Where ever you live in the UK from the far north to your location and all the way to the south, energy suppliers are a constant cause of stress and financial drain. We all want to pay less for our energy but with costs and tariffs changing all the time, it can be very difficult to make the right decision. This page will point you in the right direction for help in Brent and much more.
When people are looking for ways to reduce expenses or make better use of their money, they often look at common household expenses like utilities, subscriptions and even those associated with entertainment and recreation. The biggest monthly outgoing is usually food and energy bills.
In order to get the best gas and electricity deals available you need to understand how the gas and electricity suppliers are set up and how they calculate your bills. Many people don’t have a clue about the structure of the utility market in the UK and as a consequence end up spending way over the odds for their heating and lighting.
If you are looking for a better deal on your utilities then it’s pretty likely you were not too happy with your last bill. Especially in these tough economic times, you need to make sure you are not paying more than you have to. Just recently there have been further reports in the press of how the wholesale price of fuels is coming down yet the suppliers are not passing on these savings to their customers.
The easiest way to find the best gas and electricity for your area is to use a price comparison website, this takes all the guesswork, sales hype and confusion out of the process and lets your quickly see who can give you a better deal. I have consistently found energylinx to get the best prices and I would recommend you check them out. Utility bills often have a high monthly price, and reducing your spending on this can mean having more money that you can allocate toward other things.
You might also want to consider downsizing your lawn by using more hard surfaces to reduce electricity use with your lawnmower. Or perhaps you use a timer for your winter heating when leaving the heat on at a low level has been shown to reduce consumption. Cooking individual meals for families that could eat together is also an energy waste that can be recovered. Installing solar panels can produce energy for use in your home but the amount generated and the saving made depends on the position of your home and the time scale you need to recover the initial outlay. New smart meters claim to save you money by making you more aware of the energy you consume each day. However, these are not available everywhere in the country and there have been some issues with the technology.
After covering saving energy used for cooking and heating water in your home or office, we can make the transition to reducing the amount of electricity used for refrigeration, washing and lighting. Remember, up to 25% of total energy consumption in a home comes from these three areas. But don’t feel overwhelmed. Here are a few easy to implement strategies that can save on energy bills going forward.
Start With Heating.
The lowest cost method for reducing consumption is utilising programmable thermostats. Every degree that you adjust by equal a 4–5% reduction in energy usage for that system. Also, don’t forget to program thermostats to turn on and off at the proper times and you will begin to see a reduction in usage. Add strip curtains and automatic door closers to walks ins and Installing ECM’s on evaporator and condenser fans can reduce usage by approximately 2/3rds. On the lighting side, you have options as well. Start by adding occupancy sensors in select areas such as closets, storage rooms, staff bathrooms, etc. Also adding high-efficiency LED bulbs can reduce lighting consumption by up to 50%. Many utilities will cover a percentage (my local utility covers up to 70%) of the cost to purchase the bulbs, significantly improving ROI.
By implementing these simple strategies we have covered, you are well on your way to energy savings by reducing consumption which is a key element in any energy management plan.
Top Ten Energy Saving Tips and IdeasLucy Symons, Director of Public Policy at Open Energi calls on policy makers to make regulation fit for purpose
This winter, the UK is expecting high demand for electricity supply and an increase in costs. Renewable power sources are starting to fill the gap left behind by closing coal power stations, but they generate more when the sun shines or the wind blows and are not necessarily available when people turn on their televisions in the evenings.
National Grid pays gas and coal plants and diesel farms to turn up or down their supply whenever there’s an increase or decrease in demand for electricity. This winter alone, keeping power plants going for peak demand is forecast to cost consumers £122 million, while an estimated £800 million in subsidies may be awarded to diesel projects under the Government’s Capacity Market. This is expensive, slow and not very green. Energy prices and security of supply are top political priorities, but when it takes four years and a lot of money to build a power station, there needs to be a more efficient solution.
The good news is that Great Britain has a thriving energy technology sector with a vast portfolio of innovations that can step up to this immediate challenge. Open Energi, a dynamic UK tech firm, uses technology to link together more than 3,000 machines — like air conditioners in your local supermarket or the pumps moving our water — and switches these machines on or off during the day to make power available when it’s needed by consumers, or to store electricity after a big gust of wind. This technology is already installed at over 350 industrial and commercial sites across the UK including Sainsbury’s, Tarmac, Aggregate Industries, United Utilities and University of East Anglia. Developed right here in Britain, this is powerful technology. On cold winter evenings, it can function just like an entire nuclear plant. Demand flexibility is the first line of defence in an energy security crisis, which is characterised by successive power plant failures rather than a lack of supply.
