Energy and Climate Change Committee Now Urging the Government to Consider Shale Gas

April 30th, 2013

Gas StoveShale gas has been the main focal point of a lot of conversations lately. This is because some people believe that it could be the answer that many countries are looking for to cure their energy problems. Others believe that it is destructive and does more harm than good. Well it now appears that the Energy and Climate Change Committee is on board with shale gas, so much, in fact, that it’s asking the UK government to give fracking more support.

For those of you who do not know, fracking is the process of using water and a chemical to break shale rocks under the ground. The breaking of these rocks releases natural gas, which can be used for energy. Some say that fracking is dangerous, while others say that there is no danger in the process.

In the United States, fracking has becoming extremely popular. While the rest of the world is watching their energy prices go up, price in the United States are staying the same or even decreasing. In fact, the country has been producing so much natural gas from fracking that it is now able to export some of its extra natural gas to make a nice little profit. Countries like the UK, who are in an energy crisis, have no choice but to buy this energy from the United States.

That is why the Energy and Climate Change Committee believes that the UK government needs to get on board with fracking. The only problem is that the government wants to know just how much natural gas it can get from fracking. The Energy and Climate Change Committee said that there is no way to tell unless the government allows for some exploratory drilling.

Although this committee thinks supporting fracking is a good idea, it still believes that public concerns over fracking should be taken into account as well. It went on to say that more people may be on board with fracking once they see how much it could lower energy prices.

Tony Bosworth, from Friends of the Earth, is not impressed with the report. He said that this new report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee does very little to support its case on why fracking should be allowed. He went on to say that MPs say that shale gas production may actually threaten climate targets. On top of that, it may not even stop the rising cost of gas from going up further. In the end, the UK cannot count on shale gas to improve energy security as a whole. It is a quick fix for a bigger problem.

Mr Bosworth finished up by saying that fracking is a very dirty and unnecessary threat on the environment. It is for reasons like this why there are so many communities all over the world that are against it. The UK does not need to take the gamble on shale gas. Instead, it needs to build more affordable power systems. It needs to look at clean sources of energy like the sun, waves and wind.

Government Could Soon Control When Brits Use Certain Electrical Appliances

April 29th, 2013

A FridgeFor anyone who thinks that the energy situation in the UK is not bad, consider this: The government could soon control when Brits use certain appliances in their own homes. This includes things like fridges, stoves and even washing machines. This would be a very odd attempt by the government to control how much energy people use and when they use this power.

So how would the government control such a thing? Apparently, certain appliances like fridges may soon be outfitted with a special “kill” switch. This would allow these appliances to be turned off without the home owner’s consent. Of course, the government isn’t doing this just to be mean. This would be done in an attempt to reduce the strain that could be put on the UK power system at any given time.

To make matters worse, this new idea is gaining a lot of support from groups like the National Grid. For a long time, the National Grid has been wondering how it will keep up with power demand as more and more energy gets switched over to renewable sources. Obviously, the biggest down side to using renewable source is the fact that a steady stream of energy cannot always be made. When the sun goes down, solar energy becomes less affective. As for wind farms, the wind may not always blow at a steady pace. When this happens, the National Grid needs a way to limit power demand. What better way than having full control over home owners’ appliances.

This new proposal was drawn up and outlined by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity. It was sent to the European Commission as of March 27 and has received support from a wide range of energy regulators all over the European Union. Now the European Commission has three months to deliver a verdict on this matter. However, from the looks of things, it seems very likely that this new proposal is going to get a thumbs up.

If the European Commission gives the go ahead, the proposal will make its way to the European Parliament. Here it can be turned into legislation. If this happens, manufacturers would be forced to install monitors in certain appliances. In short, appliances with these new sensors could be hitting UK stores in as little as three years. This means, if anyone wants to avoid these new appliances, they better think of buying new appliances before the legislation comes into effect.

