Choose a Green Energy Supplier to Increase the Sustainability of Your Home

Green Energy

Choose a Green Energy Supplier to Increase the Sustainability of Your Home

In these eco-conscious times, we’re all looking for ways to improve the sustainability of our households and reduce our carbon footprint. Everything from the kind of food we serve at dinner time to the kind of detergent we use can have a powerful impact on the planet we all share. But while switching to a green energy supplier is one of the easiest ways to reduce the environmental impact of your home, it’s also extremely effective.

Can renewable energy really make a difference?

Absolutely. In fact, switching to a renewable energy plan can prevent around 1.1 tonnes of carbon from entering our atmosphere every single year. At The Renewable Energy Hub, we know a thing or two about the impact renewable energy can have on your home. But we often find that people don’t realise just how easy it is to switch to a renewable supplier.

How do I switch to renewable energy?

It’s quick and easy to switch to a renewable energy tariff. Just get in touch with our friends at Switch-Plan. They can help you to find the perfect green energy supplier for your needs, and a tariff that works for your budget. So you can reduce your environmental footprint and save money at the same time. It’s a process that takes just a few minutes, but can result in years of savings. Both in terms of carbon, and your bank balance.

Who is the best green energy supplier?

That’s a tricky question to answer. It really depends on your unique circumstances. Different green energy suppliers and tariffs are available in different areas, and the right plan for you will depend on which fuels your home uses, your energy consumption, and when you use it. That’s the beauty of Switch-Plan. The team carefully match the right tariff to your needs. So you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re getting carbon-neutral energy at the best possible prices.

Can I also get renewable gas?

Yes, absolutely. Most suppliers offer some form of green gas to their customers.

This comes in the form of either carbon-neutral or carbon-offset gas. Carbon-neutral gas is biomethane that’s sourced from plant and agricultural waste rather than natural gas from within the earth. Carbon-offset gas, however, is still natural gas, but the carbon it generates has been offset by other carbon-neutral or carbon-negative investments around the world (like planting trees).

Save the planet and save money… It’s a no-brainer!

The right green energy supplier can help you to save money while also helping to save our world. If we were all to switch to renewable energy plans, we could save hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 from entering our atmosphere and save trillions around the world in climate change costs. So, what are you waiting for? See how much you could save by switching energy plans today.

Good News for East Devon Homes As Centrica Partners with Council To Install Heat Pumps

Devon

One of the greatest challenges that the UK faces in meeting its net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050 is the decarbonisation of heat.

Last year, British Gas owner Centrica called for a national heat pump installation drive over the next decade suggesting that the UK should be aiming to install one million heat pumps by 2025. Centrica believes that we may be more than a decade away from hydrogen domestic heating being viable.

Following on from this, one of the projects Centrica is undertaking in 2021 involves an ambitious heat pump installation scheme. The energy firm is working with East Devon District Council to install heat pumps and other low carbon technology at 78 homes in East Devon by the end of March. Houses & bungalows located in Lyme Regis, Exeter and Axminster will have their solid fuel heating and immersion systems replaced with low carbon alternatives, the plan being to reduce energy bills for residents and bring about a significant reduction in carbon emissions. The scheme is being delivered as part of the Green Homes Grant scheme with additional investment from East Devon District Council.

Each home will be provided with an air-source heat pump to include all necessary components, solar panels, new radiators, upgraded insulation and a new intelligent heating control system. The heat pump being used is the Vaillant aroTHERM air-source heat pump while Mixergy, a firm that Centrica has invested in and partnered with is providing an unvented heat pump cylinder with built-in solar PV modulating diverter. Stelrad is supplying individually sized low water volume radiators complete with thermostatic valves.

The objective of the scheme is to bring the ECP rating E or below up to a minimum of a C, although it is expected that most properties will achieve ECP B or above.

An application for the second phase of the project has already been submitted which if successful could see sustainable heating technology extended to a further 75 properties in the area.

Sophie Davies, housing business and customer improvement manager at East Devon District Council, said:

“This scheme has real potential to change tenants’ lives for the better, by making their home heating systems more effective and more affordable, while reducing global warming and improving air quality. Collaboration has been at the heart of the project, which can now be used as a best practice example in the low carbon economy, showing others what can be achieved and encouraging them to follow suit. We’re proud to be investing in our tenants, and to be investing in a green future for East Devon.”

P H Jones, Centrica’s specialist social housing division are overseeing Project planning, delivery, and compliance with the support of engineers, electricians, and managers from British Gas.

Ian Mather, business development manager at P H Jones, said:

“Now that the first units are in, early indicators and tenant feedback suggest that the project will over-deliver against the targets we’ve set, in terms of its environmental benefits, and by making residents’ homes warmer and more comfortable, for less. We’re committed to being at the forefront of the UK’s transition to low carbon heating, drawing on the expertise within our organisation to make a meaningful difference to local communities in everyday life, and in the context of our national net zero goals.”

