Archives for posts with tag: Efficient energy use

Barry Gardiner, Member of Parliament for Brent North and Ed Miliband Special Envoy for Climate Change

Barry Gardiner,  Member of Parliament for Brent North and Ed Miliband’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, tells us his views on the future of UK energy prices…

It is very simple. Rural households pay more for energy.

Rural households classed as being in “income poverty” are much more likely to be in fuel poverty than those in urban areas: 44 per cent of the “income poor” in rural areas live in fuel poverty compared to 26 per cent in urban areas.

These published figures are now more than three years out of date, and although we have no reliable current analysis all the evidence suggests things are getting worse.

In urban areas there are three well known causes of fuel poverty:

1. Poor energy efficiency performance of housing
2. Low income levels
3. High energy costs

In rural areas it is important to add a fourth: Lack of access to mains supply.

Out of every hundred rural homes 42 are not connected to mains gas, compared to 8 per cent in urban areas.

Rural households rely more heavily on oil and bottled gas to heat homes, the prices of which have both risen significantly over the course of the last few years. Rural households are also unable to take advantage of the dual fuel discounts which are offered by many energy suppliers.

Households cut off from mains access to energy simply pay more. The average heating bill for a three bedroom house using domestic fuel oil is 84% more than the cost of mains gas. For liquid petroleum gas (LPG) that figure rises to
130% more.

But homes that are “hard to heat” are often also “hard to treat”. Many rural houses have solid walls and these homes need more expensive internal and external solid wall insulation that is not currently included in Government Grant Schemes such as Warm Front.

In fact 34 per cent of homes in rural areas are classed as hard to treat and these account for over 50 per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions from housing.

Any programme delivering energy efficiency measures in rural areas costs more due to greater distances between households and the inevitable loss of efficiencies that can be achieved in more densely populated urban areas. Warm Front has confirmed that even where householders were eligible for a grant, some people cancelled energy efficiency work because they were unable to pay top up costs.

Those living in rural areas were much more likely to cancel through an inability to meet the average top up bill of £875.

In fact up until 2008, cancellations of work in urban areas due to top up costs were 26.4 per cent, whilst in rural areas they were 73.6 per cent.

Between 2000 and 2008 only 10 per cent of Warm Front Grants were awarded in rural areas. This figure climbed to 15 per cent in 2008/09 but it is clear that even this rate of addressing the problem is wholly inadequate to meet the exceptional level of need in our rural communities.

We should be calling for major programmes to address rural fuel poverty. They must be specifically targeted to deliver insulation solutions for solid wall properties and, where insulation is not viable, government should work to deliver micro-generation and community based heating schemes to deliver lower cost alternatives to rural households.

By 2008 Germany had over 2,500 anaerobic digestion plants in rural areas. In the UK we had precisely 23.

Such a technology could be used to power energy generation at a community level in rural villages across the UK, taking by-products and waste from agriculture to provide bio-gas. Using this for local heat and power would provide new jobs in rural areas as well as delivering low cost heating solutions. DEFRA’s own analysis suggests that the UK’s 90million tonnes of agricultural arisings such as manure and slurry could power up to 20Tetra Watt hours of heat and power by 2020.

Do you agree with the MP or do you think there’s another solution? If you’re cut off from mains gas or know someone who is, share your stories with us in the comments below. 


by Helen Cripps

Energy saving even has its week! And it starts today. So here’s 5 energy-saving tips to get you started…

Get solar panels finance free! And yes they will work in the not so sunny UK. You can save 22% (around £130) on your electricity bills. Solar solutions are tailored to the individual, so it’s worth looking into what might work for you.

Get plenty of  insulation in your home.  You’ve paid for that heat, so keep it in! Insulation comes in all forms, loft, floor, cavity wall, doors, windows, you name it.

Get a smart-meter.  This will ensure your reading is accurate and pass that information directly to the supplier. And you don’t have to faff with taking the reading yourself.

Switch to a cheaper energy supplier.  It takes no time at all to browse a table of results and check you are with the best supplier for your postcode and usage. And if you decide to switch, it only takes on average 17 minutes.

