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UK energy costs “most off-putting for manufacturers”
Hefty energy prices are the issue manufacturers are most negative about according to a new survey.
The poll of nearly 300 major industrial energy users found that for half, government commitment to keep energy costs at, or below, the EU average would be the biggest single factor in encouraging more companies to expand their manufacturing activity in the UK.
Industry body EEF which carried out the survey said it reveals power costs are a concern for businesses which typically spend millions of pounds on electricity or heat a year.
When asked to rate what was a strong advantage or disadvantage, energy prices appear to have been firmly rated as the latter.
Terry Scuoler, EEF Chief Executive said: “Rising energy costs represent a major threat to growth and could damage efforts to support and sustain long term recovery. The UK cannot afford to pile even more unilateral costs on the manufacturing sector which is key to developing the UK’s longer term growth and stability.”
He added: “Many manufacturers now feel that they are being severely penalised by high energy costs, some of which are being unilaterally imposed and are not shared by competitor nations.”
Ahead of the Treasury’s 2015 Budget which the Chancellor will announce on 19 March, the group is calling for a freeze and then a cut of the carbon price floor – a British tax on fossil fuels generating electricity.
Ofgem proposes new 'Rollover' rules
Businesses being rolled onto a new energy tariff when their contract runs out could be a good “trigger” to act according to a consumer group.
The proposals include shortening the maximum termination notice period to 30 days.
New rules for suppliers to include their current and renewal prices and their annual consumption on renewal letters.
Requiring suppliers to acknowledge receipt of termination notice.
We expect these proposals to be implemented by autumn 2014
Ofgem has shied away from banning rollovers outright, on Friday announcing it will cut the number of days’ notice a business can give to switch supplier to 30 days rather than around the 30-90 days they are currently.
Experts suggested this wasn’t a disaster for businesses.
Andrew Hallett, from Consumer Futures said: “Rollover contracts can offer some protection to customers in that, by definition, they prevent a consumer, particularly the disengaged consumer, from unwittingly ending up on more expensive out-of-contract rates.”
An “evergreen” tariff could avoid small firms having to pay more if their contract expires.
He said: “Many very small micro businesses engage with the market in a similar way to domestic consumers and may find the need to contract regularly onerous and confusing.
“We propose one solution to this would be for suppliers to develop evergreen tariffs at this small end of the market – evergreen tariffs being like most domestic tariffs whereby there is no timeout and in most cases the price can go up and down.”
1st February 2014
Touchstone Energy Management Services are Exhibiting at Bournemouth Hotel & Catering Exhibition on March 11th and 12th
Exciting plans have been announced for the Hotel & Catering Show (11 - 12 March 2014) in Bournemouth with new features and a host of interesting products and interactive exhibits.
Touchstone are introducing the highly successful Energy Buying Group to the Hospitality Industry as well as providing a hands on demonstration of the latest Smart Meter software platform. To round it all off we have a comprehensive range of Energy Efficiency Products.Call by to claim your Free Energy Audit!
24th January 2014
Touchstone announce a New Software Platform
In keeping with the continual development process in Energy Management, Touchstone are proud to announce details of the new Digital Energy platform.
The system, which is to be found on our dedicated smart metering site: www.thesmartmeter.co.uk is highly scaleable and combines a new Bill Validation module as well as a facility to manage energy efficiency projects. Another popular feature is the ability to add data from manually read meters, a feature that provides full visibility of a full supply portfolio whether there is a complete AMR installation or not.
24th January 2014
More than half of smart meter customers have reduced their energy bills
More than half (54 per cent) of households that have a smart meter installed have seen their energy bills fall, according to research by British Gas.
December 3rd, 2012
16 January 2014
Leicester is installing smart water meters in a plan to reduce waste water
by 10% in public buildings
Leicester City Council, in conjunction with De Montfort University (DMU), have launched a smart water meter project that could see water reductions of up to 10% in their public buildings. When combined with a corresponding energy reduction of around the same level, they expect to deliver significant monetary savings as well as carbon reduction.
The Smartspaces project will use comprehensive energy
metering in public buildings. The meters will operate on a half hourly reporting
basis and cover gas, electricity and water.
A dedicated reporting platform will present the collected data in a coherent manner that will enable users to find ways to reduce their water and energy wastage.
Touchstone finalise a new Smart Meter offering.
Touchstone Energy Management Services are finalising a new Smart Meter offering that will directly benefit a large section of SME businesses in the UK.
Providing both gas and electricity metering with an enhanced reporting platform the system will deliver real energy management value. The new solution is extremely cost effective with a very low entry level cost.
It is hope that the new program will benefit many organisations who have so far put smart metering on hold because of financial considerations. for more information please complete the form at: http://www.thesmartmeter.co.uk/17.html
Wind power: new poll finds 66% of UK public in favour
Figures showing public support for wind energy published on the same day as the launch of a national anti-wind campaign. The figures show a slightly higher enthusiasm for wind power than a Guardian poll in March.
Two-thirds of the UK public are in favour of wind power according to a new poll, published on the same day as a national anti-wind campaign launches in parliament.
Overall, 66% of Britons were in favour and just 8% against when asked: "to what extent are you in favour of or opposed to the use of wind power in the UK" in the Ipsos Mori poll, commissioned by wind trade body RenewableUK.
The figures show a slightly higher enthusiasm for wind power than a Guardian poll in March, which revealed 60% of people were in favour of wind. The discrepancy could be partly explained by the framing of the questions, with the Guardian research asking if people were in favour of wind farms near their homes.The figures show a slightly higher enthusiasm for wind power than a Guardian poll in March.
Two-thirds of the UK public are in favour of wind power according to a new poll, published on the same day as a national anti-wind campaign launches in parliament.
Overall, 66% of Britons were in favour and just 8% against when asked: "to what extent are you in favour of or opposed to the use of wind power in the UK" in the Ipsos Mori poll, commissioned by wind trade body Renewable UK.
The figures show a slightly higher enthusiasm for wind power than a Guardian poll in March, which revealed 60% of people were in favour of wind. The discrepancy could be partly explained by the framing of the questions, with the Guardian research asking if people were in favour of wind farms near their homes.
19th April 2012
Ken Livingstone warns energy firms ahead of London mayoral election
Labour candidate says he will take suppliers to court if they try to stop his plan to set up City Hall as an energy provider.
Ken Livingstone wants to set up an energy co-operative to cut household bills if he is elected mayor of London.
The London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone has vowed to take big energy companies to court if they try to scupper one of his election promises to set up City Hall as an alternative energy provider.
The former mayor signalled he was prepared to fight companies if they tried to block his vision of running an energy co-operative within the Greater London Authority to cut household energy bills by an average of £130 a year.
The establishment of the co-op is one of six key promises made by Livingstone during the mayoral campaign that he says are aimed at putting money back into people's pockets. He has presented it as a Keynesian measure to boost London's economy at a time when the private sector remains weak.
Climate Change Levy to Increase from 1st April 2012
0.509p p/kwh for electricity
0.177 p/kwh for gas
1.137 p/kg for LPG
£13.87 per tonne for coal
CCL is a tax on the taxable supply of specified energy products for use as fuels that is used for lighting, heating and power, by business consumers including consumers in:
The CCL applies to all business use of energy, although there are some exceptions, but in the main it is charged to all businesses subject to VAT at 20%. CCL is applied at different rate depending on the energy source.
According to research from British Gas around 50% of businesses are missing out on opportunities to reduce their business energy bills. At the same time 75% of businesses say that rising business electricity prices and gas prices are at the top of their list of concerns.
Utility Exchange reported earlier in the year that British Gas had found that small and medium sized businesses were wasting money on business electricity. Figures from smart meters show that businesses could do more to reduce their electricity bills and British Gas is again trying to get business customers on board and using smart meters.
At the moment around 200,000 SME’s are using smart meters but it’s hoped that this number will increase this year.
