/ Home & Energy

Do energy bills send shivers down your spine?

Man in dark

We’ve heard from thousands of people who are dreading a cold winter. The financial burden of heating their homes sends a shiver down their spine. Here are just some of their comments.

More than 335,000 people have signed our Fair Energy Prices campaign, with many of you sharing your experiences and concerns as we prepare for the winter months.

Protecting the vulnerable

Antoinette told us how she’s too scared to put the heating on:

‘I’m finding it difficult to pay my bills. I’m 62, disabled, and I’m too scared to put my heating on when it’s cold for fear of what my gas and electricity bills will be. I’ve started to go to bed early and get up late to keep warm. This is no way for someone of my age to have to live for four months of the year.’

Antoinette’s story and thousands like her are why we’re calling on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to use its competition inquiry to make the energy market fairer for consumers.

Eating or heating

Nicola recently told us on Facebook that her heating bill is a cause for concern this winter:

‘I too fear the heating bills, my home has no central heating so I have to have electric heaters or coal fire. I’m a single parent and have my 82-year-old mother with me, she was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer on Wednesday of this week, she has to keep warm and the heating is on constantly, of course I must keep it on for her sake. I do work full time, but the heating bill is terrifying me.’

While Joanne is juggling childcare and trying to keep up with her energy bills:

‘I have a young daughter and want to keep the home warm and be able to cook proper meals for her without worrying about the size of the fuel bill.’

Struggling to pay energy bills

Terence told us how heating his home is a financial struggle:

‘This winter we could only afford to heat a single room. It almost broke me.’

And Patricia is doing all she can to keep her energy bills down:

‘I am a disabled pensioner. My money does not stretch as far as having the heating on as much as I should at my age, and I am now behind on payments. It takes all summer to get the bill part way down, then it starts all over again. I try to go as long as I can without putting it on and I go to bed early with two hot water bottles. I thought this was 2015 – it doesn’t feel like it to me.’

Stories like these put the issue of energy prices in a very stark light. The CMA not only needs to cut the number of people on expensive tariffs and make switching easier, it needs to penalise those suppliers who don’t protect the most vulnerable.

The CMA will be judged on the legacy of its inquiry – if it doesn’t deliver a fairer energy market for people like Antoinette, Nicola, Joanne, Terence and Patricia, it will have failed.


[UPDATE 14 January 2016] – It’s been reported today that wholesale gas and electricity prices have fallen by nearly a third in a year, hitting a five-year low. And yet energy companies have failed to lower bills. Only British Gas has cut prices in the last six months, and by just 5%. The rest of the Big Six didn’t follow suit.

Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:

‘It’s extremely disappointing millions of us are still paying way over the odds for our energy. Consumers will rightly ask why their bills haven’t been cut dramatically when wholesale costs have dropped.’

And there are faces behind the numbers, with many of you telling us how you struggle to pay your energy bills, like Jill:

‘My income is fixed but prices aren’t. Do I eat and freeze or stay warm and starve?’

We’re calling on the Government and the CMA to protect vulnerable customers from being ripped off and to deliver fair energy prices. Do you think energy bills should be cut in line with falling wholesale costs? Tell us what you think so we can share your views with the CMA.

Comments

I have read many of the moans above about electric charges and think it could be extended to all the privatised utilities, most of us thought that privatization /competition would produce lower prices, but a private company has to produce a profit for shareholders and to stay solvent, or go bankrupt.
When Utilities were state owned if they lost money they were baled out by the state with taxpayers money, a slight drain on tax payers, but help to low income none tax paying families, if in profit it went into state coffers, now it goes to shareholders or high income families.
It would be a benefit if low income families rates of pay per hour was increased to enable them to purchase (made in England) products

I thought the main point of privatization was so Thatcher and her chums could line their pockets via the associated share deals.

However, they may have told us that it was our only possible way of getting to a more efficient and less expensive set of utilities….

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I do certainly remember my old (now sadly deceased) mate Alan B’stard (MP). He certainly knew what Thatcherism was all about!

Low industrial wages are nothing new for the UK. I know this because I spent some time doing factory work in 1980. Basic wages were very low then too. However most of my co-workers were able to supplement their basic pay through overtime. In general, that practice was defended by their trade unions but opposed by more egalitarian socialists, who would rather had seen a greater number of folk in work… perhaps a bit more like we have today. (Possibly a case of be careful what you wish for…)

Then Thatcher and her chums came along. They carried out their long wished for plan of “restructuring” UK industry to “become more competitive”. One of my chums at uni was a “young Tory” and had told me about their plans and aspirations for purging the UK of old, inefficient and uncompetitive industries long before Thatcher and her government were actually elected. As she and her supporters saw it, they were doing what they thought was necessary for UK Ltd.

As regards the current (ex-USA?) practice of having unpaid “slave labour” internships, in my experience only well-off young people (e.g. those with rich parents) can actually afford to pursue these.

I’m currently with GB Energy who I believe are the least expensive for variable tariff dual fuel. Before GB Energy I was with OVO then NPower, EDF First Utility, EDF again and SWEB – this in reverse chronological order over a six year period.
I have paid exit fees – but not often and not for the last three changes of supplier.
I feel the big six offer poor service levels as well as grossly overcharging. Each has suffered billing issues brought about primarily by their purchase of a computer system. This same system has been installed at British Gas, EDF, NPower and I understand Scottish Power also installed the system recently. Each suffered the same faults.
Regarding their pricing, I wrote to my M.P. almost a year ago withe the following:

I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal in Feb this year (2015). It reported that gas prices (on the world spot market) had fallen 1.6% to $2.759 per million British Thermal Units.

Given the exchange rate at that time (not massively different now) and the conversion factor between British Thermal Units and Kilowatt hours you get 293 kilowatts for £1.84.

Now, British Gas charge 4.04 pence (excl of vat) for 1 kilowatt. They COULD have bought this for 0.628pence on the “spot” markets for delivery in March 2015. This is a gross margin of 3.412 pence per kilowatt – or – a 543% profit margin.

I’d like to buy anything and sell it at 5 and a half times the original cost. I bet most businesses would.

British Gas do.

Nothing resulted of course. The spot price for gas on the world markets is now lower than it was one year ago. I firmly believe the domestic charge rate should be directly reflective of this “spot” rate.

Donal says:
15 January 2016

Renationalise energy supply. We long term strategies to deal with global warming and energy security. The “market” will not do this. You just have to look at the banking/money industry to see where poor regulation will lead us. Environmental catastrophe tomorrow to make a quick buck today. And, getting the Chinese to run our nuclear power stations. Are we really sure that’s a good idea. Though maybe we could get them to foot the bill for renewing Trident.

I don’t think we are asking the Chinese to run our nuclear stations – we just want them to lend us lots of money so we can afford to build some new ones….

I do believe the Chinese will be working with EDF in the first instance and gradually taking over more of the building, commissioning and running as time progresses.

If its anything like the Chinese elsewhere the Chinese will make, ship, build and be gone and we wont have had 100 workers on site
Then when they are gone, they are gone
China does not recognise copyright, patents or else
China does not recognise rights, warranty, or claw backs
This has to be yet another daft move by our load of suits

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Duncan, old chap, I think you seems to have acquired a strange perspective and/or set of “facts” from your sources. If you look at EDF Energy’s websites they say that:

EDF and CGN have a Strategic Investment Agreement for joint investment for two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point C

EDF and CGN have signed the Heads of Terms of an agreement in principle to develop Sizewell C in Suffolk to a final investment decision with a view to build and operate two EPR reactors. During the development phase EDF will take an 80% share and CGN will take a 20% share.

EDF and CGN have signed the Heads of Terms of an agreement in principle to undertake the regulatory approval (Generic Design Assessment), with the UK nuclear safety regulator, of a UK version of the third generation HPR1000 reactor called Hualong. The HPR1000 will be based on CGN’s Fangchenggang Plant Unit 3/4 in China, the reference plant for the UK Hualong design.

So, the most immediate and likely plan is for CGN to take a financial stake in the provision of an EPR (~European Pressurised Reactor) at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

After, they may team up again to build another EPR at Bradwell in Essex.