It is encouraging to see this scheme getting underway in East Devon as the Green Homes Grant has been beset with problems and delays. The idea behind the grant was to target green home improvements, issuing vouchers for technology such as heat pumps as well as solar thermal and insulation. However, the Environmental Audit Committee has warned that at the current rate it will take 10 years to meet the government’s target, with only 20,000 vouchers issued so far out of a total of 600,000 on offer.

Further to this it has recently been announced that any unspent funding of the £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme would not be rolled over into 2021/22.

Machine Learning Applications for Renewable Energy Forecasting

Machine Learning

Renewable energy adoption is growing across the world. As renewables make up a larger portion of the world’s energy production, predicting future scenarios becomes more pressing. Thankfully, machine learning applications can bring several improvements to renewable energy forecasting.

Machine learning applications are a subset of artificial intelligence, where algorithms learn to identify patterns from data with minimal human intervention. Many companies use it to find ways to improve or predict upcoming changes that would affect their business. This pattern-based prediction can help renewable energy, too.

Since renewables rely on nature, their efficiency and production can vary widely. Better predictive tools can help energy companies and users make the most of these installations. Here’s how.

Predicting Energy Consumption

One of the most crucial parts of renewable energy forecasting is predicting how much energy users will consume. Unlike other power sources, renewables don’t generate electricity around the clock. Power companies need to understand demand so they can allocate energy appropriately, so as not to waste any.

People can monitor usage trends to predict upcoming consumption changes, but this can be slow and inaccurate. Since computers are generally better at data-heavy tasks than people, machine learning can spot trends and make connections faster. In the renewable energy sector, this looks like an algorithm analysing usage patterns to determine which areas will need more energy at any given time.

With this information, energy companies can deliver power to where it’s needed most. The result is less waste, less disruption, and more consumer satisfaction. Some machine learning algorithms can achieve this even with partial information, making them far more reliable than traditional approaches.

Predicting Weather Conditions

Another unique issue with renewable energy forecasting is the weather’s impact. Since renewables rely on things like the wind and sun, varying weather conditions produce different amounts of power. Machine learning applications can help predict these more accurately than traditional models.

Most weather forecasting models rely on data from large geographic regions that don’t always accurately represent local conditions. Machine learning algorithms can process far more granular data in a similar or even shorter time. This precision and speed produces more reliable, relevant forecasts.

The same machine learning programs can then predict how the weather will impact energy production. If renewables will produce higher-than-average levels, energy companies can scale down fossil fuels and vice versa. Some days, wind power alone can produce half of the U.K.’s energy, while others, it barely generates anything, so this flexibility is crucial.

Predicting Market Movements

Renewable power vendors need to meet market demands to make sustainable energy more widespread. Like in any business, appealing to customers requires an understanding of consumer trends. Many companies use machine learning applications in this area, and so can renewable energy businesses.

With enough high-quality data, consumer actions are surprisingly predictable. Machine learning algorithms can forecast long-term market movements, so renewable energy companies can understand their audience. Since it can take time to adjust production or marketing strategies, predicting these consumer trends early is crucial.

If more renewable power vendors adapt to shifting markets, they’ll become more attractive to consumers. As a result, sustainable energy will spread faster, helping the world move towards a greener future.

Predicting Potential Issues

Another crucial part of renewable energy forecasting is determining where potential problems may arise. While renewables provide lower lifetime operating expenses, upfront equipment costs are typically high. If companies can predict when conditions may threaten the grid, they can prevent it, leading to considerable savings.

One of the most useful machine learning applications in this area is predictive analytics. In this process, machine learning algorithms look at how equipment is running to predict when it will need repair. That way, workers can prevent costly breakdowns and don’t have to perform any unnecessary maintenance.

While human inspectors can attempt to do the same thing on their own, they’re not as effective. One study found that AI-assisted predictive maintenance is up to 25.3% more efficient and 24.6% more precise. These savings can help make renewable installations more cost-effective, helping them grow further.

Machine Learning Makes Renewable Energy More Viable

Machine learning can help forecast many relevant factors impacting renewable energy. As a result, renewables will become more reliable, affordable, and desirable. With these improvements, they could overtake fossil fuels faster.

Renewable energy is promising on its own, but machine learning expands its potential. By making renewables a more viable alternative to fossil fuels, machine learning is improving sustainability across multiple industries.

The Best UK Green Energy Suppliers in 2021 And How To Choose One

UK Energy

It has become ever more apparent in the last decade that climate change and its side effects are the most pressing challenges that mankind is facing. Fortunately, there is a way we can prevent disaster and that is to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Back in 2019 The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy revealed that 85% of people in the UK supported the use of renewable energy. However, for many people, installing renewable energy into their home can still be too expensive despite government initiatives such as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Green Homes Grant. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint but are not yet in a position to install renewable energy the next best thing is to switch your energy supplier to one with green credentials. There has never been an easier time to switch to a green energy supplier. The industry is growing at such an incredible rate that there is more choice than ever before as the market moves towards embracing renewable energy.

