Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Government cut to solar tariffs blocked as appeal fails

The court case involved the government's move to halve the payments made to households with solar panels, which it says are unsustainable.

Solar businesses and campaigners had warned thousands of jobs could be lost as a result of the move.

Under the feed-in tariffs programme, people in Britain with solar panels are paid for the electricity they generate.

The decision will lead to widespread confusion over what the tariff level is.

The previous tariff was just over 43p per Kilowatt-hour generated.

The new tariff of 21p per kilowatt-hour had been expected to come into effect from 1 April.

But in October, the government said the reduced rate would be paid to anyone who installed their solar panels after 12 December, sparking anger from environmental groups and installers.

The government announced a consultation on the proposals, which closed on 23 December - 11 days after the decision was to have been implemented.

The High Court ruled that changing the tariffs in this way was "legally flawed", a ruling the Court of Appeal has now upheld.

The change had particularly upset industry as it affected projects which may already have been commissioned but not installed.

"This decision has very important implications for the whole renewable energy sector in the UK," said Ben Warren a partner at Ernst and Young.

"It is a clear message that retrospective adjustment of support is not acceptable,"

The government has put a contingency plan in place which would see the current tariff, of 43p, remain in place until the start of March.

However, they are also considering appealing in the Supreme Court against the latest ruling, potentially allowing them to return to the cut-off date of 12 December.

A DECC spokesperson said: "The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court ruling on FITs. We are now considering our options."

They added that it meant there were "no guarantees" on any tariff consumers were offered after 12 December.

The tariff for surplus electricity exported to the national grid remains 3.1p per kilowatt-hour paid in addition to the tariff, and is unaffected by the changes.
Money shortage

There is also uncertainty about the sustainability of the reduced rate - as a rush of installations now may use up the scheme's remaining budget.

"The future of the feed in tariff beyond April 2012 is now hugely uncertain. Government and industry now need to work together to create a sustainable solar industry in the UK," added Mr Warren.

The Renewable Energy Association has called for the overall budget to be increased.

"The government's action and the subsequent court case had together thrown the solar industry into a state of extreme uncertainty," said chief executive Gaynor Hartnell.

"We now want to put this behind us as swiftly as possible, and work with government and supporters to secure a larger budget for small scale renewable energy generation," she added.

full article

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

cut your energy bills

All of the 'big six' companies have announced small price reductions in the past week, taking the average total annual energy bill from £1,293 to £1,259 — a £34 cut, according to comparison site uSwitch.

British Gas has reduced electricity by 5 per cent with immediate effect. This will mean 5.3million people will save £24 a year on average.

EDF will reduce gas prices by 5 per cent from February  7, allowing 1.4million people to save £36 a year. Scottish & Southern Energy will cut gas prices by 3.8 per cent from March 26. It means 3.5million customers will save £28 a year.

Npower is cutting gas prices by 5 per cent from February 1, so 1.9million gas customers will save an average of £38. For the next two months, it is also waiving the £20 exit fees it charges 140,000 customers on fixed tariffs.

E.ON is cutting electricity prices by 6 per cent from February 27. This means 3.7million people will see an average reduction of £33 and exit fees will also be waived.

Scottish Power will reduce gas prices by 5 per cent, also from February 27, knocking an average £36 off 1.4million people’s bills.

Bills increased by an average of £224 last year, so the recent cuts have only wiped out 15 per cent of this.

Why has this happened?

Wholesale gas and electricity prices have fallen over the past year. British Gas says the 'longer term trend' of gas prices will be for them to rise.

But Adam Scorer, of Consumer Focus, says: 'Companies will respond differently depending on where they think wholesale prices are heading.'

Should I switch to a new deal?

Now that all of the big six suppliers have changed prices, it is a good time to switch because there is a level playing field.

If you are on a fixed tariff, it will depend on when you signed up as to whether you can now save money. You should also calculate if the exit penalties — typically £20 for gas and £20 for electricity — are more than the savings you could make by switching, although Npower and E.ON are waiving these fees.

For example, those on British Gas’s dual fuel deal that expires in June 2012 are currently paying over the odds at £1,217, but those whose deals expire in October 2012 are paying only £1,045 — which is hard to beat, according to comparison site Moneysupermarket.

The average standard tariff is now £1,251. But you can save money by switching to an online deal — where you input your meter readings and receive your bills via email. The cheapest online deal is First Utility's iSave v9 at £1,030, or Scottish Power’s Online Energy Saver 17 at £1,085. If you want a fixed tariff, the cheapest is Ovo’s New Energy Fixed at £1,059.

