30 Mar 2014

Household energy questionnaire

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HSNF logo        Calling all people who live in the area around Hove Station

Join in our first community energy project by completing a brief questionnaire.

The Hove Station Neighbourhoods Forum was set up in 2013 by local residents and businesses to develop a Neighbourhood Development Plan . This will enable local residents and businesses to maximise the benefits and minimise any disadvantages that may arise from the large scale redevelopment of the area around Hove Station, which is proposed in the City Plan. It will also enable residents to have much more influence on smaller scale local development.

BHESCo is working with our the Hove Station Neighbourhoods Forum and the West Hove Forum to develop and implement a Neighbourhood Energy Plan. This aims to find ways that local residents and businesses can become more energy efficient and cut fuel bills.  We also want to promote a move towards using renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions in our neighbourhood.

The first stage of this energy action plan is our Community Energy Kickstart Project, which is supported by a grant from UK Power Networks.  As part of this project we are asking you to fill out a Household Questionnaire. This will help us to understand your energy needs and identify opportunities to help you to reduce your energy bills.

The questionnaire will be delivered to your homes in the next couple of weeks. Alternatively, you can complete the questionnaire here.

The autumn statement was released with grand plans for reducing our energy bills by transferring the energy company’s obligation (ECO) to the taxpayer. Energy companies have succeeded in lowering their liability to finance the cost of providing insulation, new boilers and draught-proofing for struggling families and vulnerable people in communities across the country.

Old-age-pensioner-keeps-warm-with-the-aid-of-an-electric-heater-2561284The question is whether this important support for the fuel poor and vulnerable people now considered to be too expensive will be reduced. Last year, 30,000 people died from winter cold related illness, one of the highest levels in Europe. Taxpayers will be financing shale gas extraction (fracking) that will be offset by less support for solar generated electricity and onshore wind. The net result is not beneficial to the taxpayer, nor to the energy consumer, creating less value for money from an economic standpoint.

The claim is that too much of the energy cost is spent on environmental measures. In fact all environmental charges comprise 9% of the average household energy bill of £1,350. These charges are for various services, including support for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Energy companies do not have a track record of success in rolling out programmes like the ECO on a government mandate. ECO replaced CERT and CESP, which were not considered successful programmes because the energy suppliers didn’t meet the government’s targets. Lots of money has been poured into ECO with little result. It’s just counterintuitive that a company whose obligation is to maximize profits for their shareholders is going to invest its resources in lowering its sales volumes by proactively investing in energy savings.

The taxpayer will not benefit from investments in shale gas extraction, for which many professionals predict will not bring down energy prices. We must focus our attention on making the infrastructural investments in the distribution network, including battery storage, and in distributed low cost generation like solar electricity and onshore wind bringing longer term value to our communities.

Hinckley point_Oblique_Aerial_View_1.70_MFINAL_RGB_cropped

photo courtesy of EDF Energy

This week, the Government announced that the taxpayer would be subsidising the construction of a £16 billion, 3.3GW new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.  The deal was stuck with EDF, the French state owned utility.  In the wake of the disaster at Fukishima, with dangerous levels of radioactive Strontium entering into their water, any investment in the construction of a new nuclear facility is short-sighted, presenting a formidable threat to the economic health and potentially the physical well being of future generations.

The subsidy presents the threat of a dangerous economic legacy for us now and for future generations.  The guaranteed strike price of £92.50 per MWh lasts for 35 years, and is twice the current price of electricity in the market today.

What this means is that every taxpayer, regardless of whether one benefits from it or not, will be financing the generation of this electricity for the next 35 years.  Because of the base load nature of nuclear power, there may be times when no one is consuming this electricity yet, the taxpayer will still be paying EDF and the investor consortia for generating it.

Foreign investment could comprise more than 50% of the ownership of the plant, which means our taxpayers’ money is contributing to the wealth of foreign nations instead of being invested at home.   It’s a no brainer for the Chinese to take up to a 40% stake in the consortium, because for them it is a guaranteed investment return with very little risk.  The move creates distortions in the supplier market and sets a greedy precedent for other suppliers.

Energy subsidies EnergiewendeThis graph, prepared by the EEG to analyse the level of subsidy to be provided for Hinckley Point demostrates that even when the taxpayer subsidy for decommissioning the plant and the long term storage of the nuclear waste is excluded, the subsidy for nuclear power far exceeds any subsidies for solar PV or Wind (either on or offshore).

It doesn’t make any sense to continue to invest good money into an expensive and dangerous source of electricity.  The lion’s share of the budget for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is allocated to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to manage our legacy of radioactive nuclear waste.

The UK has the highest stockpile in the world of radioactive Plutonium buried in a temporary storage facility in Cumbria.  The cost of managing our nuclear legacy is estimated to be about £100 billion, the equivalent of the entire investment required to upgrade our electricity network.

We must reject this plan to expand the facility at Hinkley and support investment in clean, renewable energy generation and energy efficiency investment.  We must invest in a smart grid that would transform our network into a low carbon, clean energy generation, transmission and distribution network.  Please contact your MP and let them know you do not support any subsidy for nuclear power.

02 Jun 2013

Support Community Energy

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nuclear power plant and housesThe Energy Bill will receive its third reading in the House of Commons today.  Included in this bill is Retail Market Reform, creating a fairer market for the consumer by reducing the number of tariffs to four.  Except for the special switching tariffs that can be created for any number of collective switching campaigns.  Unfortunately, for the consumer, reform will not bring more value for money, because 6 energy suppliers control 99% of the market, which technically is an oligopoly.  The cost of implementing the new Retail Market Reform will be passed onto the consumer by the energy suppliers at an estimated one off cost of £2.18  and £2.52 per year per customer.

