Hi, I am Toby, one of the directors at CREW Energy. CREW is a not-for-profit community benefit society (Coop) that is supporting SW London’s transition to a low carbon economy. We work with schools, civic buildings, local residents and businesses to help them cut carbon, improve air quality and reduce bills.
CREW also has an active community outreach programme, helping those struggling to pay bills, with face to face consultations, phone advice and home visits. You can find out more about our current project at: https://swleap.org.uk/.
The gas crisis
I wanted to spend some time in this article talking about energy prices. As you will know by now, prices are set to rise by 54% in April and are likely to rise further in October due to the Ukraine war and its impact on the gas market (see chart). Current estimates are that the next price cap, in October, will see a further 24% rise and this could increase further as the war drags on.
So what can you do?
Firstly, make behavioural changes. Turn down your thermostat 1 degree, and reach for a jumper to keep warm. Put a snake at your front door to reduce drafts. Close doors so you keep warmth in the room. Make sure your dishwasher and washing machines are full before running them. Reduce the time you spend in the shower or even adopt my latest fad, cold showers. These improve circulation, reduce inflammation and increase endorphins. What's not to like? For more tips click here.
Secondly, send your supplier an updated reading before March 31st so you are not charged at the higher rate for energy already used. If you are on a non-smart prepayment meter, top up for as much as you can before April 1st to avoid the cap increase.
Then consider adopting energy saving technologies like LED lights (they will save 50-90% depending on fitting type) and smart thermostats which will learn how long it takes to warm your home and adjust that time depending on outside temperatures, something us geeks call weather compensation. Smart radiator valves will allow you to zone your home and only heat rooms when you need to. Why heat a bedroom from 5 pm or even at lunch time? Loft insulation is relatively inexpensive and can save up to 20% on heating bills.
Current Government guidance is to have 270mm of loft insulation, so go measure yours and see if it is up to scratch. New technologies like Hydromx can cut heating demand by 25% by replacing water in your radiators and transferring heat more efficiently.
There has never been a better time to invest in solar panels. Prices have come down as energy costs have soared. Payback periods have fallen from a typical 12-13 years to 6-7 years as gas prices have risen. Wandsworth Council is running its Solar Together scheme currently or alternatively CREW can recommend a preferred installer.
Heat pumps are an increasingly discussed option and yet remain expensive, although the Government’s new Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) will offer up to £5k towards the installation of a heat pump. With gas looking likely to be volatile for years to come what with Russian sanctions and increased demand from the Far East, as Japan and China move away from coal, the incentives for heat pumps grow. For illustration, according to Martin Lewis, electricity prices are due to rise 33% in April (from 21 to 28p) while gas will be up a staggering 67% (from 4.5p to 7.5p).
If all this information feels somewhat overwhelming, help is on hand. If you are struggling to pay your bills call our free and independent helpline 0800 0862 706 or come to one of our energy cafes: https://swleap.org.uk/events/ Just remember to have a recent gas and electric bill to hand.
If you would like help deciding on what technologies to invest in, CREW provides a service called the Home Carbon Audit that will offer suggestions including solar panels, energy efficiency measures and heat pumps. This service costs between £150-£300 depending on the size of your home and includes a 60-90 minute survey, a report and a 30-minute debrief call. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The next year will be a difficult one for us all, but it can also be an opportunity to change behaviours, make our homes more energy efficient and make us more resilient to future price shocks from mad dictators and energy market swings. CREW is on hand should you need support or advice.