Centrica, the owner of British Gas, has said that UK wholesale gas costs are around 15% higher for next winter than last, and non-commodity costs are expected to add a further £50 to the cost of supplying the average household this year. This means that the trend for domestic energy costs therefore remains upwards.
However, E.ON have confirmed that despite the global trend of rising wholesale prices, they will not be raising their gas and electricity prices for the remainder of 2012.
Recently some of the cheapest fixed deals have been pulled from the market, but various cheap deals are still available, providing fixed prices until next year.
Considering the current climate, it’s a good time to encourage your customers to compare energy prices today to switch to a cheap fixed deal, while they are still available.
Tariffs ending soon
Customers who have fixed energy deals coming to an end shortly should also be looking to compare and switch now!
Tariffs coming to an end over the next few weeks include:
• British Gas Fixed Price June 2012
• British Gas Price Promise June 2012
• British Gas WebSaver 11
• E.ON SaveOnline
• npower Go Fix 5
Cheapest tariffs currently in the UK Power results table
Based on average figures for the UK, the cheapest tariffs for consumers (with medium usage) are:
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Now is the perfect time switch tariffs act now.
Gas and electricity price rises at the end of last year are expected to have pushed 400,000 more households in England into fuel poverty.
The projected increase, reported by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), took the total to 3.9 million households.
However, the rise came after a period of falling fuel poverty.
A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if it spends more than 10% of its income on heat and power.
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The DECC figures showed that across the UK, there were 5.5 million households in fuel poverty in 2009, falling to 4.75 million in 2010.
This figure included some 3.5 million in England in 2010, and four million in 2009.
DECC does not have a UK-wide projection for fuel poverty in 2012. However, these more historic figures show Northern Ireland was the most fuel poor part of the UK, at an estimated 44% of households.
In Scotland, 28% of the population were fuel poor, Wales was at 26%, and England stood at 16%.
Projections for England indicate there are likely to be around 3.5 million fuel poor households in 2011 and 3.9 million in 2012.
Since then, there have been modest cuts in prices at the start of this year.
A number of energy suppliers have hinted that prices will rise this winter, owing to increasing wholesale costs.
This would place more pressure on households having difficulty paying these bills.
“It is a major concern that so many people are struggling to afford their energy bills”
“Millions of families, older people and disabled people, living on low incomes, will be facing tough daily decisions on what essentials they cut back on to make ends meet.
“Current Government plans are not sufficient to tackle the scale of this problem.”
Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater.
They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface.
The team have produced the most detailed map yet of the scale and potential of this hidden resource.
Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they stress that large scale drilling might not be the best way of increasing water supplies.
Across Africa more than 300 million people are said not to have access to safe drinking water.
Demand for water is set to grow markedly in coming decades due to population growth and the need for irrigation to grow crops.
Responding to the Government’s ‘Progress towards a sustainable future for livestock farming’ report to be published , Friends of the Earth’s Senior Farming Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:
“Ministers are failing to deal with the enormous impact meat and dairy production has on wildlife and communities – particularly from soy grown at the expense of forests in South America and imported into the UK for animal feed.
“Although there has been some progress on research into imported soy alternatives, far more must be done to enable UK farmers to switch to planet-friendly farming methods.
“Reforming European farming policy is essential for the environment and global food security – UK Ministers must push for changes aimed at cultivating home-grown alternatives to overseas soy.
“We can’t allow our food system to cost the earth – the Government must do better.”
Earlier this month, Friends of the Earth produced a report card assessing Government progress in making UK livestock farming more sustainable. Agriculture Minister Jim Paice promised – at a Friends of the Earth farming conference last year – that the Government would “play its part”.
The report card, based on a detailed assessment by the environmental charity, showed progress could be better. It revealed the Government has:
• failed to push for planet-friendly farming reforms to the Common Agriculture Policy (we awarded them a D);
• failed to encourage the use of more food waste for animal feed (they got an F in our Report Card) – however, the latest report shows that Defra has commissioned a research project to explore how food and catering waste could be fed to animals. We therefore revise the score to a C;
• failed to produce clear public advice and industry guidance on healthy and sustainable diets (grade F);
• missed a major opportunity to promote better ingredients and healthier menus in canteens in schools and hospitals (grade D).
However, Friends of the Earth found some progress on research into alternatives to soy for animal feed (scoring a B in the report card) and recognised the potential of a new government project – called the Green Food Project – which is investigating how to increase production whilst protecting the environment (grade C).
Friends of the Earth is also urging the Government to keep its promise to announce a new Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech – to improve the treatment of farmers by the big supermarket chains.
Average water and sewerage bills in England and Wales will rise by 5.7% from April to about £376 per household.
The average figure disguises variations between water and sewerage firms, with customers at Southern seeing an 8.2% rise and those at Dwr Cymru 3.8%.