How do I switch?

If you have access to the internet, you can use a comparison website such as Moneysupermarket, uSwitch or Confused. You can also use This is Money's energy bill finder to switch.

To get the most accurate comparison, you will need your annual usage in kWh (this should be on the back of your bill or on your annual statement) and the exact name of the tariff you are on.

If you don’t have the internet, comparison website uSwitch’s free service ‘Send us your bill’ allows people to send them a copy of their latest energy bill and an adviser will call you back. Send your bill and phone number to FREEPOST USWITCH.

Copies of bills will not be returned afterwards, but will be destroyed. Alternatively, you can call uSwitch on 0800 093 06 07.

Is there anything else I can do?

you should submit a meter reading the day before your price fall comes into effect, to ensure as many days as possible are billed at the lower price. Keep our table to remember when to do it.

Which is the cheapest energy tariff?

The cheapest online tariff is currently First Utility's iSave Dual Fuel V9, with an annual bill size of £1,030. The cheapest of the 'big six' is nPower - with its Go Fix 10, with an annual bill size of £1,078.

However, customers are tied into a fixed contract until 8 April 2013. The cheapest of the 'big six' online, if you do not want to fix your prices, is with Scottish Power for an annual bill size of £1,085.

The cheapest standard plan (which means paying on receipt of the bill) remains EDF Energy for an annual bill size of £1,202.

The cheapest fixed is OVO's New Energy Fixed - this plan is an online and fixed plan. Prices are fixed for one year from live date. Average bill size is £1,061.

The longest fixed is Scottish and Southern Energy's Price Fix 7 - prices are fixed for three years from going live. Annual bill size of £1,307.

These estimations are all based on a medium user consuming 3300kWh electricity and 16,500kWh gas with bill sizes averaged across all regions.

full article

Sunday, 15 January 2012

There are more charging points than electric cars in UK as sales slump

Sales of electric cars have slumped so badly that there are now more charging points than vehicles on the road.

Just 2,149 electric cars have been sold since 2006, despite a government scheme last year offering customers up to £5,000 towards the cost of a vehicle.

The Department for Transport says that around 2,500 charging points have been installed, although their precise location is not known.
The government grant has boosted sales - from 138 in 2010 to 1,1082 last year - but only £3.9million of the £300million set aside has been paid out.

A spokesman for the DFT told The Sunday Times: 'It's fair to say that there hasn't been a huge take-up over the past year.'

The high cost of electric cars has put many off. The Nissan Leaf still costs £25,990 even after the £5,000 grant has been deducted.

Electric cars are also only suitable for short journeys, with a maximum range of around 100 miles on a full charge.

The government is spending £30million on publicly-funded charging points and those in private companies.

These range from points which take between six and eight hours, to those which provide an 80 per cent charge in half an hour.

Drivers can pay an annual fee to use the majority of the points, with authorities charging a membership fee for the year but no extra charge for electricity.

full article

Which? urges halt to smart meter installation

The consumer group Which? said the cost of fitting the digital meters would fall on hard-pressed consumers, but the benefits would be reaped by energy companies which have announced record profits in recent years.

Ministers want energy companies to install the new generation of high-technology meters, which allow users to monitor their energy use in real-time, in all homes by 2020.

The flagship policy is a key part of plans to make the UK more energy efficient and was initially introduced by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, while serving as energy secretary in the last government.

Smart meters will save energy giants hundreds of millions of pounds in administration costs as they will no longer have to pay staff to read meters.

Supporters say they will also enable consumers to reduce their energy consumption and take advantage of cheaper off-peak tariffs.

However, Which? said there is increasing evidence that consumers do not use less gas or electricity once a smart meter is installed.

It also said that some meters already installed can only be used with one energy provider – thereby discouraging home owners from shopping around for the best deal.

Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: "Consumers won't accept [smart meters] at any cost, or from suppliers they don't trust. It's naive to hope that competition in the energy market will keep under control the cost of installing smart meters in every home in the country.

"The Government must not write a blank cheque on behalf of every energy customer, especially at a time when millions of people are struggling to pay their bills.

"The energy department should stop and review the smart meter roll-out before it becomes an £11 billion fiasco."

A report by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, commissioned by Which? and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, states that there is a "meaningful risk … that the programme will fail consumers".