After that they may team up again to build an HPR1000 – a Chinese reactor design at Bradwell in Essex.

Hence, as I see it, our most immediate call on the Chinese is for their money.

On any and all of these projects, I guess it is quite likely that a lot of the major components will have to sourced overseas. That was the case even in 1980s, before “Maggie and her chums” had ravaged our heavy industries; back then we had TWO UK suppliers of turbine-generators (the one I worked for and its closet competitor).

Bob Atherton says:
15 January 2016

Re Nationalize the industry. Prices will plummet. More people will be employed in the industry in the UK. Profits will go to us, the tax payer (not foreign investors and foreign governments), thereby helping to balance the economic books of our country. More money will be invested into the power supply network thereby reducing the risk of power cuts. It is a no brainer that the Tories do not wish to understand because they trouser too much money by laundering the ill gotten gains of their insider dealing within the industry. Send them to jail and give us back what belongs to us and our manufacturing industry.

Bob,
You’ll be telling me you are a Labour supporter next.
I’m 58 and cannot fully remember the days when so many industries were nationalised. However, I have researched this topic and firmly believe that privatisation generally creates a healthier, more competitive and more efficient setup. You talk of profits being given to “us”. They are – if you hold shares in the company. I bought B.T. shares when they were privatised and still hold them. My holding is modest (what I could buy when floated) but the dividends provide a £6 a month contribution to my line charges.
You talk of investing money into the power networks. You would mean Government money – our money. That’s a bit like asking each of us to buy shares in the Power Company UK .
I’m not inclined to comment on your borderline slanderous comments regarding trousering, laundering and insider knowledge. I will however suggest that such alleged activity is probably more likely to be found in nationalised behemoths. What’s needed is a regulator with teeth.

Bob Atherton says:
15 January 2016

Mike,
Good for you that you are making £72 per year from BT shares. I am subsidising your personal profit with much higher than needed landline charges. There is no competition there – BT hold the monopoly.
Yes I do talk of RE investing our money from some of the profits from a public owned power industry back into it – no shame there as our money is going to have to be invested into the power industry anyway. This is because the private companies won’t be doing it any time soon – why? Because they are to busy being efficient making as much profits as they can for as little investment in people, infrastructure and the like. Efficient maybe, but not very effective when we are in danger of power cuts due to lack of investment and increased deaths amongst the elderly and sick because they can’t afford to pay unnecessarily high power bills.
There can never be a regulator with teeth because as David Cameron says himself “we are all in it together”.

Bob, all enterprises, whether private or public, require capital to fund their operation. Mike has lent money to BT for this purpose – money that is at risk because his share price may fall. He deserves a return on that investment.

I would rather fund operations through this than the government’s (of all colours) expensive PFI method of raising capital. No benefit to the taxpayer there.

Bob Atherton says:
17 January 2016

Malcolm, thank you for that, but I do understand the basics and a little more besides. I agree in outline with you on PFI. I see from many of the posts here we are all in danger of becoming the chattering classes and forgetting what this forum is all about. … Unnecessarily high fuel prices. The cost of raw materials has plummeted, but consumer prices remains very high. I personally believe that re nationalization is the only way to run this particular industry as we are all reliant on fuel as a necessity and it is not a luxury to be gambled away with by the few risk takers who can afford shares.

+1

Well said !

It is time to take back the energy companies back under state control. How the British people fell for the con trick of privatisation of public utilities is beyond me. People are dying because they cannot afford to keep their homes warm – a result of extortionate prices to keep shareholders and CEO’s happy. This is a moral outrage. NB I am not a member of the ‘Hard Left’

Kevin,

If, as a (supposedly) Christian society we are failing to properly look after our poor and needy, is this the sole fault of our energy companies?

Shouldn’t we also be seeking to tackle the root causes of this poverty?

Won’t just blaming the energy companies let our lords and masters “off the hook” with regard to their wider responsibilities here? No-one is forced to seek government office in the UK but, surely, with great power comes great responsibility?

Eeeer
YES
Or by the same token
NO

We hear every time there is an issue with price and why no reduction ,the answer always is that because they BUY years in advance,they cannot afford to reduce bills.. So as prices are at record lows,And there have STILL been no reductions,then they should be BUYING YEARS in ADVANCE.. And then there should be no excuses for an increase for many years to come,and all they have to do is what they say they have been doing for all these past years… Politicians are not interested ,as probably many are on the board of directors,or silent investors,and lets not forget,our honest M P s who awarded themselves a £10,000 pay increase,and anything else they require they will put on Expenses……..Corruption on a massive scale ,and they MONITOR themselves,so the corrupt leading the corrupt,and lets not forget our WONDERFUL house of LORDS, most of them sit there falling asleep,and we have to pay them £300 per day for the priviledge,and they only have to sign in and stay for a short time,then they can go home,dont we all wish we had a nice retirement job as they get…. And WE have to pay for it,hence the reason they dont want to leave the E.U. again more jobs for the boys ,and loads of EXPENSES….. Just look at what the KINNOCKS have earned from Europe…..

I could go on,but it makes me Evil to think of the money wasted,and the M.P.s filling their pockets.

Anonymous says:
15 January 2016

While I have every sympathy with pensioners, disabled people, parents with young families etc., I would point out that it isn’t just people in vulnerable groups who struggle to heat their homes in the winter. I am a widowed, part – time teacher and I have real trouble paying to heat my home properly in the winter. It is hitting all areas of society. The energy companies are guilty of mistreating customers. EDF are a French company and we are subsidising their prices in France.

I’m not with EDF, so I’m not doing that!

DerekP,
unless you are with B.Gas or SSE or one of the small independant suppliers the chances are you will be supporting Spanish or German consumers.

Mike – can you prove this?

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Ownership is one thing.

But cross-subsidy is another.

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Anonymous,
I appreciate what I’m about to say may be obvious to everybody – but I’m going to say it anyway.
If you pay for your fuel by monthly direct debit the amount each month should be consistent. If you are able to calculate (from looking at past bills) the AMOUNT of energy you’ve used (in kiloWatthours) then you should be able to determine with some accuracy what your costs will be over the next 12 months given the tarif you are currently enjoying (or not as the case may be).
In the winter months you will build-up a debt to the supplier but in summer that debt will be removed as you pay more than you consume and you’ll build a credit as you approach the next winter.
Your salary varies little, if at all, each month. So make your energy payments stay the same each month as well.

Looking at today’s EDF prices, they charge a higher standing charge (typically £183) and a higher unit rate (£0.116) than I pay in the UK (£69 and £0.1071). So rolling up the standing charges with the unit for low, medium and high UK consumption gives effective unit prices as follows:
Low – France 20.7p UK 14.2p
Med – Fr 17.3p UK 12.9p
High – Fr 15.3p UK 12.1p

Incredible. The amount of vitriol on this site regarding companies, ministers, Government in general.

MOVE.

If everybody changed supplier whenever there’s a better tarif available to them the power companies would appreciate the benefit of retaining customers.

It really is quite expensive for a company to loose a customer. It’s equally quite beneficial for a company to gain a customer.

Given the energy market is not controlled by central government (thank goodness) it is driven by supply/demand .

That said, I intend to speak with GB Energy next week to enquire why they have not reduced their rates in line with the fall in global gas and electric prices. I’m also likely to challenge my LPG supplier (my car is converted to run on propane) in the same vein.

I do think sometimes that we should stop whingeing and actually DO something. How many of you have changed to LED bulbs in your house? How many have changed to gas cooking rather than electric (it’s cheaper on a kilowatt per hour basis). I even now toast my bread under the grill rather than use the electric toaster. I have solar panels on the roof – it reduces my electric costs especially in the summer months.

Let’s actually DO things rather than moaning about the government or the corporations. Sidestep the problem, it’s easier than talking about fighting it head-on – and then not actually doing anything.

And……….change supplier.

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Or put more simply:
“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.”

But to endorse Mike’s point, you could substitute “energy company” for “government” here.

Also, by misquoting Master Yoda, we can get to “Move. Or move not. Just don’t whinge.”