It isn’t difficult to find a supplier that can provide 100% green electricity these days. In fact, most of the Big Six energy companies, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power, and SSE have tariffs that offer this. You will have to turn your attention to the smaller energy suppliers if you want green gas too or at least a share of it.

What Is Green Energy

Green energy is electricity and gas that is generated from renewable sources instead of fossil fuels like coal and gas. It is renewable because it is collected from sources, such as wind and the sun’s rays, which are naturally replenishing. If you burn coal, you’re left with nothing but ashes and carbon dioxide.

The main renewables used are wind power (on-shore and off-shore), solar power, wave and tidal, biomass, hydroelectric and geothermal. Though nuclear power doesn’t produce carbon dioxide and is considered by some as a green, low carbon alternative to fossil fuels, it does produce nuclear waste which means it is not generally classed as ‘green’.

‘Green gas’ refers to Biomethane, which is a naturally occurring gas produced from the breakdown of organic materials and landfill gas and there is also syngas made from biofuels. 

How To Choose The Best Green Energy Supplier For You

Green energy doesn’t have to cost you more. If you use a price comparison website, you will find some green energy suppliers that offer cheaper tariffs and some that are more expensive. The price difference is usually down to just how green the energy really is. On the whole, you will pay more for a supplier that generates its own electricity from renewable sources and provides some level of green gas than you will if the supplier simply matches your usage by buying green energy.

Buying your energy from a green energy supplier does not mean that you will get all your energy from renewable sources. The National Grid electricity network links all power stations which means that your electricity will come from that pooled network.

To decide which green energy supplier is right for you, check their fuel mix and see if they can guarantee that you’re getting green electricity or if they are actually just offsetting your usage. It is possible to find out what type of energy your supplier uses as each year energy companies must report to Ofgem exactly how their energy is generated. This allows you to see which suppliers are truly green and which are still relying on coal for example.

If you want your energy supplier to provide some green gas you will need to check that they are a member of the Green Gas Certification Scheme. The green gas you receive will also be mixed with normal ‘natural’ gas. The UK does not produce enough green gas to supply all those who want it, but most companies offer carbon offsetting as an alternative to green gas.

You may be anxious about the stability of the smaller suppliers fearing that they will be less reliable, but it’s worth knowing that even if your provider goes bust, you’ll just be moved to a different supplier. According to customer satisfaction polls many of the smaller suppliers have better service and happier customers. Some of them such as Bulb and Octopus have become as well-known as the Big Six suppliers.

There are approximately 355 green energy tariffs currently on sale in the UK but it’s not like for like and often what is on offer is misleading.

Many supposed renewable energy suppliers are actually dependent upon a certification system from Ofgem called ‘Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin’ (REGO) certificates. These REGOs are sold alongside the energy itself per MWh (Megawatt hours) to the energy supplier, allowing them to prove their energy is green. The more green energy a company generates, the more REGOs they can earn. However, a loophole currently exists that enables suppliers to buy REGOs without the energy. They can buy fossil fuel energy and provided they match the amount of REGOs per MWh they can still call themselves green. The term to describe this is greenwashing. These so called light green energy suppliers can buy themselves an ‘eco status’ without investing in renewables. Ofgem are looking at what measures they can bring in to stop this happening. In the meantime, if the deal you’re considering appears to be offering seriously cheap energy then it may be that your saving is costing the planet elsewhere.

Here are 5 the best renewable energy providers who are specifically offering 100% renewable energy and at least 10% green gas (biogas) making them the most sustainable on the market.  Many offer their energy tariffs at competitive rates with fixed rate options so that even if they are not the cheapest energy supplier, you can still expect your energy bills to come down.

Green Energy UK

Green Energy UK is the only supplier to offer 100% green gas as well as green electricity, making them the truly sustainable choice. Their renewable sources are hydro, solar and wind. Unlike other green energy suppliers, who offset their gas emissions Green Energy UK produces all of the gas it provides to customers from anaerobic digestion. You’ll have to pay more for these green credentials than you would with the ‘big six’ energy companies though, because Green Energy UK is exempt from the Ofgem price cap. However, Trust Pilot ranks Green Energy UK at 4.5, albeit from a smaller review pool, with excellent customer service and a smooth transition for those switching over.

They’ve been in business since 2001 and aspire “to be pioneering champions of green and sustainable energy in the UK and to delight our customers”.

Ecotricity

Ecotricity, established back in 1996 is one of the longest standing renewable energy companies. Their mission is simple:

“To change the way electricity is made and used in Britain”.

They guarantee 100% green electricity and carbon neutral green gas. Their renewable sources are wind, solar and hydro. Their profits are invested into further renewable projects such as wind and solar farms and they own a grass-fed green gas mill though you won’t get 100% green gas from the company. Ecotricity is the only energy company to get a stamp of approval from the Vegan Society. If you are looking for an ethical option, this may be the energy company for you as they also fund and support anti fracking campaigners and have followed in the footsteps of Extinction Rebellion to declare a climate emergency.