British Gas Customers Have to Keep Dogs in a Different Room from Workers

April 26th, 2013

Angry dogThe days of British Gas workers working in the same room as customers’ dogs are over. In fact, the company has recently made it clear that all consumers are going to be asked to keep their dogs in a completely different room than the room that the engineer is working in.

This is, of course, being done for safety reasons. British Gas believes that this puts less stress on the engineer, but it also puts less stress on the animal. Studies have shown that some dogs can become stressed when others enter its home. This new rule will not be optional, as it has been put in place for safety reasons.

A member of British Gas, Lucy Coyle, said that the company is known for its safety. This is a reputation that it would like to keep up. In order to do this, the company has to put the safety of its employees and consumers first.

Coyle went on to say that, just last month, British Gas came up with a plan to introduce new safety rules. One of these new rules included asking consumers to keep their dogs in different rooms from where the engineer is assigned to work. This new safety rule is being enforced to protect British Gas workers from dangerous dogs. Consumers will be made aware of this new procedure when they are booking an appointment. They will be reminded of this new procedure when the engineer phones before their visit.

Although British Gas has made many safety changes over the year, this one is getting a lot more attention than normal. Some believe that this could be due to the story of a 14-year-old girl who was killed by four dogs in Manchester this past Tuesday. These four dogs were put down by Greater Manchester Police.

Despite the fact that this new safety rule was put into place so close to this incident, British Gas says this new rule has nothing to do with that event. In fact, a spokesman for British Gas said that they discussed the idea of introducing this new rule long before the death of the 14-year-old girl in Manchester.

Although British Gas denies their rule change has anything to do with the events in Manchester, it does show why such rules are a good idea. Certain breeds of dogs can become very defensive and aggressive when strangers come into their home. Keeping them away from British Gas workers is good idea.

First Utility Follows in the Way of the Big Six and Increases Energy Prices

April 25th, 2013

First Utility logoThe Big Six energy companies in the UK took a lot of heat for increasing their energy prices. Of course, these companies continued to say that their rates were increasing because of an increase in wholesale energy prices. Most people did not believe this for a second. However, it now appears there may be some truth behind it. One of the largest independent energy companies outside the Big Six, First Utility, has just announced that it is increasing its energy prices as well. This means higher energy bills for its tens of thousands of customers.

First Utility has opened the door for smaller energy companies to do business against the Big Six. That being said, most people try these smaller energy providers because of the great deals that they offer. Over the past two years, First Utility has jumped to being the biggest energy provider outside the Big Six. However, it was only able to do that because it offered the cheapest fixed energy prices on the market. Now it seems like it might lose that competitive edge.

Just last year, First Utility launched its iSave v12 tariff. This came with an about £1,054 average bill. It also launched the iSave Fixed v4 2014. This came with about an average £1,087 bill. Since these prices undercut the bigger companies, it was able to chew up a big chunk of the market right from under the Big Six. Unfortunately, starting June 1, these low prices are expected to rise.

Consumers are going to be switched from the iSave v12 tariff to the iSave Everyday tariff, which is more expensive. This is because the iSave v12 is coming to an end. Overall, this is going to push up the average energy bill by at least 18 percent. To break that up a bit more, this is the same as increasing bills by £16 per month, or £200 per year. In short, this could have a substantial impact on people’s finances.

Darren Brabham, the founder of First Utility, said there are a number of factors at fault for this increase. This includes network costs, wholesale energy prices and the environmental obligations the company has to the government. He went on to say that he remains very committed to providing the best possible value for his consumers. That is the guarantee that First Utility offers.

EDF Energy to Control Costs by Making More Job Cuts

April 24th, 2013

EDF LogoThere seems to be a lot of controversy surrounding the Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station in Somerset. This plant, which is run by EDF Energy, has stated that it might have to cut some 150 jobs in order to lower costs. This would significantly reduce its 800 plus workforce.

EDF says that it has to find some way to control costs at this power plant, and cutting jobs might be the easiest way. Currently, the energy company is holding negotiations with ministers over this proposed nuclear power plant. EDF believes that it should be entitled to more public subsidy for the new reactors. Without these subsidies, EDF will have no choice but to cut the plant’s workforce by 150.