“I even now toast my bread under the grill rather than use the electric toaster”

I must admit to having doubts as to the convenience, and more importantly the cost benefit claimed. Unless one is toasting a large number of slices simultaneously the time required for the grill to get to temperature would seem to eat into the cost saving aspects.

Having said that I do think an eye-level gas grill is something for good cooks to aspire to – a salamander preferably.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grilling

I think the only way to cook decent toast – as opposed to making crispbread – is to cut it fairly thick and toast it very quickly. In the days of open coal fires and toasting forks that could be done. Maybe these days a barbecue is next best?

Back to energy tariffs. whatever we do with energy prices they are never going to be cheap so efforts need to be made to reduce energy consumption. For the “vulnerable” I’d suggest, wherever possible, helping them with insulation – loft, cavity or solid wall, double glazing, draught proofing. Not only would it help their bills, it would also reduce maximum demand.

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duncan, I’m suggesting that for those who are in need of support with energy bills, and deserve assistance, it is surely better longer term to improve their dwellings to use less energy than to simply poor money into wasting it. We already subsidise housing for first time buyers, we help people with right to buy; I’d rather see some of that money helping those who are unable to help themselves.
In a year or two landlords will have to make sure their houses reach a minimum level of energy efficiency. That may go some way to helping a lot of people. For private owners it may be that the costs are recovered if the house is sold.

Hi Diesel, If its an electric grill I’d imagine your wasting your time.
The elements in a toaster are wafer thin, fast to red hot and the toast is trapped in a hot box whereas the grill is convecting a load of its heat upward away from the toast
If your grill is gas however then that is a different ball park because gas is heat as such and is a lot cheaper per kwh as long as your not on those seriously over priced domestic bottles. Natgas/Pipeline or bulk propane are okay for that

Perhaps I am missing something here. Unless you are toasting new bread on an industrial scale the cost difference between a gas grill, an electric grill, and a electric toaster is hardly worth worrying about and certainly not worth buying an alternative appliance for.

I dont think anyone suggested buying alternative appliances however diesel did state clearly that he doubts the suppose advantages of savings by using a grill
Maybe Diesel could elaborate on where that came from. I was simply filling in what I knew
I have bulk gas and I would not toast in the grill and we have bought a couple of electric toasters over the years as they are so handy unlike a grill
May I add
We had an eye level grill and that cooker is sitting out in the shed as we grew to hate the thing. The top grill bit was always getting in the way of looking at cooking.
Much rather have grill below the hob area. But we dont toast in it

It was actually Mike Cunliffe demonstrating how to save money. It is three posts above my first reply. I decided not to go into a discussion on capital costs and saving though it is an area where one could be picky. I have spent many years costing alternatives and payback times and a lot of the time a question like what is your expected life-span, or when do you expect to move, are the final arbiter on whether it is sensible to spend or not.

So his post included this paragraph :
“I do think sometimes that we should stop whingeing and actually DO something. How many of you have changed to LED bulbs in your house? How many have changed to gas cooking rather than electric (it’s cheaper on a kilowatt per hour basis). I even now toast my bread under the grill rather than use the electric toaster. I have solar panels on the roof – it reduces my electric costs especially in the summer months.”

So I thought the toaster mention was quite a simple point that one might seem to make sense is in fact not straightforward. One advantage a toaster has has is you can take it with you easily to another room if you want to eat breakfast in the conservatory [if I had one : )]. It also turns itself off and has little chance of catching fire as one has with electric OR gas grills. Therefore sensible choice for those who are forgetful or get distracted.

That is one reason that I like induction hobs also. They have timers and safety sensors. They are also fumeless and so require no air bricks in the kitchen unlike gas driven open burner appliances. These rather negate the warmth required in winter … and in the UK that runs from October to April : ).

I thought your toaster point was quite simple and straightforward also. Wish I had kept my trap shut about simple differences in energy kwh value
I see a post has been deleted. Kinda leaves me out in the cold
How does one delete a post???? A couple of days ago I would have liked to have deleted a post.

DK – Just remove your text during the 15 minute period of grace and replace it with a note ‘Please delete’. I’ve done this a couple of times when a post has landed in the wrong place. In this case, JW had asked for his own post to be removed.

Hi Wave, Thanks. I would have needed mine deleted about a day later.

Yes, I deleted my own comment. I was going to say something about British Gas, realised I wasn’t entirely sure of my facts, and so thought better of it. I am a frequent user of the Edit function but have never deleted a comment before. I recommend it.

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Duncan. Dont worry one iota. Such things do not go past me without note or cnt+c
But lets let it roll.
We all give off from time to time
Stress therapy would suggest that writing things down even if we throw them in the bin is a great relief. Problem is I dont get the “throw in the bin” bit correct

Unfortunately, conversations and dialogue do not always work well on this site as comments don’t necessarily appear where you think you have posted them in relation to others. My comment starting “Perhaps I am missing something . . .” wasn’t addressed to anybody in particular, it was just an observation on the discussion about toasting by different methods. The comment I deleted was entirely unconnected and would have related to the immediately previous sub-thread about the foreign ownership of our energy companies. I still wish there was a time/date stamp to enable posts to be referenced easily – the elapsed time since posting doesn’t seem to serve much practical purpose [except to prove how replies are all over the place and not listed chronologically].

Boy,
you lot go off topic a lot. You’ve got me at it now. The toaster v gas grill was meant to illuminate the point that gas is about one fifth of the price of electric on a straight kWh energy basis.
My toaster is dodgy – it trips the consumer unit and crashes my computers. That said, my toast is better in the grill as gas burning generates water vapour. As for mobility……. I carry the toasted bread to where I wish to eat it – it’s lighter than carrying the toaster (and bread).
Dieseltaylor, I can relate to the remembering issue (about the toaster being on in a different room) – my mum, God bless her, once set her microwave on fire thinking it was a toaster but had the sense to throw the unit into the garden.
One of the points I was trying to make in the post a couple of days ago was the benefit of changing appliances, bulbs, lifestyle even.
We’ve had reports in the media about possible electricity shortages. Not had any about gas shortages have we?
I have solar panels on my roof. When they generate electric I use the dishwasher, washing machine, hoover (OK , my other half does). I’m doing my bit. Arte YOU all doing your bit?

Mike, I think we have a tendency to go off-topic occasionally because everything that needs to be said has been said a hundred times already throughout these Conversations. As to your question whether everybody is doing their bit: being led by a consumerist agenda there is more emphasis in Which?-promoted articles and discussions on saving money than saving the planet. Most people could probably reduce their domestic energy [and road fuel] bills substantially through a few modest changes in their lifestyle, but they elect not to and get their satisfaction from whingeing about the price of it [I don’t mean the good people on this site, of course].

Arguably Which? is actually anti-green and misleads it’s subscribers on what is value.

This is because it does not cover durability, or advise on long term value say with something like toasters that have replaceable elements.

Buying a cheap toaster from China every two or three years means the complete production cost, which includes mining iron shipping it, production and shipping to Europe and this all makes for noxious emissions.

I have a 20 year old Dualit which has had two replacement sets of elements. This Dualit toater was built in the UK so transport costs were low. In the UK currently we have two durable toaster makers Dualit [some] and Rowlett Rutland.

RowlettRutland have never ever been mentioned by Which? in any way. As a service to subscribers they ought to mention manufacturers who build durable
units that are available in the UK. Many who subscribe to the Consumers’ Association [Which?] have a social conscience.

So spend more on a quality product that lasts and has spares or just buy new every time something breaks.

I have never heard of Rowlett Rutland and I also think they should get a mention by Which?

I do note neither Dualit or Rowlett Rutland make long slot toasters that take pitta bread.

We bought a Sage long slot that luckily came with a 2 year guarantee. It went pop at 18 months old and was replaced with no hassle. Although it was expensive at £159, and has great features, I don’t think the build quality lives up to expectations especially as our previous toaster lasted over 20 years.