Consider a new boiler. It might seem drastic, but it could save you £168 per year, and there are a number of different payment plans. We’ve weighed up the pros and cons in our boiler guide.

After more tips and advice? Check out these 5 useful links…

Guide to draught-proofing: More ideas on how to stop heat escaping.
Ursula’s eco-renovation: Ursula tells us all about her new solar panels and other eco-renovations.
Energy-saving products: Browse a few gadgets and monitors to help you along your way.
Central heating systems: A comprehensive guide to all the different central heating systems available.
Boiler problems : Just a little checklist to help you make sure your boiler is working efficiently and not using more gas than it should be.

Instead of just stating the obvious, ‘use less’, we’ve tried to cover some of the more functional changes you can make in the form of  energy-saving solutions. Happy saving!

Next autumn sees the arrival of the Green Deal. But what’s the deal work for you?  Take a look at this infographic outlining how it will work…

Click to see me BIG!

Want to know more about the Green Deal? Check out our news stories:

One year to the Green Deal as Energy Act becomes law

Government releases details on the Green Deal

Ofgem and the Citizens Advice launched the Energy Best Deal online last month, offering practical advice to consumers about how to save money on household bills by switching energy providers.  Here Lydia Sharples of energy saving advice website discusses why initiatives such as the Energy Best Deal, which offers advice on everything from how to deal with doorstep sales people to tips for those struggling to pay their bills, are an essential part of consumer education.

Just one in five people compare the market to find the best value energy supplier according to Ofgem.  This is likely to be a result of lack of time and limited awareness about the benefits of shopping around, so it is essential that initiatives such as the Energy Best Deal exist so that consumers can be sure that they’re not paying over the odds for fuel.  Ofgem’s announcement last month that switching energy suppliers can save those that have never switched before around £170 a year on their energy bills, issued a wake-up call to many.  However, even when you’re on the best energy deal possible, you could save hundreds of pounds off your gas and electricity bills.

With the cost of fuel continuing to rise, savvy homeowners are retrofitting their homes with sustainable measures to make them more energy efficient.

One of the easiest ways to lower your energy bills is to install insulation. The average home loses 25% of heat through the roof and a loft insulated to the recommended government standards of 270mm can reduce energy bills by as much as £145 per year*, whilst instantly boosting a property’s green credentials.

Installing loft insulation is a DIY job that can easily be completed in a day and, depending on the existing levels of insulation and the size of the loft space, can cost from just £50. This video shows how easy it can be:

To keep the chills away, look out for natural (brown) coloured glass mineral wool insulation and encapsulated mineral wool products – not only are they good for the environment but they are easy to install, odourless and free from bleach and dyes.

Although the majority of UK homes are suitable for cavity wall insulation there are still 7.9 million homes across the UK that are yet to benefit.

Cavity wall insulation can potentially save the average homeowner a whopping 15 per cent – around £110 – a year on their annual energy bills.

Before beginning any work it is important to ensure that your property is assessed for suitability by a qualified assessor.

Solid wall properties are one of the most inefficient property types and around 45% of heat escapes through un-insulated external solid walls.  As a result installing external wall insulation, such as insulated render, can save around £385 a year on energy bills.  This means that although it requires a significant investment to install, it begins to pay for itself immediately.  Alternatively, internal wall insulation, like Knauf Insulation’s Internal Wall Insulation (IWI) System can save around £365 a year on energy bills and an impressive 1.8 tonnes of CO annually.

But how do you find the capital to make these changes?  The good news is that you don’t have to struggle on your own.  As part of the UK government’s plans to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and meet its carbon reduction targets it proposes to support homeowners, tenants and businesses by lending them money to make homes or businesses more energy efficient.  But don’t fear – this doesn’t mean yet more debt. From autumn 2012, under the Green Deal, loan repayments on energy efficiency measures should be less than the savings you recuperate as a result of your new greener property, so it makes both financial and environmental sense to get your home insulated.

*Based on an un-insulated loft being insulated to a depth of 270mm