But this ‘demand-side’ energy tech faces major barriers in UK energy markets. Companies like Open Energi cannot prequalify for the government Capacity Market and cannot compete directly against gas plants in the balancing mechanism. The fast, flexible power they provide is instead only accessible via monthly tenders and procurements. Faced with a national energy security crunch on one hand and with the tech needed to solve it bound only by markets that aren’t fit for purpose, there is an immediate opportunity to unleash competition. Unlike other energy projects, demand flexibility requires no state subsidy at all. All that we ask at Open Energi is that the regulations are updated to ensure ‘demand side’ (when we turn demand up and down) is given the same treatment as ‘supply side’ (when new power is generated) in the existing energy markets.
Deploying demand flexibility and storage at speed to solve an energy crunch at scale is a proven path. In 2015, Californian policymakers were faced with a shutdown at the state’s biggest gas storage facility, threatening peak shortages and blackouts. To solve this immediate challenge with an immediately available solution, policy-makers fast-tracked 64.5MW of electricity storage and approved $11.5 million for demand response and dynamic pricing. Energy storage projects were constructed in less than four months, compared to a previous average of three and a half years.
Applying the same market mechanisms in the UK could dramatically change the game for energy security on the GB grid as early as next winter. With over 1GW of energy storage prequalified for National Grid’s recent Enhanced Frequency Response tender, of which only 200MW was purchased, it’s clear we have the appetite from investors to bring innovation to market. The challenge now rests with policy makers to make regulation fit for purpose in a modern age of energy technology innovation.
Lucy Symons is the Director of Public Policy for @openenergi and recently travelled to California as part of a delegation of female founders leading some of the UK’s fastest growing tech firms.
Saving More On Energy Costs For Residents of Brent
More Heat Than Light
There is a long way before EVs become mainstream but there is clear sign of growth and clear steps for us to take action to accelerate the market.
Electric vehicles are zero emissions during its use. They need to be recharged by connecting it to an electricity supply and so the CO2 impact depends on how green is the grid electricity. Electric vehicles will be better for local air quality as no emissions are produced by the car, except generation of electricity which will likely be from a power station.
This brilliant analysis by CarbonCounter by MIT helps us understand each car models against climate targets. Lifetime cost of each vehicle per mile driven is compared against greenhouse gas emission target of 2 degrees C global warming.Lifetime costs of EV in yellow vs Internal Combustion Engine Cars in black (http://carboncounter.com/)Our results show that you don’t have to pay more for a low-carbon-emitting vehicle. Many electric vehicles are the same price, or cheaper, than similar gasoline cars. The average greenhouse gas emissions of all cars shown here are more than 50% higher than the 2030 climate target, with no internal combustion vehicles meeting the target. Most hybrid and electric vehicles, on the other hand, already meet the 2030 goal today, with today’s electricity mix.— CarbonCounter.com MIT Trancik Lab
With nearly 1 in 6 people in Europe considering buying an electric vehicle, there are more options available and a growing number of services becoming available. There are calculators to help compare electric vs petrol/diesel fuel cost and websites to guide you through comparisons of different electric vehicle such as Next Green Car.
EV Charge Points
We have seen the growth of apps for EV charge point maps such as Zap-Map, PlugShare, and Open Charge Map. Plug share is mainly based in the US and Canada. Zap-Map has the most comprehensive map of the UK. Open Charge Map is a global non-commercial, open source project.
They each have communities of EV drivers using the apps. Data source varies but they mainly crowdsource charging point information from their community of EV drivers onto their map or partner directly with networks of charge point providers or installers to list the charge points.
Zap-map provides a comprehensive comparison of charging networks and their cost structure. For instance, Ecotricity provides green electricity on their network of Electric Highway. Tesla provides Tesla Model S and Model X owners free access to their network. Most network would require a RFID card for payment and access to the charge points. The networks too have their own apps.
These aggregated charge point apps generally allow you to selects or register your electric vehicle and helps you find the charging points that are compatible to your vehicle. They will also display live data on the of availability or status of the charge points and can allows reporting to the owners if faulty. Charge points vary by type charging speed (slow, fast, AC, DC) and connectors. Users can even add photos of the charge point to the app and rate and review the charge points.