Installing smart meters can help businesses cut their business electric consumption by between 5-15% according to independent Government research.
Consumers who have smart meters installed already find that they tend to switch off equipment and waste less electricity. They can work to encourage all members of staff to save energy too. In fact it’s good to get members of staff involved and even give them some responsibility such as making one of them the “eco warrior”.
Smart meters just monitor electric use at the moment but it won’t be long before smart meters for gas are available which will give businesses even more control over their energy consumption.
Smart meters also mean no more estimated bills and ensure that business owners have a more accurate idea of how much their bills will be and therefore they are able to budget more accurately.
There’s still a long way to go before all small and medium sized businesses have smart meters installed. However, businesses can still reduce their energy costs by making a few changes such as switching off computers and monitors when not in use. Even turning off lights in empty rooms can help to reduce energy costs. For those without smart meters it may be worth getting an energy monitor which shows how much energy is used for example, when turning on the kettle – it’s quite shocking!
The Government’s Green Deal could prove to be a major spur to action for Small Businesses
Under the terms of the Green Deal, due to launch in 2012, businesses will be able to make energy efficiency improvements to their premises, such as insulation, at no upfront cost.
Repayments will be made through their energy bills only once the bills start to show savings from the improvements. The scheme will be attached to the property rather than to the business, so that if businesses move, the new occupier will continue the repayments.
“Small businesses find the pay–as–you–save mechanism a good method of ‘greening’ their buildings', said FSB policy adviser, Francis Wood.
Carbon Trust to Help Car Dealers cut CO2
27th October 2010
The Carbon Trust is joining forces with two motor industry associations to help car dealers cut their carbon footprint.
Some 30 dealerships from all major motor manufacturers will be visited by the trust. The dealerships will all be of various sizes, types and occupy different styles of buildings to allow for a proper representation of the industry.
It is thought that car dealerships will be able to save 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year and cut their annual energy bills by £6 million.
Findings from the project, which is being carried out in partnership with The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), will then be published in a report in January 2011 for the whole industry. Steve Latham, operations manager for the RMI, said:
"Today we sell and promote many new cars with very efficient engines, producing lower CO2 emmissions, therefore it is imperative we do everything possible to reduce energy consumption in our dealerships and reduce our costs in these difficult trading conditions."
Research conducted by the Carbon Trust recently showed consumers are being drawn to green products, with 90 percent of households buying a carbon labelled product in the past year.
A recent study of gas and electricity supply in Europe forecasts supply pressure points will have a severe impact on pricing within 3 to 4 years.
Coupled with increasing infrastructure costs associated with modernising the grid, meeting emissions targets and replacing aging power plants the UK is particularly vulnerable to dramatic pricing fluctuations.
Declining supply, the finite nature of fossil fuels, demand growth and ever more stringent environmental factors, are all conspiring to continue to push energy prices upwards.
In the gas market, Europe's already limited ability to meet its gas demand is rapidly declining, meaning that increasingly supply is being imported from more distant, and hence more expensive-sources.
In the power sector, the need for new capacity due to plant retirements is again creating upward price pressures. Forecasts predict power prices to be 15 per cent higher in 2010 compared with 2009, and by 2016 prices will have more than doubled from 2009 levels.
In the gas sector, prices in 2010 are likely to be 19 per cent higher than 2009 and to double by 2013.
With this in mind it has never been more important to obtain best of market pricing as well as taking the time to analyse your company’s energy consumption through Smart Metering which will help identify areas of waste.
A host of continually developing technologies that help reduce consumption are also at hand to help UK companies remain competitive.
This, along with intelligent and well-executed pricing strategies will help UK plc weather the coming storm.
New UK coalition government unveils ambitions for low-carbon economy.
The UK’s new Coalition Government late yesterday unveiled the details of their historic agreement, including their “joint ambitions” for a low-carbon and eco-friendly economy.
On the thorny issue of nuclear power, the Conservatives will be able to bring forward the National Planning Statement (NSP) to make construction of new facilities possible, but Liberal Democrats will be allowed to maintain their opposition to nuclear power under the terms of the agreement by abstaining from any vote. The Conservatives have stated, however, that their commitment to replacing existing nuclear power stations does not include any public subsidy and will have to be funded entirely by private sources. Throughout the election, all parties backed the idea of setting up a ‘green’ investment bank and this idea forms part of the new agreement. No mention, however, of how much the green investment bank will have to spend or how quickly it will be established.
On the renewable front, the inter-party agreement voices support for a feed-in tariff for electricity – but no mention of renewable heat – and the maintenance of banded ROCs. The two also want to see a “huge increase” in energy from waste – which a recent report indicated could provide up to 50% of the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target. Tantalisingly, the agreement promises that the two parties will consider increasing the country’s renewable energy target, depending on the advice of the Climate Change Committee. And also agrees to set a floor price for carbon – which industry has been calling for to guarantee security of investment. The agreement also promises to bring in measures to encourage marine energy and bring in an emissions performance standard that will effectively prevent the building of new coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats also back the previous government’s plans for four CCS demonstration plants. On the home front, the two parties are agreed on setting up a smart grid and rolling out smart meters and want to help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes through a loan scheme paid for by savings in energy bills. In a somewhat contradictory move, the agreement pledges to keep energy performance certificates but plans to scrap Home Information Packs, which were required to provide energy performance certificates as part of the sale of a house.
And in a bid to lead by example, the agreements also pledges to reduce carbon emissions from central government departments by 10% within 12 months.
For transport, there is good news for electric vehicles with the promise of a national recharging network, as well as a promise of the establishment of a high-speed rail network.
Meanwhile, plans for a third runway at Heathrow will be cancelled and no additional runways will be allowed at Gatwick and Stansted. The Air Passenger Duty will also be replaced with a per flight duty.
The terms of the agreement have been largely welcomed by green groups and industry. “The Queen’s Speech and Budget must contain significant measures to tackle climate change and demonstrate that the new Government has the determination to lead the country towards a greener future,” commented Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins.
CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme user guide - updated March 2010 click to download
The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme user guide provides a concise summary of all aspects of the CRC. The guide is consistent with policy in the draft CRC Order which was laid in Parliament on 19 January 2010. This latest document reflects the changes implemented in the government response to the Consultation.On 3rd March 2010 a few minor changes were made to the user guide to bring it in line with the Order.
THE CRC IS GOING TO CAUSE A SHORTAGE OF INSTALLATION CAPACITY FOR SMART METERS 25th March 2010
A number of consultants agree that a smart meter supply crunch is on the cards. "DECC late in the day changed the definition of AMR to mean the fiscal meter only, [but] there are few licensed operators who are allowed to change fiscal meters," they said. "We fully expect that there will capacity constraints next year."A clause in the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) regulations that allows firms to climb the league table showing participants' relative emission reduction performance if they install Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) systems could lead to a "supply pinch" for new smart meters.
That is the warning from Bobby Collinson, managing director of green consultancy Power Efficiency, who today warned that those firms banking on rolling out AMRs after the CRC emission trading scheme comes into effect next month may struggle to complete the project during the first year of the scheme.
Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, Collinson said that a recent flood of orders for AMR systems that provide automated half-hourly meter readings for a building suggested that demand for services from AMR installation firms could outstrip supply over the next 12 months.
"The issue is not getting the meters, it is getting them installed," he said. "We've found that the projects tend to take longer than you'd think, particularly when it can require turning off the energy and a lot of firms want the installation to be undertaken outside of work hours. If, as expected, we see a lot more firms going down this route there is likely to be a supply pinch."
Under the rules of the CRC regulations, voluntary installation of AMR meters across an organisation's properties accounts for half of the league table ranking detailing firms' emission reduction performance during the first year of the scheme, with the remaining 50 per cent awarded on the basis of whether or not the firm has been awarded the Carbon Trust standard.
