Thursday, 31 January 2008

How Much Electricity Does a Sony PS2 Use?

After testing a Wii, I thought I would try a console from an older generation to compare the difference, the Sony PS2 was the best selling console of it's era selling hundreds of millions of units world wide. But how much energy does it use?

Standby: 3W
PS2 Menu: 25W
Opening Disc Drive: +3W
Scanning Disc: 30 - 35W
In Game: 30 - 35W

For information on the electricity consumption of other products check out "How Much Electricity Does a ... Use?"

Please Note the energy use figures are taken from an energy monitor and are not scientifically analysed, therefore the range and margin of error is greater. If you would like a specific product tested let us know and we will endeavour to check it out.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

How Much Electricity Does a Nintendo Wii Use?

As one of this years (and lasts) Christmas must have, the Wii has been outselling its nearest rivals by far. But just how much electricity does a Wii use?

In Standby: 2 - 3W
Wii Menu: 20W
In Game;
Wii Sports: 19 - 21W
Super Mario Galaxy: 19 - 22W

For information on the electricity consumption of other products check out "How Much Electricity Does a ... Use?"

Please Note the energy use figures are taken from an energy monitor and are not scientifically analysed, therefore the range and margin of error is greater. If you would like a specific product tested let us know and we will endeavour to check it out.

How Much Electricity Does an Apple iBook G4 Use?

I still use an old Apple iBook G4, it's so old and well used several keys are missing. But just how much energy does it use? I tested in various modes with as few applications in use as possible and the battery removed;

Normal: 21 - 28W
Better Performance: 23 - 30W
Energy Saving Mode: 21 - 27W

Screen Brightness at Lowest: 18 - 23W

Device Attached (iPhone): 8 - 12W (additional)
Device Attached (full battery): 4W (additional)

Energy Saving Ideas for your Apple iBook G4
  • Use the settings for "best battery life" from the menu bar
  • Turn off Bluetooth and Wifi when not required
  • Close programs not in use
  • Shut down rather than allow the computer to snooze

For information on the electricity consumption of other products check out "How Much Electricity Does a ... Use?"

Please Note the energy use figures are taken from an energy monitor and are not scientifically analysed, therefore the range and margin of error is greater. If you would like a specific product tested let us know and we will endeavour to check it out.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Reducing Commercial Refridgeration Costs

I mentioned before about becoming a green provocateur, and trying to suggest ways to companies to reduce their energy consumption, saving money and reducing CO2 emissions. Whilst I have yet to be proactive, I belive my first attempt failed stiffling my ambitions, as I received no reply.

I thought I would look closer to home for my second choice and thus emailed the directors of my medium sized employer, with about 140 employees. The issue at hand was commercial refridgeration, at each of the ten locations they operate, each store has about two to four commercial refridgeration units.

The solution to reducing the energy consumed across the group is a small wax cube measuring about 3 inches squared and simply mimics the food in your fridge, by hooking up the fridge or freezer thermostat. As the air temperature in the unit rapidly changes the food temperature does not drop as quickly. The wax cube allows the fridge to work less hard, more efficiently without compromising food quality or safety, by reducing the amount of cooling cycles. Typically saving about 16 to 33% of the energy required.

Savings on walk-in fridges and freezers could be as high as 1500 kWh per annum, which would translate to about £150 in savings and almost 750kg of CO2 reduced. My quick calculations suggest as a group we could save about 40 000 kWh per annum, £4000, and almost 20 tonnes of CO2, across our ten locations, I will also forward this on to our parent company which operates almost 1000 locations across the UK.

So what is this miracle wax cube with such potential, it is the eCube. Developed by Guy Lamstaes and colleagues and gained them a place on the Guardian's fifty people who could save the planet.

