Friday, 24 October 2008

UK to train army of energy advisors

The UK Government is to train hundreds of workers from Citizens Advice Bureaux, Housing Associations and other organisations to advise low income households on energy efficiency.

The advisors will be able to give individuals tips on switching suppliers to get the best energy deal, how to insulate their homes and other energy efficiency measures that they can take.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock announced the Energy Best Deal campaign yesterday, which is being funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and rolled out by Ofgem.

“This new army of energy advisors that we are training will be on the frontline helping people find the best energy deal available and giving energy efficiency advice that will make a real difference to their bills, their homes and their carbon footprint,” said Ruddock.

The new scheme will provide advice on getting support for heating and energy efficiency improvements through the Government’s Warm Front programme and the recently announced £1 billion Home Energy Saving programme.

For further information:

full article

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Eco-double glaze your home for £700

It was Mrs O'Kelly's determination to double glaze the sash window of the bathroom that turned me into an enthusiast for cutting carbon emissions...and our £1,200-a-year fuel bill.

The estimated cost was £700, and she was saying we 'might as well' do the 18-odd other windows in our 1885 South London Victorian terrace house for about £12,000 - an outlay that would take decades to pay for itself.

Furthermore, it would look vile.

Like so many others who own period properties - 20 per cent of the 22 million homes in England and Wales are pre-1918 - we have only slowly got to grips with our profligate energy consumption.

We have followed the fashion of recent years, making our house less insulated than when we moved in 12 years ago: carpets have been taken up in favourof draughty floorboards and old curtains replaced with blinds.

Last year, I made a start by buying three sets of heavy, interlined curtains, which instantly warmed up the house on winter nights.

Gordon Brown's visit to the nearby Sheehan family in Balham last month to unveil his £910 million energy aid package goaded me to further efforts.

Sue Sheehan saved 42% on her heating bills - £300 to £400 - by rigorously draught-proofing a house little different to ours.

Most interestingly, she had double glazed her pleasant old sash windows with clear plastic secondary glazing attached to the window frame with magnetic tape.

'I did get a quote for glass but it was £7,500, while the plastic panels cost £700 for the entire house,' said Sue, 43, an avowed eco-evangelist who is, ironically, a motoring journalist.

'They made more difference than anything else in keeping the house warm and after two winters they will pay for themselves.' They are also unobtrusive, being clearer than the original 1880s glass.

full article

Monday, 20 October 2008

Energy firms 'failing to pass on falling oil prices to consumers’

The Prime Minister and Ed Mayo of Consumer First are putting public pressure on power companies to cut their gas and electricity prices in line with falling world oil prices.

A series of sharp price rises by the big energy suppliers earlier this year have left the average household facing an annual gas and electricity bill of more than £1,300.

Some companies put gas prices up by more than a third, blaming the rise on soaring world oil prices.

But oil prices have now fallen by half after it reached an all-time high of $147 a barrel earlier this year. A barrel of North Sea oil now costs $73.02.

Some big European gas suppliers’ contracts tie gas prices directly to oil. As oil prices peaked in the summer, wholesale gas prices also rose. They have now fallen by more than quarter, but household bills have not come down at all.

Mr Brown is now piling public pressure on energy firms to start cutting consumers’ bills.

”What we have seen is prices going up for fuel and energy when the oil price went up and now that the oil price has come down, the public would naturally expect retail prices for fuel and household energy to come down as well,” said a spokesman for Mr Brown.

Ed Miliband, the new Energy Secretary, last week met executives from the “Big Six” energy retailers to underline the Government’s desire for prices to fall quickly.

Ed Mayo, the chief executive of Consumer Focus, accused the industry of delaying price cuts.

full article

Monday, 13 October 2008

Energy saving tips for businesses

1. Look around you

If you see a load of people wearing tee-shirts you could probably afford to turn the heating down a bit. Notice a light on in a rarely used meeting room? Think about installing a sensor (or, as a short-term solution, simply switch it off). Go for a walk and you'll also spot machinery that is left on when not being used and other areas of waste. Equally importantly you'll prove your environmental creds to your colleagues if you do this regularly - and you'll need to inspire others if change is going to happen. Speaking of which …

2. Consult your colleagues

It's no good fighting a lone battle; you'll need everyone on board if savings are to be made. If you're the boss, consider appointing an 'energy champion' to find new ways of reducing energy use. They should report any waste that they notice and contribute ideas for improving the way things are done. Share the environmental love around.

