Your comments: paying for the Energy Bill

by , Researcher Energy & Home 11 December 2012
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After the government announced its Energy Bill plans, we wondered how it would be funded. Many of you also joined the debate – we’ve gathered a selection of your views surrounding the future of energy.

Green gas flame in a black background

My colleague Pete Moorey recently shared his reaction to the government’s Energy Bill. The Bill sets out plans to ‘keep the lights on’, with large investments in energy infrastructure – paid for through our gas and electricity bills. It had more than 100 comments, so here are some of the best.

Which? Convo commenter Barred feels customers shouldn’t foot the bill:

‘The energy companies should foot the bill for cleaner energy. For years they have been fleecing the general public by putting bills up when prices go up and keeping them high when prices fall. They should put their hands in their pockets, not us.’

Gordon C is worried about how energy infrastructure costs will be controlled:

‘If the customer provides the capital as seems to be proposed, where is the incentive for the companies to keep costs down to a minimum?’

Mike H thinks we should pay for improving energy infrastructure if we want to keep using gas and electricity:

‘Everyone has plenty of the appliances that we just plug in, or get fitted, and use the power that is supplied. If we wish to maintain this convenience then we have to pay for it and what can be fairer than those that use it pay for it?’

Reducing our energy usage

Some of you felt that we should concentrate on reducing our energy usage. Dave D thinks it’s now or never:

‘Regardless of what generation methods each of us like or dislike, we have to reduce consumption to do anything other than delay the inevitable.’

Nordic prefers a more traditional approach:

‘Surely blocks of well-built flats and terraces are more efficient than the multiple estates of detached family homes spreading like wildfire over the country. Communal heating can be built into structures with triple glazing and sound ventilation engineering techniques… Many people with cars consider the running costs when making a purchase, why not with houses.’

Alternative energy sources

You discussed the different options that could be used to provide energy in the future. Roger Metcalf is asking for more focus on tidal energy:

‘We have very tidal waters round this country. Why are we not looking further into building tidal barriers across estuaries that will be able to generate power all day every day as long as the Moon circulates the Earth?’

Colleen wants more investment in solar power generation:

‘Why doesn’t the government invest in the safest option of compulsory installation of solar panels on all south-facing roofs? That would reduce the cost to the consumer within those south-facing homes, as well as providing for surrounding areas with non-south-facing homes. The electrical infrastructure is already in place to connect you to the grid, so why is this not being considered as an option?’

Beehive03 doesn’t think we should rely on wind farms:

‘There is no doubt that without more generation coming on line within the next seven to 10 years the lights are likely to go out. I do not think that wind farms will supply this needed generation reliably. They may reduce our carbon footprint, but if the wind doesn’t blow, they do not work. They are also highly stressed machines in very exposed positions, many of which are out to sea where maintenance must be more difficult.’

A final creative suggestion came from Williambarn:

‘Would it not be possible to have exercise equipment that generates electricity? With a supposed overweight population, two birds with one stone, no?’

Have these comments sparked your imagination? How do you feel about paying for new energy infrastructure?

13 comments

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william

If the government foot the bill and sell the power to the other companies, making them (the govt) money, whilst selling the power at a rate less then everyone else, hopefully bills would reduce. So the only people who lose out will be the power companies, although I’m sure they won’t loss out that much knowing their tactics.

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Peter Mackie

The real problem is the changing face of energy supply. The industry (the big 6) has a huge ageing infrastructure and will therefore do all in its power to keep you and me (the consumer) tied in and controlled. As more people actively make choices to break the hold the energy and water companies have on them, the more the industry will fight back because as we become more self aware and self sufficient (eg Solar Electricity), the industry will still need to provide the backbone infrastructure when the sun is not shining. For this example, what we need is a much more efficient way (batteries) to hold the power we need when it is dark. This technology will come. However we are then faced with reduced taxation for the government never mind the loss of revenue and profit for the big 6 etc. So you can bet your bottom dollar the government will find another way of replacing their lost taxes.

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Dave,Newcastle

Colleen’s suggestions with regard to shared solar power are surely the way forwards.The government should move quickly and set up pilot areas of solar farms including commercial and industrial South facing roofs as well as suitable South facing sloping ground. Why don’t they do this?

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brianac

Why don’t they do this?
Three reasons come immediately to mind.
1) There is no practical way of storing surplus electrical power generated (in quantity) during the day. At night when most power is needed, there will be none.
2) Solar power (and wind power) is notoriously expensive, inefficient, unpredictable and unreliable, so in practice proper power stations will always be needed to supply the power when the solar panels are idle. Power stations take hours, if not all day, to react to power changes so in practice this becomes at best useless and at worst counter productive.
3) Cost. The Government pays for nothing, the taxpayer does. The power companies pay for nothing, the consumer does.