It has some strong support across the industry with testimonials from;

"We have carried out an independent trial with an eCube in one of our on-site kitchens, through the trial we made an energy saving of 17.78%. Based on these savings we will be rolling out the eCube across all of our sites. It is a simple idea that seems to be very effective in energy saving which will lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions."
Mike Wells, Head of Facilities, npower

If you are interested in having an eCube or two, you will be happy to realise they don't cost the earth at a mere £25 each, with a potential payback in two to four months, it's not a surprise how these are being implemented across the country.

How Much Electricity Does a ... Use?

As part of a new series of posts, we will be testing a variety of household electrical items to quantify the amount of electricity used by those devices and publishing this information so that you can hopefully make better choices of how you use your electricity.

We will add a link to each new post here;

Apple iBook G4
Apple iPhone 3G
Dell 19" LCD Monitor
Dell Dimension C521 PC
Energizer Battery Charger
GHD Hair Straighteners
Hotpoint Freezer
Netgear Wireless Router
Nintendo Wii
Russell Hobbs Kettle
Russell Hobbs Toaster
Sharp 32" LCD TV
Sony PS2
Sony PS3

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Effects of Climate Change on a Local Level

Photography: Peter Sandeman of 3SixtyCreative

A major report published today by the National Trust, "Shifting Shores: Living with a Changing Coastline" (PDF) describes how three of its iconic coastal properties in Northern Ireland are at risk from coastal erosion and flooding over the coming century.

The research was commissioned by the Trust and undertaken by leading coastal experts from Queen’s University and the University of Ulster. Their research focused on the Giant’s Causeway, north-east Strangford Lough and Murlough National Nature Reserve.

Key findings include:
  • The Giant’s Causeway (an UNESCO World Heritage Site) is likely to experience increased storminess, with a greater area of the Causeway 40,000 interlocking basalt columns washed by waves by 2050, while by 2100 access to parts of the Causeway could be more difficult, particularly in winter.

  • At north-east Strangford Lough, sea level rise of up to 25cm is predicted by 2050, and possibly by up to 1 metre by 2100. This would result in significant loss of feeding and nesting grounds for the Lough’s birdlife, such as Brent geese who migrate annual and graze on the eel grass. Increased winter storms would result in sea walls being overtopped more often and undefended areas of coast experiencing greater erosion.

  • At Murlough National Nature Reserve it is possible that between 50 and 400 metres of dunes could be eroded away, while tidal and storm flooding could reach one metre higher than present day extremes.

"Northern Ireland’s coastline will be a changing, and indeed challenging, environment in the 21st century. The National Trust, and many other bodies, must prepare now to meet the uncertain challenges ahead."
Professor Julian Orford, Queen’s University, Belfast

"Because the National Trust cares for so many very special places, it is essential that we invest in this kind of research, to help us to understand how climate change may affect our properties in the future. Significantly, this report also highlights the challenges which will be important for all of us – government, landowners, coastal communities – to begin to consider now and to plan for in the future. Shifting Shores is a major contribution by the National Trust to the growing debate about climate change. In particular it provides key information about how climate change may affect us here in Northern Ireland. The key challenges which we in the Trust believe it is essential to address now include the need for more detailed coastal data and mapping of the whole Northern Ireland coastline. This is needed urgently, and government must make this a priority. Our planning system, and in particular development plans and planning policy statements must take predicted coastal change into account, to ensure coastal landscapes are adequately protected in the future"
Hilary McGrady, Director for Northern Ireland, National Trust
The report outlines key climate chane impacts on the Giant's Causeway as;
  • The Giant's Causeway World Heritage Site is likely to experience increased winter wetness; drier summers; more frequent and longer-lasting storms with associated storm surges; and as part of the rising sea-level, higher-reaching extreme flood levels.

  • These conditions will increase erosion and have an impact on the habitats on the site, such as coastal saltmarsh and coastal vegetated shingle which are of European significance. Particular plants at risk would include oysterplant and Scot's Lovage while of the invertebrates likely to be affected the most notable is the tiny narrow mouthed whorl snail, which is found in Northern Ireland only at the Giant's Causeway.

