Monday, 23 December 2013

Green deal: time to power on with energy saving

The roundtable's broad sentiment, however, was that the green deal and ECO could still be a success – if changes are made.

Establishing more trust, between householders and the people who are to "hold their hand" through the process of improving their home's energy efficiency, was crucial, many said. Although homeowners understand why energy companies are heavily involved in the area, they place greater trust in councils, local community groups and charities – which is why those organisations need to take a greater role in selling and delivering the schemes.

To get over consumer inertia, the financial savings from energy efficiency upgrades needed to be much more immediate, several people observed. One proposal, mooted by some in the building industry since the green deal's launch, has been to give owners of the most efficient homes discounts on stamp duty and council tax.

Removing the upfront costs of the assessments would help too, several people suggested. "If I [was government and] had a pot of money, instead of spending thousands on this and that [the coalition budget promoting the green deal and ECO], I'd give free assessments for some people," she said.

The focus in future, many agreed, should be about getting people to take out an assessment in the first place, and then letting them decide what to do next, rather than promoting the whole "green deal journey", as the government has done so far. Others felt that, if technical obstacles could be overcome, the assessor should be able to give more advice to the homeowner on what to do next.

full article

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Ikea Selling Solar Panels

Ikea has begun selling solar panels to customers in the UK - in its trademark flat-pack style.

The Swedish firm said it was using Britain to test the ground for its plan to offer renewable energy to the mainstream market worldwide because of the country's current electricity prices and financial incentives from the Government.
The company said it was not the first general retailer to sell solar panels but claimed its partnership with Chinese firm Hanergy was the only one to provide a built-in care package.

Ikea said a standard, all-black 3.36-kilowatt system for a semi-detached home will cost £5,700 and include an in-store consultation and design service as well as installation, maintenance and energy monitoring service.

The company claimed the solar panel investment would pay for itself in about seven years for the average home.

The Government offers private solar panel owners the opportunity to sell back electricity to the grid on days when they have surplus production and has a financing plan for solar power investments, which means residents can buy a system for no up-front cost and pay it off gradually.
The panels are currently only sold in Southampton but Ikea said its stores across Britain would follow in the coming months

full article

The end of ever dropping residential solar prices?

The UK residential solar market seems have stabilised in terms of pricing: at the start of this year a 4kwp (16 panel) system could cost as little as £5,000 or as much as £7,500; currently a price range of around £5,500 to £6,500 is the norm in the market.

Caused by the minimum price for Chinese panels, this smaller price range combines with a trend away from cheap Chinese panels to ‘higher quality’ European and Japanese brands. This appears to be the end of a race towards ever-falling prices and allows installers to focus their selling on quality rather than quantity of materials, service and warranty.

It shows most installers are currently offering their best price for a 4kwp system at between £5,500 and £6,500. Previously there was a segment of the market offering rock-bottom-prices as low as £5,000, but the minimum price set by the EU on Chinese panels has either forced these companies to go out of business or pushed up their pricing.

Product-wise, most installers are picking ‘higher quality’ panels. These are either characterised by a more reliable brand (e.g. a large solar-PV company or a diversified electronics firm) or by product characteristics (all-black panels, higher Wp panels). Examples are the Yingli 275wp, LG 285wp or BenQ 325wp panels.

Systems costing less than £6,000 tend to be more likely to still use smaller Chinese brands, whereas those above £6,000 are more likely to use larger brands. We see a shift with many installers towards the use of European (e.g. Axitec, Bosch, Solarworld) or non-Chinese Asian manufacturers (e.g. LG, Hyundai), driven by consumer demand and the reduction of price difference with Chinese manufacturers.

A more mature market for residential solar seems to be appearing with stability in pricing and feed-in-tariffs. Over the past year many installers have also left the residential solar PV market or diversified into commercial solar or other renewable energies, which leaves a smaller installer base to focus on consumer demand. Compared to a year ago, those installers that remain focused on residential solar PV are certainly more positive, and relieved that site surveys can once again be about quality of materials, service and warranty rather than ever lower prices.
full article

UK solar installation heads for record

Installations of solar power in the UK are likely to top records this year, and could offset some of the expensive dependence on gas, research has found, but the global outlook for green energy is still gloomy.
Green energy could help to reduce bills, he said, pointing to some periods in the UK when, thanks to the contribution of wind power in particular, wholesale short-term prices had reduced considerably. "But that doesn't get passed through to the consumer, because there is no transparency in the market, and so people don't know about it. Yet you get this distortion of people saying [bill rises] are from green subsidies."
Investment in the UK was shored up by the falling price of solar components, which helped to spur installations. But "solar farms" taking up acres of land with solar panels have come under fire from some politicians and countryside campaigners.

full article

Is it time to put solar panels on your roof?