In 2020 they were awarded the title as one of the greenest energy suppliers in the UK by ‘Which?’. They are also responsible for a number of electric vehicle points across the UK making electric car drives lives easier.

Their tariffs include one simple rate with no contract and no exit fee. There are however some negative reviews on Trust Pilot around closing accounts and switching away from Ecotricity to bear in mind.

Octopus Energy

Another big player in the renewable energy supply, Octopus has a strapline ‘doing energy better’ which rings true. They won 1st place in the 2019 Which? survey as a recommended supplier. As well as winning awards for customer satisfaction, 97% of the company’s 22,000 reviews on Trustpilot are rated good or excellent. That’s very rare for an energy company, and means Octopus has the maximum five-star rating on Trustpilot. Launched in 2016, they supply their customers, in the region of 1.4 million UK homes with 100% renewable energy only.

They offer a tariff with 100% renewable electricity and carbon offsetting for gas, a tariff that includes perks for electric vehicle drivers as well as a tariff that tracks wholesale energy prices with customers able to view daily costs. They promise to make sure that any carbon involved in the production of your gas will be offset and to do this they have partnered with Brighton-based charity Renewable World which specialises in carbon reduction projects.

Octopus has strong green credentials with a policy of investing into sustainability projects and research. They are well-respected for their company ethics and transparent green tariffs with no exit fees. Their tariffs are some of the cleanest and cheapest deals you can find in the UK.

Bulb

Bulb is an excellent choice if you have renewable energy technology in your home because it allows you to sell your excess energy back to the grid.

They make things simple by offering one variable tariff with 100% renewable electricity and 10% green gas with the rest of the gas supply being offset by carbon reduction projects. A variable tariff means that you can benefit if the wholesale price of energy drops but you need to bear in mind that the extra cost is also passed on to you if the price goes up. The average customer can reduce their carbon footprint by 3.5 tonnes per year. Bulb also doesn’t charge an exit fee for switching to another energy supplier. Each time someone switches to them as their energy supplier they donate £1 to a children’s education charity about growing your own food. Plus, if you recommend a friend, you’ll both get £50. 

They have a good reputation for customer service with a score of 4.7 on trust pilot. They are known for an easy transition, fair prices, and transparency on bills. Launched in 2015, they have become increasingly popular supplying over 1.4 million homes, which is in no small part down to their affordability. 

Bulb buys its energy from independent generators, such as hydropower, solar and wind so it can guarantee its electricity is 100% green. The 10% green gas comes from renewable sources such as food and farm waste with the rest being offset by supporting carbon reduction projects around the world making its gas 100% carbon neutral.

Ovo Energy

Launched in 2009, Ovo Energy was one of the new kinds of digital challenger brand looking to take on the Big Six. In 2019, Ovo Energy acquired SSE and its 3.5 million customers, technically making it one of the Big Six. However, they are running the two brands separately for now.

Ovo Energy prides itself on excellent customer service which is backed up by 87% of reviews on Trust Pilot though not as highly rated as Octopus currently. Their renewable energy sources include Anaerobic digestion, solar, wind and hydro. One thing to bear in mind though is that Ovo Energy charge a £30 exit charge per fuel.

With 100% renewable electricity, Ovo also provides 100% carbon neutral gas for members of the Ovo Beyond scheme, which is made up of 15% green gas and 85% offset using carbon reduction projects like the Katingan project in Indonesia, which invests in peatland restoration and protection.

They pledge to plant a tree in your name every year, through a partnership with the Woodland Trust, when you switch to them and they also support charities through the Ovo Foundation.

The best way to find a cheap green energy tariff is to use a comparison website. Most will let you filter the results, so you just see renewable tariffs. There are many comparison websites to choose from. To find your cheapest deal, grab a recent bill from your current provider so you know how much gas and electricity you’re using for an accurate comparison and go from there.

How To Keep Your Home Warm And Save Money On Your Energy Bills

warm eco home

With temperatures plummeting and stormy and wintry weather sweeping the country many people will be thinking about how they can make their homes warmer and more energy efficient. In an effort to curb the Coronavirus, anyone who can work from home has been encouraged to do so. This means that many of us are spending far more time at home leading to higher energy bills and more awareness of the efficiency of our heating systems. Heat escapes from houses from roofs, floors, doors, windows, and walls wasting a portion of the money spent on your heating system. There is still a lot that can be done to lessen heat loss and wasted energy spend in most homes in the UK, meaning you could have a warmer and more comfortable home while wasting less money on heating.

Research conducted by Nationwide building society and shared with Guardian Money reveals that some households could be wasting as much as £27.50 a month or £330 a year due to inefficient heating and poor insulation. The research is based on data from Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). Since 2008 an EPC has been needed whenever a house is built, sold, or rented. An EPC contains information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs as well as recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money. An EPC gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years.