  • In the short-term (2020s) there will be an increasing threat of storms and adverse weather conditions. This will require ever more rigorous hazard management, especially in relation to access to the cliff top.

  • In the medium to longer term (2050s - 2080s), slope instability and cliff retreat may be likely. Realignment of the cliff top path may have to be considered.

  • Wetter winters and greater frequency and intensity of rainfall would result in increasing risks of slope instability or failure. Past major slips may be reactivated. In this scenario, the long term viability of the existing road to the Causeway Stones would need to be reviewed.

  • In the medium-term rising sea level and greater peak surges are likely to significantly increase the area of Causeway stones washed by waves.

  • In the longer term (2080s to 2100) this would continue to increase, with the possible result that there may be periods when access to the stones would be considerably more difficult. The Grand Causeway could experience considerable erosion, while parts of the Middle and Little Causeways could be under water for periods of the winter.
In Northern Ireland no-one lives more than 35 miles from the coast, and with the Giants' Causeway defined as one of only three heritage sites in the British Isles it is seen by many as a national treasure. The latest report from three highly respected institutions will allow individuals on a local level to quantify the impacts climate change could have, and the implications this could have on the environment, society and economy. The report also hints on potential solutions that could help to stave off the inevitable.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

British Gas Rise Prices Too

Following on from the news that NPower and EDF are rising their electricity prices, British Gas, owned by Windsor-based Centrica have announced it is to raise the amount it charges for gas and electricity by 15%.
  • 2.4 million British Gas customers on fixed-price tariffs will not be affected.
  • 340,000 vulnerable customers on its Essentials tariffs will have the price increase delayed until the end of the winter.
  • British Gas is also offering free insulation to any UK home owned by somebody over the age of 70.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

EDF Energy Rise Prices

Following on from the news last week that NPower was rising fuel prices for both its gas and electricity customers, EDF Energy has announced it will follow suit. Electricity prices will rise by 7.9% and gas prices by 12.9% (compared with NPowers rises of 12.7% for electricity and 17.2% for gas). EDF also blame the rises on the "soaring" wholesale cost of energy.
"We regret any decision to raise our prices. Soaring wholesale energy prices, higher distribution costs and increased environmental obligations, we have been able to substantially limit the impact on our customers. We will continue to work very hard to mitigate the effect of rising costs for our customers through energy efficiency advice and our range of products."
Eva Eisenschimmel, EDF Energy
EDF is one of the UKs largest energy providers with over 5.5m customers. The increase will lead to an average rise of £2 per week on customers bills. 55,000 of its most vulnerable customers would continue to benefit from its Energy Assist tariff, which offers a 15% discount off standard rates. More information is available on help that is available to those who are in fuel poverty.
"The underlying causes of spiralling consumer prices are a wholesale market that punishes British consumers, and a supply market that seems unconstrained by a competitive market from passing these costs on to the consumers"
Allan Asher, Energywatch, Chief Executive

"Britain has one of the most competitive energy markets in Europe, with changing market share between the companies, price differences and good levels of switching. We keep markets under constant review but we can only take action if we find evidence of anti-competitive behaviour."
It is unsurprising to see energy prices rises passed on to consumers, as this has been clearly shown through the continued rises of wholesale prices of all fuel sources, such as coal, gas and oil throughout 2007. Whilst fuel price rises have the biggest impact on low income households, overall it reduces our energy consumption, improves our efficiency, and reduces the payback of implementation of energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy technologies.

Picture: Sea of Rubbish as Naples Dumps Close

Rubbish has been piling up in Naples for two weeks since collections ended because dumps were full.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Power Plant?

It may be surprising to know that chicken waste is reused as a source of fuel to generate electricity, with over 75% of chicken litter from major poultry farms in the United Kingdom being reused in this method.