You’ll be paid a minimum sum for all electricity generated by your system, known as the Feed-In Tariff (Fit). You’ll currently get 14.9p per kilowatt hour (kwh) for each unit of electricity you create.

You get 4.6p for every unit sold back to the Grid. Together, these payments boost your savings because your on-site electricity reduces the bill from your normal supplier.

Sign up now and this tariff will be frozen for 20 years — and rises with inflation. The Energy Saving Trust estimates half of all the power created by homes with solar panels is sold back to the Grid.


About £800 a year, typically. For example, a family of four in a three-bed property who buy a 4kWh solar panel system will earn about £560 a year from their supplier just for generating the solar electricity.

On top of this, they will then make £90 from selling power back to the National Grid via their energy supplier.

And finally, they’ll typically knock £150 from their electricity bill by using their own power instead of buying it all from their supplier.

This works out as approximately £800 of savings in total.

To find out what kind of savings you could make, use the solar energy calculator on the Energy Saving trust website.

At these rates, you need to be prepared to stay in your current property for a minimum of eight years to make it worthwhile. The key to making big savings is to use as many of your appliances as possible in the daytime when you are generating your own power.

Your installer should show you how everything works and you must register the Feed-In Tariff.

A new meter then shows you how much energy is being generated — and how much you are exporting.

full article

Thursday, 5 September 2013

5 live Energy Day 5th September

On Thursday 5th September we’ll find out, as we fill the public piazza at BBC North with solar panels, wind turbines, processed chip fat for biofuel and enough exercise bikes to keep Richard Bacon’s show on-air by pedal-power…if our guests and listeners can cycle fast enough!

It all starts at 7am when we switch on a specially constructed mini-grid. For the next 12 hours a temporary outside studio in the piazza will be powered only by renewable energy.

BBC 5 live Energy Day

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Save money and make your home more energy efficient. See what you can claim

The tool works via a questionnaire, which asks you basic questions about your financial situation and your home to fit you in to one of three categories - low income, living in a hard-to-treat home or potential Green Deal customer.

British Gas ECO tool

Energy Company Obligations

The ECO is split into three different schemes which are all funded by money from the 'big six' energy providers.

The Affordable Warmth Obligation funds improvements such as boiler replacement and repair, and insulation for those that qualify through means testing.

The Carbon Saving Obligation helps fund insulation on internal, external and hard-to-treat cavity walls where the costs would be cripplingly expensive.

Under the ECO there is also a Carbon Saving Communities Obligation, which aims to provide 100 per cent funding for insulation for the bottom 15 per cent most deprived and rural areas in the UK.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Ah, the green agenda.

Quite. ECO in this case stands for the Energy Company Obligation, a flagship government policy introduced in January to make big power firms help householders boost the energy efficiency of their homes.

How does it work?

In theory it cuts carbon emissions and supports people living in fuel poverty by funding energy efficiency improvements worth around £1.3bn every year.

Such as?

Insulation of houses and flats, affordable heating and solid wall or hard-to-treat cavity wall insulation are all included.

What’s the downside? As they are obliged to subsidise households the big energy firms complain it costs too much and is less effective than hoped.

Any examples?

Sam Laidlaw, boss of British Gas owner Centrica, yesterday added to RWE npower’s criticisms. He called for a sit-down with the Government to see if this is the most cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions. Centrica reckons £1 in every £4 spent on heating bills is wasted due to poor insulation.

So bills could come down

Don’t hold your breath. Where energy is concerned, consumers are usually hardest hit. The ‘Big Six’ providers’ profits keep rising while average dual fuel bills are now more than £1,400 a year.

full article

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Energy Company Obligation

The ECO (Energy Company Obligation)

The ECO for the big six energy suppliers is also being launched in early 2013. It is in three parts:

Affordable Warmth Obligation

To provide heating and insulation improvements for low-income and vulnerable households (but social housing tenants are not eligible for affordable warmth).

There are complex eligibility criteria for this means-tested scheme. Call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 to check whether you might be eligible, and to apply if you are.

Carbon Saving Obligation

To provide funding to insulate solid-walled properties (internal and external wall insulation) and those with ‘hard-to-treat’ cavity walls.

This is not means-tested but can be used in conjunction with the Green Deal. The aim is to provide enough support to make these relatively expensive measures cost-effective.

Carbon Saving Communities Obligation

To provide insulation measures to people living in the bottom 15% of the UK's most deprived areas. It is expected that this element of ECO will particularly benefit the social housing sector.

