Ofgem’s Energy Reforms Tackle Rising UK Energy Prices

As energy prices in the UK and Europe continue to rise, many are seeking to cut costs by tackling the sometimes misleading and complex contracts offered by large energy suppliers.

Ofgem, the UK energy legislator, has been working hard in recent years to ensure that the general public and businesses alike get the best deal on their energy. Measures taken by the commission include tackling issues such as rollover contracts and cancellation fees, something that has recently prompted large companies like EDF Energy and Scottish Power to amend the way their contracts work for consumers.

This month Ofgem have produced a new set of rules for energy suppliers, in line with the first stage of their Retail Market Review (RMR), in the hope that in their words they will make the energy market “simpler, clearer and fairer” for the consumer. This new regulation aims to ensure that energy suppliers provide information to their customers that is clear and not misleading. Any brokers or other third party intermediaries will also be bound by this code of conduct.

These changes will be made in three areas: behaviour, information and process. This will have the following effect:
• Behaviour; suppliers must carry out their actions in a fair, honest, transparent and responsible manner.
• Information; energy suppliers will be required to provide written or oral information that is not misleading, and also plain and intelligible.
• Process; suppliers must make it easy for customers to get in contact with them, and deal with any issues quickly and courteously. All processes should also be complete and transparent in the eyes of the consumer.

Ofgem have stated to suppliers that these changes should come into effect by the end of the year to make gas and electricity tariffs simpler for consumers, and by the spring of 2014 they must also inform their customers of the cheapest deal available.

Industry commentators Which? have stated that these measures “do not go far enough” to tackle the issue of rising energy prices and transparency in the market. They propose radical changes should be instated by government to ensure that pricing is simpler still and that there is ring fencing of producers and suppliers to make sure there is a fair amount of competition in the market.

As a recent report into the energy market by Cornwall Energy has highlighted, many businesses still have faith in the measures that Which? have been quick to mark as ineffective. Around 71% of businesses in the UK believe that this legislation will improve the service provided by energy brokers. With 29% of micro-businesses not knowing the end date of their contract, and over 20% not understanding the auto renewal process and its effects, it is clear that more transparency is required.

Whilst it is clear that Ofgem’s regulation has had effects on energy suppliers in the market, helping those purchasing energy to understand their bills, it is as yet unforeseen as to whether these current changes will have the effect that is required to truly revolutionise the way they have conducted business in recent years. This is a concern that affects not just the UK, but is something that is being tackled by countries throughout Europe as well, in the hope that energy prices truly reflect the market.

This piece was written by Indigo Swan, who provide energy purchasing services to businesses in the UK.

Twitter: @indigo_swan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Indigo-Swan/537871199597656

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Green Energy Innovation: From the Crowd [Infographic]

The following is an infographic, courtesy of Energy Savings.

As we become more and more concerned with the state of the planet’s environment and we push for a greener way of doing things, small companies sometimes lack the funds necessary to bring their new ideas to life. But with a little help (and money) from the public, many of these innovative concepts for a green future are getting funded. Explore the following green tech start-ups and their unique road to financial backing.

Green Energy Innovation: From the Crowd

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Bringing the World back to Zero

Check out the following infographic, Bringing the World back to Zero, submitted by Marianne Gallano:
Energy Innovation: From the Crowd

Created by www.TexasElectricityProviders.com

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Antiquated Technology: It’s still steam powered

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com.

Whether it is nuclear, coal, oil, biomass, or geothermal, humans are still using steam in order to turn a turbine to create electricity. While we do employ the use of water in hydroelectric generators which do not rely on superheated water, most of our power needs are currently met by producing steam to spin the blades of a turbine. While you may envision some science fiction method of power being generated from uranium in some kind of chamber, the fact is it heats water to create steam.

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1. Elements - Depending on the style of the power generator, different elements are used as fuel in order to help create the steam. The purpose behind the fuels is to generate a massive amount of steam in order to spin large turbines to generate electricity. The faster the water is turned into steam, the faster the turbines can spin. Different fuels create varying levels of heat in order to complete this process. Although Nuclear power can generate a great deal of electricity through this process, it is extremely dangerous and can have lasting repercussions that could last for decades – look up Chernobyl.