In 2009 the industry regulator, Ofwat, announced a five-year plan of annual rises from 2010 to 2015 to help fund £22bn of investments.
Ofwat said it understood that any rises in tough times were unwelcome.
The regulator said that the average rise was made up of November’s retail prices index of 5.2%, plus 0.5%.
To cope with the cost of these projects, Ofwat has allowed some firms to increase prices by more than 5.7%.
“Inflation feeds through into water bills, and this is driving these rises,” said Ms Finn in a statement on Tuesday.
“We understand that any bill rise is unwelcome, particularly in tough economic times. We will make sure customers get value for money,” she said.
She said that by 2015, companies will have spent on average £935 for every property in England and Wales on services improvements, including on cleaning up rivers and beaches.
“If companies don’t deliver on their investment promises, we will take action,” she said.
Consumer groups have reacted with caution to the news.
“If companies benefit financially from this then they need to share that with customers and not just with shareholders,” said Tony Smith, chief executive of the Consumer Council for Water.
“We’ll be making sure that customers get some benefits from this and also that companies step up their help for customers with affordability problems.”
Hopes of turning the Leeds city region into a ‘low carbon area’ have been given useful underpinning by an academic study which shows how cutting energy bills could be both profitable and create jobs.
The two-year project by four universities offers three levels of investment in largely conventional energy-saving measures – everything from park-and-ride schemes to solar panels – which would pay for themselves over terms ranging from four to seven-and-a-half years.
The most modest would cut £1.2 billion from the annual £5.4 billion energy bill for the region, which has a population of 3,000,000 and includes Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield and York. The most ambitious would cut £1.71 billion but need £13.03 billion investment rather than the £4.9 billion needed for the smallest scheme.
Raising such sums in current circumstances is recognised as the principal challenge by the academics, led by Prof Andy Gouldson of the University of Leeds which collaborates in the Centre for Low Carbon Futures with the universities of York (co-authors of the report), Hull and Sheffield. The report acknowledges:
Transition depends on political and social capital as well as financial capital.The levels of ambition, investment and activity needed to exploit the available potential are very significant indeed. Enormous levels of investment are required, along with major new initiatives with widespread and sustained influence in the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors.
And, of course, we need to think about some major innovations, particularly in stimulating the supply of and the demand for major investment resources. We need to think about innovative financing mechanisms, based on new forms of cost recovery and benefit sharing and new ways of managing risk. And we need to develop new delivery mechanisms that can stimulate and sustain demand for investment in low carbon options by overcoming the many potential barriers to change.
The study makes a start on achieving this aim by using realistically pessimistic data in its economic modelling to show how low carbon status would save money. Paying the current energy bill, for instance, sends ten percent of all locally-generated income out of the region, a sum forecast to grow in the next decade.
Prof Gouldson says:
The business case for major scale investments in energy and carbon management is very strong. If local government can underwrite early stage investments, as is happening in some places, then major flows of private sector investment can be secured. Investments can come from institutional investors such as pension funds, or in the near future through the Green Deal, the Green Investment Bank or Energy Company Obligations. The direct economic reasons for securing investments from sources like these are strong enough – but the wider economic, social and environmental benefits make the business case even more compelling.
Interestingly, the major property development proposed for one of Leeds city centre’s last ‘holes’, the area north of the Lower Headrow around the old Lady Lane Methodist chapel, includes a low-carbon energy centre to power £600 million worth of offices, restaurants and shops.
The chief executive of Leeds city council, Tom Riordan, welcomes the data as realistic ammunition against inevitable sceptics in hard times. He tells the Yorkshire Post:
There’s been a feeling in some quarters that in difficult times we’ve got to forget about ‘nice to do’ things like tackling climate change. But the headlines that come out of this study – basically that we could reduce our carbon emissions by a third through purely profitable activities, and at the same time create 1,000 jobs per year – are very impressive.
What this report demonstrates very clearly is that rather than being a ‘nice to do’, this is a ‘must do’ for an economy which wants to become more competitive and at the same time help its poorest people into jobs and to cope with very difficult and stretching financial conditions.
Another advantage is that low carbon status has the support of the Government, which included Leeds city region a year ago in a list of nine pilot areas. The others chosen in the aftermath of the Stern Review on climate change are Bristol, Bournemouth Poole and Dorset, Haringey, Manchester, Northumberland, Nottingham, Oxford and Plymouth.
The demand for home heating oil has fallen sharply as cost-conscious consumers take advantage of milder weather to turn down the heating.
The move is reducing the pressure on stretched household budgets.
The Northern Ireland Oil Federation has reported that imports of kerosene have fallen by more than 15%.
A mixture of high energy prices and reduced consumer spend has resulted in the fall-off in orders for home heating oil, the federation said.
“It is a difficult time for both consumers and local distributors, high prices are not good for anybody,” said David Blevings of the Oil Federation.