Northern Ireland often exports its chicken litter to mainland Britain as a way to efficiently reduce waste and reuse the energy stored in the bedding as no facility exisits in the country. The 1.8m chickens produced each week, create 250 000t of chicken litter annually. Hence this weeks decision by major chicken producers O'Kane Poultry, Glenfarm Holdings and Moy Park, who have been supplying poultry bedding for use as a biofuel to power stations in England and Scotland for a number of years, to join together as a consortium, known as Rose Energy, to propose the first energy plant which will convert agricultural biomass into electricity in Northern Ireland.

As well as poultry litter, meat an bone meal, commonly known as MBM will also be used as a fuel source. Both of which are inert, non-toxic substances.

The proposed site in Glenavy, near Lisburn, is in an ideal location between the two major poultry processing areas in NI. It is also located next to Ulster Farm By-Products, which will be a major supplier to the plant of one of the fuel sources – meat and bone meal. Furthermore, the plant will serve to reinforce the electricity infrastructure in an area which is currently deficient.

The £100m power plant will have a capacity of 30MW, and could effectively power 25 000 homes, assisting up to a third of the Northern Ireland obligation to source 6.3% of its energy from renewable sources by 2012. The government intends to exceed this figure and achieve 12% and is providing a funding package for suitable green energy initiatives to help develop viable projects.

This development is a viable solution to address the disposal of agricultural biomass, which is now included under an EU directive, whilst also providing an additional source of renewable energy. It will also assist in reducing emissions produced from exporting chicken litter, via road and sea,to mainland Britain.
"This is an exciting project for Northern Ireland, using proven technology to deliver huge benefits to the province on two key fronts - improving the environment and generating renewable energy. The plant will provide an opportunity to use two valuable biomass fuel sources locally, which have for several years been used as fuel for similar plants in GB. Rose Energy represents a huge financial commitment, the majority of which is being privately funded. The relevant government departments are aware of our proposals and have indicated their support in principle. We are working closely with them to secure the remaining funding required to realise this project."
Mike Alcorn, Director, Rose Energy
Depending on the success of their planning application, the new facility should be operational by 2010.

NB: Generic Picture

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Mercury in CFLs in Context

CFLs have once again received a battering in the press this week with the BBC headlining three articles over three days over claims of their impact on their health.

The three articles were;

Low-energy bulbs 'cause migraine'
Low-energy bulbs 'worsen rashes', and today;
Low-energy bulb disposal warning

As I watched rolling news this morning on BBC Breakfast at 6am, they offered a three minute report, which whilst balanced (and needed to be entered into the public domain) bordered on alarmist, played back every thirty minutes with discussions with Dr David Grey, a toxicoligist from the University of Nottingham, and Louise Molloy of Greenpeace, on two seperate hours in the morning.

Having written an article on mercury in CFL bulbs, which is also available on the BBC Action Network, I was more than aware of the fact mercury was contained within, and not only that I have on several occasions called for adequate information regarding mercury content, recycling information and clear up information to be added to packaging and the dissemination of information of information to the public, which is seriously lacking, as 99% of us never read the packet anyway. People probably think I am getting sidelines from CFL manufactures to fight the mercury issue, however unfortunately I am not, I wish I was. CFLs are old technology, and if you can get you hands on LEDs at an affordable price, this makes a better choice over CFLs.

With Energy Star Canada citing the average CFL contains 3mg of mercury, placed in context with other household appliances CFLs are the least of our worries with the following containing mercury in far greater weights, some several hundred or times more than a CFL;

LCD Monitors
Mobile Phones, and
Dental Fillings

For a list of items in your home that could contain mercury the EPA has provided a short but not extensive list.

Whilst I am not saying mercury is safe, it is a deadly neurotoxin after all, I am trying to put your mind at rest that the amount contained in these bulbs is in relative terms only a small proportion of the mercury found in the home. CFL bulbs do not often break unless subjected to abuse, for example I have seen bulbs dropped from a reasonable height on to a solid surface, the bulb and its glass remained intact.

