Recent reports and moves in the energy market sector show how high energy prices are embedded in the market. This new information underlines again that the only way for businesses, organisations and households to reduce their ever-rising energy bills is through efficiency, using less electricity in a sustainable way.
This week, we heard that former energy regulators believe aggressive regulation over the past six years may have hindered competition among energy suppliers, maintaining high prices. They advise the Competition and Markets Authority energy industry inquiry that Ofgem’s interventions have led to extra costs and have forced energy suppliers to remove some cheaper tariffs.
At the same time, Sara Bell, executive director of the UK Demand Response Association advises in a Guardian report that the energy market in the UK has never valued the customer as its core priority for a stark, simple reason.
She says, “Energy efficiency and this type of optimisation go hand in hand. Demand, response and energy efficiency totally complement each other: the more you invest in insulation, for example, the more flexibility you have.
“As a supplier, you are in an ideal position to manage all of these costs. But we have a market structure in the UK where most suppliers own [energy] generation assets. You are almost duty bound to your shareholders to optimise its revenue, so you have to sell at the highest price.”
New regulations mean that the National Grid can offer energy generation companies long-term contracts, up to 15 years. Demand response companies will only be offered 12 months – hardly competitive or compelling. It cements the power with the big energy companies.
It is interesting then, to see the arguments put to the energy competition inquiry by Stephen Littlechild, head of electricity regulation from 1989 to 1998, Sir Callum McCarthy, head of the current regulator Ofgem from 1998 to 2003 and Clare Spottiswoode, head of gas regulation from 1993 to 1998.
According to a BBC report, the former regulators say in their letter to the CMA that “regulatory interventions to promote more consumer engagement can increase customer and supplier transactions costs, leading to lower customer benefits including via higher prices, and weaker rather than stronger competition.”
“Regulatory interventions can also affect suppliers’ ability to compete as well as their incentives to do so,” they add.
Ofgem has recently changed the industry’s rules so that energy suppliers are now restricted to offering just four tariffs. This means some cheap special tariffs for “vulnerable” customers such as the elderly and the poor have been withdrawn. Suppliers have also been stopped from offering cheaper tariffs only to new customers, while refusing to offer such deals to existing ones.
There remains widespread and long standing concern that energy suppliers are able to keep on raising prices, free of any real competitive pressure, even when wholesale prices have been falling.
Add to this confusing mix the recent debacle over the revised Green Deal, quickly closed amid allegations of unacceptable practices from suppliers, and we can see how problematic the entire sector has become in this era of expensive energy.
Supplier switching and changes in behaviour can play a part but only for a limited time. Businesses, organisations and consumers all need to take the best advice from trusted sources, commit time and budget, then act to reduce energy and water consumption.
As a shining example, look no further than the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which has just completed an LED lighting retrofit to cut bills and carbon emissions.
We advise every customer to take this step – LED lighting can reduce electricity consumption by up to 85% and shrink their carbon footprint substantially.
Further savings are simply made through water-efficient products like eco showers and tap aerators in the home and at work. For businesses and other organisations, smart lighting controls, intelligent heating controls and smart pumps are among the best ways to cut energy consumption by 50% or more.
In this way, at least you are in control of energy spending, and have clarity rather than confusion through simple, efficient, sustainable actions.
Mark Sait is managing director of energy-saving specialists SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com. He is among the speakers at Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Sustainable September conference, which you can find out more about here.
Photo: Tristan Benninghofen via Free Images
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7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
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