"AMR can drive cost savings and has a fast return on investment, as well as significantly affecting league table position, but March 2011 is closer than companies think, given the task of getting AMR right," said John Field, Power Efficiency’s director of carbon management, said. "It is rarely a smooth process – taking time to assess estates, rationalise requirements for metering, calculate the right investments, and all this is before you actually get to installation and receive meaningful information from the 17,520 readings a year that each meter produces."
Collinson added that a lot of firms could authorise the roll out of AMR meters in an attempt to gain an easy boost to their league table position without realising how extensive a project it is likely to be. "If you are a retailer, your headquarters and flagship stores will already have-half hourly meters in place," he said. "But you could have hundreds of smaller stores around the country without meters and installing them is a big project."
E.ON installing LED street lights and traffic signals in Blackpool, 22 Feb 2010
A coastal resort town in the UK famous for its decorative illuminations is benefiting from a multiyear project to replace street lights and traffic signals with LED fixtures.
Work has already begun on a 25-year project which will upgrade, operate and manage 20,000 street lights and 2,000 traffic signals on nearly 430 km of highway in Blackpool, a seaside resort town in the north of England. The project will track energy savings and carbon emissions at every stage of the rollout.
E.ON Sustainable Energy, part of energy company E.ON, will install and maintain LED street lights and LED traffic signals on behalf of the Community Lighting Partnership, a consortium between consulting engineers Pell Frischmann; and property partnership company Telereal Trillium.
The Community Lighting Partnership recently secured a 25-year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) encompassing both street lighting and traffic signals for Blackpool, the first place in the world to install electric street lighting in 1879.
The LED street lights and traffic signals could save Blackpool Council tax payers up to 25% of their street lighting bill, according to E.ON's estimates, as well as removing over 1400 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. (These figures are based on a 50-watt LED light with a burn time of 4180 hours per year for each light type versus a more traditional 70-W SON light running at 85W for the same timescale.)
The project will use the Marlin LED street lights recently unveiled by E.ON Sustainable Energy and Advanced LEDs Ltd, a UK-based LED lighting manufacturer.
Benefits of LED lighting
As well as saving money through reduced maintenance and energy usage, Blackpool Council were particularly interested in the potential benefits of LED-based lighting in improving road safety, helping tourism and even reducing crime.
"LED lighting is expected to reduce the number road accidents, and improve the quality of CCTV pictures," said Richard Scott, Head of Consultancy for E.ON Sustainable Energy. The company has performed extensive testing of the LED street lights at its own facilities.
Scott says that the rollout began in January, despite some unexpected bad weather, and is expected to take 5 years before all the street lights and traffic signals are replaced.
For the Blackpool project, everything from the energy use of the luminaire to the design of the carbon-neutral aluminum street-light columns have been scrutinized for ways to conserve resources and reduce energy consumption.
The system will also utilize remote monitoring technology and a dynamic management system which Scott refers to as "dimming and trimming." This could for example allow lights to be dimmed, and will also indicate when lights are not functioning, removing the need for maintenance engineers to visit each light to check its performance.
According to figures from E.ON, street lighting uses an estimated 2% of the UK’s electricity, meaning that if all the street lights in the UK were replaced with LED alternatives, over 6 million tonnes of carbon could be saved over a 30 year period.
New Service announced by Touchstone
Touchstone Consumption and Bill Validation Services.
Thump. The fuel bill lands in your in tray, telling you, in its own almost unfathomable way, how much gas and electricity you've used. Or – more accurately what your supplier has guessed your consumption is by "estimating" your bill, because you were out when the meter reader called or they didn't send one (government regulations state that the meter need only be read once every 14 months).
Can you think of any other industry where this happens? Does the phone company call and say: "We're going to charge you £250 this quarter, because we know you like to natter"; does the checkout assistant at the supermarket suck in her breath and say: "Ooh, looks like about £60 to me.
It is incredible that in the 21st century a support service is required to make sure that your suppliers are invoicing you correctly. All too often, mistakes happen and they are difficult to spot and rectify without detailed knowledge of your consumption.
We are here to make sure that at the very minimum your invoiced energy costs are checked each month to ensure they reflect what you actually use. Our comprehensive reports provide accurate figures on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis (we can even show you how mush you use every half hour).
But checking invoices and consumptions now has another critical role to play for the modern business – carbon management and energy efficiency reporting.
Sustainability agendas, the CRC obligations, global warming, regulation and soaring energy prices have converged requiring virtually every company to look carefully at how it uses energy and report on the results.
Our consumption and invoice reporting can help you manage your energy bills and make sure you are not overpaying or underpaying. One of the biggest problems for a company wishing to move to an improved tariff is when they find out that they are in arrears with their current supplier because of underestimated bills and cannot move. It can take months to gradually pay down these large arrears.
Martin Hickman The Independent.
Smart meters will mean the end of estimated gas and electricity bills
Thump. The fuel bill lands on the doormat, telling you, in its own almost unfathomable way, how much gas and electricity you've used. Rather, your supplier has guessed your consumption by "estimating" your bill, because you were out when the meter reader called, or they didn't send one.
Can you think of any other industry where this happens? Does the phone company call and say: "We're going to charge you £250 this quarter, because we know you like a natter"; does the checkout assistant at the supermarket suck in her breath and say: "Ooh, looks like about £60 to me."
If the figure appears too large, you (the customer) have to check the ancient whirring meter and call the company – at your own expense – listen to a disembodied voice and slowly tap in the correct reading. Then the supplier issues a new bill.
If you're wondering whether there is an alternative to this imprecision and tedium, you would be right. New meters, updated with mobile phone-like transmitters, can constantly monitor fuel consumption and relay data to the supplier around the clock.
Followers of The Independent's "Great Energy Rip-Off" campaign may not be surprised to learn that the Big Six suppliers, the ones milking low wholesale prices, have installed "smart" meters in fewer than one per cent of British homes. But the likelihood is that you will have one fitted in the next few years after ministers (not the Big Six) belatedly woke up to their benefits. Because, in addition to the simple virtue of getting bills right, smart meters have another advantage: they improve energy efficiency and cut bills. People can easily see the cost of leaving lights on and switch them off.
The extent of the potential savings is unclear, but we should know soon. The regulator, Ofgem, has set up a trial in 59,000 homes of combinations of three environmental aids – posted information on consumption, clip-on digital displays and smart meters.
In interim findings last month, Ofgem said that among the 17,000 smart meter customers who also received posted data about energy use, bills fell.
The report concluded: "In general, there has been good feedback about the smart meter trials, including positive comments about billing accuracy, reduced need for meter reads and improved ability to track household energy consumption."
Back to the Government. In May, Ed Miliband, the energy minister, promised that all 26 million electricity customers and all 22 million gas customers would have smart meters by 2010, at a cost – rather, an estimate – of £7bn. He wants the energy companies to fund their roll-out.
The Conservatives, too, want universal smart meters. Greg Clark the shadow energy minister, promised so in a speech to their party conference in which he referred to existing meters as "dumb metal wheels spinning in the garage that Thomas Edison would recognise"; but he declined to set a date.
Around the world, progress on smart meters is mixed. Italy, the acknowledged leader, installed them in 27 million homes between 2000 and 2005; California has put them in nine million homes; and there are eight million across Scandinavia. The Dutch have promised they will be in all homes by 2013, but the French and Germans are lagging.
So, it's time for a guess of your own: what are the chances of Britain becoming a world leader?
Free gas meter upgrade offer is relaunched
It was recently reported how meter asset manager, National Grid Metering, had introduced a Guaranteed Pulse Scheme whereby it would upgrade your existing gas meters to enable AMR at no cost. And what's more, if you have older gas meters which can’t be upgraded, they would replace these at low cost.
With mandatory schemes such as the CRC being introduced, National Grid Metering recognised there was a need for customers to install gas AMR devices in order to access their gas profile data every day. And with industry estimates of up to 30% of I&C gas meters not pulse-enabled, it knew that many old meters would need to be upgraded or replaced.