Simplifying the tariffs won’t lead to empowering consumer choice nor will it lead to sustainable, long term reductions in consumer prices.  This is confirmed by DECC and OFGEM who have conceded that prices will rise to finance new nuclear power stations. On a more positive note, long suffering Britons, the 80% of us who don’t switch suppliers and are paying old tariffs, may save around £158 per year by switching supplier.  As a whole though, temporary price differences will not release the stranglehold that the energy suppliers have on us.  OFGEM is also proposing that the White Label suppliers, like M&S Energy and Co-op Energy, adopt the same pricing as the Big Six, basically eliminating any capability of using operating efficiency and sustainability strategies to lower energy prices for good.

The Energy bill is primarily informed by the Big Six (oligopoly) and the National Grid (monopoly), seven powerful corporations owned by private shareholders, run by captains of industry that wield the most power over the politicans that set our energy future.   Energy is a necessity, it should be a national right.  However, the allure of privatisation, money to prop up State coffers, was too strong.  Liberalisation of energy markets is now paving a bleak pathway to our clean energy future.

Further solidifying their dominant position, a two pronged tour de force in underway against competition in the market at OFGEM in their Retail Market Reform. We are facing the prospect of the legislative death of micro-generation – the source of freedom for the people and our greatest source of energy security – by killing off communities energy suppliers ability to enter into the market.  It is very expensive to retain a centralised power generation system.  It is essential that we have them, for large industry and for back up power.  However, this old method of delivering energy is greatly impacting our real security, which is our right to clean land, clean air and a moderate climate.  The Energy Bill includes unproven and low value for money generation technologies, like the new EPR nuclear power stations and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies.  CCS doesn’t generate any energy at all, it’s just an add-on cost to an existing generation method.  With centralised power stations, the energy supplier has complete control over our energy  costs.

The Energy Bill contains new mechanisms for financing these costly technologies, basically removing transparency by transferring the generation cost from your energy bill to your tax bill.  In an age of austerity, this means that more social benefits will be cut as the public is squeezed to finance the liability for nuclear waste storage and the cost of maintaining national security around nuclear power plant sites and the transport of nuclear waste (depleted uranium from spent fuel rods is used to develop nuclear weapons). Plus the support that will inevitably be required when construction is started on power stations using unproven technologies.

Last year DECC gave us a chance to look at our energy pathway to 2050, which was a model to help people do their own analysis of energy supply and how best to keep the lights on.  This pathway made it clear that renewables, including micro-generation, could play a vital role in ensuring that we maintain energy security.  Micro-generation are systems less than 5MW that community energy groups, like BHESCo are developing across the country

A free energy market is one that has few barriers to entry and encourages traders to compete in all aspects of their operations, from generation to distribution to customer care.  Customer care includes a level of service that prioritises the customer experience.  Smaller community energy companies can do this.  Right now an opinion has developed within OFGEM, the electricity and gas market regulator, that could snuff out small community energy companies, like BHESCo, by creating more barriers to market entry for White label suppliers.  Support BHESCo by ensuring that your MP rejects these aspects of Retail Market Reform in the Energy Bill.  We need a fair and secure energy supply, which the energy bill in its present form will not deliver.  Support BHESCo and sign up at www.bhesco.co.uk


Photograph: Annie Griffiths Belt/Corbis

Photograph: Annie Griffiths Belt/Corbis

Cumbria County Council has taken the pivotal decision to reject the placement of a nuclear spent fuel storage site in the Lake District, an area of outstanding national beauty and importance.  In a report[1] prepared in March 2011 by Sir David King, the storage facility would cost about £14 billion and create about 500 jobs in construction and about 300 jobs to operate.  Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Secretary, said “there will be a substantial community benefits package, worth hundreds of millions of pounds. That is in addition to the hundreds of jobs and major investment that such a huge infrastructure project could bring.”  We congratulate the Council for their courage and sensibility in rejecting  a proposal that would only bring more hazardous waste to the region.

Sellafield is already the unfortunate repository of 6,000 tonnes of heavy metal (radioactive materials) being stored in ponds.  This storage is estimated to be viable until 2075 when this material will have to be stored again safely in some kind of newly constructed deep geological storage facility – costing billions – all financed by the taxpayer.

DECC generation table
DECC 2012

Nuclear power produced 19% of our electricity production in 2011[2].  This was the total portion of generation, although 67% of that electricity is lost in transmission and distribution across high voltage wires that traverse the land.  The government insists that nuclear power is an important part of our energy mix.  One must question the logic of building new nuclear power plants when there are so many alternatives available that do not poison our environment and cost the taxpayer absurd sums of money to maintain.  The nuclear power legacy will cost the taxpayer billions to ensure that the toxic waste is safely decommissioned and stored.  None of this money contributed to the generation of electricity. The renewables contribution increased 3% in one year.  This is attributed to the success of the Feed in Tariff for Solar electricity.

At Brighton & Hove Energy Services, we are dedicated to providing the people with low cost energy now and in the future.  By joining BHESCo, you can participate in the creation of a new energy future, one that is powered by the sun, wind and biomass.   We are starting now, so that you can rest assured that as nuclear power plants are shut down, the lights will stay on and you will stay warm in winter without paying a fortune for the privilege.  Go on, join us.

[1] A low carbon nuclear future: Economic assessment of nuclear materials and spent nuclear fuel management in the UK, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, March 2011

[2] Digest of United Kingdom energy Statistics 2012 – Department of Energy and Climate Change

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