How to reduce energy use in the home

22 Jul 2014


Click here to enlarge the infographic

Energy Saving Kitchen InfographicNearly half of a household's energy bill comes from the cost of running kitchen appliances, such as washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators and ovens, according to research by the Energy Saving Trust.

Even if people adopt the most energy efficient behaviours, they will struggle to reduce energy consumption on older and inefficient appliances - particularly those that guzzle power when they are switched on 24/7, such as fridges and freezers pushing up costs and carbon emissions.

Consumers are increasingly being urged to trade in old appliances for more efficient products that can save them money in the long run. For example, an average dishwasher costs around £40 per year to run, but a new one typically costs £12 per year less than and older one and will use less water, EST found.

Research by Global Action Plan (GAP) earlier this year found that consumers are currently paying about £300 per year to power domestic appliances throughout their homes, totalling £8bn across the UK. But by switching to more energy-efficient appliances, an average home could cut its bills by £99.

Meanwhile, using EST figures, appliance manufacturer Beko found that a household could save nearly £118 per year if it was to replace all of their appliances with its EcoSmart range.

George Mead, marketing manager for Beko, said it was now working with retailers to try and teach shoppers about the value of buying more efficiency goods.

Even the EU's Ecolabel scheme has been accused of confusing customers rather than helping them. As the scale starts at A+++ many shoppers may believe their A-rated appliance is the best on the market when in fact it is ranked as the fourth most efficient.

"Consumers are often confused by the energy efficiency ratings of products," explains Mead. "They were introduced a number of years ago but now most new white goods will have an A rating at the minimum so A+++ isn't necessarily the clearest way to explain how green a product is.

"By talking to our consumers we've found that equating money savings with eco efficiency makes green products much simpler to understand."

Understandably, many consumers are reluctant to pay seemingly high upfront costs for new appliances, when they feel their old ones work perfectly well.

But GAP's report found a lack of national initiatives to boost the sale of energy efficient goods. It highlights a range of ways that countries have encouraged consumers to buy greener appliances over the years.

French consumers, for example, are rewarded with tax credits for buying efficient appliances, while in the US from 2009 to 2012, consumers received cash rebates from the government. Brazil, meanwhile, offered a free energy efficient appliance to poorer households from 2008 to 2010.

With the EU now looking set to agree an energy efficiency target for 2030, helping consumers cut their demand is likely to move further up the agenda over the coming years.

But until new policies are brought into play, UK customers are being encouraged to study the potential benefits.

"Large appliances such as fridge freezers are switched on, kept on, and in use every day throughout the year," adds Mead. "Similarly, over a third of UK households are fitted with water meters, meaning consumers are becoming more aware of their own water usage, particularly through washing machines and dishwashers.

"Therefore, by investing in an eco-friendly appliance, consumers can be sure that they'll be making savings in the long run."

Discover how the Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell can benefit your business

01 Jul 2014

Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL

Way back in 1972 Mercedes-Benz developed the first electricity powered van and now, with the Vito E-Cell, they once again lead the way in a technological field that makes increasing economic sense for business across multiple sectors.

If your business runs small deliveries or a fleet operation and you're looking to reduce costs (who isn't?) then then the progressive, sustainable technology pioneered by Mercedes with the Vito E-Cell is increasingly hard to ignore.

Electricity-powered vehicles are no longer the marginal concern they once were, with Low Emission Zone (LEZ) areas spreading throughout Europe, not to mention the favourable operating costs offered by such vehicles, the business case for electric-drive vans is increasingly compelling, especially for city operators. And if it's an upgrade your business is exploring then the Vito E-Cell undoubtedly represents the vanguard of the electronic-drive van market right now.

The Vito E-Cell marks a real transition point for the electricity powered van market in that it significantly broadens the scope and adaptability of sustainable vehicles, so the advantages of progressive sustainable technology no longer come at the cost of practical application. This is a van that can match the needs of an increasingly broad range of businesses without the compromises that have been associated with such technology in the past.