So the need was there, but National Grid Metering had considerably underestimated the actual demand. Where it was expecting a few hundred change requests, it received several thousand in a matter of weeks. As a result, the company was unable to cope with the sheer number of requests and was forced to suspend the offer at the end of November.
Offer extended until March
We can now report that National Grid Metering has now reintroduced its Guaranteed Pulse Scheme and is extending it until the end of March 2010. It will only accept requests from suppliers, so if you want to get in the queue for the scheme, contact your gas supplier as soon as possible.
We will update you on future offers from National Grid Metering as they are received.
So what are the new rules governing energy supply contracts for Micro-Businesses as defined by OFGEM?
Firstly, to be classified as a micro business there must be fewer than 10 full time staff, an annual turnover of less than 2 million Euros (approx £1,800,000), or energy use of less than 200,000kWh’s of gas a year or 55,000kWh’s of electricity a year.
The OFGEM market probe has resulted in the implementation of a new set of rules that go some way to alleviate the issues facing micro-businesses however, whilst it affords some protection we do not believe thatit goes far enough.
OFGEM had identified the main areas of concern after an extensive probe of the market but have not used the information and made strong enough rule changes. The one area of concern is that OFGEM have still not gone far enough to protect the customer when their contract is approaching the end of the fixed term end date.
The 'roll-over' tactic employed by the supply companies has been roundly criticised by customers for many years and whilst the initial proposal written by OFGEM for industry consideration in the summer 2009 did not allow the supplier to assume the contract renewal in the final event, it was watered down after the industry had an opportunity to counteract the proposal.
The majority of businesses in the UK are micro-businesses and the OFGEM probe uncovered evidence that they were finding it difficult to understand and participate effectively in the market. This was largely due to suppliers having different contract termination clauses hidden within the small print.
Here are the new OFGEM rules that take effect from January 18th, 2010
• Before entering into a contract a customer must be informed of the key terms and conditions
• Within 10 days of the contract being agreed the customer should receive hard copies of the full terms and conditions and a statement of renewal terms if the contract is fixed length
• Customers will be contacted a minimum of 30 days before the end of the contract period with an explanation of the options available and including advice on what a customer should do to terminate their current contract and stop the supplier from assuming contract renewal for a further fixed term contract period.
• Customers at any point from when the contract is agreed until the end of the notice period can give notice that they wish to terminate it at the end of the fixed term period.
These rules come into force on 18th January 2010, however they will not apply retrospectively and so will only affect existing customers when they come to terminate or renew their supply contracts.
STANDBY POWER CONSUMPTION
A recent study by students and scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) shows that the average California home pays between $50 and $70 every year to keep those little red lights burning,
Press Release, Berkely By Robert Sanders, Media Relations
Berkeley - If you need proof that your appliances are sucking energy even when they're sitting unused, just turn out the lights some evening. All those glowing red dots and flashing digital clocks are a clear sign your household appliances are spending your money while you sleep.
One of the biggest energy gobblers are the transformers that continuously recharge your cell phone, power your computer peripherals and keep your Game Boy ready for use.
A recent study by students and scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) shows that the average California home pays between $50 and $70 every year to keep those little red lights burning, the clocks ticking and the electronics humming while the appliances go unused. Eliminating this standby or "leaking" electricity could save households between six and 26 percent on their average monthly electricity bill, the study found.
"We've only recently found out how substantial the energy savings can be," said Daniel Kammen, professor of energy and resources at UC Berkeley and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. "People could save enough power to offset the rise in electricity rates."
J.P. Ross, a master's degree student in the Energy & Resources Group, conducted the study last spring, the first time anyone in this country actually went into homes to measure standby power consumption. He sought out 10 homes in northern California of varying size, number of occupants and income level.
Checking every appliance in each house, he and co-author Alan K. Meier of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at LBNL found that standby energy use averaged 67 watts per household, more than you would waste by burning a 60-watt bulb day and night all year long. Standby usage ranged from six percent to 26 percent of the homes' annual electricity use.
In a 1999 study, Meier and his LBNL colleagues had estimated average U.S. home standby usage at 50 watts, or about five percent of nationwide annual electricity usage, based on lab measurements of leakage in many different appliances.
"Whether it's six percent or 16 percent, it's a significant quantity of electricity being wasted," Ross said. "Typically, the larger the house, the more appliances and the greater the standby energy use."
On average, each of the 10 homes contained 19 appliances using standby power.
The study was small and localized, considering there are more than 10 million households in the state, but Ross said the message is unambiguous: more needs to be done to reduce leaking electricity.
One solution is to unplug appliances when not in use, Kammen said. An alternative is to group appliances on one surge protector or power strip so that all can be turned off at once. This works well for entertainment systems or for a computer and its associated printers, scanners and other peripheral devices.
Computer printers are one of the big energy wasters, some of them drawing 11.5 watts when idling. Some TVs and video cassette recorders draw almost as much, while set-top cable boxes can draw twice that: the most wasteful Ross found drew 23 watts when the box was off.
And one of the newest appliances on the market, personal video recorders meant to replace VCRs, can draw 50 watts when "off," he said.
A permanent solution, however, is in the hands of appliance manufacturers. While it is impossible to turn off many U.S. appliances, in Europe many come with two "off" buttons: one a remote ready and another that actually turns the appliance off. Rechargers, on the other hand, could include a feedback circuit that shuts off the transformer when a battery is fully charged.
The range of standby waste in similar appliances shows that it is possible to reduce standby waste substantially with no loss of function. Meier and Ross advocate a standard of one watt standby usage for energy efficient appliances.
"Our model predicts you could get a 68 percent reduction in standby usage if all appliances drew only one watt when not in use," Ross said.
This shouldn't be too hard for industry to achieve, he said, "Manufacturers have to pay attention," he said. "People from industry are getting interested because policy makers are now interested."
The California Energy Commission, for example, set up a workshop on standby power use after LBNL published Ross's results in May 2000. Ross also reported the results at an international conference in Italy last September.
For now, homeowners need to take a close look of their energy leakage. Ross found it was possible to reduce his own small household standby usage to 14 watts, by getting rid of his cell phone, unplugging his "powerless" power tools and unplugging other appliances when not in use.
"We don't have to buy into the current paradigm of ever increasing power usage," Ross said. "We should all question how much power we are using."
The study of standby power usage was funded by the Energy Foundation and the assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Meters in California; Stupid Meters In Scotland
Posted on 17. Sep, 2009 by Ross in New Technologies, North America, United Kingdom
Two press releases today illustrated the Jekyll & Hyde nature of smart meters: one US company trying to help consumers cut bills, whilst a Scottish company installs models only of benefit to itself.
Southern California Edison began the roll-out of 5 million new smart meters to all of their residential and small business customers this week, in part of the $1.6bn, 3-year Edison SmartConnect™ scheme. Because all of the smart meters - Itron’s OpenWay® CENTRON® Meter - carry Zigbee radio chips by default, the meter can communicate with household monitoring software to give consumers a direct graphical handle on their energy consumption.
The smart meters will also be able to use the Zigbee protocol to communicate with future appliances, informing them of the current electricity prices so that they can make intelligent decisions about their own energy use patterns.
By empowering customers to such an advanced level, Southern California Edison hope that energy demand will be reduced by as much as 1000MW - roughly equivalent to the average fossil fuel power plant.
Penny-pinching Scottish stupid meters
By contrast, and at the risk of perpetuating a national stereotype, UK energy company Scottish Power has completed the installation of new pre-payment meters into some of the poorest households of deprived areas such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool, whilst at the same time masquerading the new devices as ’smart meters’.
These type of smart meters are the sort which give smart meters a bad name.
They naturally include the most basic smart meter functionality - remote data updating. That enables the meter to communicate directly with the energy company, keeping them up to date with exactly how much electricity has been used. That enables the company in question to lay off the majority of their meter readers, savings large amounts of wages, as well as being able to process billing faster and more accurately.