There are several measures people can take to improve the energy rating of their home. Although there can be big differences in the costs involved, thanks to the government’s Green Homes Grant, help is at hand and homeowners in England can apply for vouchers that in most cases will pay two-thirds of the cost of certain energy-efficient improvements, up to a maximum of £5,000 a household. If you are on a low income and on certain benefits you can claim the whole cost up to £10,000. You may also be able to get help from your energy supplier or another company. To give you an example, Nationwide offers a green additional loan that allows mortgage customers to borrow between £5,000 and £25,000 at a discounted initial interest rate as long as they spend half of the money on energy efficient home improvements.

Here are some of the measures that you can take to make your home warmer and more energy efficient with some help from the Energy Saving Trust:

  • Insulate Your Water Tanks, Pipes, and Radiators  

A simple measure like insulating your hot water cylinder with a jacket could save you over £100 a year on an uninsulated tank. Water tanks and pipes lose heat quickly, so insulating them will keep them hotter for longer, saving you money and reducing the energy you use. It’s also worth topping up the insulation on your hot water tank by replacing 25mm with an 80mm jacket which would still save you between £25 and £35 per year. Jackets can be bought for about £10-£15 from retailers such as B&Q which means that you would save more than the cost of the jacket in the first year.

Foam tubes can be used to insulate pipes at a cost of only a few pounds from DIY stores.

You can also install radiator reflector foil behind your radiator which reduces heat loss by reflecting it back into the room.

  • Cavity Wall Insulation

About a third of all the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls. If your house was built after the 1920s it is likely to have cavity walls, but many homes built before the 1990s do not have any wall insulation. The normal procedure is to employ an installer to drill small holes in the outside walls, inject insulation material into the gap and then seal the holes with cement. Typical installation costs of cavity wall insulation will vary depending on the size of your home. But whatever the size of your home you should be able to make back the installation cost in five years or less due to the yearly energy bill savings you will make. The Energy Saving Trust puts the average cost at between £345 for a flat and £610 for a detached house with more than one floor. Some energy suppliers offer free cavity wall insulation under the official energy company obligation system. The ECO scheme is designed to help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. Generally, you need to be in receipt of one or more qualifying benefits.

  • Roof & Loft Insulation

You can lose 25% of heat through the roof of an uninsulated home, so insulating your loft or roof is a great way to lower your heating bills. Although topping up your loft insulation involves an initial cost the Energy Saving Trust estimates that loft insulation is effective for at least 42 years. It should pay for itself many times over.

You may want to install the insulation yourself if your loft is easy to access. You will need rolls of mineral wool insulation, some of which are designed to be used as a base layer while others are for topping up existing insulation. Basic versions can be bought from DIY stores for less than £20.

If you decide to use a professional installer you can go on the National Insulation Association’s website to find someone local. Their charges will range from about £285 for a mid-terrace house, £300 for a semi and £375-£395 for a detached property. The EST says this is based on installing a 270mm of insulation where there is none (the recommended depth for mineral wool insulation) so it will be cheaper if you are just topping up existing insulation.

Some energy suppliers offer free loft insulation to eligible households under the energy company obligation scheme.

  • Solid Wall Insulation

If your home was built before the 1920s, its external walls are probably solid walls rather than cavity walls. Insulating your solid walls could cut your heating cost considerably. These solid walls can be insulated from the inside or the outside. This may take the form of insulation boards fitted to the walls. The EST estimates the cost of internal wall insulation at about £7,400 and external wall insulation at about £13,000 for a typical semi-detached house. As this can be quite an expensive process you might want to reduce the bill by carrying out other improvements at the same time or opt not to do the whole house at once.

  • Floor Insulation

Insulating your ground floor, or any floors above unheated spaces like garages, will help keep the heat in your home. Newer homes generally have ground floors made of solid concrete while older homes are likely to have suspended timber floors. For older homes you can lift the floorboards and lay mineral wool insulation between the joists and for newer homes you can lay rigid insulation on top of the concrete floors.

A professional installer will typically charge between £520 and £1300 according to estimates from the EST though costs can vary significantly depending on the size of the house.

Installing insulation under floorboards on the ground floor can save you about £40 a year on heating bills.

There are, however, some cheap quick fixes such as blocking gaps in the floor and skirting boards with a tube of sealant from a DIY store or putting down rugs or carpets.

  • Double or Triple Glaze Windows and Doors

Double or triple glazing doors and windows will also help to reduce heat loss from your home. You can replace an external door with a more energy-efficient one or install draught-proofing measures.

  • Draught-Proof Your Home

Draught-proofing your home is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping your energy bills low. Heat can escape from your home through any gaps, holes, or cracks, including gaps in windows and doors through to open chimneys.

  • Solar Photovoltaic Panels

Installing solar panels can dramatically reduce your carbon emissions as well as save you money on your energy bills. Solar PV panels convert energy from the sun into electricity.

