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Good Energy: providing renewable energy for the masses

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Regular readers will already be familiar with 100% renewable electricity supplier, Good Energy. In the past year, the firm has gone from strength to strength. Its CEO Juliet Davenport brings us up to speed.

This piece originally featured in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013.

Since we last spoke to you for The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2012, what has happened at Good Energy?

Last year, we grew our customer base – including our small generators and electricity and gas customers – by around 80%.

And that was driven by a significant number of people getting involved in generating power, from individuals through to social housing organisations. As their feed-in tariff (FiT) administrator, we look after them, checking their meters and ensuring that they get paid for producing renewable electricity.

The really interesting part for us is seeing the social housing organisations investing in solar in their properties, to give themselves a return but also help support their tenants in terms of reducing bills. Good Energy’s flexible service helped underpin this investment, and we hope to be able to support those organisations going forward.

What do you think your very encouraging annual report said about renewable energy in the UK?

I think it’s very buoyant at the moment. There have been some knock-backs, and we’ve seen a change in policy on FiT. But actually, we’re seeing a lot of positivity about the technology and the price of it improving.

Click here to read The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013

There is a growing general awareness that we need to start to make changes on how we use and generate energy, to improve the outlook from a security and climate change point-of-view.

Our organisation is trying to put the customer at the heart of it all rather than trying to be technology led, because any investment the market makes is essentially there to ensure that households and businesses can buy affordable, secure, low carbon energy for the future. Engaging with individuals and businesses on how to solve this problem is a very powerful way forward.

Are renewables in a better position now than this time last year?

The UK has a larger percentage of renewables in our mix now than ever. One day in March this year around 11% of the UK’s demand was being met by wind. At the same time, one of the gas pipelines from Belgium had failed, pushing the price of gas up in the day ahead market and influencing the forward energy price to almost three times the normal value.

For me, this demonstrates precisely why we need a good mix across all different technologies; no technology is secure, as history demonstrates time and time again.

You previously said that one of the key things the government needs to understand is “how the market structure that it’s implementing is affecting the smaller players – the non-traditional energy suppliers”. Does it have a better understanding of this now?

I think the government is still struggling. When we look at the mechanisms that we’re likely to see coming into play over the next couple of years, particularly in the electricity market reform, I think it’s such a massive challenge – even for the bigger players. For the smaller players increased complexity just means increasing the pressures of covering costs across a smaller customer base.

There is some work going on for the smaller players, both suppliers and generators, but it’s still on the margins rather than at the centre.

Our point is that these are potentially the technologies of the future so you’ve got to make sure the market is structured accordingly, and future proofed. Have we moved on? I’m not entirely sure. I’m not confident that we’ve moved on and recent meetings with officials have reinforced that opinion.

The energy bill was published in December. Did the government go far enough for renewables?

We would have liked to have seen a decarbonisation target, because at the moment, there are few signals from governments about the vision for the future beyond 2020 and as such we will begin to see investments slow down until there is.

I know governments have shorter time horizons, but investments take time. We think on five to 10-year horizons. To make that type of planning – not just for the energy industry – but also for the wider industry, it must understand that a commitment is important going forward.

The lack of a decarbonisation target has been picked up by many industry bodies as one of the defining issues to come out of the energy bill. Has it affected consumer confidence?

We all know this is about the longer term. For the short-term, no, I don’t think it has. It’s something we need to get back on the agenda and make sure the short-term political football, which is what it seems to have become, is about the long-term.

From our point-of-view, the decarbonisation target is something we think we should be working towards. It would have been good to get it in this energy bill, because it makes sense to do that.

It’s still all up for grabs, and obviously we can still go after it. But in terms of consumers, my answer is no.

What is the primary driver for someone who switches to Good Energy? Is their motivation environmental, financial or a mixture of both?

I think it’s a mixture of both. And there’s another thing up there, we’ve come top of the Which? customer satisfaction survey three times out of the last four years. I think providing good customer service is part of our credibility and ensuring that our staff are trained to be able to answer a range of questions on energy efficiency and renewables is incredibly important.

There is a growing general awareness that we need to start to make changes on how we use and generate energy, to improve the outlook from a security and climate change point-of-view

We also have had stable prices for the last four years. Customers seem to really appreciate that and it’s something we will be working on for the future.

There are probably five or six boxes that different people will tick. But being green is the core part of it.

You recently launched a local tariff for customers who live near Delabole wind farm. What were the drivers for launching this?

We bought the site as the oldest commercial wind farm in the UK, and we repowered it in 2010, installing 4 turbines that generate enough electricity to power around 5,500 homes. This means that the site produces nearly two and half times more than it did before.

In the planning process we held three consultations on that project and met with the local community.  At the events we talked them through the project, and a key feedback was that we got was people asking, “Can we buy electricity from the site? Can you deliver us cheap electricity?

We didn’t make the commitment at the time, but we agreed to investigate to see whether we could. We launched the Delabole tariff as a result.

Are there plans to roll similar plans out elsewhere in the UK?

What we’re looking at now is whether we can roll it out to other sites that we’re developing. We figured out that for a wind site, it needs to be above 4 megawatts (MW) for us to offer a local tariff.  We’re looking at potentially launching a local tariff at a site we’re developing at the moment, and for another two sites in the pipeline.

Good Energy recently launched a partnership with the National Trust. How did that come about?

We were chosen by the National Trust to be its principal energy partner at the end of 2012. I think they were particularly impressed by our green credentials and reputation for outstanding customer service.

We will partner the National Trust for the next three years and help develop its renewable strategy. Together we hope to inspire people to switch to green electricity, reduce their energy usage and if possible generate their own renewable power at home.

Members and supporters can get involved too. For each household that signs up to our dual fuel tariff via the National Trust, we will pay £40 to the Trust, providing it with an income to invest in energy infrastructure and reduce CO2 emissions at the same time.

One of the things that has been widely mentioned in reports about the deal is the lack of wind power. What were the reasons for not including wind?

The National Trust went to all its properties to see how it could save CO2 emissions with the resources it has at each site. A lot are buildings or on woodland estates, and most are being heated by oil.  These sites are looking to use biomass.  They have also identified some hydro power potential, because many sites have old mills or are next to rivers.

The National Trust has chosen renewables appropriate to the resources of the special places it looks after.

One of the things it’s working on is a tool to look at the value of landscapes. For us, it’s helpful because we can potentially use that in terms of sites we’re looking at for developing wind.

What would you say to Blue & Green Tomorrow readers who might have read about Good Energy, but are yet to make the switch?

It’s always about time. People are always very time poor. People are concerned when they change their utility provider about how much time it’s going to take and whether it’s going to be more expensive.

I think the best thing for anybody to do is to give us a call. Our customer services guys are all trained in energy efficiency, and we’re now accredited by the Energy Savings Trust. You can just ring up for a chat and find out about what you can do.

In terms of switching to Good Energy, it’s very easy and takes less than five minutes. You can do it quickly via our website or over the phone if you prefer to talk to our fantastic customer services team.

Finally, one of the things we tend to see is that Good Energy customers generally use less electricity than the national average because they’re thinking about it. We’re a great place to come to, even if you don’t switch immediately. It’s about starting that conversation; how you can use less energy, whether you can generate your own energy and whether you want to switch.

To find out more about Good Energy, or to make the switch, click here.

Further reading:

Renewables given boost through Good Energy’s encouraging annual figures

National Trust plans ambitious renewable energy rollout

Good Energy launches electricity tariff to reward local customers

Good Energy scoops third customer satisfaction crown

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013

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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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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