This week the Public Accounts Committee, a powerful panel of MPs, is also expected to publish a critical report on the introduction of smart meters.

British Gas, which has already installed nearly 400,000 smart meters in homes and business, urged the Government to continue with the programme.

GearĂ³id Lane, managing director of British Gas New Markets, said: "Our customers have told us loud and clear about how they are benefiting from smart meters.

"Smart meters put an end to the frustration of estimated bills, give customers more direct control over their energy use and open the door to new energy saving technologies.

"There is more to smart meters than just cost savings, and any slowdown of this crucial investment will frustrate energy customers."

Charles Hendry, the energy minister, said: "As Which? themselves reported last week, the major cause of complaints to energy companies is poor and inaccurate billing.

"Smart meters will mean more accurate information and an end to estimated billing – so no more nasty surprises for consumers.

"The benefits of smart meters are £18.1 billion for an £11 billion investment – that's a £7 billion net benefit to the nation, and we want to realise it sooner rather than later."

full article

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Liquid-cooled LED light

A revolutionary liquid-cooled LED light developed by a Californian-based firm is the first “eco” light that is as bright as a normal 100 watt bulb.

The new generation LED light bulbs are all set to go on sale and are expected to result in energy savings for consumers.

The design, developed by makers Switch, offers a longer life and a better performance than a regular bulb.

However, unlike the traditional design, it will use a fraction of the watts to emit a brightness that matches up to its 100-watt counterpart.

The bulb which was showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, is set to retail for £24 when it eventually goes on sale.

“The big thing about this bulb is it uses 80 per cent less energy than an incandescent,” the Daily Mail quoted Brett Sharenow, strategy officer for the company as saying.

“In commercial applications in general, they really would like to get back to the light quality that you get from an incandescent bulb,” he said.

The LED light bulbs are presently available only for the US 120-volt system, but the company plans to release versions of the bulbs for use in the UK and Europe by the end of 2012.

Sharenow believes the bulbs will be a particular hit in the UK, where energy costs are as much as double those in the US.

“For a commercial application, the payback is about six months. To commercial users, it is a no-brainer.” he added.

full article

Friday, 13 January 2012

Six easy tips on saving energy

Switch supplier

Nothing could be easier — in principle. But we all know that those comparison websites are a minefield. You spend ages punching in figures, but one mistake and you’re back where you started. More than a third of us have never made the switch.

What you need is someone to do the leg-work for you. So, come in All that’s required is that you send them a copy of your latest bill and they will work out the best deal. They will even contact your old provider and set up a direct debit with the new company.
Get insulated

By simply installing cavity wall and loft insulation you can make savings of between £185 and £310 a year, according to the National Insulation Association.

What’s more, there are plenty of grants available to meet green targets set by the Government.

If you’re over 70 or on qualifying benefits, you might even be entitled to have the work done for free. Remember that nearly a quarter of all heat loss in an uninsulated house is through the roof. The recommended depth for mineral wool insulation is 270mm and you can do it yourself perfectly easily.

Visit for more information.

Natural heat

There has been a big resurgence for wood-burning stoves in the past decade. No wonder. They are carbon-neutral, energy-efficient and have a habit of cheering people up.

Of course, open fires are atmospheric, but most of the heat goes up the chimney. While an open fire is estimated at being between 15 per cent to 20 per cent efficient, a wood-burning stove is about 70 per cent efficient. And wood is also one of the cleanest sources of energy.

‘Wood-burning cassettes,’ as they are called, are popular. They’re installed flush into a wall that backs into a chimney. (01392 474000) has a good range.

Green and clean

Hard water affects 60 per cent of Britain. What this means is that calcium builds up inside pipes, boilers and heating appliances, wasting energy. The result? It costs more to heat your home and shortens the life of your boiler, dishwasher and washing machine.

The solution? Install an electronic water conditioner that removes limescale, saving up to £200 a year from your fuel bill. Plug in the machine in and wrap its cord around the main incoming water pipe.

It costs £69.99 (special offer until end of January), guaranteed money back if you’re not happy (01491 419200,

Tackle the draught

Wooden floors look lovely, but 15 per cent of heat can be lost through them. Put down rugs during winter and remove them in summer.
Windows and external doors will let in the cold. Buy self-adhesive foam strips to tackle the problem.

If you’re unsure where the draughts are coming from, walk around the house with a candle and see when it flickers.

