There are now 72 active energy suppliers in the UK market, according to a new set of facts & figures released by the energy regulator Ofgem – with small & medium companies making up around one fifth of the market.
Ofgem estimates a saving of £375 by switching away from one of the ‘big 6’ suppliers
Gas prices are lower in the UK compared to the average European country
UK electricity prices are around average
2.1 million electricity customers switched suppliers during the first half of 2018
In 2014, new regulations made it easier for smaller ‘independent’ energy companies to enter the market, providing some much-needed competition for the so-called ‘big 6’ who up until then had dominated the industry. Eversmart Energy launched in 2016 with an aim to educate energy customers who were paying too much, and moving them onto cheaper tariffs.
Thousands of churches around the UK have agreed to switch to 100% renewable electricity in an effort to fight climate change.
The Church of England have lead the effort, with thousands of Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and other places of worship making the switch. Fifteen of the country’s most famous Anglican cathedrals are also on board – including Liverpool, Coventry, Salisbury, Southwark, St Albans and York Minster.
With such a large network of buildings taking part, it has been estimated that the move will divert £5 million away from fossil fuel companies to clean energy providers.
‘One of the great moral challenges of our time’
Church leaders have described climate change as “one of the great moral challenges of our time”, with the Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam – the church’s lead bishop on the environment – calling it “an enormous injustice” which “hurts the poor first and worst”.
Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury and the chair of Christian Aid, said the Church of England will be selling all of its shares in fossil fuel companies who are not on track to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement.
“Churches are part of a global network and so are often very aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters suffering from droughts, floods and extreme weather around the world,” he said.
He urged the government to set a target to cut UK emissions to zero by 2050 to ensure Britain “remains a green and pleasant land at home and a climate leader abroad”.
New proposals by Ofgem could cut the cost of running an electric car and allow 60% more vehicles to be charged at once.
The energy regulator Ofgem has put forward a set of proposals that would encourage EV owners to charge their cars outside of peak periods – when demand is lower or when renewable energy is more readily available.
Flexible energy tariffs are already available for domestic electricity customers, where electricity is cheaper at certain times of day. A similar scheme for electric cars could increase capacity by at least 60% without having to build new power stations, says Ofgem. Instead, vehicle owners could take advantage of abundant renewable energy when it’s windy or sunny.
Preparing for the smart grid
In the future, electric cars could collectively be used to store excess renewable energy when supply out-strips demand, selling the power back to the grid when needed. Doing so could reduce costs not just for vehicle owners, but electricity customers in general.
“The way we generate, transport and use electricity – and power our cars – is undergoing a radical transformation in Great Britain” says Jonathan Brearley, executive director of systems and networks at Ofgem. “Ofgem will ensure that the energy system is fit for this exciting, cleaner future and at the lowest cost for consumers.”
The National Grid is preparing for a phase of rapid change, as electric vehicles are set to replace petrol & diesel cars by 2040.
Vehicle owners would need a smart meter as well as a smart charger to take advantage of cheaper off-peak energy. For now, the flexible charging system is still in the planning & consultation stage.
Almost half a million people switched electricity suppliers last month, with record numbers making the move away from a large supplier to a smaller independent company.
According to new figures released by Energy UK last week, 222,036 customers switched to a ‘mid-tier’ energy provider during the month of June – the highest number ever.
The number of switchers is up 19% compared to the same month in 2017. So far this year 2.7 million people have switched suppliers, compared to 2.6 million by the same point last year.
A record-breaking 5.5 million electricity customers have made the switch so far in 2018.
Confidence to switch
Research suggests that consumers are feeling more confident than ever when it comes to switching energy suppliers, with 9 out of 10 saying that they are happy with the process according to research from the Energy Switch Guarantee.
Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, seems to agree. He said:
“The record numbers switching to small and mid-tier suppliers show that more and more customers are taking advantage of the ever-growing competition and choice out there.”
“It only takes a few minutes to either check with your own supplier or to look at what’s on offer from nearly 70 competing suppliers in the market. With the Energy Switch Guarantee in place consumers should feel even more confident that switching will be simple, speedy and safe.”
