Will the changes to the Green Deal bring about the scheme’s success?

The Green Deal was supposed to be the Coalition’s flagship energy policy. It enables homeowners to access finance to make sustainable improvements to their home – for example, boiler replacements, insulation or renewable emergency generation devices – which should reduce their energy bills. Green Deal loans are repaid through annual charges, and these charges should not be more than the savings a person has made on their energy bills as a result of the improvements.

Image source - Melodi2, Morguefile

However, take-up of the scheme has been very slow, with the initiative criticised as being expensive and overly-complicated. In September 2013, figures revealed only 12 homeowners across the country were making repayments through the Green Deal finance package, despite the fact that the scheme had been in place since January.

To reinvigorate the initiative, Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has outlined the way the government is simplifying and improving the Green Deal. Some of the changes that are to be made, or that have already been made, include:

  • Reducing the amount of time it takes to access a Green Deal finance plan by ten days
  • Opening up the Green Deal finance plan to all customers in all kinds of housing
  • Improving landlords’ access to the Green Deal, with tenants paying for the energy efficiency improvements
  • Allowing people to access a larger amount of money through the Green Deal, even if this may mean loan repayments will be higher than the savings recipients make on their energy bills
  • Quadrupling the capital funding of the Green Deal
  • Allowing people to understand the benefits they may receive through the initiative through a simple online Home Energy Check
  • Providing a simple route for consumers to understand the routes they can access if they are to receive assistance with funding energy efficiency improvements
  • Improving the competitiveness of the Green Deal Supplier market

These amendments should hopefully see a turnaround in the success of the Green Deal. The energy policy may be much maligned, but the UK is undergoing an energy crisis at the moment, with gas and electricity bills on a constant upwards trajectory, and any initiatives that could deal with this issue should be welcomed. Furthermore, any strategies that could reduce the number of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK – by however little – could stave off the worst effects of climate change for a brief while longer.

Making it easier for people to benefit from the Green Deal could see thousands of people across the UK reducing their carbon footprint and their energy bills. Opening up the scheme to support private landlords and tenants, and rolling-out new finance packages, should also provoke an increase in uptake. Whether the Green Deal provides the best way to do so remains undecided, but these ambitions should receive unilateral support.

The most important amendment to the Green Deal unveiled by Ed Davey is the reduction in complexity. People are unlikely to take advantage of the Green Deal if they are unable to understand it. The surprisingly-low number of applicants to the energy saving scheme may well be an embarrassment to the Coalition, but if they can make a success of this policy and make it easier for people to use, they may well be touting the Green Deal as one of their greatest achievements come the next election in 2015.

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Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke writes about energy-related matters for boiler breakdown cover and gas appliance service specialists 247 Home Rescue. Connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

What Are Nuclear Plant Operators Doing to Prevent Another Fukushima?

The Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan never anticipated the powerful tsunami that caused the failure of all its systems. Even today, several years after the event, the plant is under constant monitoring, and clean-up measures continue to be done to ensure the safety of the public. Whether other nuclear plant operators around the world are increasing safety measures to prevent another Fukushima disaster is a matter of public concern for everyone.

Assessing Climate Conditions

Many experts believe that the problems at Fukushima occurred mainly because the operators didn’t believe a disaster of this magnitude could never happen. Unfortunately, it appears that the effects of climate change may make these sorts of natural disasters even more common. Of course, different plants around the world will be subject to a variety of environmental conditions and factors. These individual differences will not only have to be properly assessed before construction, but also considered in ongoing repairs and reinforcement as plants age. Currently, the public is averse to investing more money in nuclear power that has so many cost considerations and possible safety hazards in an age of significant climate change. Tectonic faults, ocean currents, flooding and possible water shortages must be factored into any construction design and costs.

Better Fuel Technology
The high levels of heat that occur in the nuclear fission process are a major concern for any nuclear power plant operator. A new idea for safer fuel rods involves enclosing them in sheaths of silicon carbide that would form a tough ceramic coating that bypasses the splitting of water molecules into hydrogen gas that can ignite and explode.

Redundant Cooling Systems
One of the critical problems made evident by the Fukushima disaster was failure of sufficient generators and water pumps to continue to cool the hot fuel after the power systems failed. Redundant water cooling system are not only feasible but one of the more cost effective systems that can be put in place to prevent the overheating and hydrogen explosions that created the highly hazardous situation in Japan.

Instrumentation Improvements
Another significant problem that occurred in the early days of the Fukushima disaster involved the failure of instrumentation that allowed the operators to know how much water was available in the cooling tower. This proved to be a significant handicap to providing remedial cooling in an expeditious manner. Relocating the instrumentation inside the tower yet outside the pressure vessel, while also switching from analog to digital displays, would allow operators the ability to evaluate the arrangement and condition of the fuel itself. In addition, the use of a “hodoscope,” an instrumentation device used to detect direction and intensity of radiation would help operators to determine water and fuel condition even under crisis conditions. These measures would serve to provide more accurate information about changing conditions at a plant in crisis and would allow faster implementation of remedial actions.

Although many of these new technologies are still in the development stage, they are eagerly being studied by nuclear plant operators who are actively seeking ways to prevent the next Fukushima disaster and make nuclear power safer for the public under all types of unexpected conditions.

