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Are you willing to pay more to meet new carbon cutting plans?

Scissors cutting grass

The government has announced new targets for carbon reduction, but it means higher energy prices. So how do you feel about carbon reduction? It might be good for the environment, but what about your wallet?

It seems like you can’t turn on the radio or look in a newspaper at the moment without seeing yet another warning of energy price rises.

Last week, British Gas and then the Governor of the Bank of England said that we should expect bigger gas and electricity bills this winter. And this week, the Government thrashed out a ‘historic deal’ on climate change, which entails even more pain for consumers’ wallets. Or does it?

Government’s climate change plans

When the energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne announced the Government’s carbon reduction commitment to cut carbon emissions in half by 2027, he made a key pledge – it would result in no additional cost for consumers for the next four years.

Phew, right? Well, yes, this is good news – for now. But even with this announcement, we should all expect our energy bills to keep going up, up, up.

So what are consumers to do? Should we just shrug our shoulders and accept that energy costs are going to steadily become an even bigger part of our monthly budgets? And that more and more people will slip into fuel poverty?

Or maybe we should spend even more money to make our homes energy efficient. After all, insulating our houses and flats is probably the best way to save money in the long-term. But where to start? Maybe with loft or cavity wall insulation? Or perhaps by installing solar panels or heat pumps?

Sadly this confusion seems to characterise our experience of the energy market. Not only are we faced with confusing bills and energy tariffs, but there’s evidence of dodgy sales and marketing practices.

No wonder we feel powerless about energy price rises.

Why isn’t the public being consulted?

So, with the government sealing a deal to drastically cut carbon emissions, isn’t it time for a similar deal on energy prices? Government seems to be listening to businesses, energy companies and the environmental lobby – but shouldn’t they be talking to people who will end up paying for this investment in their future energy supplies?

Central to this discussion is the need to be honest with the public. Lots of different figures are thrown out into the media about the expected price rises. And the reasons for the soaring energy bills are complex – wholesale energy costs, commodity prices, future investment in generation, environmental and social obligations, issues with global demand and so on.

So could all the main energy players – government, energy companies, green groups and consumer organisations – do more to work together and explain how and why prices are going to increase?

It’s no good to simply scaremonger about future prices. With inflation continuing to rise and further tough economic years ahead, we need to find ways to give people a fighting chance of controlling their energy bills.


There is a real risk of significant climate change with major, and mostly adverse, changes to life as we know it and, like it or not, greenhouse gases must be reduced as much as possible. Therefore the energy we use must be made cleaner even if it costs more per unit – though this does not necessarily mean we have to spend more over the long term. Energy efficiency measures will considerably reduce waste – though probably the easiest and most immediate way to reduce energy use to a large extent is to insulate oneself when inside. The culture of wearing only one layer, while at the same time turning the thermostat up, should change. Adding layers as appropriate will be beneficial to both one’s health and one’s pocket – as well as to the environment.

Surely a fairly easy and cheap way to reduce our personal energy bills, is to come up with an easy to use exercise bike or other such machine that home owners could use to not only get fit but also produce electricity to run some ( not sure we’d be able to cover all our needs) or all of our electricity requirements. Now the power companies won’t do anything about this, there’s no long term money it for them, so where’s the government when it comes to stepping up to the plate. Oh yeah they don’t care either, as higher bills means high VAT take even at 5% for them. So the poor consumer is left to foot the bill.

I’d have more interest in energy efficiency if the white goods we all buy were an incentive.
You only have to look at the whole replacement boiler scheme scam, which was to increase business turnover and consumer spending, as was the £400 discount for a new boiler scheme (the latter even listed drumming up business as it’s first major benefit on the energy saving trust’s own report on the topic).

Then we have the farce of us buying in energy at a good price, then selling it cheaply to other european companies to store it, as we have sold off 15% of the country’s storage capacity, then buying it back from the same euro countries later in the year for a higher price.
What about the norwegian pipeline opened a few years ago where the UK plc and the energy companies were paid per unit to take it off their hands, not one penny piece was passed on to customers – the amount of money made from that could have paid for every pensioner’s winter fuel bill!
Then we have the european carbon reduction targets that the now opposition leader, ed miliband, signed us up to whilst he was in government as energy minister, that added around £200 to every household energy bill.
Factor in the carbon emissions involved with importing vast amounts of supermarket produce in a year. Our local council ask us to recycle our household rubbish, which we do into four bins, only for it to be transported 40 miles away to the nearest recycling plant!

If we use less energy, the energy companies will simply put up prices so that they maintain or slightly increase the amount of money coming in each year, which is damaging a serious argument about our environment.

Why are we not developing ways for households putting energy back into the grid via the current ac/dc supply we all have in our homes?
The technology already exists, but this would involve energy companies paying US back and of course they dont like doing this.

As William said, “So the poor customer is left to foot the bill” – spot on William!

