Month: May 2011

Energy efficiency improvements can reduce your household bills

Energy efficiency improvements can reduce your household bills

Do you have concerns about your energy efficiency?

People are becoming increasingly concerned with rising energy costs. As the cost of fossil fuel imports continues to rise and continues to be passed on to the consumer more people are looking to find ways in which they can increase their energy efficiency and reduce the strain on their wallets. According to research the UK wastes £6 million worth of energy a year.  For every £3 the average household spends on energy £1 is wasted. There is a wealth of hints, tips and guides online that exist to help the consumer to achieve energy efficiency and reduce their bills.

Simple ways to improve your energy efficiency.

Firstly, one of the biggest savings one can make is to simply switch energy supplier: on average people save £150 a year at a stroke simply by switching supplier and obtaining an improved deal.

Secondly there are a number of simple things that can be done to further reduce your heating bill. Turning your thermostat down by a single degree can knock 10% off of your annual heating bill. Draw your curtains at dusk to prevent heat escaping through your windows. If you go on a winter holiday, put your thermostat down to a low setting; this will mean that your home is protected from freezing at a minimum cost.  Walls and roofs in homes absorb nearly 50% of heat; look into fitting your home with loft and cavity wall insulation for significant long term savings. Additionally, putting an insulating jacket over your hot water tank can save you up to £15 a year, a small saving but they all add up. Did you know that a dripping hot tap can, over the course of a single, day fill a bath? This sort of waste is both pushing up home energy bills and very easily solved. Ensure that all taps are not leaking.

Thirdly, your electricity bill can be simply, quickly and effectively reduced by adhering to some of this simple advice. Always turn the lights off when you leave a room. Replace your bulbs with energy efficient ones. This can reduce your bill by around £25 a year. These can last up to ten times as long as ordinary bulbs and over the course of their lifetime can save you up to £45. It is also worthwhile to make sure that your appliances are turned off rather than on standby when they are not in use and to not have any laptops and mobile phones on charge unnecessarily. This will save you around £40 a year. Lastly, your kettle, only boiling the amount of water you need at the time will not only save you around £30 a year but also mean that your cup of tea is ready that bit quicker!

Fourthly, there are also savings to be made in the use of your white goods. Avoid putting hot food in your fridge and freezer as they have to work harder, using more energy, to cool them. Defrost your freezer regularly to improve energy efficiency. Washing clothes at 30 degrees can also result in large savings. Crucially, you can squeeze savings from your washing machine, tumble dryer, and dishwasher by waiting until they have a full load before using them. One full load uses less energy than two half load.

Of course, there are many more ways to improve your energy efficiency and reduce your electricity and heating bills. If you have any top tips that you wish to share then please feel free to leave a comment.


Gary Neville is Green not Red

Gary Neville is Green not Red

Last night, in front of a crowd of 42,000 people, Gary Neville called time on his football career. But it was neither defeat to Juventus nor the re-appearance of David Beckham in a Manchester United shirt that was of interest.  Rather it was the floodlights, the hot water and the ovens.

For Neville’s testimonial had been billed as the first football game to be entirely powered by renewable energy. Wind energy to be precise. This was a game of football that was not just green on the pitch.  Neville stated that “to produce the first wind-powered match is something I’m proud of”.

The function of the testimonial game in football has changed. In previous eras the testimonial was to send the player off with a retirement fund. But in a time of six-figure weekly incomes for footballers the testimonial is now an exercise in promotion, in many cases for charity. Neville chose to promote renewable energy; not just in the attention grabbing declaration that the game would be entirely powered by the wind; with 52 turbines across the country matching all electricity used by the game.  Promotion in the appearance of Blue Square Premier team Forest Green for a half time penalty shoot out. Forest Green, who offer half-time vegetarian burgers and intend to have Britain’s first organically seeded football pitch, who seek to position themselves as a green and sustainable club. The most significant promotion came before the game itself when Neville announced that profits from his testimonial will be used to build and erect a series of 300-500kW community-scale wind projects across the country. The revenue from these turbines is then intended to be used by his Sustainability in Sports fund to help reduce the environmental impact of sports.

It seems that Neville has a real passion for renewable energy. This can be seen in the announcement that after 17 months in the planning process he has been granted permission to build what has been described as the first zero-carbon house in North-West England and one of the country’s most energy-efficient residential developments. Dubbed the teletubbies house in the popular press the home will feature its own 40m wind turbine, ground source heat pump, solar panels, and rainwater recovery systems. The turbine will be used to generate electricity to serve 12 or 13 local farms. The development of such a high profile eco-home will serve to put small scale renewable energy well into the public eye.

Neville had this to say about the development of his new home; “I have recognised in the last two to three years the need to make personal changes in my life and reducing my environmental impact is going to be a five year transition for me and my family, but with planning permission for my new eco-home being granted and my association with wind turbines, I’m on track to complete this journey.”