For people who are not EV car owners but may want to enjoy a zero emissions journey, there is the option of EV car clubs.
E-Car is UK’s first entirely electric pay-per-use EV car club in the UK, now part of Europcar. They offer last minute self-service booking via their app and you can access the car by holding the membership card on the windscreen and the door unlocks. They operate a mixed-use model and partner with business parks, local authorities and universities. They are also the world’s first equity crowdfunding exit when acquired by Europcar in 2015, proving a great success for the cleantech crowdfunding market.
Other alternatives include Co-wheels Car Club which is a social enterprise with a bigger fleet of low-emissions electric cars, hybrids and vans for rental.
The benefit of allowing people to try out a range of electric cars is that this will encourage people to buy electric cars which will help accelerate the move towards EV.
For those who are not into the driving, there are services out there to access EV. Gliide is a London-based taxi service apps that work with a fleet of Teslas. Thrive another taxi service app operates with a fully electric vehicle fleet composed of Chinese manufactured EV’s BYD. Bookings and payments are done via the app. Newcomers Hoopoe-Electric also operate a small fleet of Teslas.
EV Secondary Market
We can also expect the rise of the secondary market for EV-related items. Online marketplaces such as Eco-Car.net where people buy and sell EVs and related accessories such as EV cables will continue to grow, not to mention the emergence of the second hand EV battery market when this battery capacity becomes not road worthy but good enough to be repurposed for home energy storage e.g. Project Aceleron.
So let us know what you think of the EV market. Are there any new EV related services that you have seen?
If you have missed it, head back to read here:
Day 1 of XMas — Food Waste Apps
Day 2 of XMas — Air Quality Apps
Day 3 of XMas — Transport Services
For more about IYWTo head over to here or get in touch with Woon at [email protected]
This series is written in collaboration with the 6heads community. 6heads is dedicated to shared learning at the join of sustainability and innovation.
If your local Utility company is one of the big six energy suppliers you probably aren’t getting the best deal possible. Most of the cheaper tariffs are offered by smaller, often unfamiliar companies. These are typically hidden or don’t feature prominently on the major energy comparison websites that compare the market.
How Does the Wholesale Price of Gas Affect Household Energy Bills? Q and A
Why is Britain ignoring the solutions to slow Broadband?Whatever Britain is being told — and sold — about fibre to the home broadband, it’s not the whole truth. Fibre to the home doesn’t exist in the UK — for all but a privileged few, and those who have taken matters into their own hands. Debate is raging at fever-pitch and an early trend for frustrated DIYers is growing. Whatever the rhetoric; Britain’s broadband is not keeping up. Ten years on, and with very little changed, the fibre/copper debate is now a full-scale battle. Technology has moved faster than anticipated and the country remains reliant on an old and creaking copper network. Anglo-Italian cable technology company Tratos Ltd says the solution is within the UK’s grasp, but it’s being ignored. Tratos CEO, Maurizio Bragagni said: “BT may own the existing, out-dated infrastructure, but it’s not the only route to a solution, or into people’s homes. We have technically advanced fibre optic cables that can travel just as efficiently thru other utilities’ routes to the home — gas, water, electricity.“All of the utilities are investing in a smart grid to control and monitor resources flowing into homes. There is no reason they can’t use fibre rather than copper to achieve supply controls now — and introduce fibre to the home which broadband can effectively piggyback, circumnavigating existing copper. All we need is the Government to open up the race for the right solution. Clever technology companies will respond and start the process right now” Last week tens of thousands of businesses, employing 4.5m people, told the Government they can ‘no longer remain silent’ about patchy broadband and how their companies’ performance are being “severely affected”. Business owners warned of slow Broadband’s negative impact in a letter to John Whittingdale, the Culture, Media and Sport secretary, signed by 52 Chambers of Commerce, representing 75,000 companies. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/enterprise/12123274/Tens-of-thousands-of-businesses-tell-Government-they-can-no-longer-remain-silent-about-patchy-broadband.html Industry regulator Ofcom, says it is concerned about a mismatch between broadband speeds that small firms believed they were buying and the service actually delivered. A new Ofcom voluntary code will commit broadband suppliers like BT TalkTalk and Virgin to allow business customers to exit the contract if speeds fall below a minimum guarantee level. Tratos’ view is — it’s not enough. The talking has to stop and work that should have been undertaken a decade ago, begun. Developing world communities have faster connectivity while the UK remains heavily handicapped and unequal in the fight to remain one of the dominant commercial powers. Even investment now is likely to see Britain left lagging by up to seven years as it struggles to catch up, says Tratos’ Maurizio Bragagni. Countries like Italy don’t have fast speeds across the nation right now, but they are better placed to achieve them quickly, especially in the cities. Once Italy takes up a true fibre solution at a reasonable cost, thanks to an early acceptance of the future shape of commerce and action to facilitate change, it will also outstrip the UK. Arguments that true fibre to the premises is not affordable — ever — for the UK (from Gavin Patterson of BT) are ridiculous, says Mr Bragagni. Whilst speeds obtained currently are, in many instances acceptable, if not competitive now, this will not be the case in the near future. Inevitably, copper will become redundant and fibre will have to be installed.