Through ECO, the government aims to help 230,000 low-income households or those in low-income areas. Of the expected investment by suppliers of £1.3bn per year, there will be a 75:25 split between the carbon and affordable warmth obligations.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Free New Energy Efficient Boilers

The ECO fund,uses subsidies to encourage homeowners and tenants alike to install energy efficient measures.

Available to ALL low income and vulnerable homeowners and tenants.
If your boiler is more than 8 years old
Own your own home and earn less than 16k pa
Tenant earning less than 16k pa
Pension tax credit
Child tax credit
Working tax credit

If the answer is yes to any of the above, then you are eligible to the government grant.

Find out more at

ECO Energy Companies Obligation

The Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) is a government energy efficiency scheme for Great Britain which has replaced the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) programmes, both of which came to a close at the end of 2012. It operates alongside the Green Deal and places obligations on larger domestic energy suppliers to domestic householders, with a focus on vulnerable consumer groups and hard-to-treat homes.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

MPs want to turn your lights off. A shame no one told you

Within six years you could be expected to reduce your electricity consumption by a quarter

What MPs were being asked to endorse was that, within just six years, we should all be forced by law to make a mind-boggling cut in how much electricity we are allowed to use.

The reason why no one seemed to grasp this was that the amendment was so opaquely dressed up that only an MP with some knowledge of the basics of electricity might have twigged the enormity of what was being proposed. By 2020, it said, Britain must reduce its electricity use by “103 terawatt hours”, rising by 2030 to “154 terawatt hours”. This could have been understood only by someone aware that we currently use each year some 378 “terawatt hours”. So what was being proposed was that this must be cut down in six years by 27 per cent – more than a quarter – rising 10 years later to a cut of more than 40 per cent, or two fifths.

In the course of his mind-numbing speech, Greg Barker, the minister proposing this, carefully avoided any explanation of what it was all about. Not one MP picked him up on it. At the end of a vacuous debate, during much of which the House was virtually empty, MPs dutifully poured in from all over Westminster to nod the Bill through by 396 votes to eight.

full article

Greg Barker Next Scalp ?

Probably, if this were a World War II fighter base, the shooting down in flames of Tim Yeo MP would count as a shared kill. After all, we've each of us had a good burst at him – Christopher Booker, Richard North, David Rose, Bishop Hill and – the coup de grace! – the Sunday Times team responsible for that sting at the weekend.

For me, quite the biggest scandal of our era is the one involving energy policy and the great climate change scam. The damage it has done to our economy is incalculable. It has resulted in honest men from Johnny Ball and David Bellamy to Nigel Lawson and Peter Lilley being vilified and marginalised, while dishonest men (whether grant-troughing scientists or cynical, greedy politicians or rent-seeking businesses) have been rewarded. It has damaged our landscape, corrupted public debate, ruined people's lives. It has enriched the few at the expense of the many.

None of this would have been possible without the complicity of politicians like Tim Yeo, Greg Barker, Chris Huhne, Peter Hain, Ed Davey, Luciana Berger, Alex Salmond, Lord Deben, Lord Marland, Greg Clark, and all the other assiduous promoters of the great "man-made-global-warming" myth. Each of them, Conservative, LibDem, Labour, SNP alike, has failed what I would consider to be the most basic test by which we should judge our politicians: have their policies made things better or worse for the electorate they supposedly serve?

In the case of almost every measure that has been introduced by parliament in the last twenty years or so – from the Climate Change Act to our current policies on wind farms, biomass and renewables generally – has been an abject disaster for the British people.

Tim Yeo, as we know, has been making £200,000 a year on top of his basic parliamentary salary from his various green business interests. What does it say about our political system that he was simultaneously permitted to act as chairman of the parliamentary committee charged with scrutinising the government department – DECC – primarily responsible for deciding green policy? And what does it say about the state of our media that this scandal was not exposed years ago?

full article

'Only 200 homes' signed up for Green Deal energy loans

Fewer than 200 homes have signed up for the government's flagship Green Deal so far, the BBC has learned.

The policy, launched in January, offers long-term loans for energy-saving home improvement work.

People in England, Scotland and Wales can spend the money on new boilers or insulation and repay it over a maximum of 25 years, through energy bills.

Almost 19,000 homes have been assessed so far but very few householders have gone on to take out the loans.

The move to insulate the UK's ageing housing stock is designed to reduce carbon emissions, keep people warm, and make energy affordable.

The idea is to give loans for home improvements - but the work must pay for itself over 25 years through lower bills.

BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme has learned that fewer than 200 people have signed up for the Green Deal so far.
In March, Energy Minister Greg Barker said he hoped to have at least 10,000 signed up by the end of the year.

But although the policy officially launched in January, there have been some delays with setting up the funding to allow installation work to be carried out.

And Paula Owen, an independent consultant in the energy sector, said a complicated rule that meant the loan is attached to the property, not the homeowner, meant people were a little wary of being the first to sign up.

She said that people were worried about whether it would affect their ability to sell their houses in future.

"I think not, but some areas of the housing industry are putting that fear into people's minds too."

She said more had to be done to make sure the Green Deal was "communicated properly to the public".

The government has stressed that the Green Deal is intended to be a long-term policy.

A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: "The Green Deal is an ambitious 20-year programme designed to deliver home improvement in Great Britain on an unprecedented scale. It's only just getting started.

"Official numbers on installations will be available at the end of June. However, the early signs are encouraging, with over 18,000 assessments carried out before the end of April and the supply chain building steadily."

full article

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Green Deal Cashback

The Green Deal Cashback Scheme is a first-come, first-served offer where householders in England and Wales can claim Cashback from Government on energy saving improvements like insulation, front doors, windows and boilers. Packages could be worth over £1000 - the more you do, the more you get.
Up to £125m has been earmarked for the Cashback Scheme. The rates below are guaranteed for the first £40m after which they are likely to reduce. Act early to get the best rates.

Loft insulation (including top up) and insulating cavity walls (where appropriate) are important, basic energy saving measures. So where a Green Deal assessment recommends these alongside other improvements, householders will only be able to get the Cashback if they do these too.
Qualifying Energy Efficiency Measure Cashback Level
Loft insulation (incl. top up) £100
Cavity wall insulation £250
Solid wall insulation* £650
Flat roof insulation £390
Room in roof insulation £220
Floor insulation £150
Hot water cylinder insulation (incl. top up)** £10
Draught proofing £50
Heating controls (roomstat and/or programmer and time/temperature zone controls)** £70
Condensing oil boiler from non-condensing oil heating or other*** £310
Upgrade boiler to condensing gas boiler from non-condensing boiler or other £270
Flue gas heat recovery (condensing combi boiler) only alongside replacement boiler £90
New or replacement storage heaters £150
Replacement warm-air unit £320
Waste water heat recovery systems £60
Double/triple glazing (old single to A) £20 per m2 up to a maximum of £320
High performance replacement doors £40
Secondary glazing £15 per m2 up to a maximum of £230

Further conditions of Cashback
* A minimum of 50% of external walls must be insulated to qualify for a Cashback on solid wall insulation.
** Cannot be claimed at same time as boiler replacement (as this is a regulatory requirement).
*** Householders should consider their renewable heat options, as they could get a higher payment under Renewable Heat Premium Payment now, for certain measures.

Ed Davey defends green deal interest rates

Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, defended the government's green deal loan scheme on Tuesday, saying the interest rates of around 7% for householders to undertake energy efficiency works are not excessive.

The flagship scheme, launched in January, allows householders to repay long-term loans for installing up to 40 different energy saving technologies via their electricity bills. But it was widely criticised at its launch for failing to provide enough incentives for the householder and for being overly complex.

"I would not expect many people to apply for finance yet. It's a bit too early," said Davey. "I won't concede that loan costs are too high. You have to compare it with unsecured loan and not mortgages. This is a great deal," he told delegates at Ecobuild, a sustainable building show in London.

"We are not trying to pretend that we have everything right. There will be issues to address. We will be responsive to get rid of the niggles," he said.

Davey fuelled rumours that the scheme had been poorly taken up by the public, citing "legal reasons" for not disclosing how many households had so far asked for assessments on the energy efficiency of their homes or the number of people who had applied for loans.

"Our plan is to issue monthly reports starting this spring," he said.

Eight million homes need solid wall insulation, 6m could get more loft insulation."

"The relative cost of the loans is higher than most mortgages. People are challenged by the numbers. It adds fuel to their fears of taking up more debt. More credit checks are occurring. You can understand, but there's the creeping [idea] that this will make it harder for some householders to access finance. There is more room to be flexible and to bring costs down," he said.

The industry was divided on the initial take up. "It is delivering. Based on the feedback we have had, it has changed the nature of the conversation about energy efficiency," said Paul King, chief executive of the Green Building Council. "There is a very live discussion about the creation of a new industry with the potential of 26 million customers in the UK. It is possible to see an explosion of interest in a few years' time."

However, some small companies said they feared that green deal would undermine their businesses.