Feed-in Tariffs

Feed-in Tariffs

Feed-in tariffs (FITs) were initially introduced into Europe by Germany. They were latterly adopted by the UK and became official policy as of April 2010. Development of renewable energy sources is necessary to allow the UK to fulfil legislative commitments to the reduction of carbon emissions and to ease dependence upon imports of increasingly expensive fossil fuels. Feed-in tariffs are designed to encourage the development of small scale (i.e. under 5MW) renewable energy generation.  A number of renewable technologies qualify for the scheme; including wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectricity.

In simple terms, feed-in tariffs work in the following way: The owner of such a small scale renewable generator is paid for every unit of electricity that they generate. This electricity can then be used by the owner. Any additional or excess electricity can then be sold on to the national grid.

There are three major benefits to the feed-in tariff scheme. Firstly, the Generation Tariff, a set rate paid by the energy supplier for every unit (or kWh, kilowatt hour) of electricity being generated. Secondly, the Export Tariff, a further rate (in this case 3p/kWh), again paid by the energy supplier for every unit of electricity that is exported into the National Grid. The third benefit is that the owner can expect their electricity bill to be reduced. This saving is, of course, dependent upon how much of the generated electricity is being used on site.

Current government policy is that the feed-in tariffs are to run for twenty years (twenty five for solar pv), that is to say, until 2030 at a guaranteed rate. However, the tariff rate is decreasing year on year for new developments. Once a development is up and running the rate will then be fixed at the level it was at for that year.

The cost of the feed-in tariff is borne by all British electricity consumers in proportion to their bill. This is to ensure that all consumers should only see a slight increase in their bill as a result of the feed-in tariff and energy providers purchasing renewable energy at above market prices.

If you have an opinion on the feed-in tariff please feel free to leave a comment.


Renewable Energy – is this a good or bad investment for you?

Renewable Energy – is this a good or bad investment for you?

The renewable energy industry is growing rapidly as governments seek to meet their commitments to reducing CO2 output and dependence on fossil fuels.  In order to achieve these aims many governments are incentivising renewables.

This makes the renewable energy sector a very GOOD investment opportunity.

What type of renewable energy should you invest in?

However the sheer range of different technologies and types of energy sources currently being developed can make it difficult for the individual to know how and where they should put their investment.

Energy can be produced in a renewable manner in a variety of ways.  No single technology is perfect, each having drawbacks as well as benefits.  For example:

  • Solar and Wind energy are obviously reliant on weather conditions.
  • Biomass is reliant upon the availability of affordable raw materials (materials which will be increasingly expensive as more countries use biomass plants to generate electricity).
  • Tidal power generation is still in its infancy, prohibitively expensive and not yet fully developed as a technology.

There are several factors an individual should take into account when deciding what technology to invest in and what location to invest it.

Is location important?

The country you decide to make your investment in will naturally influence what renewable energy source you will be investing in.  For example one would be hesitant to invest in solar power in a country such as Scotland… not known for its sunny climate.

Therefore, Wind Power would be a far better fit.

Scotland has the highest wind capacity in Europe. Indeed some estimates calculate that Scotland contains 25% of the European Union’s entire potential wind capacity.

Furthermore Scottish wind turbines are more productive than turbines elsewhere in Europe.

On average wind turbines in the European Union produce 25% of their maximum rated power whereas in Scotland turbines, on average, produce 40% or more of their maximum rated power.  It  follows then, that if one was planning to invest in Scottish Renewables, one would gain a higher return by investing in Wind Power.

Another matter to consider is the position of a country’s government on the Renewable Energy sector.

Is the Government seeking to stimulate growth?

In the case of Scotland, the recently elected SNP (Scottish National Party)  government has set a target of generating 100% of the country’s energy needs from renewables by 2020. From this target, the individual investor can see that Scotland is committed to finding renewable energy sources.

The Scottish government has also introduced a series of feed-in tariffs to encourage development. These feed-in tariffs pay operators not only to generate electricity for their own use, but also pay for any excess energy that can be re-absorbed into the National Grid.

This twin incentive demonstrates Scotland’s commitment to unlocking its wind potential and the opportunity available to the investor.

What kind of guarantees are available for renewable energy investments?

It cannot be guaranteed that the wind will always blow. It can, however, be guaranteed that wind energy is not subject to the variable and at times extremely prohibitive fuel costs that underpin many forms (including some renewable likes biomass) of energy generation.

At a time when the price of traditional fossil fuels is skyrocketing, it is reassuring to know that your investment is not only insulated from this but also offers an alternative.

Whilst we would naturally argue for investment in wind energy there are a multitude of differing options available. What form of renewable energy would you invest in?

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