400,000 small and medium-sized companies still do not have access to superfast broadband
A new report ‘Broadbad’ backed by 121 cross-party MPs calls for BT to be forced to sell the country’s leading broadband provider Openreach because of poor performance.The report suggests BT’s Openreach has only partially extended superfast broadband despite £1.7bn of government money and its sale would open up the race for speed to competition. The MPs’ cross-party British Infrastructure Group (BIG) claims 400,000 small and medium-sized companies still do not have access to superfast broadband and more than five million people have unacceptable download speeds. The Broadband report says there would be little change until BT and Openreach were formally separated, and adds that Openreach “makes vast profits and finds little reason to invest in the network, install new lines or even fix faults in a properly timely manner”. The BIG group, led by Grant Shapps, points to underinvestment stemming from the “natural monopoly” of BT and Openreach as the primary factor holding the UK back and costing the economy £11bn a year. Speaking to the BBC he accused BT of being “a monopoly company clinging to outdated copper technology with no proper long-term plan for the future.” Mr Bragagni is whole-hearted in his support of the report. He says: “We are in an interesting position. We can see the challenges from within the UK, and we look at the UK’s commercial viability from a global perspective. As a company that has committed investment here what we take away from a critical view is that what we have today is unsustainable. And there is no practical reason for us not to be among the top ten for broadband speed.”
Broadband speed in the UK barely makes it into the world’s top 20 countries for connectivity.
The UK is trailing Japan, S Korea, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Latvia, Ireland, Czech Republic and more. Only 38% of UK internet users have access to high-speed 10 Mbps broadband. In Saudi Arabia, the figure is 84%.The UK drops even further in the rankings when it comes to peak internet speeds, maxing out at 48.8 Mbps and landing 24th in the world rankings. (The peak connectivity speed in Saudi Arabia is 484.4 Mbps: Australia, Kuwait, Japan and Singapore also hit triple figures). In June 2014 Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the country’s leading telco in terms of subscribers announced it had passed a 900,000 households milestone with its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network. Going forward, the operator continues to extend the footprint of its fibre network with a FTTH network supporting triple-figure download speeds. STC introduced its FTTH services in August 2010. Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/03/27/uk-broadband-speed-world-rankings_n_6953840.html Closer to home Irish company Eir is pushing forward FTTH connectivity, passing the 1.4m homes mark with fibre-based broadband at speeds of up to 100Mbps. The company aims to provide fibre broadband to 1.9m homes by 2020, revising a previous target of 1.6m, which it will surpass by the end of this year. Eir is also currently deploying 1Gbps speeds using fibre-to-the-home technology to 66 towns within the 1.4m premises and currently, 28,000 premises in 16 towns can now get 1Gbps speeds alongside the Irish Government’s investment in a super-fast fibre network. Little wonder broadband dependent mega-companies like Google list connection speed as one of the deciding factors in choosing Ireland as a strategic base. The Irish Government has said of its own initiative to ensure the final 750,000 homes and businesses deprived of broadband are finally connected with at least 30Mbps: “This is the biggest broadband intervention in the history of the State. We can’t even leave a few people behind.” BT, which owns Britain’s copper network and manufactures copper cable, has expressed an interest in tendering for this fibre optic cable work in Ireland, demonstrating that what Britain needs can be done. https://www.siliconrepublic.com/comms/2015/12/22/broadband-intervention-ireland-procurement The UK generates more money online than any other G20 nation, but for how much longer, says Tratos. The internet is a bigger part of the British economy than education, healthcare or construction. “Britain is being frozen out of the next industrial revolution,” Peter Cochrane, a former BT chief technology officer, warned four years ago. “In terms of broadband, the UK is at the back of the pack. We’re beaten by almost every other European country and Asia leaves us for dust.” This broadband blind spot is a critical factor influencing the health of the UK’s economy Other countries facing challenges on a similar scale began their investment trail significantly sooner than the UK and, even though their broadband speed may lag behind now, they are expected to leap-frog to a significant lead as infrastructure projects reach completion. Even where there are significant challenges that match/or are bigger than the UK’s — architectural and heritage sites