Backing out of the project is not something that EDF Energy can do now. In fact, the company has already spent over £800 million on developing this project, which is said to be worth more than £14 billion. To make matters worse for EDF, it lost its junior partner on this project after Centrica said that it was pulling out of this project back in February.

For now, EDF Energy has refused to give any official number as to how many workers will lose their job. They have not given a number due to ongoing talks with its staff members, as well as unions. That being said, most media sources seem to think that at least 150 people will be cut from this site. This would be the only way that EDF could make a significant enough impact on costs.

Currently, EDF is say that it wants to build two new reactors at Hinkley. Doing this would provide even more low-carbon and reliable energy for the UK. It could make enough electricity to actually meet 7% of the UK’s energy demand. Not only that, but it could provide another 25,000 job opportunities during its construction. In the end, however, it would only provide 900 long-term jobs.

Although the idea sounds good on paper, the government is not as quick to move ahead with this project as people would think. That is because this plant would pretty much be paid for by consumers through energy bills. This would mean yet another increase to energy bills for people who are customers of EDF. Meanwhile, the government is starting to run out of proposed nuclear power plans as more and more energy companies continue to pull out.

Which? says Energy Tariff Reform Was Unsuccessful as Consumers Are Still Confused

April 23rd, 2013

Which? logoRecently there were a number of reforms put into place to make energy tariffs easier to understand. However, Which? doesn’t seem to be impressed with the changes. In fact, the group went as far as to say that the reform was unsuccessful, as consumers are still having a hard time identifying what the best deals are for their needs.

Which?, a consumer rights group, said that close to three million households still may find it difficult to locate what the best deal for them is. Under the current setup, Which? sees no possible way to make enough changes so that the system is easy to read. Instead, the group would like to see energy prices displayed much in the same was as petrol prices. This is a format that consumers are used to seeing, and they believe that it will be easier to understand.

This consumer group went on to say that, if such a system was in place, it would encourage people to shop around for the best energy deals. This would, of course, increase competition between energy companies, as they would now actually have to lower their prices instead of tricking consumers with hard-to-understand energy tariffs.

Ofgem, which is the energy regulator, said that its tariff comparison rate is supposed to make finding the perfect energy tariff simple. It allows consumers to compare prices across the entire market quickly. Ofgem went on to say that this system works much in the say way that an APR is used by financial service providers across the UK.

That being said, Which? is not buying it. In fact, the consumer rights group said that the new system set up by Ofgem uses a medium usage for both electricity and gas. This is not a very relevant measure of usage for most people. In the end, this could make it hard for the some three million people in the UK to find the best deal for them.

Richard Lloyd, who is the executive director at Which?, said that these current proposals from Ofgem are far too complicated for the average person. They fail to achieve the goal of making it easier to understand what company is offering the lowest energy bill. The government is going to need to introduce a single unit price for each energy tariff. This way, people can very easily see which company is offering the best deal at any given time.

Surrey sees 11,000 People Sign Up for Big Energy Switching Scheme

April 22nd, 2013

SurreyPeople all over the UK are complaining about high energy bills. That being said, it appears that residents in Surrey are actually trying to do something about it. According to reports, more than 11,000 people have already signed up with a new energy switching scheme that has been put into place. The Surrey County Council put this scheme into place to help homeowners try to get the best deal possible for their home.

The council set up a scheme just last year with the major goal of using the power of thousands of different residents all over Surrey to lower prices. The idea is that energy companies will lower prices in order to win the business of these thousands of residents. This causes energy companies to get into a bidding war to see which one can offer the group the best deal. The company that wins gets all the extra business.

The Surrey County Council has already said that suppliers were selected earlier this month. The selected suppliers took part in an auction. The council said that this auction would save Surrey residents a collected £545,000, which was the goal that they wanted to meet.