Stephen Bull, who runs a plumbing and heating firm with 2,000 customers in London, said that the green deal scheme was complex, expensive for small builders to take part in, and could undermine his business.

"We want to make sure we don't get left behind and I want to become an installer. But it seems to be a very much a top-down approach, set up by big business for big business. It seems only suitable for them. We could actually lose our clients to big multinational companies.

"In principle the idea is good and I want it to work. But even if I become a green deal installer, I would not necessarily get the work from my existing clients. I am struggling to understand it.full article

Green Deal 1800 homes have been assessed

The scheme is meant to overhaul the UK’s inefficient housing stock. A month since the scheme officially launched on 28 January in England and Wales and 25 February in Scotland, the number could seem underwhelming for a scheme which is meant to revolutionise the whole country.

As the first Green Deal statistics were published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, ministers defended the scheme for its role in driving a “promising new market”.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey declared he is confident that consumer interest “will grow and grow”.

Mr Davey said: “The number of businesses getting on board is increasing daily – highlighting the growing confidence that the Green Deal offers fantastic new opportunities. Forty firms are already authorised as providers, with a further 629 registered to carry out installations and 619 individuals registered to offer assessments. This underlines that the Green Deal is very much up and running.”

Campaigners expressed fears for the future of the scheme given the UK’s rising fuel bills.

Friends of the Earth said in a statement: “The Green Deal is heading for trouble without lower interest rates, more money to tackle fuel poverty and tough regulations on landlords renting out dangerously cold homes. 1,803 homes have been assessed, not actually insulated – it’s still early days, but the initial signs aren’t good.”
full article

Friday, 8 March 2013

The landlords who need to meet 'green' deadline

WEST Midlands landlords have been warned that they must go green under new laws or they won't be able to rent out their homes.

If they do not improve their properties' energy efficiency, says local energy expert Ron Fox, up to one in ten buy-to-let homes will be ineligible to be let in five years' time.
Ron, who runs Staffordshire-based green energy company Noreus, said that owners won't be allowed to rent out properties with the two lowest efficiency ratings of F and G under new laws coming into operation in April 2018.

Also, from 2016, landlords cannot refuse tenants' "reasonable" requests for green measures, such as improvements to insulation.

full article

Thursday, 28 February 2013

British Gas profits boosted by colder weather ?

British Gas has reported a rise in profits for 2012 after colder weather led to people using more gas.

Profits from its residential energy supply arm rose 11% from a year earlier to £606m. It said gas consumption had risen by 12%.

But there has been some criticism that the company increased its prices in November when profits were rising.

Centrica, which owns British Gas, reported an adjusted operating profit of £2.7bn for 2012, up 14% from 2011.

Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw told the BBC that the firm's profit margins per household "actually went down", adding that the company had made just under £50 profit per customer household.

"A 5% margin on the business is the sort of margin we require" to make investments in new sources of energy, he added.

Centrica's dividends to shareholders have risen 6% and the company is also returning £500m to them.

Profits were up 16% to £312m at British Gas' residential services unit, which covers services such as boiler repairs.

Audrey Gallacher, the director of energy at Consumer Focus, said: "Perhaps we should not be surprised to see higher profits after a cold winter and with the prospect of significant investment in our energy infrastructure.

"But this announcement comes after more price rises last year, record numbers in fuel poverty and not long after the energy regulator warned of higher still energy prices for the foreseeable future," she added.

Cheapest tariff

British Gas raised its gas and electricity prices by 6% in November, which Mr Laidlaw stressed was "lower than any of our competitors".

All of the big six energy suppliers raised prices this winter, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron to step in and say he was going to force them to put customers on their cheapest tariffs.

Energy regulator Ofgem provided details of its plan last week, which will also limit the number of tariffs that suppliers can offer and force them to make bills clearer.

full article

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Energy watchdog Ofgem chief warns of bill rises

Consumers are being warned they face higher energy bills as the UK becomes more reliant on energy imports.

In a speech, Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan will say that falls in Britain's power production capacity are likely to lead to more energy imports and customers paying more.

The energy watchdog predicts power station closures could mean a 10% fall in capacity by April alone.

Mr Buchanan has said the UK needs more gas supplies to fill the shortfall.

His warning comes as older power stations close and renewable energy is still growing.

Mr Buchanan added that it was very important to resolve "leaky homes" and become more energy efficient in order to avoid the approaching "near crisis".

He is stepping down as Ofgem chief executive later this year.

Analysts said there was little chance of the UK running out of gas.

"We must not fear," said Ashton Berkhauer, the deputy chair of Energy Forecaster, which gives companies advice on their energy bills.

"The UK is very well connected. We have a number of different inter-connectors based all around the country as well as huge import facilities."

