they watched Ihl crouch by the plug socket and continually look over his shoulder before fleeing.

Public prosecutors will now decide whether the case is worth pursuing.

Fisher Electrical says Moeller's Mini Panel Board halves expense and installation time.

The Shrewsbury-based firm recently installed one at Alcotrol Laboratories in Langley, Berkshire, where it feeds power for equipment in a 3,000 sq ft lab. It is configured for a 250A, three-phase incomer, metering and outgoing four 100A three-phase, as well as single 60A and 10A sub mains.

"We needed a panel board capable of delivering 100A outgoing supply," said Richard Fisher. "Competing boards stop at 63A so the alternative would have been to use two boards – an MCB for light and a MCCB for heavy-duty applications. In selecting the Mini Panel Board we halved the expense, installation time and space used compared with the twin-board approach."

From placing the order with CEF to completing the installation took less than three days, according to Fisher. He says board building was a simple matter of clipping in the MCBs and that a day's labour was saved compared to building and installing a standard MCCB panel board.

Additionally, the Mini Panel Board's 125A range means future equipment requirements are catered for – without the expense of having to upgrade to a new MCCB board.

See www.moeller.co.uk for further information.

Brand new lighting design software that complies with the latest industry guidelines is to be demonstrated for the first time at Interbuild.

Fitzillume 2004 - the upgraded version of the package produced by the Fitzgerald Lighting Group - will be available free to visitors attending the Total Lighting section at the construction industry's premier trade event.

Around 1,200 exhibitors are expected to be present at Interbuild 2004, which runs at the NEC in Birmingham from 25 to 29 April.

Fitzgerald's marketing manager John Williams said: "We plan to use Interbuild as a platform to launch Fitzillume, our user-friendly lighting design software, which is now fully updated to assist with lighting calculations required within the recent addendum to LG3.

"By inputting details such as dimensions of the area to be lit, and then selecting luminaires from the electronic catalogue, the scheme can be designed and checked on-screen before the fittings are actually committed to the project."

Williams claims the software is aimed at all sectors of the industry – from large design departments to smaller contractors who need to produce a lighting scheme prior to commencing a project.

Free copies of the software will be available from the Fitzgerald Lighting Group on Stand 12 G40, where other companies Martell and Lightform, also part of the Fitzgerald Lighting Group, will also be exhibiting.

Free tickets to Interbuild 2004 can be reserved online at www.interbuild.com or by calling the ticket hotline on 0870 429 4558.

CGE power has made an offer to the Board of Drax Holdings for the UK's biggest power station, located in Yorkshire.

The proposal suggests Drax Holdings exchange all its assets, except for the benefits associated with Drax's claims in the TXU administrations, for a mix of undefined senior debt and mezzanine debt instruments in CGE Power.

Drax insists the proposal is highly conditional because the completion of any final offer is dependent on CGE's purchase of a number of other plants of an appropriate mix. CGE wants to acquire around a dozen power stations, providing some 15% of the UK's electricity capacity.

The 4,000MW Yorkshire plant is the biggest coal-fired power station in Europe.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) last week published extensive research on ladder stability devices in a bid to educate designers, manufacturers, employers and workers in how to prevent falls from height.

Undertaken for HSE by Loughborough University, the research was heralded as a "great step up" by Falls from Height programme manager, Bill Gillan.

"Falls from height killed 49 workers last year, including 11 who fell from moveable ladders," says Gillan. "HSE figures show that such falls also led to some 4,000 major injuries, of which about a third were the result of falls from moveable ladders."

Gillan said the independently reviewed research would help guide proposals for the new Work at Height Regulations (on which the HSE is currently consulting draft proposals) and that the findings would be discussed with relevant industry associations at the earliest opportunity.

The comprehensive document – some 290 pages – can be viewed and downloaded at http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr205.htm.

Those needing further details or wishing to get involved with the Work at Height consultation should see: www.hse.gov.uk/consult/condocs/cd192.htm.