The EST says:

“They are an effective measure that will cut electricity bills and your carbon footprint.”

Solar energy is one of the biggest and most effective kinds of renewable energy in the world. The natural power of the sun is harvested to create electricity to heat and light your home. Your solar PV system can either produce electricity or heat your water whilst reducing the amount of carbon dioxide you produce. There are lots of options, from panels that can be fitted on a sloping south-facing or flat roof to ground-standing panels or solar tiles. The average domestic solar PV system is 3.5KWp and costs around £4,800.

There will be times when your PV system generates more electricity than you can use, or store and your surplus will be exported to the grid to be used by somebody else. You can be paid for the electricity you export to the grid but first you need to find a company that will pay you for this surplus. In March 2019, the Smart Export Guarantee was introduced to provide financial support to small-scale renewable energy generators for the electricity they export to the grid. The savings from solar PV with the SEG are considerably higher than without it. In the UK, the SEG pays you for the electricity you generate but you must have a smart meter installed to benefit from the scheme. You can make an annual saving of between £250 and £330 per year if you are signed up to the SEG in the UK.

  • Air Source Heat Pumps

Installing an air source heat pump can be a great alternative to continuing with your current heating system. They tend to be both cost effective and energy efficient. Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air to warm your home and water. They can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C. Running costs will vary depending on things such as the size of your home and how well insulated it is.

Air source heat pumps need electricity to run, but because they extract renewable heat from the environment, the heat output is greater than the electricity input. This makes them an energy efficient method of heating your home.

Installing a typical system costs around £9,000 – £11,000. You will still have to pay fuel bills with a heat pump because it is powered by electricity, but you are likely to save money on your fuel bills depending on the type of heating you are replacing. If your old heating system was inefficient, you are more likely to see lower running costs with a new heat pump. For example, you could save up to £1000 per year in an average sized, four-bedroom detached home if you are replacing old electric storage heaters with an air source heat pump.

For many people, installing renewable heating technology is a major investment. Fortunately, the government is currently offering a financial incentive in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The RHI offers quarterly cash payments over 7 years for generating low carbon heat, which improves your return on investment. 

Further to the RHI, the government is currently offering financial help to homeowners with the Green Homes Grant introduced to encourage the uptake of Renewable technologies.

  • Ground Source Heat Pumps

Installing a ground source heat pump can be an excellent way of using a major source of renewable energy, the heat from the ground. One of the best methods of extracting and harnessing this valuable energy is a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) which can be used for producing hot water and operating warm air heating systems. This heating system uses pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground that can be used for radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home. A well installed Ground Source Heat Pump can be 300-400% efficient in terms of its use of electricity. For every unit of electricity used by the heat pump, three to four units of heat are captured and transferred.

Installing a typical system costs around £14,000 to £19,000. Running costs will depend on a number of factors including the size of your home and how well insulated it is. You could save up to £1,470 per year if you were to replace an old (G-rated) LPG boiler with a ground source heat pump for an average sized, four-bedroom detached home.

Both the RHI scheme and the Green Homes Grant can also apply to ground source heat pumps.

The UK Takes A Major Step Towards Phasing Out Fossil Fuels

fossil fuels end

New analysis from the independent climate think tank Ember in partnership with Agora Energiewende has shown that the UK’s renewable electricity outpaced its fossil fuel generation for the first time in 2020. According to Ember, renewables could remain the largest source of electricity in the future.

Renewable energy sources, wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower all combined to generate a record-breaking 42% of the UK’s power in 2020. This compares with 41% generated from gas and coal plants together.

In what was a remarkable year the new report revealed that renewables have finally tipped the balance – in 2019 renewables generated 37 per cent of the UK’s electricity compared with 45 per cent for fossil fuels.

The report further suggests that harmful carbon-emitting fossil fuels, coal and gas are on their way out as a source of power generation in the UK. 

June 2020 saw the UK completing a record-breaking run without coal-fired power. The run came to an end on 16th June after nearly 68 days and made it the longest run without coal since 1882. By the time, the coal-free run ended it had far outstripped the previous record for the length of time the UK had gone without fossil fuel of approximately 18 days set in June 2019.

Though renewable energy has outstripped fossil fuels during the summer months before, this is the first time that renewables have been the main source of the UK’s electricity over a year.

This turnaround between fossil fuels and renewables came as energy demands fell last year as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns and took place on the back of longer-term declines in electricity use.

Ember said that the growth of windfarms was one of the main reasons for the UK’s renewable record. Very nearly a quarter of the UK’s electricity was generated by wind turbines in 2020 which is double the share of wind power in 2015 and up from a fifth of the UK’s electricity in 2019. In comparison, electricity from gas-fired power plants was forced to a five-year low of 37% of the UK’s electricity with coal power plants accounting for just 2% of the electricity mix.