3. Conduct an energy audit

Taking regular meter readings and comparing consumption over a number of months is a good idea (as long as you remember to take into account such factors as that cold snap last November). As the Carbon Trust notes, if your business manufactures something tangible try to measure energy use per product item. This will allow you to spot patterns and identify areas where savings could be made.

4. Switch things off (part 1)

Make sure that, where possible, all machines and equipment are switched off overnight. It's an obvious one, but doesn't happen often enough. A single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day will cost a business over £50 a year. Switching it off out of hours and enabling standby features could cut this to £15 a year, according to the Carbon Trust. That's the kind of saving that will prick up any FD's ears. For shared equipment such as photocopiers and water coolers, why not fit a timer to ensure they are switched off out of hours? There are products available for larger organisations which enable network administrators to power down PCs remotely (and automatically) when they're not needed. But it's cheaper to shame people into pressing the off button. Get in early for a week, see who's left their PC on and attach a huge arrow to the ceiling above their head with the words "environmental criminal" (or similar) scrawled on it in large letters. Behaviour will swiftly change.

5. Switch things off (part 2)

Turn off any air-conditioning, extraction, compression or ventilation units whenever there's nobody in the workplace to benefit from their use. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it's laziness that's helping kill the planet.

6. See the light ...

Fit lights that sense movement and link motion-activated lights in toilet facilities to the extractor fan (if you have one). Label equipment and control switches so that it's clear how to switch something on when it's needed. Some people need a little nudge to get them heading in the right direction.

7. Turn the heating down

Unless it's too cold for comfort, try to keep your thermostat at 19C (66F). Your heating costs will go up by 8% each time you increase the temperature by just one degree. Encourage your employees to wear warmer clothing if they are feeling the cold. That may sound like a leaf from the Victorian Workhouse Manager's Textbook, but does anyone really need the air around them to be warmer than 19°C? Really?

8. Get the boss on board

If you're not the boss, ensure he or she is on board (and make friends with the FD). Securing some energy savings will inevitably require capital outlay so you may need to develop a business case to get hold of the necessary funds. This should focus on cost and financial return (eg payback period, based on energy and other cost savings), but may also include other benefits such as meeting regulations, improved environmental performance and corporate reputation, or better staff working conditions. The least you can do is investigate getting your electricity from a renewable source. And don't forget that you may qualify for an interest-free loan from the Carbon Trust

9. Explore tax incentives

You could claim tax incentives if you're prepared to invest in energy saving technologies and products. The Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme (ECA) enables you to claim 100% first year capital allowances on investments of qualifying equipment. You could write off the whole cost of your investment against your taxable profits for the period in which you make an investment. Now we really are talking the FD's language.

10. Be realistic

Energy-saving measures that are difficult, inconvenient or impractical to implement are likely to be ignored or withdrawn. This will undermine any future attempts to reduce energy use. So don't be too ambitious. Suggesting your business installs solar panels on the roof tomorrow may meet with some resistance; asking people to equipment off when they go home this evening will not.

There are loads of things you can do to reduce your organisation's energy consumption. The Carbon Trust website provided some of the tips above and contains many more. The government's Business Link service also has some good advice.

full article

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Planning for an EPC

Q: I am a landlord with a small number of properties in the North East. I understand there are new regulations coming in concerning Energy Performance Certificates. Please can you explain what I need to do in order to be compliant?

A: With effect from 1 October, Energy Performance Certificates ("EPC's") must be provided by any seller or landlord on the sale or letting of any non-domestic building or part. The legislation has been in place since April this year, but it has been introduced gradually on the basis of larger buildings first. Now it is applicable to all sales and lettings, regardless of size.

An EPC will show the building's energy rating, based upon its performance potential, on a scale between A (excellent) and G (poor). It will be accompanied by an advisory report containing recommendations. Only people who have undertaken suitable training and are registered as approved assessors can produce EPCs.

You will need an EPC before your premises are marketed. The idea is to inform potential buyers or tenants about the energy performance of a building, so that they can consider energy efficiency as part of their investment or business decision to buy or occupy the building.

