The Black Hole of UK Energy Policy

 

One thing you don’t hear Amber Rudd or the big DC broadcasting is their incredible knowledge and ability in the field of Physics. It’s a little known fact but the whole Conservative team who concern themselves with UK energy policy are in fact expert physicists. “Nonsense!” I hear you cry .

Not so. How else could our current government have created an energy policy black hole in a mere 6 months of being office? Just so you’re clear, and thank you to Wikipedia,

‘A black hole is a geometrically defined region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing can escape from inside it.’

The energy policy black hole created by the conservatives clearly has an insatiable appetite, consuming all manner of energy related policies – FiTS, Green Deal, Roc’s, Zero Carbon homes, chunks of ECO (the remainder of which is perilously close to the edge). The key thing about a black hole is that nothing gets out – all of these policies have gone for good.

“Not True” I can hear ardent Tory supporters shout, “FiTs are still here!”. In spirit perhaps, though you show me a solar scheme that’s viable based on FiTs and I’ll show you the greenest government ever……

I’m a firm believer in changing things that don’t work, but you can’t just stop something as critical as reducing CO2 emissions, or insulating homes occupied by the fuel poor, without replacing it with something better. We’ve had nothing other than a verbal rhetoric from our most esteemed physicists – a rhetoric that suggests ‘the Energy Company Obligation is concentrated on those in greatest need’.

Need in Amber Rudd’s eyes is defined as ‘the ones who live in damp and draughty homes’ – I’m not aware of any energy company who chose to meet their ECO obligation by installing draught proofing. The government also promises that 1 million homes will receive help over the next 5 years. To put that in context there are 4.5 million homes suffering the effects of fuel poverty in the UK right now – you can make up your own mind as to whether the Conservative’s target is ambitious enough.

We can not afford to plod on with what little existing energy policy we have. Globally climate change is there for all to see – locally people are dying because they can not afford to heat their home. So come on Amber, come on Dave, black holes are so 2015 – give all us community focussed do gooders something to get our teeth into this year.

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Is there anything good about standing charges?

Standing charges on your energy bills. Those daily charges for gas and electricity that you just have to pay, every day, whether you use any energy or not. We get lots of calls from people with concerns about standing charges and have found that energy companies are often pretty rubbish at letting customers know what they are for and how they work. So I thought I’d write a blog about it.

So what are they for? Standing charges relate to the cost of supplying a property with electricity and, if you have it, gas. You could think of it like a rental charge for using the pipes and wires, whereas your unit rates are for the price of the actual energy that you use.

So what’s the problem with standing charges? Well, there are a few, which some of our members are all too familiar with…

  1. You pay even when you’re not using anything. This one relates to gas. Most households who have a gas supply use gas for heating, hot water and cooking, but some use gas for heating, but cook and heat water with electricity. Assuming you don’t use any heating between around May and October, this means that for five months you aren’t using any gas at all. The problem is that if you pay a standing charge, then this is applied even if not a single unit of gas is used. So if your standing charge is 27p, this could amount to paying over £40 for those months. The problem gets even worse if you have a pre-payment meter because you probably won’t have topped up over the summer and when you do, so you can put your heating on, the meter will swallow up a whopping £40. Great.
  2. Standing charges are not fair. They charge the same amount daily to every household, regardless how much is being used or how many people live there. This means, effectively, that the less you use, the more you pay for each unit – so not a very good incentive to be energy efficient!
  3. Standing charges are confusing. A big part of our job is trying to help people take control of their energy use so that they can save money, get a fairer deal and be more comfortable at home. Standing charges make bills more complicated, and whilst I understand why they’re there, I also think suppliers could do a better job of explaining them to customers and finding ways to avoid the issues highlighted above.

So are standing charges good for anyone?

Yes. If you are a low user, standing charges mean you pay more per unit, BUT if you are a high user, standing charges mean you pay less per unit. This is because the standing charge is the same, per day, regardless how much you use. So standing charges work out better for higher energy users.

Are there tariffs which have no standing charges?

Yes, there are. There are a few companies out there who offer tariffs with no standing charges. We wouldn’t recommend them for everyone, though, because tariffs without standing charges have higher unit rates. This is because the suppliers will always need to cover their costs (and earn a profit!) – so they will either split the costs between standing charge and unit rate, or they will recover all the cost from the unit rate alone. Therefore, tariffs without standing charges are only usually a winner if you are a very low user, or if your house is going to be unoccupied for a significant part of the year, or if you only use your gas for heating.

If you think you might be better off switching to a tariff without standing charges, but aren’t sure, give our team a call on the general enquiries number (01752 477117) and we should be able to help.

Innovations for the solar future

One of the more exciting things about solar technology are its possibilities. Yes, the industry is suffering under the recent and radical changes in government policy but it’s important to look and plan ahead, trying to see what is on the horizon that has a chance of going mainstream and succeeding !

I’ll be blogging some ideas with links for you to explore should you wish.

Here’s the first one !

How about this new shelter – would look in great in our City Centre!

The Lotus Leaf  is an urban design shelter with seats and integrated photovoltaic panels, perfect for green parks and parking areas. It can shelter you from the rain and when sunny produce power ranging from 500W  to 2.8KW depending on the model!

The same company also do a very cool looking pedal assisted electric cycle and a floor lamp called Octopus.