Even if the bulb was to break, one study looking at long tubular fluorescent bulbs found that over a two week period, only 17 to 40 percent of the mercury in the bulb evaporated. The rest remained stuck in the bulb. Roughly one-third of the mercury that evaporated did so in the first eight hours after the breakage; the rest seeped out slowly over the remainder of the study period.

Taking this into consideration that would result in 6% to 13% of the mercury being released in the first 8 hours, or 0.18mg to 0.39mg of mercury. Assuming your in a room with a volume of 25m3 (similar to a medium bedroom), this would average 0.0072mg/m3 to 0.0156mg/m3. This is equivalent to 7.2µg/m3 or 15.6µg/m3 over 8 hours. In comparison a single amalgam filling with an , average surface area of 0.4 cm2 has been estimated to release as much as 15µg mercury/day, primarily , through mechanical wear and evaporation, but also through dissolution into saliva (Lorscheider et al. 1995). For the average individual with eight occlusal , amalgam fillings, 120µg of mercury could be released daily into the mouth, and a portion of that , swallowed or inhaled (Lorscheider et al. 1995). Both Canada and WHO consider dental amalgam to be the single largest source of mercury exposure for the general public.

Something that may astound you is that the levels of mercury in a dentists surgery is up to 69µg/m3. Up to 9 times the mercury from breaking a bulb in your medium sized bedroom. Considering this you are likely to be subjecting yourself to more mercury sitting in the dentists than from breaking a CFL. Not that I am trying to put you off going to the dentist of course. There are mercury free dentists up and down the country.

As a light hearted way to end this I thought I would highlight the 102 year old ex-dentist that has emigrate to New Zealand, a story published on the same day as the Low Energy Bulbs Disposal Warning, by the BBC. Surely he should be as "Mad as a Hatter"!

If you do break a CFL bulb then follow this advice;

1. Do not allow children or pregnant women to enter the affected area
2. Open windows and allow air to circulate to the affected area
3. First sweep up all of the glass fragments and phosphor powder (do not vacuum)
4. Then place in a plastic bag
5. Wipe the area with a damp paper towel to pick up stray shards of glass or fine particles
6. Place the used towel in the plastic bag as well, and seal
7. For proper disposal of a broken CFL bulb, contact your local authority for a community household hazardous waste collection

For more information and discussion on CFLs, how to recycle, and the mercury within visit the CFL Mercury Myths

Double Digit Fuel Price Rises

Energy firm Npower yesterday announced double digit price rises for both its electricity and gas customers. As the fourth largest energy supplier in the UK, Npower said that they were forced to increase prices due to soaring wholesale rates. The price rises are effective from today affecting four million customers across the UK. Other energy companies are expected to follow their lead and announce increases in the coming month.

Increases - Npower / Wholesale Rates;
Electricity +12.7% / +66%
Gas +17.2% / +60%

"Today's decision was not an easy one. We always try to protect our customers for as long as possible but sadly higher energy prices are a fact of life."
Giuseppe Di Vita, Managing Director, Npower (Residential Business)

With ever increasing fuel prices across the board, it is expected that energy prices will continue to increase or remain high throughout 2008. One way you can reduce your bill is by switching energy provider. But this is not advised until the market evens itself out, for more information check out our Q&A on is it time to switch, which also offers information on ways to reduce your energy bill without switching.

As fuel prices increase so does a poverty which currently affects 4m people in the UK, and leaves a further 3m people in a category considered vunerable, leading to charities warning that some of society's most vulnerable members may be forced to choose between food and heating as fuel bills rise.

"For many people, particularly the vulnerable, price hikes mean very real decisions between choosing to heat their home or doing without other essentials"
Jenny Saunders, National Energy Action (NEA), Chief Executive

We have just added a blog post on help available to those in fuel poverty. This is a great post for finding out what grants and benefits are available to help out with the cost of energy and installing energy saving measures.