Diesel, I totally support your view on Which looking at durability, repairability and real value for money (which does not necessarily mean cheap). I put an idea for a conversation on durability forward, but it has gone. i continually ask Which? directly and through Convos if they have any intention of tackling durability, with no response. BEUC, who oversee all European consumer groups are pushing for durability – so where are Which? And durability is a legal requirement under consumer legislation – so why is it not a priority?

I sometimes wonder what Which? believes its role to be. £25 million of members subscriptions seem to have been used to fund a disastrous foray into India, and in subsidising a mortgage operation (why do we need that?). Would this money from their supporters not have been better used in protecting consumers with research, testing and investigations and supporting consumers rights?

Still a bit grumpy, I’m afraid. 🙁

Keep up the pressure malcolm

I do have an open letter up before the new Council – signed by some of the shareholders I know – asking for Governance reforms amongst the motions the prime one is a structure like the National Trust where members [50] can put forward motions for debate at the AGM.

This would provide an avenue for members to push for a proper response/discussion on what is going on. Unfortuanetly/fortunately I have only the ability to write to shareholder members as I can obtain their addresses under the Companies Act 2006 – or since 2014 send letters via Which? HQ.

For all those subscribers who are allowed to vote for candidates I would urge you to be prepared to stump up 50p if the charity crashes and become a shareholder and see what is going on.

Which? has seemed quite relaxed in recruiting shareholders with a loss rate of nearly 500 a year and a recruitment of 20ish. I can tell you that I do receive a number of calls and letters advising me of deaths of the shareholders who were the original begetters of this organisation and supported its ideals.

It would be rather boring if we never went off topic, but sometimes it goes too far. I would be very pleased if we did have some topics on environmental issues. As John says, most people could reduce their use of energy and fuel, but there are many other simple ways of reducing our impact on the environment.

My impression is that most contributors to Which? Conversation are reasonably financially secure and just pay their energy bills, even if they whinge a bit. What we have been invited to discuss here is the problem that some people simply cannot afford to keep their homes warm.

Not only can they not afford to keep their homes warm but they no doubt cannot afford to eat properly – a greater expense than energy. They probably have problems with decent accommodation as well.

We need to address the bigger picture of helping those who have such problems, and deserve help. Targetted benefits are, in my view, an answer rather than spreading tax income around the many who don’t need it. As far as I know, for example, any family will get 570 hours of free childcare and pre-school funding (3 and 4 year olds) whether or not they have the money to pay for it themselves. Is this correct? When public money is scarce we surely need to use it as wisely as possible.

I’ve also seen that there will be up to £1200 tax free available to people earning less than £100 000 a year for under 12’s childcare. That would pay a medium user’s energy bill for a whole year. Seems a funny old world.

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Malcolm – At least with eating there are ways of saving money. Apart from cooking meals rather than buying ready-meals, every supermarket seems to have heavily discounted food on offer because it has reached its ‘use by’ date.

I cannot remember the figure but a substantial number of people struggle with their energy bills. Standing charges mean that low users are paying more for their energy than high users, which is not fair. You and I are being subsidised by those who cannot afford to heat their homes.

“Standing charges mean that low users are paying more for their energy than high users”

Okay Ya to that wavechange. I get really p**d off because I hardly use any energy at the flat in town during the working week or here down at the country pad come the weekend. And last time the electric line collapsed under the snow it took them two weeks to re-run the mile of cable. Two weeks at the flat would have been hell but I popped off to maters place in Spain.

Second home ownership is undoubtedly an issue, but I don’t think that’s insurmountable. What’s your suggestion?

Firstly I would standardise the standing charge cost – and have OFGEM provide special oversight of this area. It is actually an area where a lot of data already exists.

There are winners and losers in this arrangement however it would be very clear what it is and what it is used for. My reasons for standardising are clarity. I am also bearing in mind that the wealthier thoughtful person will be using very little electricity given his solar panels, ground source heat pump, air heat exchanger, and better insulation.

If we roll the infrastructure costs into the unit price we will be putting a noose around the neck of everyone who cannot afford these improvements.

Obviously these low users would also benefit greatly for having the convenience of a connection[s] without paying very much for it.

There was an FT report on which regions would benefit from such a move. As to the poor suffering that is an argument I can certainly take forward however there are multiple avenues to improve matters. The most obvious one is financial support for the truly needy, This assessment can be done on the same basis that we calculate thermal figures for buildings.

Longer term improving the housing stock, and more interestingly perhaps the move to alms type housing where the elderly poor can have the benefits of companionship , food and centralised heating and water.

I suggested earlier than the costs of providing and maintaining energy supplies are funded by taxation, whereas the costs of administration are included in the unit cost.

I am dead set against the consumers being oblivious to the costs of providing services as it leads to an ill-informed population. And also transfers “blame” which is also not good.

On infrastructure costs I should have made clear that this relates solely to the maintenance , repair and extension of the network. All other operating costs like computer systems and staff are identified separately and form the areas where competitors can make their competitive savings. Also shown separately would be the cost of the energy they are supplying. SO a casual glance should reveal even to the incurious how the energy supply industry works.

And I almost forgot a special section showing how much the Govt. is adding to the bill. Particularly the nonsensical smart meters which will save the energy providers millions in costs but be paid for by us.

For the most part the infrastructures are not owned by the energy companies we purchase our energy from
As to standing charges I can say that on this one we are fortunate to be in a place where our electricity has no standing charge
We have expensive electricity but that was the case long before standing charges were scrapped
I have not heard a single complaint over the years since this became the norm here
The less well off and therefore mostly very low users dont to pay for the privileged few
I have never ever heard a single word from a high user about subsidising the system because they may be paying more in some twisted way for the privilege of using more. Surely more usage means more stress on things and the more stress has to be paid for by the users on an equal basis as they use the service

So for the more or less the rest of the UK why not demand an end to this outdated method of taking money out of your pockets
You use it you pay for it
I cannot see what is wrong with that

DT – The last thing I want is an ill-informed population. We need readily accessible and up to date information about costs. That will help us see who is underperforming. I would like to know how much the energy industry wastes in marketing.

I am very concerned that successive governments have allowed our energy industry to move into the hands of other countries. We discuss where kettles and other household products are made, but who controls energy supply and costs is rather more important in my view.

Smart meters are a clear example of how government is being manipulated by industry. (The lack of effective government action on nuisance calls is another.) These meters are being forced on us at great cost, they might not last long before they are outdated, and I have seen nothing to convince me that they are worth having.

I agree with you both DT an Wave
I wonder what story a utility can tell the 1000s like me who have a meter on the edge of their property 100s of meters away.
I already know smart meters are a con and a method to do away with staff
We are already paying quite a bit for the 1000s of bypassers and magnet cheats around the country.
My cousin across the field i a meter reader and tells me there are houses a meter man hasn’t seen the meter in many years. Conveniently no one is ever there but the blinds move mysteriously.
I watch the TV and I see several houses all hot wired together for in at least one case both electric and gas
Not a ward about fraud,,,,,,,,,,not a single word,,,,,,,,,,,Safety first
How will in their eyes a smart meter benefit me then???
Or how will smart metering help stop cheating when the cheats simply remove the incomer fuse and stick a piece of copper into the holder?

“Smart meters are a clear example of how government is being manipulated by industry”. I’m sure you’ve researched this and I’d be interested to know where.

Which? seems to have supported smart meters. I don’t. I think they are mostly a waste of time and money and are most unlikely to help us to reduce our energy usage. I’d rather the money had been spent on real reduction methods such as helping insulate the homes of those unable to afford it themselves.

Malcolm, I dont think your post was to my post but to Waves but this may be another of these things that you and I and Wave and 1000s beside know is correct but we are being or attempted to be fed mushrooms
You are level enough headed to know your being expected to believe nonsense
So am I but maybe I’m a little more rebellious.
I was employed to trouble shoot, two different jobs to two very different engineering/manufacturing/assembly businesses.
The trouble shooting was the easy bit. Getting something done without having a song and dance about it was the problem bit
Maybe some day we’ll meet by chance and you’ll understand

DeeKay, you are right, it was a response to wavechange. I like facts and information to be supported, which is why I’m interested in knowing the source of the statement. Gives meat that we can get our teeth into!