However, he added that both consumers and businesses "need to make sure they are not using more than they need to".

full article

Monday, 18 February 2013


The simplest and often best way to switch energy bills is to use an online service, which can compare the tariffs on offer for you. The services shows you the tariffs available and how much you could save by switching to each one, it allows you to choose what suits you and can rank suppliers by customer service and price. Switching is quick and easy and can be done online. All you need to do is put your postcode into the box to the right and follow the simple steps. The service is free to use and in a few minutes can tell you whether you can save hundreds of pounds. There's no need to fill out any paperwork or sign a new contract - it does the hard work for you.

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Hidden Costs Of The Green Deal

Anyone wishing to take advantage of the Green Deal to improve the energy efficiency of thier home should be aware of the financial consequences.
The expected financial savings must be equal to or greater than the costs attached to the energy bill, known as “the golden rule” .There has also been doubts cast over whether the central tenet of the scheme - a so-called "Golden Rule" whereby the cost of repayments never outweighs the savings on the bill - will actually be successfully implemented.

The scheme requires an assessment of £150 or more to determine what if any work can be done. The cost of this has been suggested to deter many people. The Government believes Green Deal loans will be repaid at a rate no more than 6.92%.
Further to these charges there will be an initial set up charge followed by a £20 annual fee, failure to repay a Green Deal will lead to disconnection of gas and electricity supplies. Recent surveys have found little awareness among the general public for the Green Deal. The high interest rates and charges of the scheme have been heavily critised.
If the loan is paid off early the entire interest for 25 years is the penalty to pay,this would arise due to the anticipated difficulty in trying to sell your home because any buyers would be put off by the increased fuel bills.
It is not yet entirely clear what kind of legal entity is applied to the Land Registry documentation to properties that have received Green Deal loans, or how the mortgage providers will treat those properties when the property is resold or remortgaged.

'Cheap Energy Club'

A new energy club which promises to keep its members on the cheapest gas and electricity deal by monitoring their tariff could finally shift the market in favour of consumers, according to its founder.

Martin Lewis, the consumer champion behind, said that he hopes that the launch of his newest venture, The Cheap Energy Club (, will encourage households who have been languishing on poor value deals to switch and save hundreds of pounds annually as a result.

The website will monitor users energy tariff to ensure that they are on the cheapest gas and electricity deal according to their usage and will alert members to a more affordable deal. If by switching, an energy customer can save more than a threshold they set – as little as £25 a year – the Cheap Energy Club will then move on to the new tariff and pay you £30 cashback.

“The energy market is broken, competition is failing, consumers are being shafted, and with continued price rises the underlying roar of dissatisfaction is growling louder,” said Mr Lewis.

“Many people are confused, scared or disaffected with the idea of switching energy. For a long time people have said to me ‘can’t you just do it for us?’. Cheap Energy Club is a step closer to us being able to say yes.”

full article

Surveyors warn of Green Deal pitfalls

The Residential Property Surveyors Association has raised concerns over the finance mechanism and the future risks for conveyancers, estate agents and homebuyers, following the Green Deal’s official launch.

RPSA chairman Alan Milstein said: “The Green Deal is a strong concept that could significantly help homeowners and tenants to reduce their energy consumption and as a result, reduce their fuel bills too.

“However, as the first Green Deal finance schemes come into place, our members have voiced a number of concerns about whether a Green Deal loan is actually the most cost-effective route for many consumers, while highlighting a number of risks for the wider property profession.”

Mr Milstein argued that the Green Deal may not be the best route for some homeowners. “With early repayment penalties and the uncertainty surrounding how having a Green Deal loan attached to your property will impact on the future saleability of the property, for many homeowners it may be advisable to look at alternative ways to fund any energy efficiency measures, which they plan to introduce.

full article

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Green Deal energy efficiency scheme

The Green Deal is a new government initiative designed to help households cut energy bills and carbon emissions by providing loans for energy efficiency improvements to homes.

To sign up, you will need to book an assessment for your home, typically at a cost of £80-£150 – although some firms are offering them for free.

You will then be visited by a Green Deal Assessor who will recommend improvements to your property and indicate if they will ‘pay for themselves’ through reductions in your energy bills. You can accept as many or few of these measures as you wish.

The scheme allows householders can take out 10 to 25 year loans to pay for the improvements. The repayments are added to energy bills with the intention that the improvements will lead to lower energy consumption, offsetting the extra cost.

Suppliers can also pass on a further setup cost of £63 for the loan, and annual operating costs of £20, to customers.

