Does energy efficiency matter?
Absolutely. It matters for two very important reasons.
The first is that if you are not using gas and electricity efficiently, it will cost you extra money. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that the typical household could save up to £250 a year by being more efficient with their use of energy; a massive 25% saving for the average energy-consuming household.
The other reason is that our use of energy has a negative impact on the environment. Most of the energy we consume comes from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Each unit of energy that we burn, either directly as gas, or indirectly as electricity (which is generated by burning fossil fuels) produces gases that damage the atmosphere. These waste gases heat up the earth like a greenhouse, resulting in global warming and leading ultimately to climate change. Being more energy efficient means reducing our consumption of fossil fuels which in turn reduces the production of damaging gases. The Energy Efficiency Campaign estimates that one quarter of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions every year originate from the energy we use to heat and light our homes, and run our household appliances.
Where else can I find information on energy efficiency?
There are a number of useful information sources worth trying.
A good place to start is the Energy Saving Trust website. The Energy Saving Trust is a non-profit organisation funded by both government and the private sector. It was set up after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and has two main goals; to achieve the sustainable use of energy and to cut carbon dioxide emissions, one of the key contributors to climate change. The Trust aims to raise awareness of the benefits of using energy efficient products and services that could help you save energy, help the environment and also save money. The site contains tips on how to make your home more energy efficient, advice on heating, lighting and insulation together with a range of useful calculators. It also provides some big picture overviews of energy efficiency, renewable energy, the environment and climate change. You can check out the website at either www.saveenergy.co.uk or www.est.org.uk
You can also obtain advice from your local Energy Savings Advice Service. They will be able to provide you with advice, information and a questionnaire which, if you fill in and return, will be used to provide you with personalised advice on energy efficiency for your home. You can call them on 0800 512 012 (Scotland) or 0300 123 1234 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland).
You could try Citizen's Advice. Energy efficiency advice isn't really their big thing but the Confidence Code says we have to mention them so here it is.
Finally, you could try your energy supplier who required is required to provide advice on the efficient use of energy in the home to anyone requesting it. This advice might cover home insulation, the efficient use of energy, and information regarding the use of electrical appliances. Your supplier also has to provide you with information about getting financial help to make your home more energy efficient.
Where can I find information on energy efficiency grants?
If you are considering making improvements to your home, then there are a range of grants and offers that may be available to you to help you install energy efficiency measures in your home.
The grants available tend to fall into one of three main categories; government grants, local authority grants, and grants from energy suppliers.
The UK government provides funds for a number of schemes that will provide up to £500 of funding (more in certain circumstances) to qualifying households to help them improve their heating and energy efficiency. The schemes are known as Warm Front in England, Energy Assistance Package in Scotland and NEST in Wales. The level of the grant will vary depending upon the Scheme and whether you qualify. You can get further information on the following numbers.
Warm Front (England) 0800 316 6011
Energy Assistance Package (Scotland) 0800 512 012
NEST (Wales) 0800 512 012
or by visiting the Government energy grants calculator
Local Authority Grants
Local authorities can provide a range of grants to local residents to help with the installation of energy efficiency measures in the home. Please contact your local authority to see the latest offers available.
Under the Governments Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC), electricity and gas suppliers operating in Great Britain are required to achieve targets for the promotion of improvements in domestic energy efficiency. At least 50% of energy savings must be focussed on a priority group of low-income consumers receiving certain benefits and tax credits and/or pension credit. As a result, the EEC is expected to contribute to the Climate Change Programme by cutting greenhouse gas emissions as well as helping to reduce fuel poverty. Ofgem, the gas and electricity markets regulator is responsible for administering the EEC
As a result of the EEC, energy suppliers provide a range of schemes and offers that can significantly reduce the cost of installing various energy efficiency measures in the home. Furthermore, you can take up an offer from any energy company irrespective of who supplies your gas and electricity. For further information please contact your energy supplier. Alternatively, you can search for available grants via the Energy Saving Trust website
Can I make my own electricity?
Yes, you can. Under the government's Feed-In-Tariff scheme you can get paid for electricity you generate. The scheme works like this: firstly, you choose from a type of renewable electricity suitable for your home, like solar panels or a wind turbine. Secondly, you settle on an installer to do the job; take care that you choose a company that has done this before and has a good reputation, because (thirdly) you then need to have the installation certified by the government as compliant with the FIT scheme. How much you earn per kilowatt generated is dependent on the size, type and date of installation. The FIT tariff is guaranteed by the government over a period of years and set at a level that should allow you to get your investment back after 7-10 years, depending on how productive your panels or turbine are. Your energy exports go into the grid via an export meter, which will be installed at your property so you don't actually consume your own energy! Payments and reconciliation will be done by an energy supplier you choose (this does not have to be the same energy supplier you use to get gas and electricity into your home). The Energy Savings Trust offers good additional information on the FIT scheme.