You don’t need to do much research, Malcolm. Industry undoubtedly wants the meters and governments past and present has not done much to stop the roll out. I have no problem with people having smart meters and acknowledge that it could help them be more aware of energy usage, but I feel that this should be an individual decision and purchase.

There were signs that Which? might take positive action to stop the roll-out, but it was probably too late: conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/stop-smart-meter-roll-out-uk-government-electricity-gas/

Thanks wavechange. I have not seen this research which is why I asked where to find it. I’d be interested to see it.

If I wasn’t so polite, I’d ROFL.
1)….. Some of us will have read about the Hatter’s Tea Party. Yes, where everyone moves round one place, thinking that they’re going to get a fresh and clean place setting. Only to find out it is someone else’s abandoned one.
The only person who does benefit is the Hatter, who owns the whole kit and kaboodle. And gets a fresh setting or bonus for each person who moves IN to a recently relinquished place.
NOT de-bonused for losing ‘customers’.
2)….. Some of us have lives to lead, and JOBS to do. Others have scarce enough time to spend with children, grandchildren, spouses, etc. Do you want us to spend hour upon hour chasing around in ever decreasing circles chasing the latest best buy in the basic NECESSITIES of life?
Probably, ‘cos then we won’t have the time or energy to challenge the stinking corrupt profit oriented slum that GB / UK / UK plc has become thanks to profit before people privatization.

Ooops!
I must go to find who’s offering the best deal on cancer treatment and X Rays this week.
[The NHS IS next.]

I have just checked projected annual costs for my gas and electricity using Which? Switch. From checking my annual usage in kWh to getting a list of prices, cheapest first, took 6 minutes. If that is going to save me even £25 that is 6 minutes well spent, maybe once or twice a year.

Malcolm r, I’d agree about six minutes is all it takes. So many people on this forum assume it’s a time-consuming task. It really isn’t.
And, JosefKafka, my own cancer treatment just over 20 years ago went like clockwork.
The NHS is still pretty damned good inspite of striking junior doctors. It could be more efficient in parts and it’s purchasing policy could be a whole lot leaner but suggestions that the Tories intend to privatise it make me also want to ROFL – it isn’t the plan.

To anyone who believes switching is hard and searching for a better tarif is time-consuming simply check and compare rates to your current ones. If it’s cheaper then MOVE.

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Duncan,
I’m aware this is an Energy forum so will make my response brief – but as intelligent a rebuttal as possible.
Labour (1949) introduced the possibility of prescription charges (PC) in 1949. Tories actually started the charge in 1952 at 1 shilling per script. Labour scrapped charges in 1965 (Wilson) but re-introduced them in Jun ’68 at 2 shillings & sixpence per item – but brought in exemptions. These exemptions still exist and have been extended.
88% of all prescription items are free as a result of the exemptions.
NHS Professionals is a limited company wholly owened by the Dept. of Heath. It was created in 2001 and converted to a limited company in April 2010 (Brown – before he was ousted by the coalition). NO state funding is now provided and first profit was reported in August 2010. They’ve increased since then. I’d doubt this company would be scrapped. Taken-over, merged? Possibly. That would not cause the immediate loss of any jobs as it’s an agency. The 50,000 professionals on the books would register with other agencies – perhaps ones not providing profits to the Dept. of Health (hardly a clever move to close it therefore).
The cap on private beds in wards/hospitals was lifted in the Health & Social Care Act 2012. I do not recall doctors going on strike at that time – but the Guardian reported it as worrying (as did the BBC). However, Nursing Practice (an online blog for the profession) felt it could be beneficial – perhaps that’s why the doctors didn’t strike. They clearly knew best.
Spending: between 2009/2010 and 2020/2021 cash spending will rise by £35billion. When adjusted for rising prices (inflation) this is £11billion and hence 10% over the 11 years. Not massive but still an increase.

Mike – You make valid points about action being required – and en masse action is always more effective than individuals. Unfortunately it seems almost as though we are sheep without even donkey’s to lead us.

Pat of that is a matter of how or who controls what is news, and then a plan of campaign that is reasonable to expect readers here to sign-up for.

Let us take an example from last year where Pharmacy2U was had up for selling lists of people who had bought drugs through it. It was happy to customer details to an Australian lottery scam outfit – even when they knew what it did. They got fined £130,000. They are still a recommended NHS on-line pharmacy.

You may well think there is a major disconnect with the huge public discontent with on-line scammers and the fine levied and the exposure in the media – and most particularly in Which?.

Launching a boycott of Pharmacy2U would seem just given the actual or potential financial losses that UK citizens suffered by this firm sending the profiles list abroad.

Turning to power/energy and costs. One almost has to laugh at the “solution is switching” campaign. It is a short term form of action that obscures the longer term but much healthier and greener solutions. Heat-exchangers can extract up to 95% of the heat of exhausted air to heat incoming fresh air. And why do you need fresh air – because of humidity levels breeding harmful moulds, because , as reported in todays BBC we can create chemicals in the house that are bad for our health. [formaldehyde].

Which? unfortunately seems unwilling or unable to undertake the bigger picture view and investment /testing for the things that long term will save money and improve the indoor environment. The annoying thing is that most of the research is done and all it really requires is Which? to publish to the masses and lobby the builders. And when I say lobby the builders most of us are familiar with some pretty shoddy estates that have made the headlines so a beady eye needs to be kept on them.

Why can’t these energy companies have a tariff that is for elderly & disabled people, their situation can be confirmed by DHP. They have loads of tariffs to chose from so one more for an at risk group shouldn’t be an issue. Tariff should be at least 30% less that standard rates so that people at risk can afford to eat & heat. I’m disabled and cannot work & need a constant temperature to avoid exacerbating my conditions. I know I’m not on my own here and there are peopl a lot worse than me. So get off your backsides Energy companies and do something about it, before it’s too late for some people.

Subsidising the vulnerable is surely a job for the State, not commercial companies. They have other essential expenditures – food and housing for example – where they also need help. I would not expect Tescos to have different prices for different groups of people. Nor would I want commercial companies to hold the kind of personal data necessary to apply subsidised tariffs. It needs organising centrally.

Standing charges get raised in every energy convo. It would be very useful if Which? would do some research on all the factors in an energy bill so that this topic would be better understood. Maybe a Convo should be dedicated to it to avoid constant repetition of the arguments for and against.

I believe there are some costs that are independent of how much energy you consume. If these costs were incorporated into the unit cost then those unfortunate high energy users would pay more towards them than low users. I do not see, for example, why those already, of necessity, consuming and paying for a lot of energy should also have to pay more to have their meter read, more towards preparing their bills, more towards smart meters, more towards maintaining the connection to their property (we all depend upon our supply being restored when there is a fault) and suchlike.

A high energy user may be in an old, poorly insulated draughty house, elderly and home all day needing extra heating day and night, more washing and cooking, maybe even on expensive electricity only. The fact that some high users are wealthy is irrelevant – I want to see all treated fairly. Putting all costs into unit charges would simply be indiscriminate in who wins and loses – that is unfair and I don’t want to see the vulnerable lose.

However the basis of the standing charge – the fixed annual payment – should be clearly established so that it only includes true fixed costs, and is therefore kept to a minimum. Ofgem should deal with consulting on this and deciding what these cost elements should be. Perhaps Which? could raise this with them.

A complicating factor is all the costs (really taxes) the Government require the energy companies to recover through their charges – carbon tax, funding renewables, support for the vulnerable, warm homes and so on. There is, according to Ofgem, no recommendation at present as to how these are passed on, whether in the standing charge or in unit costs. It’s perhaps time all this was addressed and standardised.

Yes Malcolm, I’ll second you on that call on Which to do some research on why standing charges are as they are.
They are far from clear even if researched on line one cannot see anything reasonable as an explanation

This is the way things are because this is the way things are???? Not very good is it

The fact that some high users are wealthy is not irrelevant. Thanks to standing charges they are being subsidised by low users including those who are struggling to make ends meet. Anyone who is a high user for valid reasons should apply for benefits. Many of the high users can well afford their bills and don’t forget that profligacy is one reason for being a high user.

wavechange,
You ever bought a football season ticket? These offer a discount when compared to buying the tickets on a per match basis.
The standing charge is similar. Generally speaking the cost of shipping 13,000kWh gas to me is almost the same as shipping 21,000kWh of gas to me – at the same house of course. The only extra expense would be the energy needed to “pump” the 8,000kWh of extra gas to my cooker/boiler. All other fixed costs are the same.