Temperature control

Most of us live in homes that are far too hot. Turning the temperature down just one degree can save about £55 a year. Now put on a jumper and fill those hot water bottles.

Fuel bills are bad for your blood pressure — and your wallet. Mark Palmer has some simple remedies

full article

Thursday, 12 January 2012

British Gas and SSE announce price cuts

British Gas has cut its electricity prices by 5% with immediate effect, while SSE will reduce gas tariffs by 4.5% on 26 March.

The moves come a day after EDF Energy announced plans to cut its domestic gas tariff by an average of 5% owing to low energy use during the mild winter.

The price cuts will add pressure on the rest of the major suppliers to cut their tariffs as wholesale prices dip.

British Gas said the average annual domestic bill would fall by £24.

"We want to keep prices as low as possible for our customers. Household budgets are stretched, and we are doing everything we can to help our customers keep their bills down," said Ian Peters of British Gas.

"This price reduction means British Gas is once again offering the cheapest standard electricity, on average, of any major supplier."

The price cut comes after a 16% rise in electricity prices and an 18% rise in gas prices for British Gas customers in August.
Future costs

The company said that 5.3 million customers on variable tariffs, including those on dual-fuel deals, would benefit from the price cut.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

It may be interesting to note that a 5% gas price cut would have cost British Gas more than double this electricity price cut”

Mark Todd

The reduction comes into effect ahead of the EDF gas price cut which comes into force on 7 February. The EDF change is set to cut the typical annual bill by £38.

British Gas said that it was not changing its gas charges because, although there had been some short-term falls in the cost of gas, the longer term trend in wholesale prices was upward. It said it bought its energy in advance.

The company said it was too early to predict what would happen to prices in the future.

The choice to cut the cost of electricity, rather than gas - for which British Gas has more customers - has caused some debate.

"Every drop is welcome but consumers will find it baffling that the company cannot also reduce gas bills as well - especially after the EDF Energy move," said Mark Todd of

"The maths do not seem to add up so British Gas need to do something on gas as well if they want to look like they are passing on wholesale falls fairly. It may be interesting to note that a 5% gas price cut would have cost British Gas more than double this electricity price cut."
Following suit

Just a few hours after British Gas dropped its electricity prices, SSE - which runs Southern Electric and Scottish Hydro - announced the planned reduction of its gas price in late March.

Some 3.5 million customers would see their typical annual gas bill fall by £28, SSE said.

"Virtually all of the gas being supplied to customers this winter was bought some time ago, but some of the gas that will be supplied to customers from the spring onwards has been purchased since the period of lower wholesale prices began," it said.

"Having analysed and considered the position for some time, SSE is able to announce this reduction in household prices."

The company raised gas prices by 18% and electricity prices by 11% in September.

Adam Scorer, of watchdog Consumer Focus, said that companies would react differently depending on how they expected wholesale prices to change. But he said any drops in wholesale costs should be reflected in the price the consumer paid.

full article

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

EDF Energy to cut gas price by 5%

One of the UK's largest energy suppliers, EDF Energy, has said it is to cut its gas bills by 5% from 7 February.

The move follows a sharp fall in the price of wholesale gas over the winter period due to the mild weather.

EDF increased its gas bills by 15.4% in November in response to rising wholesale gas prices.

The move to cut bills is the first by a major supplier and is likely to be followed by other energy companies.

The company did not announce any cut to the price of its electricity bills, which rose by 4.5% in November.

"What customers want more than anything else is fair, clear and transparent prices. We know they want action rather than words. That is why we are the first major supplier to announce a cut and were the last to increase prices," said Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy.
'Join in'

The company said that the wholesale price of gas had fallen 9.2% since it announced it was putting up bills on 10 November last year.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

Now the pressure is on for the rest of the major suppliers to follow suit”

Richard Lloyd Which? executive director

The typical bill will fall by about £38 a year, according to price comparison website Uswitch, with the average dual-fuel customer paying about £1,203 a year.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has called on the rest of the major suppliers to follow suit and cut their prices.

Some smaller suppliers have announced price cuts of some tariffs or cancellation of price rises in recent weeks.

EDF has been one of the most active in marketing price changes. It was the last of the six major suppliers to cut prices this autumn. Last winter, it held its prices until March amid widespread price rises.

However, the price cut comes as an annual customer satisfaction survey carried out by the consumers' association Which? showed EDF second bottom of the "big six" energy suppliers.