Addison Appleby is an IT specialist and technology writer from Tucson, Arizona. She is fascinated by energy, robotics, and much more.

A Decade of Leadership: Texas Electric Power Deregulation

On January 1, 2002, Texas did something that few other states at that time had dared to try: it deregulated its energy market. For such a large market as Texas is, this was a major event in the energy industry. Over a decade on, people are looking back on Texas’ deregulation and asking whether the policy worked. Deregulation was designed to open up the energy market to more competition, thus giving consumers more choice and, presumably, cheaper options when choosing their energy provider. With hindsight, we can now assess whether the policy delivered on what it promised. Below we will look at the history of deregulation in Texas, and how it has changed the way Texans purchase and receive their energy.

A History of Deregulation

Prior to 2002, Texans didn’t have much say in how their energy was delivered to them. The electricity market was controlled by just a few government regulated utility companies and co-ops. Due to a bill passed in 1999, however, that changed when, in 2002, the electricity market was opened up to private competition. After deregulation, Texans were given dozens of energy companies and a variety of electricity rates to compare and choose from. Unfortunately, deregulation coincided with a sharp increase in the cost of natural gas, which meant that many critics were able to accuse deregulation of leading to energy price increases. The truth is, however, that natural gas prices would have risen regardless of whether the energy industry was regulated or not, and it was only unlucky timing that gave the impression that gas price increases were somehow due to deregulation. Now, as gas prices are beginning to recede, the benefits of deregulation are being noticed. In fact, most Texans have switched their energy provider at least once since deregulation began, indicating that even if some were critical of deregulation, most were willing to take advantage of the choices it offered.

Has Deregulation Worked?

Deregulation was designed to lower costs and to give consumers more choices in how they managed their energy needs. As we’ve noted, because of increasing gas prices, initially Texans were paying more for their electricity bills. Now, however, gas prices are declining, and the competition in the energy market is allowing Texans to take advantage of some of the cheapest electricity in the nation. Because energy companies are constantly competing to outdo one another in order to attract new customers, Texans are enjoying ever cheaper rates on their electricity. In fact, Texas has become a leader in energy deregulation. Aside from the cheaper prices consumers are enjoying, increased competition has led to a number of other innovations. Nowadays, Texans can take advantage of prepayment plans, online energy accounts, and energy price risk management for their energy needs.

Texas took a bold step in 2002 when it chose to open up its electricity market to private competition. While deregulation hasn’t always been the smoothest of rides, a decade on Texans are beginning to see the benefits that deregulation is offering them. Whether it is being able to shop around for the best deal on their energy needs, or being able to manage their energy use through prepayment plans and online accounts, Texans have been at the forefront of energy deregulation in the United States.

Yogesh Mankani is a small business energy consultant. He frequently writes about the electric industry on business blogs.

Shop Smart and Compare Rates for Electricity

With prices rising and jobs fading, it is becoming more and more important to be an intelligent consumer in today’s world. Fortunately, with the Internet, it is also becoming easier and easier. Most commodities can be compared with just a few clicks, although the advertising of different sites can make the task a little harder. While most people think of shopping around as something you do for physical objects, in many areas of the country, you can look at different rates for electricity and power to choose your own provider.

As far as comparisons go, rates for electricity actually have an advantage over many other commodities. While advertisements for many goods and services may have misleading information or quote prices in confusing ways, electric companies are prevented from doing so, at least in Texas. The Public Utility Commission, the government body responsible for maintaining a safe market for customers of electricity, has a formal set of requirements about what information companies have to provide. This information is called an Electricity Facts Label, or EFL. The EFL for each company is required to have the same information stated in the same format, so customers can instantly see any differences.

Neutral comparison sites— that is, sites that don’t have any skew toward any one company by emphasizing one over the other or putting them in an order meant to draw your eye to a specific company— will usually use these EFLs as their primary source of information. Customers will generally see at least part of the EFL even in a brief summary of a company and its services.

While it is true that a company’s rates for electricity don’t tell the whole story behind its production or its work ethic, money can be the primary concern for many. And that’s fine! As long as you are getting adequate services, there’s nothing wrong with focusing primarily on saving money. Many of us need to save everything we can in these troubled times, and if that’s the case, there should be no shame in switching to a cheaper provider for your needs. Not everyone can or wants to make environmental concerns or even customer service a priority.

Whatever you use as the primary criterion for your choice, it is important to carefully compare multiple aspects of an electric company’s services and to use comparison shopping to find out more about rates for electricity.

This piece was written by Shop Tx Electricity, Compare and shop electricity rates for your home or business.

Twitter: @shoptexasenergy
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shop.texas.electricity

The Real Impact of Environmental Disasters

When an environmental disaster occurs, it can be devastating to ecosystems.

The monetary and health-related consequences of an environmental disaster are enormous. Cleanup costs, the initial costs associated with a disaster, are defined as the amount it will take to return the affected area to normal. What isn’t accounted for in these “cleanup costs,” is the impact on communities and wildlife that spans decades.

From the Deepwater Horizon spill to the Exxon Valdez incident, billions had to be spent on cleanup, lives were lost, and wildlife suffered. The impacted communities are still suffering from the after effects of these environmental disasters.

Image courtesy of: Vermont Law School Master of Environmental Law

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