Save up to £400 per year
Eversmart Energy entered the market in 2016 after new Ofgem regulations made it easier for smaller companies to compete with the Big 6.
The government has laid out plans for ‘at least half of new cars to be ultra low emission by 2030’, as part of its new ‘Road to Zero’ strategy announced yesterday.
The strategy explains how the government intends to meet its ultimate goal of banning new petrol & diesel vehicles by 2040. Low emission diesel and hybrid vehicles will play a role in the eventual shift over to fully-electric cars. The government wants the UK to be ‘the best place in the world to build and own an electric vehicle’.
More charging points
The government wants to see charging points built into all new street lights, new homes and other buildings such as offices. £400 million will be poured into expanding the existing charging infrastructure, putting more charging points in public spaces and service stations.
The strategy also mentions a £40 million fund for developing new charging technologies.
The plan admits that electric and low-emission vehicles are still relatively expensive, and outlines a number of financial incentives for people to take up green vehicles – including the extension of the plug-in car grant, possibly as far as 2020.
There will also be a £500 incentive for EV owners to install a charging point in their own home, with similar grants for workplaces.
Hybrid cars will not be banned
In a move that has been praised by the motor industry, hybrid cars will not be banned after 2040.
Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? magazine, told the Press Association the government was “starting to listen to the automotive industry’s concerns”.
“The fear was that the government would force the uptake of full electric vehicles – something that the car-buying public have yet to show an interest in… Instead, this news gives the freedom for a more phased uptake of technologies, including part-electric hybrids, as well as the option for alternative power sources to emerge, such as hydrogen.”
Working with the energy industry
The ‘Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce’ will be created to get the energy and automotive industries talking to each other to plan for huge increase in demand for electricity and infrastructure.
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, said: “The coming decades are going to be transformative for our motor industry, our national infrastructure and the way we travel. We expect to see more change in the transport sector over the next 10 years than we have in the previous century.”
“The Road to Zero Strategy sets out a clear path for Britain to be a world leader in the zero emission revolution – ensuring that the UK has cleaner air, a better environment and a stronger economy.”
Of all the electricity used in the first quarter of 2018, over 30% came from renewable sources – according to new figures from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released last week.
Renewables were up by 3.1% compared to the same period last year, despite the higher demand for energy caused by the ‘beast from the east’ cold snap. Stronger winds and greater installed capacity (41.9GW at the end of 2018) are both thought to be the main factors behind the record-breaking stats.
30.1% of all electricity used came from renewable sources during January to March 2018
The figure was 27% during the same period last year
Wind generation was up by one third compared to last year
Wind accounted for almost one fifth of total generation, at 19.11%
For comparison, gas power was 39.9%, nuclear was 17.9% and coal was 9.4%
Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at RenewableUK, welcomed the positive news but warned that much more needed to be done:
“The landmark report from the government’s official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, warns that we need to do more to reach our clean energy targets, and it recommends deploying more onshore wind because it’s the cheapest source of energy… We hope Ministers will listen to their own experts and take swift action to lift the block on future onshore projects.”
Here comments refer to the government’s cuts to onshore wind funding in recent years.
Oil giant BP announced today that it’s in the process of buying Chargemaster, who operate the country’s largest EV charging network with over 6,500 public charging points around the UK.
The sale will cost BP £130 million.
BP say that the move is an “important step in scaling up and deploying a fast and ultra-fast charging network on BP’s UK forecourts.” BP, who run around 1,200 petrol stations, are anticipating a rapid shift from petrol to electric cars over the coming years. They estimate that by 2040 there will be around 12 million electric vehicles on British roads.
Operates POLAR, the UK’s largest EV charging network
Is also a leading supplier of charging infrastructure
Operates over 6,500 public charging points
Will be re-branded as “BP Chargemaster” once the sale is complete
Chief executive of BP Downstream Tufan Erginbilgic said: “At BP we believe that fast and convenient charging is critical to support the successful adoption of electric vehicles. Combining BP’s and Chargemaster’s complementary expertise, experience and assets is an important step towards offering fast and ultra-fast charging at BP sites across the UK and to BP becoming the leading provider of energy to low carbon vehicles, on the road or at home.”