If you choose to switch energy companies then the loan will move to the new provider.
The loan is tied to the house, not the person, so if you were to move home the loan would be passed on to the new owners.

If you’re a landlord, you must get your tenant’s permission before you sign up, and if you’re a tenant you must get your landlord’s permission to sign up - this also applies to social housing.

The first people to take up the scheme can apply for cash back from a government pot, with sums varying from £10 to £1,000 available depending on the improvements being installed.

full article

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Energy Saving Nest Smart Thermostat

Nest Thermostat is a programmable thermostat which allows you to maintain the right temperature in your home and simultaneously help you to save on your energy bills.
The thermostat, which has always worked in conjunction with Nest’s free iPhone, iPad and Android smartphone apps, now works with Android tablets.

A properly programmed smart thermostat can save 20% to 40% of your energy bills. A small and barely discernable 1 degree change can bring about more than 5% less bills.

The Nest connects to your wireless network, so once you've performed the initial setup you can open a free Nest account and manage everything over the Web or from your Android or iOS phone or tablet.

The Nest may be tiny but it's jam-packed with cool technology, including activity sensors, a Wi-Fi radio, three temperature sensors, and a humidity sensor.

The activity sensors are used to activate the Auto Away feature, which shuts down heating and cooling after an hour or two of inactivity to conserve energy.

The Nest learns your heating and cooling habits over the first week of use. You can change the schedule at any time using the Nest's ring, but it is much easier to do online. If you can't be bothered to take the time to let the Nest learn, you can always create your own schedule with the Web app.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Thousands of insulation industry jobs lost in new year

More than 1,700 jobs have been lost in the insulation industry since December because of the government's flagship energy efficiency policy, according to insulation companies.

The green deal, under which householders will be able to take out loans for work on their properties such as loft and cavity wall insulation to improve their energy efficiency, will be launched on 28 January. But the government's old support mechanisms that made insulation cheap or free for households were cancelled in December, so few people have been insulating their houses.

According to the Insulation Industry Forum (IIF), orders from more than 34,000 households wanting insulation were cancelled because the funding was cut, and a further 27,000 inquiries from householders put on hold. That spells higher costs and unnecessarily freezing homes at the coldest time of year.

Ten major companies and five energy efficiency organisations have written to Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, urging him to work with them on a transition scheme that would ensure households, particularly poorer ones, have access to insulation during the current cold snap and the next two months of winter.
There are also concerns that people will be put off by some aspects of the green deal. For instance, many companies currently offer an initial assessment to householders, to see what form of energy efficiency improvements may be most suitable for their homes, for free, outside of the green deal. But research by the Guardian has shown that most green deal assessments will have to be paid for upfront, for about £95 to £150, although in some cases it will be refunded if households go ahead with the work.

Many experts are also worried that the green deal, where households that have taken out loans for improvements are paid back through additions to their electricity bills, will prove difficult for consumers to understand. Although people should make a net saving, because they should be able to use less energy to heat their homes, this might not be apparent. Some experts suspect that many British homes are underheated at present, so insulation may not result in a net energy saving because people will use the same amount of energy but have a warmer and more comfortable home.

As an incentive to people to sign up, the government is giving away £125m in "cashback" to people when they take up a green deal offer, which could be worth hundreds of pounds per household. Davey said: "The green deal will be a great offer for people to insulate their homes from the cold, and their wallets from rising energy prices. With cashback too, energy saving has never been so attractive. Our cashback scheme is a generous offer but it's first-come, first-served so householders need to be quick off the mark. Get an assessment, be ready to have home improvements done with a green deal when it launches on 28 January and then get your cash back."

He added: "This also sends a clear message to the industry that the green geal is coming. Green deal providers and businesses in the supply chain need to start gearing up to take full advantage of what promises to be an exciting new market."

Fiona Harvey

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Climate change: Soot's role underestimated

Black carbon, or soot, is making a much larger contribution to global warming than previously recognised, according to research.

Scientists say that particles from diesel engines and wood burning could be having twice as much warming effect as assessed in past estimates.

They say it ranks second only to carbon dioxide as the most important climate-warming agent.

The research is in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

Black carbon aerosols have been known to warm the atmosphere for many years by absorbing sunlight. They also speed the melting of ice and snow.
Half a degree

This new study concludes the dark particles are having a warming effect approximately two thirds that of carbon dioxide, and greater than methane.

The researchers say black carbon emissions in Europe and North America have been declining due to restrictions on emissions from diesel engines. But they have been growing steadily in the developing world. However as these type of particles don't last very long in the atmosphere, cutting their number would have an immediate impact on temperatures.
Black carbon is said to be a significant source of rapid warming in the northern United States, Canada, northern Europe and northern Asia. The particles are also said to have an impact on rainfall patterns in the Asian monsoon.