Environmental issues have been ignored for too long, being pushed aside due to the country’s financial problems. Yes, the government should be making these commitments, even if they are challenging to meet. We never seem to meet our targets, so the higher they are the more we are likely to raise our game.

I’m glad to see some recognition of the consumers’ role in all of this, although as Pete says, there needs to be better understanding of public needs. What we need now is creative thinking about how everyday people can do their bit to contribute to cutting carbon without the need for individuals yo invest lots of money at a time when it’s already tight.

This is an issue which I just cannot get on board with, I will probably upset a few people with my views and so I shall keep quiet on this one.

I just find it amazing that people are just focussing on carbon as if it is the only thing that affects our environment. Or is it because it’s the only thing that they can prove and therefore charge for?

I take issue with the idea that environmental issues are being pushed aside due to the country’s financial problems. Nothing of the kind – It has been pushed aside because nobody in the Government or Business would invest properly in it. The technologies have been around since at least the 1960s – I know I worked on some.

It is simply due to lack of proper investment by Government or Business due to the priorities of instant profit.

I’m sure that micro generation would be a success if it was more affordable. I’m not paying thousands for solar panels or deep earth heat capture and wind upsets the council planning department. The ‘alternative’ industries, at present, are selling these items as luxury goods with a good mark up and profit, just as those who pave drives and do fancy external house work do. Mass produce solar panels and turbines and make them a common household item.

Near me is an inlet that produces a good rip tide – in and out – every six hours. No one taps into it for power. The Severn barrage is yet to be built. There’s much more that can be done to harness nature. Scottish power does quite well with their hydro schemes. There must be many other U.K. places where this could happen. It seems that financial concerns put such projects on the back burner. When the government/public opinion decides that this really is an emergency, then things will happen. Until then, we drift along happily and climate change goes on… and on.

Now help me remember. How many weeks does it take for just one new coal fired power station in China to emit as much CO2 that the UK would emit in a full year?

Of course the propenents of such carbon reduction policies will go on and on about how much China invests in reducing CO2 but there is a vast gulf between that type of investment and actually seeing a reduction within the new coal fired stations being built.

Please help my memory again. Is it a new coal fired station being built in China every 5 days or is it every 2 weeks. Most importantly, how many are being constructed with some form of carbon capture technology if any?

Of course Britain must set an example but does that mean we have to have policies designed to make the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer, and at the same time stimulate a great deal of well based distrusts towards these great stupendous leaders of all the three main political parties?

Howard Davies says:
21 May 2011

On recent Virgin Atlantic flights I was invited to make a contribution to offset my carbon footprint. As a Premium Economy (which is just a more comfortable seat with no frill economy service) passenger travelling to the USA I had already involuntarilly donated £120 Air Passenger Duty (APD). APD had been intruced by the Labour government as a “Green Tax” to help fund environmental issues. The Conservatives have retained the tax, increased it substantially and have been honest enough to admit the the money raised contributes nothing to the environment – it is just being used to trying to cover the big black hole left by greedy and incompetant bankers. As one of millions of people who have already been conned by certain “green taxes” I will not volunteer any more funding. I will however adhere to as many green practices to help the environment.

Of course it’s a good idea to use energy more efficiently and therefore use less. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tree hugging eco warrior or a climate change sceptic. By using less energy and reducing Co2 you should save money, go some way to removing our reliance on foriegn oil and gas suppliers, and perhaps also help save the planet.
But why should this individually cost us more?
Well if you allow energy suppliers to increase unit prices to compensate them for selling less so they can maintain and increase profit, then we’ll pay more.
If you give feed in tarrif money to those who can afford PV arrays but paid for by us all, then we’ll pay more.
If you lend (rather than grant) money to people for energy efficient measures which will take forever to repay, save next to nothing on the bills because savings will be used to repay the loan, and charge interest on top. then we’ll pay more.
Who is going to saddle themselves with a several thousand pound loan and see little or no improvement in their energy bills for 25 years?
Not me, and I would think not very many over 50 who might never see the benefit (and not too many under 50 either).

What’s wrong with keeping it all simple, at least to start with.
Everyone can get their lofts insulated for about £150, everyone can get their cavity walls filled for about £150, and they can get this now. They can reap the benefits immediately. Over 70’s can have this for free.
Will this grant support continue when we have the “green deal” ?
What do you think?
Why not set ever improving targets for energy efficient appliances, perhaps similar to the emmission improvements car makers had to comply with?

When all the basic (less headline catching) measures have been taken then think about the more exotic private home renewable subsidies like Solar heat, Solar PV, heat pumps, wind and water etc.
At least then less of the hard to come by renewable energy will be wasted.

Perhaps I’m missing something but reducing Co2 cost effectively whilst also saving all of us consumers money seems very straightforward to me.
Of course to a polititian a simple approach simply won’t do.
They think they’re smart.
I don’t.