So this just brings up one major question: Who won the auction? According to the Surrey County Council, Sainsbury’s Energy will actually be supplying households who are on a combined gas and electricity tariff. Most consumers are going to save about £118 a year on this new deal. For people who are on just an electricity plan, they will have their power handled by ScottishPower, which submitted the lowest bid in this auction. The people who sign up with this deal are likely to save around £48 and £70 a year.

Although the savings are not as big, people who are on just an energy plan are typically paying out less anyway. Thus, the savings are not going to be as big as for people who are saving on both energy and gas. Any consumer who signed up for this deal will be notified soon with all of the final details. Of course, just because people signed up for this scheme does not mean that they have to follow through with it. In fact, consumers have until the beginning of May to choose if they want to complete the deal or not. If they do not, they are free to stay with their current power provider.

National Trust says It Will Get Half of Its Power from Renewable Sources by 2020

April 19th, 2013

Solar PanelsThe UK government has said many times that companies all over the country are going to have to do their part to help the UK reach its renewable energy goal. Well it now appears that the National Trust is going to step up to the plate. This group said that it now has a plan in motion that will allow it to generate nearly half of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

Of course, this announcement should not come as a shock to anyone. The National Trust already has a number of renewable energy schemes in place. According to its reports, it has 150 of these schemes in place. However, it does not seem like it plans on stopping there.

Its goal is to actually help integrate new renewable energy by adding it into sensitive landscapes. Of course, people should not expect to see the National Trust using much wind power. In fact, the organization has been criticized multiple times because of its chairman’s campaign against all forms of wind power. However, the organization believes it still has a number of great options available.

In order to reach its goal, the group wants to get 27% of its power from hydroelectricity, 21% from biomass, 1% from heat pumps and 0.5% from solar energy by the year 2020. That being said, the power coming from the grid will supply the company with 26% of its power needs.

This will actually help the National Trust save money. That is because a major cost for it right now is supplying power to its rural properties. Renewable energy could provide an easy way to power these more rural locations. In the end, this should help reduce its overall costs by 3%.

For the time being, the company did say that wind power will play no part in reaching this goal. That is because the National Trust believes that landscapes are way too sensitive to house any kind of wind technology.

The rural enterprise director for the National Trust, Patrick Begg, said that the company has pulled together all of its resources to make a big leap into the world of generating renewable energy. The plan that has been put into motion is going to help the National Trust generate at least 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.  Now more companies and organizations need to follow suit.

International Energy Agency says Low Carbon Technology Is Not Developing Quick Enough

April 18th, 2013

Renewable energy signAlthough the world is hard at work developing the latest low carbon technology, it apparently is not enough. At least that is what the International Energy Agency said this Wednesday. It said, at this rate, low carbon energy is progressing far too slowly to take on global warming.

The agency went on to say that the world’s power generation is still being dominated by coal and oil. Not only that, but the government is failing to increase investments in other clean energy alternatives. All of this is adding up to a stalemate in low carbon technology. Scientists from the International Energy Agency noted that the goal of trying to keep the global temperature from rising less than 2 degrees Celsius is slipping out of the reach of man.

Maria van der Hoeven, who is the executive director of the International Energy Agency, said that the drive to clean up the world’s energy system is falling apart. Despite all of the big talk from leaders all over the world, no one is in a hurry to invest any money. Due to this, the energy that is being produced today is pretty much as dirty as what it was nearly 20 years ago. There have been no advances, and the energy industry is stalling out.

So what brought on this outburst from the International Energy Agency? Apparently this has to do with a report that showed that global clean energy investment in the first quarter of this year is at its lowest level in nearly four years. Instead of companies investing more, like world leaders intended, people are investing less.

The International Energy Agency said that coal-fired generation is outdated, but it still continues to grow. In fact, coal-fired generation actually grew by nearly 45% from 2000 to 2010. This is, of course, far outpacing the growth of non-fossil fuel energy. This kind of energy only grew by 25% during the same time frame.

There is some good news in places like the United States. There the revolution in shale gas has actually triggered a huge switch from coal to a much cleaner form of energy - natural gas. Despite this, coal use is on the rise everywhere else in the world. This goes double in places like Europe.

