Sometimes bad news can harbour good news. As colder weather approaches, British people are becoming increasingly concerned over soaring energy prices, as the main UK suppliers - known as the 'Big Six' and comprised of British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, npower, Scottish Power, and SSE - recently announced increases in their tariffs to figures up to eight times higher than increases in average weekly earnings. These prices are set to increase in the coming years, and there is also concern regarding the impact the tariff increases will have on low-income residents this winter, particularly elderly citizens, after an estimated 31,000 people died of the cold last year.
There is some evidence that the price increases by the dominant energy companies are not actually necessary, according to data showing rising profit margins. It's not hard to believe: the Big Six companies are not exactly known for their ethics. Really, they're not great at using their power responsibly. And let's not forget EDF's ugly attempt to imprison No Dash for Gas activists for occupying one of their power stations last year, which led some of their customers to change energy suppliers.
The good news about the recent price increases, then, is that the power to control where our energy comes from no longer has to stay in the hands of the Big Six, so British citizens can now afford to choose greener, smaller, more ethical energy suppliers, and put their carbon footprint first. In many cases the green energy companies are now actually cheaper than the Big Six due to offering fixed energy tariffs, and both Good Energy and Ecotricity have calculators on their websites that allow you to work out how much you can save by switching.
Which means a big green light for Britain's green energy sector.
In reality, the Big Six energy hikes are reflective of the true cost of non-renewable energy, since the fossil fuels that power our homes are doing immense damage to our planet, and what they cost the Earth is nothing to what they may be costing our pockets. By making a simple New Year's Resolution you can help to reduce UK's dependence on fossil fuels, reduce the impact of climate change, invest in the green energy industry, and send a clear message to the UK government in support of green energy.
Danny Chivers, author of the No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change and one of the No Dash activists, says '[W]hy would I spend my time campaigning against the corrupt lobbying, profiteering and fossil fuel-burning of the Big Six, and then go home and send them some money through my energy bills?'
Since choosing a fixed tariff is the best way to beat the energy hikes, the two main green energy suppliers to the UK, Ecotricity and Good Energy, are both offering them. Ecotricity is based in Stroud in the UK. The company obtains all their electricity from renewable sources, and is pioneering 'green gas' by investing in 'gasmills' to help reduce fossil fuel dependency in the UK. Good Energy is a Chippenham-based company that buys power from renewable generators from across the UK. The company also has a scheme called 'Hot ROCS', where any gas customer who uses solar hot water panels to replace gas use is paid a small annual payment for having them.
Both companies recently pledged to freeze their prices until April 2014. So while switching to them won't cost you more, it will cost our planet a lot less.
Donnachadh McCarthy, Eco-Auditor and eco-author, lives in a low-impact home in London. Although he managed to reduce his gas bill with British Gas to just £18 a year through eco-innovations, it was recently increased by 583 per cent in the wake of the government's newly introduced standing charges, which Mr McCarthy explains in this article. Choosing green energy instead makes a strong statement- as Mr McCarthy says, 'I support green electricity companies, not only because they produce zero carbon electricity but it means their profits fund lobbying for a renewable energy economy, whereas giving our money to the Big Six means that we are funding their disastrous lobbying for slowing down the transfer to a green economy and for massive subsidies to yet more dangerous nuclear white-elephants.'
The UK Government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. While this policy looks at providing incentives for people to make their homes more energy efficient, it does not encourage Brits to switch to green energy usage, even though changing suppliers would make a significant contribution to the proposed low-carbon economy and also provide a boost in green jobs in the UK.
For people who want to improve their green credentials further, they need only to look to Penney Poyzer, TV presenter and one of the Independent's 100 women who changed the world, for inspiration. Ms Poyzer co-owns a pioneering eco-home in Nottingham, and she says, 'Insulation and air tightness is key - holding on to the heat you buy/generate is the best investment you can make to battle price hikes...The rest of our energy needs comes from uber green supplier Good Energy. For us as extremely low energy users it is vital that our local carbon strategy is complemented by buying renewable energy from a trusted source. It is easy to switch up to green and switch down CO2 emissions.'
For those of us who aren't quite at that level of green commitment, changing energy suppliers is an effective yet achievable option.
Starting a green energy revolution has never been easier - or cheaper.