Plans are underway to build a 400MW pumped hydro scheme on the east shore of Loch Ness, capable of powering 400,000 homes.
The energy storage system would take excess electricity generated by wind farms and use it to pump water up to an elevated reservoir. The water can then be released at times of high demand, moving turbines and generating power on its way back down to the loch.
Once completed, the hydro plant will be able to provide 2.4GWh of storage capacity for the grid over a six hour period.
Energy storage has long been a challenge associated with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, which don’t necessarily produce power when demand is highest.
Boost to the local economy
The proposed site is just south of Dores, a small town around 6 miles away from Inverness. The upper reservoir will blend into the natural geographic features from where it gets its name – Red John.
Intelligent Land Investments (ILI), the company behind the project, say that it will create jobs for up to 300 people.
Mark Wilson from ILI said: “Pumped storage hydro is the largest and cleanest form of energy storage that currently exists – and a key enabler in helping Scotland meet its green energy ambitions.”
“As well as dramatically improving our energy security, this transformational proposal is a fantastic opportunity for the community to benefit from the energy transition while helping turbo-charge Scotland’s decarbonisation efforts.”
The Red John project will join the existing Foyers hydro-electric power station, also situated on the east shore of Loch Ness.
The number of new solar power installations in the UK has dropped for the second year in a row, according to a new study published by Solar Power Europe this week.
The decline has been so steep that is has brought the entire EU average down to practically zero, despite several European countries installing record-breaking numbers of panels last year.
The UK installed 4.1GW worth of new solar panels in 2015
In 2016, the figure was down to just under 2GW
Last year, we installed just0.95GW
Lack of government support
The sharp drop has been blamed on government cuts to solar panel subsidies, making them a less attractive financial investment to homeowners and businesses.
The Labour party have called the government’s commitment to green energy “nothing but an empty PR move”, while the chief executive of Solar Power Europe said “Solar power has been voted the most popular energy source in the UK, it is therefore sad to see the UK government not take advantage of the huge potential of solar.”
Energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd challenged the criticism, stating that the cuts were necessary to keep energy bills down “whilst ensuring there is a sensible level of support for low carbon technologies that represent value for money.”
Still a world leader
Despite the recent slow growth, Britain is still ranked sixth internationally in terms of installed solar capacity, and third in Europe behind Germany and Italy. China are now the biggest, with a total of 130GW installed capacity providing 1.07% of the country’s consumption.
The Unilever-owned ice cream brand are pressuring the UK government to scrap the obstacles that are preventing more windfarms from being built.
Policy changes and subsidy cuts in recent years have brought onshore windfarm construction to a grinding halt. The ice cream makers, who have a long history of campaigning on environmental issues, are hoping to raise public awareness and force the government into rethinking its renewable energy policies.
They have teamed up with climate change charity 10:10 to launch the ‘Blown Away’ campaign, accompanied by a promotional video:
In a poll conducted by 10:10, three quarters of the British public said that they support onshore wind energy. The charity states that despite this, the government are pulling funding away from wind energy and pushing nuclear and fracking instead.
Cecily Spelling, Campaign Manager at 10:10, said “The UK government made a clear commitment to tackle climate change when it signed the Paris Agreement in December 2015, yet they continue to block support for renewables. Public support for renewables is sky high; almost 75% of the public support onshore wind energy, yet the government is choosing to support fossil fuels over renewables. We need to show that, come rain or shine, the British public won’t stand for this!”
To show their support for the campaign, Ben & Jerry’s have re-branded some of their most popular flavours with wind-themed names, such as “Strawberry Breeze-cake” and “Cherry Gale-cia”. The flavours will be sold at half-price on ‘Windy Wednesdays’.
The company are backing a petition to lift the effective ban on onshore windfarms – you can find more information here.