You must provide the EPC free of charge. Any non-domestic building on the market before October 1, and remaining on the market will need an EPC by 4 January 2009 at the latest. If it is sold or rented out in the meantime, an EPC must be commissioned and handed over as soon as possible. This is intended to make it easier for owners and landlords to comply with the legislation.

In general, an EPC is intended to reflect whatever accommodation is being sold or let. In the case of a multi-occupancy building, if the building has a common heating system, when the building or any part is sold or let an EPC can be produced for the whole building or of the relevant part.

If however the building does not have a common heating system, then you need an EPC for each part being offered for sale or let (or of the whole if you are selling or letting the whole). Once an EPC is obtained, it lasts for 10 years.

The penalty for failing to comply is 12.5pc of the rateable value of the premises, with a minimum of £500 and a maximum of £5,000.

You need to plan therefore for the cost of obtaining EPCs, and allow additional time for gathering data and appointing an assessor.

full article

Eco cars: the ten best

This might sound like jam tomorrow, but there are only limited measures you can take to save CO2 when you buy a new car. It might even be the best thing to hold on to the car you have and use it less, as according to Volvo, the amount of CO2 expended in making a car is some 13 to 15 per cent of its lifetime emissions and that doesn’t count the CO2 released when scrapping.

Nevertheless, if you need a new car, here’s our guide to what we think is the most practical environmental cars in every class. These might not be the cheapest or the most frugal, but in our opinion they offer the most practical driving utility and pleasure for your money while doing the planet the least amount of harm *.


Citro├źn Berlingo Multispace from £11,495 for 1.6 HDi 110 model, 41.5mpg/147g/km. Reviewed motoring July 11 2008.


Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion, from £12,120 for the Bluemotion 1, three-door model 72.4mpg/99g/km. Reviewed in motoring May 12 2007.

Small hatchback

Honda Civic from £15,050 for a five-door S model, 53.3mpg/135g/km. Reviewed in motoring December 3 2005.


Skoda Octavia 1.9TDi from £13,605 for Class model, 44.8mpg/132g/km. Reviewed in motoring May 22 2004.


Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion, from £19,000, 55.3mpg/137g/km. Reviewed in motoring May 7 2007 also see telegraph on same date.


Ford Focus CC, from 19,287 for a 2.0-litre diesel model, 48mpg/156g/km. Reviewed in motoring September 23 2007.

Multi-purpose vehicle

Vauxhall Zafira from £17,290 for seven-seat 1.9 CDTi model 47.1mpg/162g/km. Reviewed in motoring July 23 2005.

Sport Utility Vehicle/4x4

Fiat Panda 1.2 4x4 from £9,885, 43mpg/156g/km. Reviewed motoring October 9 2004.


BMW 520d, £27,190 for SE model, 55mpg/136g/km. Reviewed motoring May 24 2003.


BMW 730d from £54,160, 30mpg/192g/km. Reviewed motoring 11 October 2008.


VW’s one-litre experimental car capable of 292mpg and valued at £2 million. Reviewed motoring July 5 2003.

* Toyota’s Prius is not included because it is being revamped at the end of the year with a claimed 99g/km carbon dioxide emissions - the new car will debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January and goes on sale next spring.

full article

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Fireplace Heatsaver – Helping British households tackle fuel poverty

An English mans’ home is his castle, or so it seems when it comes to paying for the heating bill! Most hard-pressed British households have just received their latest fuel bills and as winter approaches the need to heat the home becomes more apparent. What more can one do, all the appliances are off but the heating bill is only getting bigger. Help is at hand in the form of a deceptively simple device from Wakefield-based business, Environmental Fireplace Solutions. The Fireplace Heatsaver could save the average household a small fortune on its heating bill – and cut its carbon footprint by as much as half a ton - in just one year.

Over seven million properties in the UK have fireplaces which act as a ‘vacuum cleaner’, constantly sucking warm air up the chimney and out of expensively heated rooms, drawing cold air in from the outside which then has to be reheated. The Fireplace Heatsaver is a lightweight and totally transparent acrylic shield that sits in front of an open fireplace or fitted gas fire when it is not in use, preventing heat from escaping up the chimney.