The first thing drivers of the Vito E-Cell will notice is just how familiar it looks. This is a van that will feel like a seamless transition for anyone more used to standard petrol-powered models, until you start the engine that is ... The Vito E-Cell offers a completely noiseless drive but delivers power and agility that might come as a surprise. With 60 kW of output and 280 Nm of torque available from standstill the E-Cell offers a drive that is pacier and more dynamic than ever before. This van has been designed to navigate urban traffic with ease and delivers a nimble, responsive drive courtesy of ESP - a dynamic handling control system that is unique to Vito E-Cell.

Mercedes have also targeted quick, practical recharging with the Vito E-Cell, making it easier than ever before to charge your vehicle. The Vito E-Cell can be fully charged in just six hours, giving you an impressive 80 mile range. This range is enhanced by the clever integration of technology that converts energy from deceleration into electricity, meaning that every time you step on the brake you're effectively filling the tank!

The Mercedes Vito E-Cell is available through S & B Commercials with flexible finance options and a broad array of customisable elements, meaning there's considerable scope to design a bespoke package that suits you and your business needs perfectly.

Addressing fresh water deficiency

16 Jun 2014

A frozen faucet

For many countries, fresh water availability is an acute concern. In some cases it is the sheer number of people in one location that is triggering the deficiency, in others it is rising sea levels due to climate change and in some situations it is a particular industry, such as cotton that is causing the problem. Because of this, over one billion people have no access to clean drinking water and two million people die annually from water-related diseases.

Most of these grave concerns are occurring in the developing world and therefore not of immediate interest to industrialised nations and international media. Ironically, it is actually the developed world that has caused many of today's problems through the purchasing of products that require enormous amounts of fresh water, such as cotton, leather or beef, and by contributing to climate change through the burning of fossil fuels. On top of this, the demand for fresh water is expected to increase by over 50 per cent by 2050. Clearly, something needs to change.

But how do we change? And do we have the necessary tools to help us value water properly across the globe? Would it be possible for example to put a differentiated price on water or should it be governed by laws and regulations?

Many questions are up for discussion and how we view the commodity of fresh water may ultimately have to change. Naturally these issues are vitally important to the business world - just as access to water is essential to life, it is also essential to the sustainability of any business.

Companies need to start by making sure they manage their own fresh water sustainably, not depleting scarce resources, reusing it and making sure the discharge does not affect the local availability of clean freshwater.

At AkzoNobel we treat water as the limited resource it is by optimizing our water-use through greater efficiency, innovative processes and new technologies. Our ambition is to achieve sustainable fresh water management at all our 300 manufacturing sites by 2015 - to date 86% of manufacturing sites have such systems.

But we also know that on its own, efficiency within our operations is not enough to safeguard the resources we need for our business. We recognize that we must mobilize partnerships with government bodies, NGOs and local communities to improve our understanding of the shared fresh water challenges we face, enabling us to make better management decisions.

Certainly a collaborative approach involving many different parties will be essential if we all are to overcome the many technical, financial, legal and humanitarian issues often associated with access to fresh water.

Johan Widheden is a sustainability specialist at AkzoNobel

The value of within-day flexibility

10 Jun 2014

SSE Hadyard wind farm

The electricity system in the UK is facing unprecedented change. The UK is planning to build significant wind generation, as well as solar to meet its renewable and decarbonisation targets.

Output from wind and solar is inherently variable, and difficult to forecast accurately. Substantial growth in intermittent renewable generation will lead to a growth and variability in forecast error - as wind and solar generation cannot be forecasted perfectly.

As a result, greater flexibility will be needed to manage the unpredictability and variability of intermittent generation (wind and solar) and new plants will be needed to replace the existing thermal capacity which is being shut down.

During 2013, Pöyry ran a major multi-client study to understand the risks and opportunities associated with rising levels of renewable penetration on the system for all plant types.

Increasing wind penetration leads to wind becoming the dominant source of error on the system in the future. The subsequent flexibility required by the system is provided primarily by CCGTs and pumped storage/Demand response.

Outturn price volatility increases much faster than day-ahead price volatility - the increase in forecast error and the need to balance positions leads to more expensive plant being offered into the market at short notice.