Faced with difficult economic conditions and high energy costs, many households are trying to make savings.
Reducing room temperature by just 1°C can cut a typical heating bill by up to 10%, the Energy Saving Trust said.
The oil market outlook is far from encouraging for consumers.
Iran has warned the United States and European Union that imposing sanctions on its oil industry would destabilise markets.
World prices have already surged by 4% since the start of the year, reaching an eight-month high earlier this week.
Northern Ireland consumers are now facing higher prices with the typical cost of a 900-litre fill jumping by over 2.5% to £561.
Large Scale Wind power could actually produce more CO2 than gas and increase domestic fuel bills because of the need for “back up” power stations, a think tank has warned.
A study in the Netherlands found that turning back-up gas power stations on and off to cover spells when there is little wind actually produces more carbon than a steady supply of energy from an efficient modern gas station.
The research is cited in a new report by the Civitas think tank which warns that Britain is in danger of producing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than necessary if the grid relies too much on wind.
Wind turbines only produce energy around 30 per cent of the time. When the wind is not blowing – or even blowing too fast as in the recent storms – other sources of electricity have to be used, mostly gas and coal.
However it takes a surge of electricity to power up the fossil fuel stations every time they are needed, meaning more carbon emissions are released.
“You keep having to switch these gas fired power stations on and off, whereas if you just have highly efficient modern gas turbines and let it run all the time, it will use less gas,” said Ruth Lea, an economic adviser to Arbuthnot Banking Group and the author of the Civitas report.
Thousands of households will be able to apply for vouchers giving them £400 off the price of a new boiler under a “scrappage” scheme to cut carbon and help people save money on bills.Up to 125,000 households with working boilers with the lowest “G” rating in England can apply for vouchers from the Energy Saving Trust towards “A” rated boilers or renewable heating systems such as a biomass boiler or heat pump.
The Government said the £50 million scheme will save as much carbon as taking 45,000 cars off the roads and will also cut a household’s energy bill by up to £235 a year.
The average cost of a boiler and its installation is around £2,500, according to the heating industry.
Some energy companies are planning to complement and even match the Government offer with money-off initiatives for upgrading to more efficient boilers – so that more householders can take advantage of the scheme.
The Government said the programme would also help sustain work for the 130,000 installers and 25 boiler manufacturers in the UK during the recession.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is launching the scheme with Energy Secretary Ed Miliband on Tuesday, said: “Today’s announcement will slash household energy bills and carbon emissions while providing an important boost for the British heating industry.
“The Government’s new scrappage scheme will help to secure 250,000 jobs across the tens of thousands of small and medium businesses involved in boiler manufacture, sales and installation that form a vital component of Britain’s low carbon economy.”
Mr Miliband said: “The boiler scrappage scheme will save around £200 off heating bills per year for families that are replacing their old boilers, and in total will save the same amount of carbon equivalent to taking around 45,000 cars off the road.
“The scheme will add to the existing package of Government measures to help householders be smarter about the energy they use, leading to permanently reduced fuel bills and cutting emissions.”
Forget the Sahara. Is Cornwall the new solar power capital? A solar goldrush may be just about to emerge as the Cornwall Council has issued a Public Tender Notice for a series of solar power plant plans. The Council says it has posted this notice to advertise its intention to establish a framework agreement for contractors to be appointed for the design, build, operation and maintenance of solar energy generation projects located within the UK regions of Cornwall, Plymouth and Devon.
The general scope of works will involve the design and construction of the entire solar energy generation system, including the associated works to ensure it is connected to the electricity grid and/or any consumer connections. The works will also include the operation and maintenance of the solar energy generation projects to ensure they are kept in working order and maintain their expected energy generation outputs.
The type and range of projects intended to be procured under this framework agreement will range from large-scale solar parks to smaller scale commercial and or domestic installations. The projects called-off under this framework will vary in terms of their electricity generation outputs from an estimated 0.01MW to 5MW.
The first project, named the Kernow Solar Park, to be procured under the Framework will be a ground-based photovoltaic installation, located within close proximity to Newquay Airport in Cornwall, capable of achieving a maximum 5MW output.
Full details of the solar energy generation projects framework agreement will be disseminated to the shortlisted tenderers as part of the Invitation to Tender stage.
In mid-November, Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson wrote to Energy Minister, Greg Barker to reaffirm the area’s commitment to renewable energy generation. The letter describes the potential problems which could be caused by cutting the feed-in tariffs and also outlines the council’s argument for large-scale solar.
“As part of our ambitious and innovative approach to renewable energy we have developed separate and specific teams responsible for our regulatory function and the facilitation of Cornwall’s green ambitions,” said Robertson.
“It is the council’s belief that the development of ground-based solar PV will provide substantial opportunities to drive the market price down for PV in the UK.”