The benefit of smart meters to energy companies are obvious, but in this case the benefit of smart meters to consumers is marginal. The meters being replaced were 340,000 token pre-payment meters, generally installed into homes which have historically had trouble paying their energy bills. As well as forcing consumers to pay up-front, most energy companies also charge such low-income families more for their energy as well, although Scottish power claim that their pre-payment customers actually pay less.
Tokens had to be purchased from local stores and post offices, so if the household’s credit ran out during the night or at weekends then they were left literally powerless until the shops opened again and they could buy more credit. ScottishPower’s new ’smart’ meters instead delay switching off the supply of electricity until the next standard working hours begin (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm). How generous.
No intelligent monitoring. No future-proofing. Just a way of cutting costs and ensuring fast payments with a tiny sweetener for the customers inflicted with these devices.
Oh yes - the company was asked by regulatory body Ofgem to remove all of its token pre-payment meters by the end of 2009. By labelling such meters as ’smart’, ScottishPower will also likely be able to avoid having to change them for newer, more effective models for decades to come - except at a large cost to individual households.
What smart meters will do for youMoney Talk By Garry Felgate
Chief executive, Energy Retail Association
A revolution in the way you think about and use energy in your home is about to get underway.
The government is poised to announce how it intends to roll out electricity and gas smart meters to every household in the UK by 2020.
Calling this a revolution may seem overly dramatic.However, this will be the impact of the transfer from existing "dumb" meters to new, smarter alternatives. Quite simply, keeping your existing meters is like sending a telegram instead of installing wireless broadband.
The government, along with the energy industry, is now involved in devising the best way of getting this massive project underway to replace 46 million meters - in 25 million British homes - by the year 2020. This is a huge undertaking, ranking alongside the digital switch-over and the introduction of North Sea gas to homes in the early 1970s.
So what are smart meters?Smart meters are fundamentally different from ordinary gas and electricity meters.
They provide a real-time, accurate, record of the gas and electricity you are using, day and night, and how much it costs. Crucially, your new smart meter will include a display device that will tell you how much energy you are using at any given time, and how much it is costing you - and even how much carbon that equates to.
This display will put you in total control of your energy use - which is vital when more and more of us are becoming more energy efficient on financial and environmental grounds. Some display devices even incorporate a red, amber and green traffic light system that shows you clearly how your usage changes when you turn various appliances on and off.
You will be able to see how much energy you used the day before, the week before and even the year before, and how your consumption changes in real time. Smart meters will also make it easier for people who generate their own energy to measure how much they are exporting back to the national grid.
No more estimated billsThis new technology will also spell the end of estimated bills and meter readings. With smart metering, electricity and gas bills will be accurate.
There will not be any need for your energy company to estimate your consumption as the smart meter can tell the supplier how much energy is being used and when. Smart meters also provide an exchange of information between you and your energy company.
This means the company will be able to communicate directly with you and enable you to receive up-to-date readings from the meter without having to send someone out to your home.
This interactivity also means energy companies can send messages to your smart meter and, where required, instantly update products such as energy tariffs at your request.
Paving the way for innovationAs well as helping all of us save money, smart meters will also pave the way for a number of innovations aimed at saving energy. For example, using the information from your meter, new tariffs could be offered encouraging off-peak energy use.
The meter would also be capable of providing information on which appliances you use most, allowing companies to subsequently offer energy saving tips via the meter and its display device. In the future, it is possible that smart meters could link up with other household appliances - for example freezers, washing machines, kettles.
You could time their operation to take advantage of cheaper off-peak tariffs - again saving you money, while simultaneously reducing your carbon footprint. Energy companies are already legally required to reduce the amount of carbon they produce and smart meters will help their customers contribute to the wider effort.
Maintaining momentumThe potential benefits of smart metering are clear. Britain is no longer self-sufficient in terms of energy and supplies of North Sea oil and gas are depleting. Smart meters have to be part of the solution to the problem of drastically reducing our energy consumption.
Momentum is gathering towards making smart meters a reality for all of us by 2020.
It is important that this momentum is not lost, as it is in our power to make a real change in the way we all use our vital resources. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
Google To Make Solar Thermal Power Cheaper Than Coal
Posted on 10. Sep, 2009 by Ross in Energy News, North America
Fed up with a lack of innovation in solar power over past decades, Google is throwing its hat into the ring with the aim of driving the price of solar energy down by 75%.
Google has invested around $50 million in renewable energy over the past two years, with the aim of providing renewable power which is cheaper than coal. Their main focus has been on solar thermal technology, with the primary aim being to halving the cost of making heliostats - and then halving it again.
Solar thermal energy involves focusing the sun’s rays onto a substance in order to heat it up by hundreds of degrees. The substance is then used to create steam to power turbines.
Google’s main direction of innovation is to create mirrors for reflecting the sunlight at a fraction of the current costs, which require a 250MW solar thermal power station to cost $600m-$1bn.
With a track record for innovation, Google’s expansion into the field is certain to excite neutral onlookers, and the internet search giant has plenty to gain indirectly too - its server networks which power the world’s search queries consume vast amounts of energy, although the carbon footprint of a Google search is small compared to the carbon footprint of the end-user’s computer on which the information request is being performed.
Solar thermal energy is not the only toe which Google has dipped into green waters. Much hype surrounds the Google Powermeter software which is being touted to energy companies who install smart meters into businesses and households. Aiming to help people make sense of smart meters, Google Powermeter and rival Microsoft’s Hohm are part of a slew of software packages hoping to help people use less power and be more energy efficient.
UK must address smart meter standards and security
Friday, 28 August 2009 01:33
Inaccurate energy bills have long been the bane of British energy consumers. Rectifying an issue can be tough and time-consuming but even getting an explanation on how a bill is generated is nearly impossible. The government plans to do away with all that by getting smart meters installed within every British home by the year 2020.
“It’s like you go to the supermarket, fill your trolley, and three months later somebody sends you an estimate of what you might have eaten,” said Hermione Crease of smart meter technology developer Sentec. “With no understanding of how your bill is composed, there’s little motivation to change your use. It’s your data – you should be able to see and understand it.” Crease gave her remarks in an interview with The Guardian.
Smart meters allow for energy usage information to be shared in real time between consumers and their suppliers. The EU called for their use within its 2006 energy services directive but with a disclaimer that smart meters should only be used if they conserve energy in a cost effective way.
Smart meters rely on supporting software, and actively engaged users, to work their magic. Actively engaging consumers is essential which is why companies like Microsoft, Google, and German utility Yello Strom have come up with creative ways to display information compiled by a smart meter.
Smart meters are progressing in the UK. British Gas has successfully completed trial runs of the technology and First Utility is already supplying its customers with smart meters – and realising incredible operations efficiencies. “We’re talking about going from one meter reading a year to 48 a day,” said First Utility CEO Mark Daeche.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change recently polled the energy industry for opinions on a British smart meter rollout. Daeche says standards are critical but the government has to be careful not to “stifle innovation” with smart meter guidelines.
“There’s a danger of over-specifying with too many constraints,” said Mark England, managing director at Sentec. “Imagine if we’d standardised mobile phone technology 20 years ago. We’d have to live with it now.”
The competitive UK energy market could prove to be a hindrance to a national smart meter rollout. “More than 100,000 customers switch supplier every week,” said industry consultant Jason Brogden. “If you install a smart meter in someone’s home and they change supplier, you don’t want that meter to have to be replaced.”
Brogden expressed concern that currently available smart meters may not comply with UK government standards. “They enable two-way communication and have some functionality for presenting customer information, but until the government sets out the functionality for smart meters we don’t actually know what standards they need to comply with,” he said. “We need a swift conclusion to the government consultation.”
According to Crease, security concerns with smart meters will be addressed by adopting standards and encryption methods used within the banking industry. “Smart meters now routinely carry enough processing power to allow top-grade encryption and security,” she said. “These things are always something of an arms race between hackers and designers.”