Despite the increasing within-day price volatility, within-day re-trading revenues are low on average compared to energy and capacity payment revenues - however, the most efficient plant within a particular class could take advantage of this within-day price volatility.

In addition, the study analysed the effectiveness of the FiT CfD (Feed in tariff Contract for Difference). The objective of the FiT CfD is to improve the incentive to undertake low carbon generation investments by increasing certainty for investors, in particular in reducing/removing the long term market risk for investors.

We have examined how the risk for offtakers and developers changes under the new FiT CfD compared to the current Renewable Obligation.

Independent generators under the FiT CfD will not be required to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), but we consider this will be likely in order to manage their basis risk exposure.

The PPA discount in the case of the FIT CfD will therefore consist of the following:

- A FiT CfD basis risk which in turn comprises:

  • the within-day re-trading risk - any price and volume risk accrued through adjustments to the generator's positions through market actions up to gate closure (T-1);
  • the imbalance costs if the generator is unable to meet its contractual positions and is therefore either long or short at outturn;

- Risk related to the possibility of negative market prices, negative day-ahead capture price risk. While the FiT CfD provides a top-up to the electricity revenues up to the level of the strike price, the FiT CfD payment will not be higher if the reference price is less than zero, hence, a potential risk to both offtaker and the generator; the likelihood of negative reference prices increases with rising levels of wind generation on the system; and

- Transaction costs.

The public report for the study is available here

Asheya Patten is senior consultant at Pöyry Management Consulting

Why your business should be recycling more

30 Apr 2014


We've all become aware of issues like sustainability in the last few years, accepting that there's a consequence to all of our wasteful actions instead of blindly abusing our natural resources. Nevertheless, anyone who works in a business environment will know that the amount of waste we produce is practically - and often literally - criminal.

One fact which seems to present the scale of our ‘rubbish' dilemma is highlighted by Adam Minter in his revealing book Junkyard Planet is that after agriculture, the junk trade is the second biggest employer on the planet.

A lot of modern waste goes wastefully to the tip or landfall sites, and a survey by Business Waste, revealed that 80 per cent of business don't care where their rubbish ends up. Fly-tipping is still common (and highly illegal) as are business employees posing as members of public at the tip (also illegal).

Businesses currently pay a punitive £72 tax for every ton of rubbish that goes to landfill, which indicates that the business community needs to realise how easy it can be to enhance the natural environment and save money. Scotland alone is paying £95m per year in landfill takes, driving the countries policy makers to produce a ‘Zero Waste Scotland' campaign.

Londoners produce an Olympic sized swimming pool's worth of rubbish every hour; most of which is burnt or goes to landfill. Nevertheless we must still acknowledge the steps we've made since the turn of the century when recycling rates were just 8 per cent; now the rate is around 25 per cent. These numbers have no doubt by the increasing ease and reward offered to consumers when choosing to recycle mobile phones and general technology devices.

We need to get rid of the view that junk just disappears into the ether, and this is where Adam Minter's aforementioned book is most enlightening. You'll notice how we can receive money for old mobile phones, but where exactly do they end up?

There are huge shipments of technological and electrical junk delivered to the developing world where low paid workers scavenge for precious scrap metals; this is the rawest form of recycling and we should be both disturbed and impressed by what goes on in these sites. The ability to identify precious metals from a heap of junk is what keeps the world's economy viable - especially in places like China.

In terms of sustainability, this kind of scavenging represents a better option than mining for more precious metals, producing more synthetic materials, or sending usable goods to landfill, but in terms of dangerous work and ethical practice it doesn't always seem ideal.

The best solution on a UK scale is to divide our rubbish into metal, plastic, glass, card and paper and to aim for a zero waste society as they are in Scotland. Being part of a business recycling programme is easy and cost effective. Simply differentiate your rubbish and find a contractor such as Exclusive Service to take it away.

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BusinessGreen's Industry Voice blog offers experts from across the low carbon economy the opportunity to present their views, opinions and analysis on the latest green business developments

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