Mike – I have bought season tickets, but not for football. That’s entertainment but energy supply is rather more serious. I don’t think anyone deserves a discount for using more of a limited resource.

By that same logic then prescription prepayment certificates should not be offered to patients who don’t qualify for free scripts but still have little money to spare for essential meds.
Supply and demand and capitalism always favours the larger consumer.
Collective switchers (see Daily Mail) use the power of a large potential group purchase to secure a lower rate than the rest.

Many wealthy low energy users – modern well insulated home, out all day (and maybe evenings) – will, if basic standing charges are abolished, no longer pay their fair share towards those costs that do not depend upon consumption.

Nor are all high users profligate. I expect many use more energy from necessity, not choice, and spend a larger part of their income on energy. Nor are they all likely to qualify for benefits.

The flaw in the proposal is that subsidy is then given indiscriminately. I want to help those that need it, not those that don’t. That is why I used the term “irrelevant”.

I think Which? need to get to grips with this topic in an objective and impartial way.

I never said that all high users are profligate but I know some that are, at least by my standards. If Ofgem was doing a decent job then we would have the figures and neither of us would have to guess. 🙂

malcolm r, I’m inclined to agree with all you said.
Given the wide variety of standing charges and fuel rate charges I cam to the conclusion a couple of years back – when prices seemed to be increasing month on month – that during the summer when I use far less fuel I’d be better of on a low standing charge but high fuel rate tarif and in winter switch the the high standing charge but low fuel rate tarif (with another supplier).
Thinking of the recent South Wales steel works closure and one of the reasons being given was high energy costs in the UK I started to think TATA would be well advised to get into the power generation business. I cannot see why a company could not generate their own electric and be exempt from much of the green taxation burdened upon the official generators.

It is currently possible for retailers to offer tariffs with zero standing charge but not many do.

If more customers “voted with their feet”, these tariffs might become more widely available (and ultimately, more competitively priced).

One of my friends is currently on a pre-pay smart meter tariff with Utilita that uses the following prices:

Electricity:
16.580p per kWhr for the first 240 units, thereafter units cost 14.821 p each

Gas
5.389p per kWhr for the first 488 units, thereafter units cost 4.080p each.

DerekP,
the lower rate for the units after the first 240 (Electric) simply acknowledges that by the time you’ve paid 1.759p extra for the first 240 units you’ve paid most if not all of the cost that would otherwise have been the “standing charge”.
The 240 units will probably be each month – possibly each quarter.
It’s not really a zero styanding charge scheme.

Mike,

I agree that is one way of looking at it; indeed I left it as an “exercise for the student” to see if anyone would (or could) calculate the effective “hidden” standing charge.

But, from the view point of the consumer concerned, one of their gripes with their previous prepayment tariff was that, with its explict standing charge, they had to “standing charges” for gas during the summer, even when they needed to use little or no gas at all.

There is a proposal to reduce switching times to one week or even, if I remember rightly, one day. The consumer who could be bothered could then change their tariff once in the summer to a zero standing charge one, and back in the winter to another one. However judging by the inertia of many people who do not see up to £200 saving as worth switching for I doubt many would do this. However it would be a choice.

The normal two tier method of charging was abolished when Ofgem attempted to simplify tariffs to the four basic ones. This was a mistake, many think. The two tier tariff could, in my view, be reintroduced in a suitable form as one of the options. As Mike says the first tier – higher unit cost for a limited number of hours – was aimed at also recovering fixed costs, and after that a lower unit charge applied. That gave low users (rich or poor) the option of a “no standing charge tariff” but still contributing towards the fixed costs we all should fund. I’m all for a sensible choice to suit our particular circumstances. Not perfect – it still helps some more than others. However I believe a lower standing charge that only includes genuine non-consumption related costs is the fairest way.

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A brief round up of some of my answers to the critiques of my statements:

1.0….. A six minute online shop around will save you Quids.
1.1….. IFF [If, and only If] you have ready access to a computer and are skilled in searching out the ”Best buy” .
The very people who most need the cheapest supply of everything are the very people who in the main won’t have the access and skills required
The very people who don’t need these savings most, will be the ones who can access them with skill and ease.
————-
2.0….. Privatization of the NHS.
2.1….. It has in effect already been privatized :
2.1.1.. GPs are not employees of the NHS, they are Private contractors to the NHS.
2.1.2.. £65 000 000 000 of the annual expenditure of the NHS on primary and secondary NHS services has been handed over to 210 CCGs [Clinical Commissioning Groups]
2.1.3.. These CCGs are run and controlled by GPs [Private contractors].
The NEDs on the CCG Boards are appointed byb the GP members of the CCGs
The Lay NEDs – representatives of Public and Patients [P&Ps], are appointed by the GP members of the CCGs, not by the P&P.

3.0….. Marginalization of the NHS secondary sector.
3.1….. In the main part of the NHS secondary sector, Acute Hospitals, there has been an element of cross subsidy between cheaper services, and the much more expensive, under funded by central Gov’t, medical procedures.
These cheaper to provide services have increasingly been hived off into a Private sector which does not provide back-up ICU for surgical procedures which go wrong. When such things happen the patient is bunged in an ambulance and sent off to the NHS Hospital which does have ICU on stand by.
The financial standing of NHS Hospitals is therefore becoming increasingly less viable.
Added to which, the Gov’t has recently imposed a swinging cut in the tariff paid to Hospitals for the procedures they carry out.
More financial gloom.

4.0….. Who profits from CCG procurement procedures said to favour the Private, low cost, sector?

4.1….. CCGs’ £2.4bn contracts that could financially benefit board members (11.11.15 )
CCGs in England have awarded nearly 500 contracts worth at least £2.4bn to providers in which one or more of their board members had a financial interest, an investigation has found.
The investigation, jointly led by the BMJ and the Times, revealed that 50 CCGs awarded contracts despite a clear conflict of interest being present. A total of 437 out of just over 5,500 contracts were given to healthcare providers in circumstances where one or more CCG board members had a declared interest.

4.2….. Quarter of Clinical Commissioning Group board members linked to private healthcare
10 March 2015
Over one in four governing members of the Tory designed NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which have responsibility for a budget of £65 billion, have links to a private company involved in healthcare.
The comprehensive study carried out by Unite, has uncovered how financial interests are ‘running amok’ threatening the trust between GP and patient and the NHS because of the Health and Social Care Act.
The Health and Social Care Act gave CCGs ​ responsibility for commissioning services and in doing so opened the door to conflicts of interest on a massive scale. CCGs are clinically led groups with GP representatives from their geographical area, managers and lay persons.
Of the 3,392 Board Members, 932 (27%) of CCG board members were found to have a link to a private company involved in healthcare including: 513 Company Directors, 140 business owners, 105 external work, 17 Partners, 15 Chairs, 10 Company Secretaries, 5 CEOs, 1 Trustee, 1 Financial Officer and 125 others including consultants.
The study also found 409 (12%) board members are shareholders in such companies; a combination of businesses they own and external private companies, including providers of ‘Out of Hours Services’.

– See more at: unitetheunion.org/news/quarter-of-clinical-commissioning-group-board-members-linked-to-private-healthcare/#sthash.Zt1LgwUU.dpuf

Interesting and also depressing Kafka. I see nothing but a huge can of worms and all the corruption endemic in the US system will soon be ours.

It does seem remarkable that within so many effective health services in the EU we choose to look to a US inspired model. Do you think money talks?