Where solar power could be used more effectively is in the home rather than those pretty (useless) garden lights, as raw DC rather than trying to fit it in with a 230 v AC power system. Even in the best of regulated homes there is continuous power being used. Mine typical: – Heating controllers and thermostats always on, PVR recorder always on, Phone always on, modem router mostly on, TV, computers often on standby, Wall clocks and timers (oven, microwave, dishwasher, dryer) always on, security light controllers, burglar alarms, smoke alarms, always on. These loads are each small, predictable and calculable, if they were removed from the grid in their entirety the effect could be dramatic and most importantly permanent. Fridge freezers could be controlled and energy stored such that they soak up surplus power when available and only use night grid power. LED lighting also.
I did get excited a year or two back when a minister spoke out in favour of ‘micro power stations’ thinking this is what he meant, I was sadly mistaken.
Now, this is perhaps not the place to post, but I have thought this through in some detail. It could work in theory. It would of course require a massive rethink of our domestic usage, on that note it will never happen. Back to square one.

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PeterW

I doubt if Williambarn’s comment was intended seriously, but in case anyone is wondering; yes it has been done, but those who have tried rigging up (say) an exercise bike to a dynamo find they could produce only trivial amounts of electrical power.

A much better approach to using human muscle power is to cut out the intermediate stage of producing electricity. Pick up, for example, a hand drill rather than an electric drill; a rake instead of a garden vacuum; or take the bike to the shops instead of trying to charge up an electric version.

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brianac

I agree with this, but does anyone know how much power a human can generate? It must be around 100 w – 300 w I would guess??

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william

It was a sort of half way sensible / silly suggestion. I know at the moment with current ( no pun intended ) technology you won’t generate a great deal, cyclists using this method to power their lights can hardly be seen. But surely with some out of the box thinking it should be possible to capture more and even generate more power than just using one dynamo.

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worldsroom

I have had problems recently with Scottish Power refusing to believe that my readings for electricity were correct even after I had explained to them about the insallation of solar panels on my roof. The accounts staff refused to beleive that I could have my meter running backwards, which it inevitably did during the Summer months especially and I have deliberately tried to economise even during the recent cold period. Since I pay by direct debit there is a substantial credit which they say direct debit payments will not be revised for 90 days. I believe that this might well cause hardship for many people especially if they are pensioners as I am. One staff member even suggested that they were doing me a favour keeping the rate of payments high so that I would not get into debt! Big deal and thanks a bunch!!!!!

I was also unhappy that I was not offered a fixed price tarrif until I pressed the point. This represented a substantial saving for me and I think that there should be a legal obligation to offer the lowest price option to consumers. The present pricing structure is really not easy to understand or use to calculate the most economical tarrif. I would be interested to hear what other members think about resolving issues about cheapest tarrifs and hear what their experiences have been. I think that regulation is long overdue in view of the increasing prioce of fuel and this should apply to telephone and broadband charges too.

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william

Isn’t a meter running backwards illegal ? Having said that I know of loads of people who have had solar panels installed and had meters running backwards, who then spend ages turning on every electrical appliance just so at the next meter reading it shows a small increase rather than a decrease. I think you’ll find to “fix” it you just need a modern meter. I’m surprised so many people have this problem you;d think the power companies would be inspecting solar installations but what do they care. They’ll make the money back from one customer or another. Have fun :)

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wavechange

A replacement meter will certainly fix this problem, and commonsense dictates that this should be done when the solar panels are installed. It is not very fair that anyone should be benefitting from the feed-in tariff and making more money in this way, funded by those who don’t have solar panels.

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brianac

In the Feed In Tarrif agreement form there is a specific and explicit question asking if your meter runs backwards, to which you must answer Yes or No. It also states that if the meter does run backwards at any time to notify the given authority immediately (not nessesarely the supplier).
It is my guess you could be heading for disaster unless YOU rectify the situation. We are already paid twice for the power, no reason why you should be paid a third time by backfeeding the meter. The feed in tarrif is a two way binding agreement which we have all signed, it is not a flippant gesture.
You need to read the agreement and comply with the laws. There is no point in contacting Scottish Power, it is microgen you need to inform. microgen@scottishpower.com or 0845 270 1414, whichever method you used to claim the tarrif in the first place.

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brianac

If you are a hard up pensioner, how did you pay for the solar panels in the first place? Ours cost over £8000.

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papagray

energy a nasty word in goverment it seems, it was sold for a loss, and the big companies have been ripping us off for years, no investments made in renewable or effots by the goverment to invest in the future, just shuffle the papers dear!
i have been writing about this subject to both parties for many years, why are we paying ..lack of foresight and civil service and goverment not know what it is doing!
now if i put it here will someone listen..
council/goverment buildings all have grounds/grass- heat via ground pumps or bore holes, include hospitals/sheltered housing and pensioners bungalows. solar energy free add to goverment buildings schools etc..when schools are closed higher demand for energy from homes energy from schools/goverment builds sold back to grid would reduce energy requests up to 30% reducing need for producing energy. all street lights signs powered by both electric and solar energy with sensors when a car drives on a road the lights come on! for that section. because of the delays the cost has esculated but the good side if we produced the plates/systems in the uk goverment funding and then use enemployed people to install/maintain then after country done offer to private homes at discount.. or am i totally wrong? it costs yes but the return is..

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