to work around for example — others have found ways around the problem. Tratos wants to be part of the UK’s solution, and, it believes, it is one of a number of smaller, more agile and innovation-focused competitors that could be instrumental in making the change. Tratos has been a supplier of fibre to the National Motorway Communication Systems (Highways Agency) for more than 20 years. Its products are some of the most flexible for construction projects, with combined power and fibre optic needs. It has the ‘smart’ fibre cables that shoot down some of BT’s arguments on installation expense/disruption as copper gives way to fibre. In Europe, it has supplied fibre directly to apartment blocks using central distribution layout systems within the buildings, and a range of flexible cables that can be installed in almost any kind of duct. Its solutions include micro cables and microtubes, breakout cables, floating cable, cable (floating and sinking types) that can be pulled through sewers, dielectric self-supporting cables and multi usage cables employing techniques that see new cable installed at the same time as its copper forerunners are stripped out.
The real reason behind Britain’s slow Broadband is its gatekeepers.They are the old network’s custodians who stand to take a financial hit in the short term but for whom Tratos sees mid to longer term gains. They are blocking progress for everyone else, but Tratos believes they could be part of the bigger solution — if they open up to collaborative working. The world of work has already changed. There are more sole traders working from home or small silo offices. There are also people working at home for larger companies, or working flexibly between the office and a home base. Speed is no longer simply an office environment issue. Tratos is focused on talking about how fibre could be delivered directly to the premises now. The company has the technology available, today. Italy trails the UK presently but as it has — and is investing in — a fibre infrastructure, that’s about to change. It has had the technology — and the desire to use it — since 2008. So, Italy is already ahead of the UK in investing in the technology that will see it overtake in the short to medium term. In effect, although much of the UK enjoys faster connectivity than Italy now — Britain is already lagging seven years behind the starting line on delivering next generation speeds. This is the technology that could take the UK into the top ten countries for broadband speed if BT was to invest or BT/Openreach was to separate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI3gnQadQI8 Telecom Italia is gearing up its ultra-broadband in Trentino-Alto Adige, bringing fibre to homes in Trento and Bolzano, and super-fast connections from 100 Megabits per second (and potentially up to 1 Giga). The initiative is part of the new national cabling plan in FTTH (Fibre to the Home) technology, from the Ministry of Economic Development through Infratel, which plans to reach 100 cities by March 2018. The new infrastructure programme goes beyond road cabinets directly into homes and offices with the goal of reaching 75% of the population by 2017. Existing infrastructure will be used to lay fibre optic cables and, in case of excavations, innovative low environmental impact equipment and techniques will be used that reduce work time, work site area, ground broken, material removed, paving impairment and consequently keep road repairs to a minimum. Some may see investment in a fibre network as a risk (cost). The cost if we don’t is significantly greater. The cold truth is that — whatever consumers believe — fibre to the home simply doesn’t exist in the UK.
According to the UK Department of Energy, almost 50 percent of a typical home's utility bill is attributed to heating and air conditioning, 30 percent to appliances and lighting, and 20 percent to the water heater and refrigerator. This equates to almost £1,500 in energy bills for a typical household.
Following are ways to reduce your utility bills:
Tune it. A pre-season tune-up and filter is a good investment for removing dirty air that clogs your heating system, improving airflow and helping your system run efficiently. A tune-up also reduces the chances of a central heating breakdown in mid-winter and improves safety. Keeping your system running at peak efficiency equates to less energy use and lower utility bills.
Seal it. Warm air leaking into your home during the summer and out of your home during the winter will result in higher energy bills. Check for air leaks near windows, doors, outlets and switches by holding a lit incense stick next to them on a windy day. If the smoke stream moves horizontally, you have located an air leak. Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air. Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring penetrates through walls, floors or ceilings. Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
Take these steps to increase your comfort and reduce your utility bills.
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