What Help is Available for those in Fuel Poverty

With the recent price rises from Npower and other suppliers likely to follow suit, a large number of people throughout the UK now falls into being in fuel poverty. The Energy Retail Association estimates there was 4m people in this category in 2006 with a further 3m classified as vunerable, and this has been increasing year on year from 2000.

You may ask how to calculate if your household is in fuel poverty, the equation below we hope clearly shows how to calculate if you are in fuel poverty.

Fuel Poverty Ratio = ((Unit Fuel Price x Fuel Consumption) + Standing Charge) / Income

You should take all fuels into consideration (Gas, Electricity, LPG and solid fuels). Income is considered before tax and national insurance. For more information on how fuel poverty is calculated there is this very detailed document (PDF). Households are considered to be fuel poor if they spend over 10% of their income on fuel.

There is a range of assistance for those even not in fuel poverty, below is organisations and schemes that could help you alieviate the burden of fuel bills through benefits and grants;


Winter Fuel Payments

If you are aged 60 to 79 and you are entitled to receive a Winter Fuel Payment, you will get either £100 or £200, depending on your circumstances in the qualifying week. If you are aged 80 or over and you are entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment, you will get an extra £50 or £100, so you could get up to £300, depending on your circumstances in the qualifying week. You do not pay tax on Winter Fuel Payments.

For more information please visit the Pension Service: Winter Payment Website.

Cold Weather Payment

A Cold Weather Payment is paid automatically when the average temperature is, or is forecast to be, 0 degrees centigrade or below over seven consecutive days. To qualify you must satisfy the criteria for receipt. The Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office will advertise when a payment is applicable.

To receive a cold weather payment you must be receiving Pension Credit / Income Support / Jobseeker's Allowance (Income based) for one day in the period of cold weather and be receiving one of the following premiums:
  • Pensioner Premium
  • Enhanced Pensioner Premium
  • Higher Pensioner Premium
  • Disability Premium
  • Severe Disability Premium
  • Disabled Child Premium
  • or have a child under the age of 5
£8.50 when the average temperature where you live is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below, over seven consecutive days during the period from 1 November to 31 March. Specified Meteorological Office weather stations are used to obtain this information.

More information can be found at DirectGov


Warm Front (England)

Warm Front provides grants of up to £2,700 for heating and insulation measures in low income and other vulnerable households. The maximum grant for an oil central heating system is £4,000. Grants are available to owner occupiers and people who rent their homes from a private landlord. To qualify householders must:
  • be in receipt of designated income related benefit or tax credit and have a child under 16, or
  • be in receipt of a designated disability related benefit or Disabled Person's Tax Credit, or
  • be aged 60 years or over and in receipt of an income related benefit.
Grants are also available to women who are in receipt of a maternity certificate (MATB 1) as well as a designated income related benefit (or their spouses).

The national telephone number for Warm Front in England is Freephone 0800 952 0600
Recent changes include:
  • Central heating measures are available for all eligible clients (not just over 60's).
  • Eligible customers not connected to mains gas may qualify for oil central heating.
  • Clients who have previously received a grant from the Warm Front programme can re-apply to the Scheme Manager. However, they will not receive the same measure again. They will have a new balance, minus the value of all works previously completed under Warm Front.
For further information contact the designated Scheme Manager:

Eaga for enquiries from the West Midlands, South West, London, South East, North West and North East: Freephone 0800 316 6011 or Freephone Minicom 0800 072 0156.

Warm Deal (Scotland)

The Warm Deal in Scotland provides grants of up to £500 for energy efficiency measures and energy advice for those in receipt of one of a range of benefits. A lower level of grant can be claimed by householders aged 60 and over who do not receive these benefits. For more details visit the Scottish Executive or Scottish Gas

There is also the Central Heating Programme, which provides a central heating system, insulation measures, energy advice and an optional benefits check to people aged 60 and over and to tenants of local authorities and housing associations. Claimants must live in a home without central heating or where the existing system is broken and beyond repair.

The Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (Wales)

HEES in Wales provides grants of up to £1,500 for energy efficiency measures and energy advice for those in receipt of one of a range of benefits who have a child under 16.

HEES Plus offers grants of up to £2,700 for heating and insulation improvements to householders who are 60 or over and to lone parents with a child under the age of 16. In both cases claimants must be in receipt of one of a range of benefits. A lower level of grant can be claimed by householders aged 60 and over who do not receive a qualifying benefit. For more details contact HEES Wales: Freephone 0800 316 2815 or Freephone Minicom 0800 072 0156.

The Warm Homes Scheme (Northern Ireland)

The Warm Homes Scheme offers grants of up to £850 for insulation and heating improvements for owner occupiers and those who rent their homes from a private landlord. Claimants must receive one of a range of benefit payments and have a child under 16.

The Warm Homes Plus Scheme offers grants of up to £4,300 for an enhanced package of heating and insulation measures, including central heating. Claimants must be aged 60 and over and be owner occupiers or tenants of a private landlord. For further information contact Eaga Partnership: Freephone 0800 181 667 or Minicom 019 1233 1054

Energy Saving Trust

There is financial help available if you're planning to make energy saving improvements to your home. The Government, energy suppliers and local authorities all provide grants to help you implement energy saving measures in your home. To search for grants visit their grants finder or you can call them on 0800 512 012. There is also information on simple energy saving tips which could save you several hundred pounds annually

Local Councils

Your local council may also offer assistance, as this varies across each council area, you should contact your local council for more information and advice on the help they offer. To find your local council contact details visit DirectGov

Advice Service

Citizens Advice Bureaux

In 2005-2006 Citizens Advice Bureaux in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received 27,000 general enquiries about problems with fuel plus 45,000 enquiries about fuel debt. Following the prolonged series of fuel price rises we are beginning to receive evidence of CAB clients struggling to pay their bills. They can help you too, you just need to ask for advice.

There is also information on how to reduce your energy bills on the following blog posts;
Is it Time to Switch Energy Providers?
Winter Warming Tips
10 Things to Reduce Energy Use
Cavity Wall Insulation Grants
General Energy Saving Tips

Is it Time to Switch Energy Providers

Npower has just announced double digit rises in fuel costs for their electricity and gas customers. Below is a Q&A on should you switch.

Should I look to change providers?

Not necessarily. Before the price rises, Npower was seen as one of the cheaper providers. The independent watchdog Energywatch has said that, given other firms are likely to also raise their prices, it may be worth waiting to see what Npower's competitors do. If you switch to a cheaper supplier today, you may well find that they too put up their prices, as all of the companies have to buy gas in exactly the same international market.

So switching is a waste of time then?

Not quite. The argument goes that savings can still be made, especially if you have never switched before and are still with either British Gas or the company that took over from your regional electricity board. In those cases, you are likely to be on their highest tariff. So you may still be able to achieve a significant relative cut in your bills.

How common is energy switching?

The full figures for 2007 are not yet available, but in 2006 about 4 million households changed their gas or electricity supplier, according to the energy regulator Ofgem. In April 2006, when wholesale energy prices were last at very high levels, and price increases were starting to bite, a record 900,000 customers changed supplier. However about 50% of UK households have never taken the opportunity to switch their provider and it is these people who are likely to have the best opportunity to make hefty savings.

How do you switch energy companies?

