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Economy

British energy consumers deserve more than political football

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The big six energy suppliers have agreed to pass on savings to customers, after it was announced over the weekend that the government would be rolling back some of the environmental and social taxes currently attached to energy bills.

The savings, according to George Osborne, will equate to around £50 for the average household. While not a huge saving, it’s worth noting that the UK is the second worst place for fuel poverty in Europe after Estonia, so the discount is therefore a welcome announcement for many consumers up and down the country.

There was an awful lot of noise when the government first indicated that it would be conducting a review on green levies. One of the very first responses to these indications came from business leaders, including one of the big six energy firms E.ON, who said that the proposals “defy belief”.

Commenting on a letter sent to Downing Street, industry leaders warned that cutting back on energy efficiency schemes could be dangerous.

Paul King, CEO of the UK Green Building Council, said, “Cutting back schemes designed to boost energy efficiency is an incredibly short-sighted view and one that will only result in higher bills in the medium to long-term for those most vulnerable from rocketing energy prices.”

Meanwhile the energy committee, a group of MPs charged with the task of investigating the possibility of rolling back levies, warned the prime minister that to do so could “undermine investor confidence”.

But the government had evidently taken this as much ado about nothing, and instead took the decision to roll back green levies on bills, instead moving them into general taxation. Osborne said this will be funded by a crackdown on corporate tax avoidance.

But if we look at the practicalities of the move, what will it actually mean for consumers and what will it mean for progress on environmental efforts?

The day after the announcement was made, three of the big six energy companies that had already announced increases said that they would pass on the savings to consumers which will cost them absolutely nothing. But the fact remains that consumers will still be paying an average of £61 a year extra to what they will have paid on average last year.

Advice from consumer groups on Monday morning echoed that of the government when initial hikes were announced: switching is the best way to avoid the most dramatic increases.

Clare Francis, editor-in-chief at MoneySuperMarket.com, said, “Any reduction to energy bills is good news for struggling consumers but this isn’t the move that will finally make energy more affordable for UK households.”

She added that delays in the process of passing on savings were simply not good enough, warning that the UK is now entering the coldest time of the year: “This move to reduce the cost of energy is by no means a cue for billpayers to sit back and do nothing. Annual energy costs should fall by around £50 but this won’t be enough to offset the recent price hikes average £111 so it is still really important that people make sure they are on the cheapest tariff available as there are still savings to be made.”

It seems then, that the best way for customers to save money at this point in time is to switch, and there are a number of good alternatives out there that can save customers money on their bills.

On Friday, Good Energy and Ecotricity, two leading renewable energy suppliers, took the unprecedented steps of freezing their gas and electricity prices until the end of winter. The moves set the pair aside from the big six firms that have announced price hikes of as much as 10.4% in recent weeks. One Good Energy customer told the BBC’s Question Time last month, “My energy bills have never been cheaper.”

But what about these so-called ‘green levies’, and what will rolling them back mean for the industry as a whole?

Andrew Warren, director for the Association for the Conservation of Energy said that the government had destroyed measures that, in the long-term, would see energy bills decrease.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Monday that energy companies had been “deliberately” diverting attention during the review over energy price increases from energy efficiency measures, paid for by green levies, because ultimately, the failure of such measures would mean that consumer buy more energy from them.

We anticipated it [home energy efficiency schemes] running at the same sort of level through to 2022 in which case we would have dealt with much of the housing stock”, he said.

Warren added that the schemes supported low income people who were living in badly insulated homes, and that the number of homes being insulated every year will “crash down” from 80,000 to about 25,000.

Energy secretary Ed Davey told the same programme that 25,000 per year would be only a minimum: “Consumers are the ones winning today with an average of £50 off household energy bills, but we’ve managed to do that while protecting the fuel poor. I’ve always said that was critical for my approach and we’ve achieved that and we’ve done that by maintaining our green energy policies.”

Davey announced £540m of investment in energy efficiency schemes, but said that this would only be available under the new rules to those moving homes.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Sophie Neuburg said the government had “crumbled in response to pressure from the big six, leaving the fuel poor and the environment to pick up the bill.”

Neuburg went on to say, “The effect of all the measures announced today is that funding for energy efficiency has fallen by over £700m, condemning thousands of people to shiver in heat-leaking homesIf ministers were serious about tackling fuel bills they would introduce a comprehensive energy efficiency programme and take urgent steps to wean our economy off increasingly costly fossil fuels – the real driving force behind rocketing fuel bills.”

Whatever the pros and cons to the whole debacle, the energy market faces a very uncertain future. The government has caved into pressure from energy suppliers, who ultimately say that investment in a greener, more sustainable energy infrastructure should be paid for by the consumer and not from their profits, which have increased by 77% in the last year alone.

More worryingly, though, there are more and more people now working on zero-hour contracts, unpaid internships and being paid less than the minimum living wage and it is those people who will be bearing the brunt of these price rises.  

Politicians in Whitehall need to stop using energy as a political football and pull together to help those most hard-pressed, whilst also ensuring that people get the right help to ensure their homes are more energy efficient and less dependent on energy from fossil fuels, which fuel climate change and more basically, pollute the only planet we have.

Further reading:

Energy bills to be cut by £50 after government shake-up

Politicians urged to focus on energy efficiency measures

Green energy firms Good Energy and Ecotricity break mould with winter price freezes

Utility bill increases here to stay, says National Audit Office

Energy bosses summoned by MPs over price hikes

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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