In all, 43% of customers said they were satisfied with the company's service or likely to recommend it to others.

Of the big six suppliers, only one, Scottish and Southern Energy, received a score of more than 50%, getting 51%.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, welcomed EDF's upcoming price cut.

"Now the pressure is on for the rest of the major suppliers to follow suit. But as our survey today shows, there remain huge problems with customer service in energy as well as high prices," he said.

This report suggested that, when customers had gripes about their energy company, some 90% of unsolved complaints were not taken to the energy ombudsman for resolution.

The ombudsman can get involved if the complaint has been outstanding for eight weeks, or if the supplier sends a letter saying the two parties are in deadlock.

Some 95% of complaints looked at by the ombudsman are upheld and 70% of them receive financial redress, Which? said.

full article

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Power company says overcharging cost UK £134m

A study by power company Eon has found that British households waste £134 million a year in electricity costs by overcharging mobiles phones and laptop computers.

One can only assume that over the festive period the authors of the report didn't feel like checking in with any remotely qualified engineers that would point out that the vast majority of chargers, and all chargers for anything with a lithium-chemistry battery like phones and laptops, stop charging the battery when its full.

If they didn't, the battery would dangerously overheat. For batteries using nickle cadmium or nickle metal hydride chemistries, typically chargers will fast charge and then switch to a trickle when the battery is near full. That trickle is important to maintain the cell capacity, lest you want to pick up your device and find it has no charge at all.
That said, there is a nugget of truth regarding wasting of power by leaving devices plugged into a charger after they have finished charging. A small amount of residual power will be drawn by the AC adaptor, usually a couple of watts or so.

In recent years there's been a raising of awareness over so-called phantom power consumption of devices with unusually large power draw when in stand-by, such as set-top boxes. The upshot of that was that manufacturers improved their standby power consumption and it's still an area worth highlighting.

Ironically Eon was using the report to draw attention to their Energy Fit plan which consists of a power meter and a free smartphone app.

full article

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Five ways to save money on your energy bills

Insulate your home

There's no point in spending money heating your house if it is simply leaking into the atmosphere, so make sure your home is as insulated as possible. According to the Energy Saving Trust, cavity wall insulation is the most effective energy-saving measure you can take.

This simple measure, which involves injecting foam into the gap between your walls, can save £110 a year. There are grants available for installing this, especially if you are over 60. Try the Energy Saving Trust's grant search tool on

Loft insulation, which saves around £40 a year on the average house, can also be installed at a subsidised cost, if you can get a grant. Most homes have some loft insulation, but normally fall short of the recommended level of 220mm.
Switch to the cheapest provider

The biggest change you can make to energy bills is by making sure you are on the cheapest tariff for gas and electricity. This won't make any difference to the quality of the energy supplied to you, but it could make a vast difference to the cost.

Give your boiler an MOT

If you buy boiler insurance cover you may get a service with it – however, this has risen by as much as 20pc since last year and now costs between £150 and £200, so it pays to check whether you really need it.
If your boiler is really old and does need replacing, it may pay to do it sooner rather than later. The Energy Saving Trust calculates that the difference between gas bills from a home with an old boiler to one with an ultra-efficient new one is as much as £225 a year for an average three-bedroom semi. Getting a new one sorted before winter kicks in could be sensible if you know that yours is on its last legs.

Keep an eye on your usage

Some companies, are energy monitors out free to customers; or you can buy one from for from just over £20.

These can be attached to your electricity meter, and can act as a powerful incentive to switch off lights and appliances by showing you exactly how much your usage is costing.

Studies suggest you could save 5pc of your electricity bills by using one, although of course this is a behavioural saving – you won't get cheaper bills just from looking at the monitor.

Sadly, these do not yet exist for gas meters.

Stop up the gaps

You can also increase your winter comfort factor by blocking draughts, especially if you have single-glazed windows. Just fitting draught stripping across your doors could save you £25 in winter. Even when the figures sound unimpressive, don't underestimate the extra comfort that thick curtains, draught excluders and other cheap measures can bring.

Rosalyn Dungate, of the Energy Saving Trust, suggests blocking cracks between floors and skirting boards with material, newspaper or decorator's caulking, a cheap home-made solution that could save money and make life far warmer.

Plenty of heat is also lost through your chimney if it is open, so if you're not having fires, try using a chimney balloon to seal it. These are easily deflated and removed.

full article