Free Advice On The Energy And Cost Saving Of Controls
Mitsubishi Electric has launched an addition to its website to focus attention on the energy saving potential of well controlled air conditioning systems, with a warning from the Carbon Trust that almost 90 per cent of all building controls are inadequate and may be costing the UK over £500 million a year in additional energy costs.
“The Carbon Trust also state that premises with well-controlled systems can reduce heating fuel consumption by between 15-35 per cent,” explains Sebastien Desmottes, Mitsubishi Electric’s controls expert.01/09/2009 - Free Advice On The Energy And Cost Saving Of Controls
Mitsubishi Electric has launched an addition to its website to focus attention on the energy saving potential of well controlled air conditioning systems, with a warning from the Carbon Trust that almost 90 per cent of all building controls are inadequate and may be costing the UK over £500 million a year in additional energy costs.
“The Carbon Trust also state that premises with well-controlled systems can reduce heating fuel consumption by between 15-35 per cent,” explains Sebastien Desmottes, Mitsubishi Electric’s controls expert.From The Times
August 22, 2009
Ofgem warns gas and electricity suppliers over small businesses
Threat of referral to Competition Commission after some customers told to pay their energy bills seven months in advance
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor
Ofgem, Britain’s energy regulator, yesterday warned Britain’s big six gas and electricity suppliers that it would launch a full investigation unless action was taken to ease new credit restrictions on 250,000 small businesses.
The power companies have told some of these customers that they must pay their energy bills seven months in advance.
Small business organisations have voiced concern that this could push many into bankruptcy.
Ofgem said that in addition to its own inquiry, it could refer the industry to the Competition Commission if suppliers did not act voluntarily to relax the new harsher payment terms.
An Ofgem spokeswoman said that Alistair Buchanan, its chief executive, had asked the companies — EDF Energy, British Gas, SSE, ScottishPower, E.ON and RWE npower — to come up with detailed guidance that would provide relief for small firms struggling because of the downturn. He proposed that the Energy Retail Association, which represents the companies, work with the Major Energy Users Council to resolve the problem. “Ofgem will continue to monitor the situation,” the spokeswoman said.
Despite sharp price falls in the wholesale electricity markets in recent months, energy companies have started to apply tough new conditions to shield themselves from the impact of the 40,000 corporate insolvencies expected in the UK this year.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that recession-hit companies had been finding it increasingly difficult to secure contracts from suppliers without big deposits and other restrictions.
Nick Campbell, an energy trader at Inenco, a consultancy, said that British companies were having to pay up to £350 million in advance for their energy and that sectors heavily exposed to the downturn, such as brickmaking, had been hit particularly hard.
Part of the problem has been that trade credit insurers, which pay the bills of companies entering insolvency, are increasingly rejecting applications for new energy-supply contracts.
“The credit constraint is a problem for the whole economy, including the energy markets,” Mr Campbell said. “Just as the banks may restrict lending even though interest rates are at all-time lows, suppliers and credit insurers are keen to limit exposure to risky sectors.
“Companies also face a variety of obstacles before even entering a supplier agreement. These can include a six-month deposit and use of margin accounts.”
The FSB estimates that in recent months one million small businesses have been contacted by their energy companies and informed of more restrictive credit conditions, and a quarter of these were being forced to pay money in advance. EDF, ScottishPower, E.ON and British Gas are among the suppliers to have tightened their payment arrangements.
EDF acknowledged that tougher credit conditions were hampering customers. It said that it was “actively engaged at all levels to find acceptable credit solutions for all parties”.
Bobby Collinson, managing director of Power Efficiency, which manages and procures £500 million worth of gas and electricity supplies for UK companies, said: “This is putting huge pressure on the already strained cash-flow of Britain’s businesses and this situation is set to worsen as more and more businesses reach the end of their three-year contracts and attempt to renew or find new energy suppliers.”
UK Utilities Deny Lobbying Against Smart Meters
British Gas, npower and others say they have nothing against their customers using smart meters to cut their bills
Experts in the field of sustainability are almost unanimous when it comes to the secret of any truly successful push for efficiency - getting the the right metrics.
But according to accusations doing the rounds this week, not everyone is entirely on board when it comes to consumer and businesses getting accurate information on energy usage provided by smart meters which the government has mandated should be installed in every home in the UK by 2020.
According to a report in the Times, the Local Government Association has accused a coalition of power companies of lobbying the government to block the inclusion of wireless display units in the smart meter scheme. The LGA statement more or less accuses the Energy Retail Association of trying to snuff out the technology as it doesn't want its customers to have a truly accurate picture of the energy they are using and difficult questions over pricing which might arise as a result.
“The plan to put a smart meter in every home is good but unless it is accompanied by an in-home energy display, for consumers, it is virtually worthless. What you can see, you can save. Why not give people all the information so they can make better choices about how much energy they use?”, Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA told The Times.
Understandably in a world where corporate social responsibility rules and any company with any nous is keen to be seen as green, the members of the Energy Retail Association - who include British Gas, npower and EDF - are vigorously denying any suggestion they might not want their customers better informed.
In a letter responding to The Times, posted on the ERA website - an unusual move as companies responding to bad press don't generally shout out the news so publicly - the head of the organisation Garry Felgate says his members aren't opposed to providing customers with more information but don't like the idea mandated technology.
"It is very misleading to say that the Energy Retail Association is lobbying Government to prevent energy customers from receiving digital displays, as your article implies (Energy Retail Association in bid to block bill-cutting device (online, 19 August). Energy suppliers are not against display devices. They are against mandating them for all households," he said.
As a former IBM employee, Felgate presumably has some expertise in technology, and has also served time at the Carbon Trust and maintains that the ERA simply wants customers to be able to choose how they check their energy usage. "The ERA and its members firmly believe that energy companies should not be restricted to providing a ‘one size fits all’ device over the next 12 years and should be allowed to offer customers precisely the kind of display they would find most useful. For example, this could be through a mobile phone, a digital TV page, or your PC."
Earlier this year the government voiced a commitment to roll out smart meters to every household in the UK by 2020. In preparation for the roll-out, the government launched a consultation in May on what information should be available via the meters aimed at consumers which closes this month. The government already issued a consultation aimed at small businesses in July this year.
20 August, 2009
Energy companies lobby to block roll-out of smart meter displays
Energy companies are trying to block a government proposal to install energy display monitors in every home. The displays would be linked to a smart meter to tell people how much their energy is costing them.
According to a report in The Times newspaper, the Energy Retail Association (ERA) is lobbying ministers to in an attempt to scupper the proposal that a digital display unit should be installed in every home. The association represents energy suppliers including E-On, EDF, British Gas, Scottish and Southern Energy, and NPower.
The wireless displays can be moved anywhere in a home to allow people to see the energy savings that could be obtained by not leaving a TV on standby for example. The units are claimed to help people reduce their fule bills by between 5 and 15 percent.
The ERA's members do not want to be restricted to one type of display
The Local Government Association has accused the ERA of trying to sabotage a proposal that would save people money by saving energy and help reduce the amount of CO2 emitted.
Joel Hagan, chief executive of energy display manufacturer Onzo, said: “We need smart meters in the UK because they will enable more accurate and more frequent billing, and because the cost of the billing process will be reduced. We also need display monitors because they make it possible for consumers to access information that will help them understand and change their energy use”.
He added that a consumer body has aleady highlighted that utilities already stand to benefit from the introduction of smart-meters: “Which? Has already pointed out that there is a serious risk that costs and benefits of smart metering roll-out in the UK will be shared unequally between utilities’ shareholders and their customers”.
The government is set to install a smart meter in every home by 2020
23rd August 2009
Consultation on Renewable Electricity Financial Incentives
The UK Government's consultation seeks views on two mechanisms to provide financial incentives for the generation of low-carbon and renewable electricity; the renewables obligation (RO) and feed-in tariffs (FITs).