Launched in January 2008, the demand for Fireplace Heatsavers is growing daily, and the energy saving product has also been commended in Environment UK Magazine as a “simple and effective way to cut your outgoings and protect the environment”.

Alex Stacey, editor of Environment UK Magazine, says: “The Fireplace Heatsaver epitomises the old adage that the simplest ideas are the best. (It) is the best thing I never knew I needed. I am convinced that if this product had a money-back guarantee, no one would ever claim it.”
full article

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The house doctor calls

EVEN though many of us try to save energy at home, often it’s the little things that are right under our noses, or above them as this family found out, that could save the most money.
One of the simplest suggestions for ways to make big savings was Alan’s recommendation to switch to low-energy light bulbs, which could save £35 a year. Mum-of-two Lucy said: "I have low-energy bulbs in the main lights of the house, but I didn’t realise that you can now get low-energy bulbs for other types of fixtures, like the light in our lounge, which holds five little bulbs.

While Alan praised Lucy for not using a tumble drier, despite having plenty of washing to do with two young children, he warned that clothes should be dried on a rack if the home’s radiators are to work to maximum potential.

"Tumble dryers are a massive drain on the energy meter as well as the finances, so it’s best to dry clothes outside where possible," he said

As 35% of heat escapes through walls, the savings on their energy bills would cover that cost within a year. As Lucy and Dave bought a new boiler recently, this has taken a huge strain off the amount of energy they use.

Highly efficient condensing boilers, like the one in the Rhodes family home, convert more than 90% of fuel into heat, compared with just 55% for some old boilers.

As the family are finding out, a new boiler could cut heating bills by up to 40% straight away, so you make further savings and help the environment over time.

Survey results

HOW energy efficient is your home right now? (Rating A-G, with A= very energy efficient)

The house is currently rated as C in terms of its energy use. It is thought this could be improved to a B rating with some simple improvements.

What do you already have installed?

Heating provided by a condensing combination boiler;

A room thermostat on the heating system;

A timer on the heating system

full article

Friday, 3 October 2008

Italian car designer unveils electric power

Italian contract carmaker and engineering firm Pininfarina has unveiled an own-badged electric car.

For decades, the firm has built some of the most stunning cars known to man, without getting much credit for it beyond petrol-head circles.

"This car is real," declares Paolo Pininfarina, grandson of the company's founder, as the covers are whipped off the sleek vehicle at the Paris motor show.

Pininfarina's electric car, which has been built in partnership with battery producer Bollore, is set to hit the road by the end of next year and should go on sale in the US, Europe and Japan by the end of 2010.

"It's 90% similar to how it will be built", which in turn, he insisted, means it is "the only real electric city car at the motor show".

Cost or technology

And so the electric motoring debate continues, with an abundance of yay and nay-sayers, so far achieving little more than confusing drivers who want solutions yet remain wary of cons.

Yet, amidst it all a consensus is emerging.

Cars run purely on battery power are unlikely to become mainstream for years to come, mainly because of their cost.

"It's not about technology," insists General Motors' chief operating officer and vice chairman, Fritz Henderson. "Its all about cost."

But petrol-electric hybrid versions that can be charged from the mains for most journeys are arriving quickly, and even Dr Paefgen is full of praise.

So expect niche electric cars to make inroads, and even more plug-in hybrid solutions to hit the road in the years ahead.

And if a plug-in hybrid emerges with a Bentley badge long before they become mainstream, do not be shocked.
full article

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Number of homes in fuel poverty rises by 1 million

The number of UK households in fuel poverty rose to 3.5 million in 2006, the latest official figures showed today.

The data, released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, showed an increase of one million on 2005 levels. They include around 2.75 million homes classed as "vulnerable" - those that contain a child, elderly person or someone with a long-term illness.

To be classed as being in fuel poverty, households have to spend more than 10% of their income on gas and electricity. In England, 2.4 million fuel-poor households had fallen into fuel poverty by 2006, of which 1.9 million were vulnerable.

This was 900,000 more households than 2005, of which 700,000 were vulnerable.

The government attributed the rise to a 22% increase in consumer energy bills between 2005 and 2006.

Although the major suppliers cut their tariffs early last year, they increased them early this year, and again in the summer, which could mean the number of homes in fuel poverty today is actually much higher than 3.5 million.

full article