A representative from the firm said:

“Analysis by Ember reveals that a major milestone has been reached in 2020 in the United Kingdom, as renewables overtook fossil fuels as the main source of electricity. With coal power already near zero, fossil gas was forced to a five-year low in 2020 by growth in wind power and below-average demand due to Covid-19. While UK renewables production is dominated by wind, it still remains overly reliant on risky bioenergy, which must be replaced with cleaner power to fully decarbonise the UK grid.” 

However, gas still remains the UK’s single largest power source as the renewables record portion for 2020 is made up of different energy sources.

Bioenergy, which is power generated by burning wood pellets grew a little in 2020 to make up 12% of the UK’s electricity. Using this energy source has raised concerns as it carries with it a much higher risk than wind and solar of negative climate and environmental impacts.

The Ember analysis also revealed solar and hydro power were unchanged since last year, making up only 4% and 2% of the UK’s electricity production, respectively.

Charles Moore, the programme leader at Ember, predicts that with the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s 40 GW 2030 offshore wind target, gas generation will undergo further rapid declines over the 2020s. He said that it’s clear the UK has begun its journey towards gas power phase-out in 2035 as recommended by the Climate Change Committee.

The report said that the trend towards renewable energy power sped up in 2020 as a result of the sudden drop in demand from the National Grid for energy as shops, offices and restaurants closed during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Undoubtedly, the pandemic had an impact on the energy industry.

Renewable energy, the cheapest source of electricity in the UK was able to claim a bigger share of the electricity mix as the electricity system operator let gas plants go idle and called on nuclear reactors to lower their output in order to stop the grid being overwhelmed with more electricity than the UK actually required.

Ember forecasts that renewable electricity will keep its lead in the UK’s electricity system in the years ahead even when normal demand levels return, as new wind and solar farms are built across the country.

Charles Moore said:

“The coronavirus has accelerated the trend towards renewable energy, but we would have expected renewables to overtake fossil fuels by 2021. It has brought forward the trend by only a year or two. Renewables will probably remain above fossil fuels this year, but it’s very dependent on various things like nuclear output and the weather. Even if fossil fuels return this year it will be a narrow lead and a short-lived one.”

The UK recorded a series of green energy records in 2020, including the highest recorded output for wind during Storm Bella on Boxing day and a new record for solar power in April.

The electricity system operator owned by the National Grid, said that the larger role for renewables also caused the “carbon intensity” of the UK’s power system to drop to its lowest level on record. It said that “carbon intensity” had fallen to 181g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of electricity last year, compared with an average of 215g in 2019 and 248g in 2018, it said. This is a good result for the UK in the face of potential catastrophic climate change.

Home Working – Making a Better Environment

home working environment

Have you found yourself working from home during this COVID 19 pandemic?

Well, you are not alone. As a surveyor being out and about on surveys during the pandemic (we are allowed to work during the lockdown). I am meeting a lot of people working from home.

Makeshift office spaces in the home are becoming the normal.

With winter now upon us, your heating is running more than when you are typically away, and more lighting too is to be expected as the days are dark and miserable of late.

So, to be expected the utility costs have gone up!

 Well, the good news is you are saving more by not travelling to work which is a plus.

However, it is important that you keep your home heated. I have to stress, that living in an inadequately heated home can lead to health problems such as stroke and heart attack. The optimum temperatures for good health are 18 degree C in bedrooms and 21 degree C in main living areas.

An acceptable indoor temperature for office workers is 20 degrees

So how can you achieve this to help keep your utility costs down. If you have TRV (thermostatic radiator valves) fitted to your radiators you can turn down the temperature in the rooms you are not using. This will ensure your boiler is not running to heat all the spaces in your home. This means you will burn less gas/oil. Be sure there is no furniture blocking the radiators. You may have to re-organise your work area.

If you are working in your main living area and have a secondary heating source such as a gas fire, you can use this and keep the central heating off. Try to just heat the space you are occupying. Keep doors closed as much as possible to retain the heat in your work area.

If you are working in an area of the home that has tall vaulted ceilings, try to locate your work space to an area in the home with lower ceilings. You will be heating less volume of space.

Lighting, be sure to use low energy light bulbs, use as much natural light as possible, unless you work at night! Not sure the moon will be bright enough.

 Be sure you are dressed warm, unplug any unnecessary appliances, use energy efficient equipment where possible.

You can claim £6.00 a week back on your taxes for remote working. You will just need to complete a P87 form online or paper form.

Change your habits

Regularly boiling the kettle at work or leaving your computer on in the office may not affect you, but the same habits will cost you money at home.

Filling the kettle with the amount of water you need could save around £6 a year and completely switching off appliances rather than leaving them on standby could save around £35 annually, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Similarly, turning down your room thermostat by just one degree and wrapping up with a jumper or cardigan instead could save around £60 a year.

This would be a good time to check if your home is properly insulated. If you visit the Energy Saving Trust web site you can find out about grants and local schemes that are running. Insulation is key!