2. H2O - Obviously, a water supply is needed for this process. Water is used for the steam generation and the cooling of the unit. Although a great deal of water is evaporated into the atmosphere as it becomes steam, some of it can be recycled due to condensation. However, there is still an intake of water in order to make up the difference in lost water. In the case of Nuclear power plants, the heated water from the uranium doesn’t interact with the rest of the plant. However, the plant could face a catastrophic meltdown if the water used in conjunction with these rods has been drained and the cooling rods are unable to stop the heat generation as in the case of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in March of 2011 – which has been deemed the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl’s meltdown of 1986.

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3. Turbines - The turbines within a power plant act almost the exact same way that an alternator does in an automobile. Instead of using steam to generate the power for the vehicle, the engine itself spins the alternator in order to produce the electricity needed to operate peripherals and charge the battery. In the case of an automobile, it is a gasoline engine that spins a pulley which in turn rotates a rubber belt that turns this miniature turbine. Once the water turns to steam, the pressure spins a turbine in order to generate the electricity that is fed into a transformer which prepares the power for the gird.

4. Byproducts - In many of the methods humans have to generate electricity, varying degrees of byproducts are created. In the event of coal-based power generators, ash is created which can then be recycled and used in a variety of applications including the use of landfill filler. Fly ash has been deemed hazardous to the environment if produced into the air enforcing scrubbing methods to reduce this element. However, nuclear waste is potentially unusable and extremely dangerous to all organic life. Varying degrees of uranium and plutonium used in nuclear applications can be reused in other fuels.

Steam engines have been around since the late 1700s when they were developing the first locomotive predecessors. With our current level of technological advancement, you would assume that we would move beyond using steam to spin a turbine. Would the world be the same if we still used rotary telephones in order to make a phone call? Could humanity be so comfortable in the way things are that we simply don’t desire to improve on this antiquated method of power generation? Or could we be taking the adage, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” a little too literal? Only time will tell as our demands are superseding what these power methods are generating.

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

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Climate Change is Real

The following is a guest post by Jessica Wallace, originally posted here.

Thanks to extensive research and noticeable changes in weather and storm prevalence, it’s getting harder to turn a blind eye to the reality of climate change. Since the Industrial Age spurred the increasing usage of fossil fuels for energy production, the weather has been warming slowly. In fact, since 1880, the temperature of the earth has increased by 1 degree Celsius.

Although 72% of media outlets report on global warming with a skeptical air, the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that the extreme weather of the last decade is at least partially caused by global warming. Some examples of climate calamities caused partly by global warming include:

  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Drought in desert countries
  • Hurricane Sandy
  • Tornadoes in the Midwest

These storms, droughts, and floods are causing death and economic issues for people all over the world – many of whom cannot afford to rebuild their lives from the ground up after being wiped out by a tsunami or other disaster.

Evidence also indicates that the face of the Earth is changing because of warming trends. The ice caps of the Arctic are noticeably shrinking, the ice cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro alone has shrunk by 85% in the last hundred years, and the sea levels are rising at the rate of about 3 millimeters per year because of all the melting ice. Climate change is also affecting wildlife – for instance, Arctic polar bears are at risk of losing their environment; the Golden Toad has gone extinct; and the most adaptable species are evolving into new versions capable of withstanding warmer water.

Despite some naysayers with alternative theories about why global temperatures are rising – including the idea that the earth goes through natural temperature cycles every few millennia – the dramatic changes in the earth’s atmospheric makeup suggests humans are to blame. In fact, 97% of scientists agree humans are responsible for climate change. Since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels increased 38% because of humans, methane levels have increased 148%, nitrous oxide is up 15% – and the list goes on and on, all because of human-instigated production, manufacturing, and consumption”.

Although many countries, organizations and individuals work hard to promote an Earth-friendly existence, resistance to change is rampant and actions are slow. For instance, while the US Environmental Protection Agency is still working on collecting data to support development of greenhouse gas reduction expectations for businesses, most of their efforts feel more like pre-research than actual change. Other countries have made efforts – such as signing to Kyoto Protocol to reduce their 1990 emission levels by 18% by 2020 – but the only solution will require the whole world band together.

Steps anyone can take to reduce global warming include:

  • Driving a car with good gas mileage, or investing in a hybrid or electric car
  • Switching from incandescent light bulbs to CFL or LED
  • Insulating your home and stocking it with energy efficient appliances
  • Recycling
  • Using green power available in your area

Check out the infographic below to see what else the changing climate is affecting.

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