By Matt McGrath

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Monday, 14 January 2013

How much does it cost to charge an electric car ?

I am a commuter who drives into London on a daily basis. After reading the story that electric cars may soon be the only vehicles to be exempt from the £10-a-day London congestion charge and being increasingly concerned about my carbon footprint, I have been toying with the idea of buying one.

I currently travel ten miles back and forth from the office, Monday to Friday, and roughly drive a maximum of 30 miles over the weekend.

My question is how much would it add to my electricity bills and how easy is it to find charging points around London? I have been looking at snapping up either the Nissan Leaf or the Renault Twizy.

The main stumbling block for many drivers is the amount of miles these cars can actually do before they need to be re-charged. The Renault Twizy, for instance, can manage 62 miles officially, or just over 50 miles in some review tests, on one charge while the Nissan Leaf can do 109 officially, or just over 100 miles in some review tests.

These make them ideal for short commutes – like the ones mentioned in your question – but not for longer trips, which is unappealing for most drivers.

here are some advantages to electric cars. The fact there is no road tax for one, due to zero emissions and the fact you can charge at home, rather than have to fill up a forecourt.

Also, the Government is offering those who buy an electric car 25 per cent off the price, up to the value of £5,000.

According to a spokesman for Renault, using the Twizy to drive 130 miles a week would equate to roughly £3 per week - or £156 a year - based on three charges a week and domestic electricity at 14p/kwh unit.

It takes three-and-a-half hours to fully charge the battery and can go up to 62 miles on one charge.
It doesn't however qualify for the £5,000 government electric car grant scheme as it's not classified as a car - it's labeled a 'heavy quadricycle.'

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Can you afford to turn up the thermostat?

Freezing temperatures could put up energy bills by £7 a experts have warned, adding to the pressure on households as they cope with price hikes to gas and electricity.

It costs £3 a day, on average, to heat a home, but during cold weather this can easily rise by £1 a day as people push up thermostats or leave the heating on for longer, according to figures from price comparison website,

Weather forecasts have said that some parts of the UK could get up to 10cm of snow today with freezing temperatures set to continue for up to three weeks.
All of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers have announced price hikes this winter, with the last of these, from E.ON, coming into effect next Friday.

The price increases have pushed up the average annual household gas and electricity bill by 7.4 per cent, or £94 to a record £1,352 a year.

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UK tidal power has huge potential, say scientists

The UK is underestimating the amount of electricity that could be generated from tidal sources, new research says.

The analysis says that estuary barrages and tidal streams could provide more than 20% of the nation's demand for electricity.

Despite high costs, experts say tidal power is more reliable than wind.

The predictable nature of tides makes them an ideal renewable energy source, the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A reports.

Essentially, engineers try to tap tides in two ways: one involves building barrages across tidal estuaries that use the ebb and flow of the waters to turn turbines - a major project of this type had been proposed for the River Severn.

The other method involves planting turbines underwater in fast flowing tidal streams in areas such as in coastal waters around Cornwall and Scotland.
Smaller better

In the Royal Society report, researchers say they are "extremely optimistic" that both types of technology can be realised and relatively soon.
La Rance tidal station (Getty Images) La Rance in Brittany, France, is the site of the world's first tidal power station

"From tidal barrages you can reasonably expect you can get 15% of UK electricity needs, that's a very solid number," co-author Dr Nicholas Yates from the National Oceanography Centre told BBC News.

The massive Severn estuary tidal barrage scheme had been rejected by the coalition government because of its environmental impact, but ministers have indicated they are open to review the idea.

Developing power from offshore tidal streams is fraught with difficulty, as the BBC discovered when reporting on the emerging industry in Scotland last year.
Better than wind

But according to the authors of the latest research, 2013 could see a big breakthrough in tidal stream power. A company called MeyGen is planning to deploy tidal stream technology in the Pentland Firth that will initially generate up to 40MW of electricity, enough to power about 38,000 homes.

"This is a crucial milestone for us, it will be the first array of tidal stream turbines," observed report co-author Professor AbuBakr Bahaj from the University of Southampton.

"It will be a viable proposition for us in energetic areas of the sea - it will be give us another element in the energy mix that's more reliable than wind."

While the report paints a positive future for tidal power, a critical element is money.

In the past month ,the EU has announced funding in the region of £30m for two UK tidal projects.

Investors in tidal technology are currently rewarded with a payment of £40 per megawatt hour for energy generated from renewables, but this scheme will end in 2017.

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

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