Is it time to change your utility provider? You may be paying too much. If you are having difficulty paying your utility bills, talk to your supplier they should be able to help.

And always remember…

As people work from home more it may become difficult to separate work hours from one’s own spare time.

7 Environmental Lessons We Can Learn From The Pandemic

pandemic environment

While the pandemic has frustratingly put our lives on hold during the last twelve months, the resulting restrictions have also provided an opportunity to pause for thought and consider our responsibilities in tackling one of the biggest issues facing our planet today – climate change. There are many lessons to be learned as a result of the pandemic about our response to environmental issues, including rethinking how we use transportation, our habits as consumers of energy and resources and how we need to prioritise public health over economic growth.

This guide will explore some of the key environmental lessons we can take forward from the pandemic and how they can be applied on an individual, national, and global scale.

We Are All Responsible

Although the outbreak of COVID-19 and climate change are separate issues, the pandemic has proven that the actions of one person or community has the potential to affect the entire world, sometimes with devastating consequences. This is a stark reminder that all of us – as individuals, nations and as a global population – are responsible for limiting the impact of our actions on the environment, both at home and around the world. World governments have increasingly prioritised conversations about how to tackle climate change since the pandemic began. Green trends for businesses and households, such as using recyclable materials for products and packaging, as well as switching to renewable energy solutions like solar and wind power, have all continued to grow in popularity in the last year. With energy costs predicted to double in the next ten years, more businesses are adopting renewable energy solutions as a cheaper alternative.

Greener Transportation is Sustainable

During the first UK lockdown, the stay-at-home message from the government meant that the number of people travelling to work, school and other destinations by car fell dramatically. With many people continuing to work from home throughout the course of the year, this trend – to an extent – has endured. Fewer cars on the roads means less harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere on a daily basis. In addition, many who would usually travel by public transport have instead opted to walk or cycle to limit the spread of the virus in enclosed spaces. The pandemic has taught us that it is possible to sustain these habits by considering whether journeys that you would usually make in your car are essential and opting to use greener alternatives to public transport for the sake of the environment, as well as public health. 

Plant-based Eating Can Make a Difference

Pending further investigation, it is widely accepted that the first recorded cases of COVID-19 were linked to a meat market in Wuhan, China. Whether you think a plant-based diet is right for you or not, most researchers agree that the way in which we rely on animals for food and profit greatly increases the risk of pandemics. Plant-based diets are also beneficial to the environment, with the meat industry a big contributor to annual global emissions. Many of us have taken steps to reduce our meat consumption in the last few years, something that will no doubt intensify due to the nature of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Public Health Comes First

With the government providing some financial backing for companies amid tiered restrictions on how businesses can continue to operate, it is clear that public health has taken priority ahead of the economy throughout the pandemic. Public health and the environment go hand-in-hand, with the quality of the air that we breath, our diets, and the physical conditions in which we live all linked to the world around us. We can learn from the fact that we have put our immediate health before the economy during the pandemic, by applying the same sentiment to the impact that climate change will have on public health in the long term.

It’s Important to Act Now

Everything that we know about COVID-19 has been learnt in a short space of time and the development and roll-out of several vaccines in less than a year has been nothing short of remarkable. Countries such as New Zealand have been praised for their fast response to the outbreak of COVID-19 which has limited its impact there. The way the world has rallied behind the cause of eradicating the virus can teach us that we are capable of responding to large-scale crises in a swift manner. And with climate change becoming an increasing threat with each passing year, a more urgent response, compared to the action taken over the issue thus far, will likely be required in the years to come.

Global Cooperation is Essential

As well as taking stock of what we, as individuals, can do to protect the environment at home and in the community, the pandemic has proven that we are capable of instigating a globalised response to an issue that affects us all. Restrictions such as social distancing, testing, travel restrictions and the wearing of face masks in indoor public spaces have come into effect in some form in most countries around the world. Using a globalised approach is crucial in attempting to tackle another global threat in climate change, and world governments and organisations need to pull together to formulate a shared response to the issue.

Keep Learning and Innovating

Throughout the course of the pandemic, world governments have been guided by both internal advisers and the World Health Organisation to inform their decision-making on issues such as social restrictions and vaccinations. Applying the same level of research and science-based innovation in our response to tackling climate change will increase our chances of getting on top of the issue in both the short and long term, and the pandemic has proved that we, as a global population, are adept at taking such action.

Sources

‘Commercial Solar Panels – Is your business energy efficient?’, Mypower, https://www.mypoweruk.com/commercial/

‘Ten lessons learned from the pandemic crisis to be applied in combating climate change’, Balkan Green Energy News, https://balkangreenenergynews.com/ten-lessons-learned-from-the-pandemic-crisis-to-be-applied-in-combating-climate-change/

 ‘Animal Agriculture Increases the Risk of Pandemics’, PETA, https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/animals-used-food-factsheets/animal-agriculture-and-pandemics/