Money not only ‘talks’, it commands!
—–
UK’s ‘Special’ relationship with US(A) has until recently been one based on the fact that our country was deep in debt to the US for the financial help we were given over the 2nd European Civil War.
Had ‘we’ not done as we were told by Uncle, they could have foreclosed on the debt and put us into the state that Greece IS in.
For years and years posses of politicians have been visiting US to learn how to:
Run race relations
Police the Public
Smash the alleged strangle hold of Trades Unions
Buy 2nd hand nukes
Do away with the concept of a career, in favour of a portfolio of P/t jobs as a self employed contractor [Working on the Lump]

Why not then the brave new world of Healthcare and Wellbeing?
We’re all in it together
”it” being The Trough

“2nd European Civil War” !!! – sorry old man, I don’t understand your banter – did you mean WW2 or some more recent conflict?

Written histories have recorded wars in Europe since the time of the ancient Greeks; none of them were particularly polite.

Yes Derek the “2nd European Civil War” comment is a right out of the ball park to those who had/have links to any of the forces then and now………….
I see that as derogatory, belittling and possibly rude
It was not a civil war………….A civil war is a war within one land/country………this was defence against several very bad regimes………
Your welcome to opinion but some are best kept to one’s self

You are correct to be offended.
But perhaps slightly less offended than the many nations and countries which saw the ill tempered, imperialist colonial occupiers trample all over those countries, devastating land and infrastructure. In the process carving up traditional natural boundaries and scattering, then redesignating, whole nations under new externally dictated -European – defined ‘Countries’, subject to yet more colonial and imperialist rule.
Those two – 1914 – 18 and 1939 – 45/46, were not World wars, where the world’s nations were at war with each other, they were European Civil / Internal wars which dragged others into their conflict, and sacrificed their lives and lively hoods on the alter of world domination.
——–
Speak not to me of:
”…those who had/have links to any of the forces then and now………….”
I have those links, and bear the scars of them.
As did my brave parents.
My father chose to volunteer early for the Royal Army Medical Corps – a harrowing sacrifice, subject t bombings despite Red Crosses, and witnessing day after day the slow and agonizing death of so many good men and true in the pre-penicillin days.
HE saw the slaughter of working men and women by working men and women.
To what avail?
To satisfy the vainglorious struttings of those who saw working people as cannon fodder, and food for fishes in their 1 000s, as yet another merchant-man, or destroyer, was sent to the bottom with no hope of survival for the crews in the ice cold Atlantic waters.

Adrian Henri:
You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out
You take the human being, and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about –
Iraq
Burma
Afghanistan
BAE Systems
Israel
Iran

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wave and tidal power is not weather dependent, and tidal power involves both flow and storage, so is in principle for an island like ours a prime candidate. No fuel, no emissions. It depends of course on construction cost, size to get economy, and how much pollution is created in the building phase.

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Strictly speaking wave power is weather dependent – but not on the local weather where the wave energy converters are sited.

Distant ocean storms radiate energy as sea waves; lot of storms will mean there is lots of wave energy to harvest but flat calm seas will mean there is none.

Major mainstream UK wave power research was pursued in the UK after the 1976 oil crisis and up to the early 1980s – by then it was clear that wind energy was emerging as a much more cost effective option for the UK mainland.

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In the 1980s we thought our main line of Wave Energy Converters would be off the Western Coast of Scotland – to maximise the available energy.

“small island communities” only equipped with local diesel generators were seen as prime candidates to be “early adopters”. For those the marginal costs of diesel generation were costed by the CEGB at 15p/kWhr, compared to 5p/kWhr for “base load” coal and nuclear. I don’t think the CEGB were too keen to add wave energy into the UK mix, so official studies were only allowed to value wave energy against the cost of the coal that would be saved when the waves were strong and plentiful.

Derek……….I am gathering that you are of a practical engineering interest background……………You are very subtle about how you put things,,,,most of the time but very understanding practically

Near all mechanical generation devices that come into contact with nature have to “put up with nature” or put up with the power of nature.

Yes as time goes on and we’re a ways from the 1980s now things get made/designed better to deal with those rigours but to date none are perfect

People often complain about wind turbines stopping in high winds but do not know that the power of the wind is cubed with every doubling of the wind speed so making turbines that will stand up to all sorts is not as easy as it is said and what’s more not practical
The “know alls” mostly dont even know what “cubed” is
I have learned that we can design in functions that help machines in high winds and I’m sure the wave men will have made similar efforts but I have also copied the Big Boys and stop my machines automatically when the winds gets silly……

I am no expert in wave power but i do know it has moved on………..I may be wrong but I dont see any easy way to stop a wave machine………..maybe I’m wrong,,,,Thats what prompted the post…………

To date hydro has had great success for 1000s of years and today we have little accidents as a result of hydro…………..I dont consider hydro in the same category as wind or wave because we,,,,,mankind control the head of water and while that is controlled there is little chance of a problem
Scotland is our example but our Gov and Brussels even got to their silly work there………….In recent refurb work many of the turbines had their output cut to fit with incentives as in if the machines were a little less output they would be better favoured by the system
Now to me this is another completely bonkers policy decision………….Cutting output of perfectly good clean generating machines……………machines that have proven to be one of the most reliable forms of generation ever………..

Wind is pretty good to go as such and has been for some time………….We’re a little easy set alight about where the wind farms should be though…………Perhaps a trip to Holland would be inspiration to see that people co exist with these machines……..
Yes there may a minority be adversely effected by these machines but there will always be a minority on the margin just as Wave and I have poor chests and these chests are effected by other peoples actions……….You dont see us on TV trying to stop Mr Jones driving his diesel though…………I done my best to move out of the way of the problem……………

Solar PV in my eyes is the most stationary and reliable of the recent developments but what I dont like is good agri land being consumed by it
I love PV,,,,,,,,,,,it’s that simple………….Once our family had access to 25kw of water for at least part of the year and as its getting wetter it would still work but someone decided to level it all off in aid of “cleaning the place up”
My PV,,,,75% of which has no incentive makes several times the energy value we can realise from that land area from renting out the land as we do………Yes it’s only small but the maths are the same big or small…………The same can be said of wind power………..

Farmers whether making money or not will always be farmers and will hold on to their land just as long as they can,,,,,,,,,,and why?????………because they know that one day it may be really really needed……………If they can exist with the help of wind and sun why not help them………..we may need them some day and in the meantime we can use the electric and eat their food with the supermarkets dictating the prices to them……..

Just thoughts for some reason prompted by your post

+ 1

Britain – well England – is as hamstrung now as ever by what C P Snow called The Two Cultures
It really is unfair on so many that they are brought up to despize that which so many of our competitors hold as necessary for a healthy economy, and a contributory factor in understanding how a modern society might function well and to the mutual benefit of all. Viz a knowledge and understanding of basic scientific principles. And then only slightly further into how those principles may be used in the world.
An example may prove helpful:
1.0….. Conservation of mass / energy
1.1….. Prior to Einstein the principle of conservation of energy was clearly understood by many and applied in industry:
** Energy is neither created nor destroyed, just transformed from one form into another.
Coal is burned, it produces heat, which is used to create steam, That steam is used to drive a turbine which thanks to Faraday’s experiments produces electricity.
BUT, I hear you cry, burning coal only has an efficiency of around 20-30%
True.
The ‘lost energy’ has produced
Sound
Light
Heat to the surroundings of the furnace
Friction in bearings of the turbine, producing heat lost to the cooling water
Etc
It was only when such other radiations were recognized as forms of energy could efficiency be up-graded.

Then along came Einstein with E = m*c*c

Where
E = Energy
m = mass
c = the speed of light (In a vacuum)

And that paved the way to Nuclear fission, which gave us Nuclear power stations, and The Bomb.

The difference between the pre and post E=m*c*c eras was that prior to nuclear reactions most of the mass of the fossil fuel was conserved = ash, dust, and smoke particles. Little mass was converted into any form of energy.
In a nuclear reaction, amounts of mass are actually eliminated, and turned into energy, hence the astonishing efficiency of nuclear power stations, and the terrifyingly destructive forces released in a nuclear explosion (excluding the radiation effects)
That is but one of the fundamentals needed to be understood to comprehend the true nature of the needs and possible sources of supply of , for example, electricity.

