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Time for a change in energy policy

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Chris Farrell reflects on the government’s energy bill, and sets out why he believes a change is needed in order to tackle one of the biggest problems facing Britain today: fuel poverty.

Over a week later and I am still stunned, bemused and concerned by the government’s so-called energy policies. It was always my understanding that a government is elected by the people to look after the good of the people in a socialist society, but recent announcements are forcing me to rethink my view. The ‘green’ levy, for example, is a case in point; how can the government justify the introduction of additional taxes which will push households’ fuel bills up still higher?

The bill has been presented as an attempt to encourage investment in low-carbon power production. Funding will come from the levy which will rise from £3 billion to £7.6 billion a year by 2020 to support nuclear and renewable energy production. The big, energy-intensive companies may be exempt from any additional charge, however, because that might slow down progress. Instead, it’s the consumer who’ll bear the brunt, with energy companies licensed to increase household bills by about £100 a year on average by 2020. Sorry, but I fail to see the logic in this. Has the government chosen to forget the very real problem that is fuel poverty, or its responsibilities and obligations to the whole of society?

In case anyone needs reminding, there are now reportedly one in four households in England and Wales in fuel poverty, who will be forced this winter to choose between heat and food. The government has a statutory duty to eliminate fuel poverty by 2016, yet the number affected has risen this year to over 5m households in England alone, all spending 10% or more of their income on warmth and light.

Earlier in the year, rather than putting pressure on the energy firms or promoting affordable energy efficient measures that would greatly reduce fuel bills, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) instead proposed adopting a new definition of fuel poverty that would conveniently halve the number of households defined as being in fuel poverty. Isn’t that called massaging the figures – and isn’t that the same approach they took to tackling unemployment?

And now, as temperatures drop sharply and the long winter and its associated hefty fuel bills lie ahead of us, the government chooses to announce its new system of taxes upon taxes that yet again will hit hardest the most vulnerable in our society.

What vexes me most is that there are simple ways to help families cope with winter fuel bills – and that approach is called energy efficiency. My company is just one British organisation that has been designing energy efficient heating solutions for years in the knowledge that energy efficiency is the cost-effective, affordable route to energy savings. It’s the practical, pragmatic approach that will bring important savings fast.

Take the boiler as an example. Most homes still use a boiler to heat not just their homes but their water. If you were to add an energy saving device like the Zenex GasSaver to A-rated boilers, your now ‘super condensing’ boiler could also preheat the water for your washing machine or dishwasher. So, in real terms, for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of energy saved through an energy efficiency measure like this, you reduce by around 5kWh the need to generate the energy from a power station.

David Cameron talks of the need for entrepreneurs to take this country forward and assure us of a seat at the world table. Well, as far as energy efficiency is concerned, we already have world-leading, ground-breaking British technology that brings proven energy savings. What we don’t have is the government’s support to make it mainstream.

What about the green deal?“, I hear you ask. Well, interestingly enough, there wasn’t a rush from householders to buy into this complicated scheme. Unsurprisingly, October’s shambolic attempt at a launch resulted in zero take up. Perhaps it was a deliberate fudge on the part of the government, a deliberate ploy to go for a ‘soft launch’. After all, no one could describe the green deal as exactly well thought through. Worryingly, the government seems no clearer as to how it should address the lack of interest its green deal has aroused, although it is keen to assure of the momentum it is building ahead of its full launch on 28 January and the taxpayers’ money it has put aside for publicity purposes.

As for the government’s energy policies, Greg Barker spoke of the energy bill as the most ambitious approach to demand reduction we’ve ever seen in the UK but was there is a worrying absence of details as to how it will go about encouraging energy efficiency.

At the risk of repeating myself, the technology already exists to rescue the millions now in fuel poverty. It’s time for the government to consult with the people who understand the industry. It’s time to support instead of block the entrepreneurs and innovators who, with government support, can bring about real change. It’s time for government to act in the interest of the whole of society.

After all, 2016 is not that far away.

Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Energy, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets. This post originally featured on his blog, The Green Entrepreneur.

Further reading:

Affordable heating for all

How energy labelling cost some residents the Earth

How low-cost bolt-ons could bring green deal success

Energy bill in the spotlight?

Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Energy, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets

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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