In theory, it is relatively easy to switch your energy supplier - and should certainly be less arduous than changing, say, a mortgage provider. Regardless of where you live in the UK, there are several suppliers to choose from. You can opt to have separate firms supplying your gas and electricity - or choose one company to supply both, commonly known as dual fuel. The most common and effective way is to firstly identify the company which can offer the cheapest deal is to use a price comparison service. Energywatch has approved 13 companies providing price comparison services both via the internet and on the telephone. These are;
Most of these companies will deal with your new supplier on your behalf, and also contact your old supplier to organise the switch. It does not cost the consumer anything - with the firms receiving a payment from the energy company which has won the new business. However if you would rather go it alone, you can talk with the firm you want to be your new supplier and agree a contract. Then you tell your existing provider that you wish to end the service - usually having to give about one month's notice.

What if I use a pre-payment meter?

You too can also change suppliers. People using pre-payment are often on low fixed incomes and could really benefit from moving to a less expensive provider, Energywatch says. But despite this, industry figures suggest that just over a third of pre-payment gas users and four out of 10 electricity customers have changed supplier. This compares with more than half of those who pay by direct debit and monthly bills. How much can I save by switching This depends on how much you are currently paying and on your personal circumstances - for example where you live and your level of usage. Firms often offer discounts if you buy both gas and electricity from them. But the industry regulator Ofgem has said that households changing their supplier for the first time can save an average of £100 per year.

Besides switching supplier, how else can I reduce my energy bills?

Changing your method of payment is one way that you may be able to save money. If you can afford to pay by direct debit rather than by cash or cheque, this typically can knock about £40 off your annual bill. But you should regularly send meter readings to your energy company to ensure that they are taking the right amount of money each month. The other key thing to think about is reducing the amount of energy you use, for more advice please see the following blog posts.

Winter Warming Tips
10 Things to Reduce Energy Use
Cavity Wall Insulation Grants
General Energy Saving Tips

Picture: Recycle Your Christmas Cards

TV presenter and I'm a Celebrity, contestant Anna Ryder Richardson puts her support behind the annual Woodland Trust Christmas Card Recycling Scheme, which aims to collect and recycle 100 million cards via special bins located in various high street stores throughout January. For more information on the Recycle Now campagin please see our blog post, How Much Extra Waste this Christmas?

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

A Green Directory

We are hoping to showcase individuals, businesses or projects with a green message or agenda on an ocassional basis in their own words, this is to get an insight into the aims and reasoning why they began greening the world in the first place.

The first of these is the Green Providers Directory, a UK based online directory listing companies by specific category, and without the need to publish a big 2.5" thick paper directory. Dr Gary Robertshaw is the project director and continues for us;

"There are many ‘green’ sites that discuss the problems of environmental damage and climate change. However, it seemed to me that they were largely passive in nature and failed to engage mainstream consumers, which is needed to facilitate change on a larger scale and not just stimulate debate amongst core eco-consumers.

As a long time green campaigner I therefore decided to set up The Green Providers Directory to encourage more consumers to use environmentally friendly, ethical and organic goods and services. The premise of the directory is based on consumer power. That is, if large numbers of consumers can be educated and convinced of the dangers of climate change, then their combined demand for greener goods and services will cause a paradigm shift in buying behaviour and force more companies to adopt policies that reduce harm to the environment

Each company listed in The Green Providers Directory has been vetted against their stated ethical policy. We routinely reject applications because they fail to meet our criteria and we have also been keen to avoid associations with 'pseudo-green' national corporations who are using the growing concern to jump on the green bandwagon, whilst continuing to pursue non-sustainable business practices. To that effect, you will not find supermarkets, car makers, tobacco companies, etc...anywhere in the directory. As The Green Providers Directory is privately owned and not-for-profit there is no requirement to affiliate with any particular company - it's completely unbiased and independent.

The basic concept is that visitors to the site can be confident in finding true green companies for all their everyday needs. The advice given is impartial and there is no active selling. This gives the site a point of differentiation from other 'green' directories and instills greater credibility."

The Green Providers Directory has certainly built up a good following, listed in The Guardian's environmental section and on, the United Nations Environmental Programme and members of Ethical Junction. If you are looking to buy green start here.

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