Either way, the world is still very reliant on fossil fuels, and it does not look like it is going to be breaking this reliance any time soon. Thus, the world is going to have to turn to carbon capture and storage while it waits for advances in cleaner technology.

SSE Officially Ordered to Pay Consumers £1.5 million in Compensation

April 17th, 2013

SSE LogoRecently well-known energy firm SSE has been in the spotlight a lot. Not long ago people heard that the company was going to get hit by a big fine for miss-selling. Now it has been confirmed that the company is going to pay close to £1.5 million in compensation to consumers who have been affected by its miss-selling.

SSE is just one of the eight energy suppliers in the UK that have been under the microscope as of late. Of course, paying this money in compensation is not going to be a problem for SSE. In fact, it might even save the company money. SSE had set aside more than £5 million in order to compensate its customers. It is not known if SSE will now use all of this money or just what it has been ordered to pay back.

All of this has come after SSE was fined close to £10.5 million by UK energy regulator Ofgem. This fee was handed down to SSE after it pleaded guilty to management failures. According to Ofgem, it was these “failures” that led to prolonged miss-selling.

Alistair Phillips-Davies, who is the chief executive of SSE, told MPs of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, that they are going to compensate all of the consumers who have lost money as a result of their management failures. He went on to say that, if there are any consumers who feel like they are at a disadvantaged because of the company’s actions since October of 2008, they will be compensated accordingly.

Phillips-Davies went on to say that the company has close to 23,000 consumers who have been affected by this problem. Everyone will receive a different amount, but on average, people will be paid close to £65 and £70 each. If people add in this average to how many consumers the company has, this is £1.5 million in compensation.

On top of all of this, SSE is making sure that its consumers know about this compensation. To make people aware of it, it has written to 10% of its consumer base, as well as placed ads about this compensation in national newspapers all over the UK.

Phillips-Davies added that his company is truly sorry about any problems that this has caused. Not only that, the company now officially altered its audit procedures and employee training program. They want to make sure that this is never going to happen again.

Judge Rules Companies Can Build Wind Farms Closer to Homes

April 16th, 2013

Onshore Wind TurbinesA while back, it was ruled that energy companies could not build wind farms within 1.2km of homes. This would be the same as saying that they cannot build these wind farms within three quarters of a mile of people’s homes. Now, however, it seems that a High Court judge has gone against this. The judge felt that this rule was unlawful.

This is a huge win for energy companies and wind farm developers. This ruling comes as the Milton Keynes Borough Council in Buckinghamshire attempted to prevent all wind farm developers from creating wind farms too close to people’s homes. In fact, the council was really trying to block RWE Npower Renewables Ltd from building a 125 meter high turbine. This turbine would have been only 1,217 meters from the nearest house.

However, instead of just dealing with it, RWE Npower Renewables Ltd actually took the council to court. The power company was arguing that this new policy, which sets a minimum distance, is based on the height of the turbines. However, this actually goes against existing local development plans that clearly state that the distance should only be 350 meters. Thus, the council is trying to impose laws that strictly prohibit the energy industry but no other industry.

The judge ruling over the case, John Howells, said that he agreed with RWE. He went on to say that wind turbines not only generate energy but passionate arguments. Despite this, there are no objective justifications to places these restrictions just on wind turbines. Simply referring to the visual impact and noise is not enough.

This new ruling is most likely going to be used as a trump card for other energy companies who have been restricted by similar situations. Now that RWE has won this case, it shows other councils that they are no longer going to be able to get away with this, and energy companies can start building wind turbines closer to homes.

The judge did admit that it is not his job, nor his task during the court hearing, to consider the benefits or the lack of benefits from building these turbines. This is simply a case on if it is lawful to allow certain industries to build within 350 meters of a home but not others. In the end, the court rules that it is not.

The judge finished up by telling the council that its requirements for wind farms are clearly in violation of current rules and regulations. Thus, it will not be able to restrict the building of wind farms from being too close to houses as long as it respects current laws.