The issue of rising gas prices has dominated the news for many months and the energy crisis is not going away. The UK’s biggest energy supplier, Centrica, has said that soaring energy prices could last up to two years but we are not powerless. Energy efficiency measures save fuel, cut energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Wholesale gas prices rose throughout 2021 and it’s an international problem set to continue. An unusually cold winter in Europe last year drove up demand, with China and other parts of Asia also experiencing higher demand. This was compounded by Russian pipeline gas supplies, which were lower than expected and linked to the war in Ukraine.
Energy price cap
There is another looming issue – the energy price cap, which is the maximum amount a utility company can charge customers per year rose by 54% to £1,971 from the 1st of April. If you are on a prepayment meter, the increase is even higher - a staggering £708.
While for some, the price hike is an annoyance but for many, it will plunge them into fuel poverty. An estimated 6 million households are expected to struggle to pay their fuel bill with many choosing between buying food or fuel.
And this is not the end of the story. The price cap is reviewed every six months by the energy regulator, OFGEM and the next price cap will be announced in October 2022 with another increase expected - potentially of around £400 to £600. So what can we all do to make meaningful savings on our energy bills?
Get the basics done first – insulate
Britain has the oldest and leakiest housing stock in Europe. Less than two per cent of homes score top in the energy efficiency rankings. This means more energy is needed to keep homes warm in winter, pushing up gas bills and greenhouse gas emissions.
Research by the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group shows that improving insulation is the best place to start. Better insulation could save an average household more than £500 per year on energy bills – a collective annual saving across all UK households of £7.8 billion.
There are a whole host of simple, quick, cheap and effective measures that can be done yourself. Read all about them here.
Do your research
A good starting point is to find out where the leakiest parts of your home are so you can focus on the areas that will make the biggest difference. Particularly on windy days, track down those drafts and add insulation foam tape to plug the gaps.
Loft insulation to 30cm depth is also essential and pays back in less than a year. Cavity wall insulation or solid wall insulation also offer great energy saving costs. Wall insulation comes with an independent 25 year guarantee.
There are many companies that will come into your home and do an energy survey for you by using thermal imaging equipment to identify where the heat is being lost from. Surveys generally start at around £100 and some companies offer them free of charge if the household is in fuel poverty. These aren't essential but can help if you're not sure where to start.
Pumping money into ground source heating
Another consideration is replacing your heating system. The Government is incentivising the installation of ground or air source heat pump grants to replace old gas boilers. The initiative, announced in the autumn, will offer households a one-off £5,000 grant for air-source heat pumps or £6,000 for ground-source heat pumps. It will operate on a first come, first served basis and will enable 30,000 heat pumps to be installed every year for three years. The scheme opens in April 2022.
But for many people, these bigger upgrades are out of reach for practical or financial reasons, in which case, is just as important to focus on the simpler, low cost insulation measures.
Support is available
There are a range of grants and payments that are available from the Government to help with energy efficiency measures and paying your bills.
Go to the Simple Energy Advice website to find out what you are eligible for. The Energy Saving Trust is also a great source of information on this topic. The Ofgem website also has a helpful summary of grant schemes including the Warm Home discount, which is for the most vulnerable customers.
The Centre for Sustainable Energy has lots of advice on a wide range of energy saving topics and they have a free phone helpline too: 0800 082 2234. If you are based in Scotland, call Home Energy Scotland on: 0808 808 2282 and, for Northern Ireland homeowners, call Northern Ireland Energy Advice on 0800 111 4455.
You can also ask your energy supplier if you are eligible for support through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), which obligates medium and large energy suppliers to fund the installation of energy efficiency measures. Your supplier will work with installers to introduce certain efficiency measures, such as loft or wall insulation, or heating upgrades. Eligibility depends on whether you receive certain benefits, listed here.
All customers will receive a £200, temporary reduction off bills. This will be repaid from future bills in £40 instalments when wholesale gas prices reduce. Those in homes rated A to D for council tax reasons will receive a £150 rebate into their bank account from their Local Authority. You can find out your Council Tax band here. Finally, please talk to your energy supplier if you are worried but please bear in mind those working in call centres will be receiving a lot of enquiries.
The bottom line
Putting time into making your home warm is going to be time and money well spent as the energy crisis continues. Get ahead of the game so that you’ve done all you can to make your home warm and cosy before energy prices rise again. Burning gas produces greenhouse gas emissions so your pocket and the planet will thank you for it.
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