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Wrong in almost every respect.
And when one adds up the damage done
** In Bopal
** Presently by the drinking water in predominantly BAME communities in US (A)
** Cigarette smoking allowed to be promoted when Dr Doll had established the facts decades ago
The starvation and early deaths visited upon the poor, sick, disabled, by Mr IDS and his 1 000 horsemen of the DWP,

Those claimed deaths are marginal – but not to the families involved.

Those claimed deaths from nuclear radiation are marginal – but not to the families involved.

Thanks Josef,,,,,,,,,,,,,I have a fair idea they are only marginal because by luck more than anything else the fallout just happened to fall where is did
Then there is the denials of the effects of the fallout

But I suppose the Politicians can say that the Wolves of Chernobyl survived so can we but I dont see any politicians touring Chernobyl or swimming in the cooling lakes

Lauren Deitz says:
Green energy is certainly an interesting area, but my understanding is that it’s expensive to produce as it’s too reliant on weather conditions and the energy produced can’t be stored.
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Others have addressed this point, so I will pass over it, except to incorporate ” the energy produced can’t be stored. ” into the next section.
—————-
Maybe once we crack battery storage of renewable energy then it’ll become more viable?
————–
A battery is generically any means of storing anything for future use. This is where the Principle of Conservation of Energy is important [See my posting]

Lead ./ Acid batteries and accumulators are well know batteries for the storage and regeneration of electricity – electricity in the form of chemical changes which may be reversed to produce electricity.
The we move to Pump Storage schemes.
For various reasons dependent on the generating source, most electricity generating systems cannot be shut down completely.
The stand by production has generally been ‘shed’ as waste, say overnight.
But, it can be used to pump water from a lake at low altitude ~ sea level – to a lake at a high altitude.
This process imparts ‘potential’ energy to the water =potential to do ‘work’.
When the nation wakes and demand soars within minutes, the water is released, rushes down huge diameter pipes, drives turbines, and throws huge amounts of electrical energy into the national grid to boil kettles, toast bread, and power TV s and Radios.
A short lived supply – but enough to meet the demand until the main generators can cut in and do their job.
Many other batteries are available, for example feeding ‘waste’ heat to cooling towers into District Energy systems, some of which will warm soil to speed the growth of bio-mass which can be burned to generate steam to …. ….you get the picture.
Then there’s the Hydrogen cell ….

How many politicians and their top Civil Servants have an inkling about the Principles of Energy Conservation.
And when one touches on the matter of the Laws of Thermodynamics …..

Edit capability timed out – why is such a short period imposed?

Lauren, good suggestion! If an off-topic conversation develops it should be considered for its own Convo, if it is within guidelines rather than cluttering up the main topic.

We seem to have a much smaller gap now between maximum available supply and possible maximum demand that may occur at peak times in very cold weather. We then have to bring in very expensive contracted stand by capacity often produce by diesel generators, and possibly resort to load reduction or load shedding – non-essential industry usually first.

I wonder just how much load could be saved by encouraging better home insulation – loft, walls, windows, draughtproofing – and how much a reasonable attack on this might cost the public purse where individuals are unable to pay for it themselves. Subsidised loans might be an answer? Better than piling more money into expensive standby generation and funding ever more power stations.

So in short, i’d favour examining the energy saving route and taking that.

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duncan, I can’t find any post from grumbler on this page, so cannot comment. If disparaging remarks are made they should be removed by Which? or reported to them for removal. This may have happened in this case already? However, these Convos are about specific topics and some temporary diversions are almost welcome, but they should in my view not start to dominate the convo. Personal disputes should certainly not be allowed to develop.

Perhaps the moderators could reply to your point for everyone’s benefit?

Incidentally I, maybe like you and some others, feel tempted to respond to someone else’s comment “in the heat of the moment”. Sometimes the initial wording whilst well-intentioned might read badly. Thank goodness for the edit button is all I say.

Except if it’s a ”News” paper owned and dictated to by the Dirty Digger.

Landlords will be obliged in a couple of years to upgrade propeties to a specified energy standard. It may not be too high, but should help those in rented accommodation who cannot improve them themselves.

Lauren Deitz says:
Yes and I wonder how much smaller that gap is likely to get over the coming years too
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The link to the ”gap” to which you refer has got lost in the rockwool of time – what was it, please?

I think there’s still much more we can do to reduce demand.

Classical “free market” economics expects the price mechanism to do that – but, with many consumers already struggling to pay their bills, other forms of intervention would be more desirable.

Home improvements like insulation and less draughty windows can make a big impact.

A thought occurs to me. A big problem I believe is the number of people not connected to gas, many of whom will rely on electricity for heating. This is expensive for them, and creates a big demand potentially on the electricity supply capacity.
How big? Well it seems (2013) around 2.66 million households were not connected to gas (i.e. had no gas meter). Others may, of course, have meters but still not use gas. For the sake of numbers assume a household consumes on average 13 000kWh of gas for heating a year and that we convert 1.33 million (half the consumers) to gas for central heating. That releases (if I have my numbers correct!) 17 million MegaWatt hours of electricity capacity.

A large (2000 MWe) nuclear power station if used continuously will produce 17.5 million MWh a year – the same as released by using gas. So if I have done my sums properly, might it not be best to concentrate on converting a lot of consumers to gas for heating?

I estimate that if it cost £5000 to connect and provide a gas heating system, the total cost for 1.33 million homes would be £6.6 billion pounds. The cost to construct Hinkley Point C nuclear station is estimated as £24.5 billion. 4 times as much. So does this make sense?

Malcolm, I think your numbers look to be about right.

£5000 might be a bit on the light side for the costs of installing a full heating system – my last boiler change cost £4000 alone but that did include some plumbing short of a full system install.

Large increases in gas usage might also require some infrastructure investments (e.g. better transmission lines and more “gas holders” or whatever we use nowadays) even if bringing gas to more homes were not involved.

If gas and electricity were sold by separate businesses, it would also be worthwhile for the gas companies to operate like PC printer manufacturers and give away “free” (or nearly free) systems – and then just charge for the gas.

I support the general idea of extending the gas grid so far as practical and economical to enable people to use gas for heating, hot water and cooking, but a lot of the people without gas might be living in apartment blocks or high-rise flats where there is no access to a gas supply and where as a matter of policy for safety reasons gas systems will not be installed. Buildings such as that might lend themselves to the installation of large solar panel arrays or even a wind-turbine or two.

I have previously advocated a much more extensive and less restrictive programme of free loft, wall and window insulation for all houses occupied by people in receipt of state pensions or benefits as their only source of income. Apart from the real advantage of reducing the heating bills it would represent a major investment in the condition of our predominantly ageing housing stock. And instead of trying to find reasons why it cannot be done the surveyors should be tasked to find the best way in which it can be done. Sometimes sub-optimal solutions are appropriate if they achieve a satisfactory result; too often with publicly-funded schemes the best becomes the enemy of the good and nothing worthwhile is done because it doesn’t tick all the right boxes. Some older terraced houses might not be suitable for cavity wall insulation but could have various forms of insulation applied to the internal surfaces of outside walls. It might not look fantastic, it might not be perfect from an insulation point of view, but if it reduces energy consumption, and keeps the bills down, it is a public benefit. The same with draught-proofing windows and doors: does it always have to be a first-rate installation to qualify for funding? If we have a mind to do it we could make a big difference to a hundred thousand properties before the first concrete is poured for a new power station.

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Hmmmmm ??
I’d like to see the business plan, please.

I am afraid, Josef, that my proposition is not amenable to a conventional viable business plan. The costs are currently unknown [and largely dependent on the rate of implementation] and the benefits across a wide spectrum of public programmes are incalculable but are nevertheless identifiable.

At a rough guess – and it is rough – I think £2,000 per house on average would go a long way. The benefits would accrue to the welfare state through reduced hospitalisation, fewer prescriptions, less GP time, avoidance of institutionalised care, and fewer consequential physical and mental illnesses. There would be reduced energy consumption, less need for public subsistence, and a lower carbon footprint. Property repair and maintenance, community enrichment, social cohesion, and family support would all show gains. Ultimately the residents should keep warmer, eat better, save money, live longer, and enjoy life – all priceless.

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