The RO is currently the main financial support scheme for renewable electricity in the UK. In order to ensure that the RO stimulates deployment of new renewable generation to the extent needed to meet our 2020 target for renewable energy, we plan to make certain changes to the RO by means of the next Renewables Obligation Order (ROO) which will come into effect on 1 April 2010. In summary, these are:
* Extension of the life-time of the RO to at least 2037;
* Introduction of a 20 year limit on support under the RO;
* Removal of the 20 Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC)/100MWh limit in the RO;
* Retention of the existing fixed targets until 2015/16, with a headroom only mechanism after that date;
* An increase in the level of headroom from 8% to 10%; and
* Opening up the RO to include renewable generation outside the UK that meets specific criteria to help meet our EU target in the most cost effective way.
See the full proposals here:
14th August, 2009
Big Lottery Fund's Community Sustainable Energy Grants remain popular
Thirty eight community-based organisations have been awarded £836k of funding for renewable energy technologies in the fifth round of the Community Sustainable Energy Programme capital grants scheme. Winning applications included village halls, community centres, schools and a Citizens Advice Bureau. This funding round also included the first successful hydro-turbine application for a Wildlife Trust
Another £448K has been awarded in project development grants which will enable 200 organisations to undertake feasibility studies that identify the most appropriate mix of renewable energy measures for their buildings.
CSEP is an open grants scheme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund's Changing Spaces programme, that is designed to help community based organisations in England reduce their energy bills and environmental impact. The Programme will provide £8 million to community-based organisations for the installation of microgeneration technologies, such as solar panels or wind turbines and energy efficiency measures including loft and cavity wall insulation. It will also provide £1 million for project development grants that will help community organisations establish if a microgeneration and energy efficiency installation will work for them. As the number of applications to the scheme rises, the competitive element of the fund increases and successful projects have to be of a high standard to be awarded funding.
Applications for the next round of grants need to be submitted by 5pm on Friday 7th August 2009. Please check the additional guidance and programme statistics available on the CSEP website http://www.communitysustainable.org.uk/
10th August, 2009
Ofgem backtracks on roll-over contracts for SMEs
We have been waiting for Ofgem to announce the demise of 'roll-over' contracts for small and medium businesses.
Ofgem had made a previous commitment to end rolling contracts for all businesses with 50 employees or fewer and turnovers not exceeding €10 million, which is the European Commission's definition of a small business.
However, businesses are concerned now that the recent measures outlined by Ofgem including specialised contracts, better information and communication services and requiring suppliers to give 30-day notice periods to allow businesses to renegotiate contracts – apply only to micro-businesses (those employing 10 staff or fewer), and not other small business employers.
Recent research reveals the need for more comprehensive protection. It is estimated that one in five businesses receive inadequate notice that their energy contracts are coming to an end. Further, one in ten have received backdated bills and one in four businesses have been initially offered unfavourable renewal terms.
This shows that there is clearly a need for some kind of legislation required to force the energy suppliers to amend their contracts.
7th August, 2009
ACS angered by Ofgem policy
The Association of Convenience Stores has responded angrily to what it considers a u-turn by energy watchdog Ofgem on the issue of rollover energy contracts.
Ofgem had been looking at ways to stop small and medium companies from being tied in to restrictive and expensive rollover contracts if they were unable to find new suppliers within a short window at the end of existing contracts.
In a letter to SME representatives, Ofgem has now said it will allow rollovers for up to a year.
“Rolling contracts frequently lock small and medium businesses into damaging terms of supply for long periods. Instead of this softening of proposals we call for more robust action, including extending the remit of this proposal to all SME businesses, not just micro businesses,” says ACS chief executive James Lowman.
“We want businesses to be given more flexibility and encouragement to switch energy companies if they find themselves in this situation. If energy companies have competitive deals and good practice then there will be no problem,” Lowman adds. “If Ofgem cannot take decisive action then this important matter should be referred to the Competition Commission.”
Growing market for Smart Meters
19th July, 2009
There is already a huge demand for smart meters from large corporate energy customers as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme forces them to reduce their carbon footprint. The scheme comes into force in April 2010.
However, A recent study has concluded that the SME market for smart meters for electricity is 2.2 million, and if you include gas it is about 3.4 million.
As more companies realise the potential benefits of smart meters there has been an upsurge in inquiries.Additionally, if Smart Meters', which give data on energy use, were installed in every British household by 2020 it would cut energy bills and help the country achieve its green target.
Britain's target is to cut greenhouse emissions by 34 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, and it needs 47 million smart meters for its homes and businesses to help achieve the target.
Ofgem to Halt Business Energy Rollovers
From the Financial Mail...
Energy industry watchdog Ofgem is promising to get tough over the unfair practices of suppliers.
The regulator has promised clearer contract terms for businesses and says it will remove obstacles that stop firms getting the best deals.
But the move that is most likely to benefit thousands of small firms is the proposal to ban controversial 'rollover' contracts. This is where firms are automatically locked into a new - and typically far more costly deal - after their initial contract has ended if they fail to give notice in time to their supplier.
Financial Mail has long highlighted how small firms are being caught out by such contracts and forced to pay significantly more for their energy. Most providers require businesses to give at least 90 days' notice before an energy contract ends if they want to move to a different supplier. Other suppliers demand that customers give notice only in a narrow 'window' of time.
According to experts, the measures announced by Ofgem last week could save small firms £1.75bn a year on their energy bills. But with consultations not ending until July, and any changes unlikely to come into force until autumn at the earliest, many firms could still find themselves facing huge increases in their bills in the meantime.
Over the past year, energy prices have risen by about 40% because of a sharp increase in wholesale energy prices. Yet although prices have begun to fall again over the past few months, the best rates are still typically made available only to those who make the effort to switch energy supplier.
Creating Energy Out of Thin Air
by William C. Olson
Each day in the United States, thousands of companies' burn fossil fuels to heat boilers, melt metals, run engines and cook the food that lines grocery store shelves. Despite industry efforts to use heat from burning fuel as efficiently as possible, staggering amounts literally go up in smoke each year. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 20 to 50 percent of all fuel burned goes unused into our atmosphere as wasted heat. If harnessed, the potential waste heat capacity, in the U.S. alone, could generate 46 GWs of new, clean electricity annually. That is enough electricity to replace (or not build) 92 500-MW gas-fired combined cycle power plants, whole producing zero emissions.
Wind power and solar energy grab many renewable headlines — long heralded as the “golden children” of renewable energy. However, recycled energy, such as waste heat, was left out of the discussion for many years — until now. Stiffening pollution penalties press the agenda for increasing power without increasing emissions. This is driving renewed interest in utilizing recycled heat.
President Barack Obama started his presidency with a focus on energy efficiency and renewable resources, even calling on the U.S. to double renewable energy within three years. In his challenge to ramp up renewable resources, the President recently stated, "The choice we face is between prosperity and decline. We can remain the world's leading importer of oil, or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy."
The public and private sectors must overcome potentially dangerous apathy, and rapidly embrace recycled energy technology if the U.S. has any chance for energy independence. Even though the current administration espouses energy efficiency and recycled energy, waste heat remains underutilized as an energy source. The recycled energy industry has little influence compared to solar, wind and biomass lobbies. Utilizing waste heat from industrial processes could increase efficiency by as much as 20 percent — not next year, not in three years — today! We can literally create energy out of thin air.
The DOE reports that available waste heat sources (seven quadrillion BTU) exceed the current production of all other U.S. renewable power sources combined (including wind, solar and geothermal). When compared with other renewable resources, the value of recycled energy is clear. It is fuel-free, emissions-free and very low-cost.
Converting surplus heat into power is achievable using technologies available today and, as stated above, this technology could postpone or replace the construction of 92 fossil-fuel utility plants and avoid the greenhouse gas emissions from these plants. It would also produce power at a lower cost than even coal – let alone wind or solar. With the advent of technology that turns waste heat into power, the barriers that slow the commercial implementation of recycled energy projects are not technical, or even political. Translated, we can fix this.
The U.S. cannot eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels, but we can dramatically reduce it, and make a measurable difference by increasing energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint. Recycled energy is one of our best sources for clean, fuel-free, low-cost energy and now U.S. industry is positioned to benefit from this revolutionary technology.
Ofgem cracks down on 'unjustified' energy bills
Rebecca Smithers and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 March 2009
Also....a crackdown on poor deals for pre-payment meter customers and an Annual statement of charges which will give greater transparency to bills.
Energy tariffs must reflect actual cost to companies.
Energy companies will be forced to provide an annual statement of charges and explain price differences for customers who use different payment methods, under proposals outlined today by Ofgem.
The tough new proposals would see a ban on "unjustified" price differences between providers and attempt to tackle issues such as poor deals for customers using pre-paid supply systems.
The watchdog said higher tariffs – paid by those on pre-paid meters or paying by direct debit – should reflect the actual cost to companies. The ban on unjustified price differences would remain in place for three years when progress would be reviewed.
The measures also include simplified price information on an at-a-glance score card to make switching providers easier, and an end to automatic contract renewal for small businesses.
Ofgem launched a consultation on the proposals ,which follow a probe into unfair pricing, at the end of last year. It said that if energy companies cannot agree on the rules the issue will be taken to the Competition Commission. The regulator's chief executive, Alistair Buchanan, said: "Our undue discrimination rule will address the symptoms of flaws in the market while our retail market measures will treat the causes.
"This is an emphatic move by Ofgem to clear the decks of obstacles that prevent consumers from getting access to the best offers. All consumers will be given greater power in the market and small businesses in particular will have a stronger hand to play in the market."
Energy and climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, backed the clampdown: "The overcharging of some of the most vulnerable customers exposed in the Ofgem probe was inexcusable. That is why it is right that Ofgem is acting to ensure that wherever you live and whatever payment method you use, you will not be unfairly discriminated against.
"We need tough regulation to protect consumers and that is why I welcome the Ofgem proposals. I believe this is the quickest way to end the unfairness that exists. However, if it turns out the regulator and the suppliers can't rid the market of unfair practices once and for all I continue to stand ready to use legislation. The government and regulator must be eternally vigilant on behalf of the consumer."
Under the proposals, suppliers would be obliged to provide an annual statement including a reminder of a customer's right to switch energy providers.
Small businesses would be given clear contracts with no automatic rollover when the agreement ended.
There would also be a new set of standards that all energy companies should meet to make sure they dealt fairly with customers. These could include not selling people products they do not understand or are inappropriate for their needs, and not changing anything about their service without explanation.
Customers could not be stopped from switching supplier without good reason, and would not be offered products that were overly complicated or confusing. Providers would also be obliged to make it easy for people to contact them and act quickly when something went wrong. The results of the consultation on the plans will be published next month, and a final package unveiled in July. This would allow the measures to come into force by the autumn, ahead of winter.
Good Riddance to Roll-Over Contracts
Ofgem re-affirmed its promise to small businesses today to bring ‘…an end to automatic roll-over when fixed-term contracts expire’ by the Autumn. This is the clearest indication yet of when it is likely to happen and, when it does, will be good news to over a million businesses stuck on these type of contracts.
Friday March 27, 2009
Energy Regulator demands improvements for customers direcet debitsAn Ofgem review criticises suppliers’ practices on direct debit payments. But the regulator finds no evidence that suppliers are recovering more money from direct debit customers than they are due.
The regulator expects suppliers to meet new best practice standards and is consulting on the need for licence changes. The Measures will help maintain consumer confidence in direct debits.
Ofgem has demanded significant improvements from the energy suppliers in the way they manage monthly direct debit payments and is consulting on the need for changes to supply licences to secure improvements.
Ofgem's action results from a review the regulator has conducted into the direct debit arrangements of the six major energy suppliers, following complaints by customers late last year about significant increases in amounts they were being asked to pay. The review has been published today (Friday).
Ofgem. Read full story here
Deserts Set to Bloom With Solar For Europe
23 June 2009,
Munich, Germany [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]
Reinsurance company Munich Re is seeking to attract partners to conduct a feasibility study on the Desertec plan to exploit solar energy on an industrial scale in the deserts of North Africa for export to Europe.
"Desertec is clearly banking on the right incentives in the long term, namely climate protection and a low-carbon energy sector."
-- Torsten Jeworrek, Board Member, Munich Re
Munich Re believes the technology could realise new business potential and combine energy security with climate protection in the medium term. Electricity produced in solar thermal power plants in North Africa and transported from there to Europe via new, direct current power grids could play a key role in the sustainable energy mix of the future, the company says.
Commenting on the Desertec concept, Munich ReBoard member Torsten Jeworrek said: "This is no longer a distant vision but technologically fascinating and also achievable. Desertec is clearly banking on the right incentives in the long term, namely climate protection and a low-carbon energy sector. We are therefore commencing a dialogue with visionary thinkers and companies that, like us, are convinced of Desertec’s enormous economic, ecological and social potential.”
The company has reportedly invited companies, including Deutsche Bank, Siemens, E.ON and RWE, to talks in July to agree on a joint project, the so-called Destertec Industrial Initiative (DII). The Destertec Foundation is a charitable initiative of the Club of Rome.
-- Torsten Jeworrek, Board Member, Munich Re
Short Term Trends
Oil and coal prices have surged over the last month and in a normal market, this would have led to immediate impact on both short and long term market prices.
However these gains have been offset by the continued collapse of the dollar as both oil and gas are priced in dollars, and the subsequent strengthening of the pound has meant little or no difference in wholesale market prices.
With current electricity demand down and the return of additional nuclear generation returning to the grid this has also helped calm volatility within the market. With increased unexpected Norwegian gas flows over the last month, we have seen a similar effect within UK gas prices, and with additional LNG supplies arriving in the UK we would expect the system to be awash with spare capacity and this may lead to additional exports to Europe. Supply and demand has its place in the UK market and with temperatures expected to be above average for the summer we may see short term increases in prices as additional demand for electricity is needed through air conditioning use.
Business Electricity Costs Up
Business electricity rates have increased by an average of 3.65% this year, according to the latest figures contained in the Business Inflation Guide, produced quarterly by More Than Business.
The figures are obtained from the Office of National Statistics which, in turn, relies on the UK’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills (used to be called the BERR and the DTI before that) for its data about how much business pay for their different types of fuel
Village Hall Cuts Electric Bill in Half
Bleasby Village Hall in Nottinghamshire is typical of rural village halls thorough out the UK. The Victorian former school building is a focal point for the community hosting all manner of local events. It is supported by a small army of loyal volunteers who spend countless hours working, not just to keep the hall running, but to seek funding for what seems like an endless list of repairs, refurbishments and improvements. In the last few years grants have helped replace the roof, install a loop system, new loos and ramped access as well as repair and seal brickwork as part of flood defences. The busy list remains long and funding is being sought for insulation, new windows and refurbishing the kitchen.
Government Aid for Business Electricity Costs
In Germany, where business electricity costs as much as in the UK, the government has just announced a package of economic aid to help struggling businesses with their electricity bills.
The move comes at a time when the utility companies are being criticised for not passing on the benefits of a recession-induced fall in the cost of electricity generation.
Both Germany and the UK businesses pay much more for their electricity than French or Spanish rivals, putting them at a competitive disadvantage that could force more companies to shift production abroad or shut down altogether. The industries “fighting for their survival” (as the Germans put it) are the energy intensive metal producing businesses such as zinc and aluminum.
There are also tax breaks being proposed on agricultural diesel to give £440m back to struggling farmers.
Competition Commission Investigation into LPG supply.
Following the recent investigation by the Competition Commission into the bulk supply of LPG to the UK domestic market, it has become much, much easier for customers to change their LPG supplier.
It makes for very interesting reading.