Drop the fossil fuels this winter! 🍃
We’ve been thinking a lot about energy over the last year – figuring out how to make our own for shows, structuring our days around sunrise and sunset to give our solar lights their best chance, and even recording when we use our computers so we can offset the electricity used.
But recently we’ve started thinking about how we use energy outside the company. According to the Energy Saving Trust, household energy makes up a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions. If every UK home took energy efficiency measures today (like the ones we suggest below), we would achieve a whopping 11% of the UK’s net-zero carbon emissions target.
We want to unplug from wasting fossil fuels. Here are some ways you can change how you engage with energy this winter.
1. Stop phantom energy – unplug!
Many electric devices consume electricity 24-7, even when we’re not using them or think we’ve switched them off. For example, even when turned off, TVs and game consoles use power when left plugged in, and plugged-in chargers can draw power even when they’re not attached to a device. This wasted energy is called various names – like phantom energy, or vampire power. Back in the 2000s, studies reckoned phantom energy made up 10% of our electricity bill - but this has grown with developments in tech. A 2015 study by the NRDC thought a huge 23% of household electricity consumption was down to phantom power.
So how do you fight it? The most obvious way is to make sure you unplug appliances when you’re not using them. But the simpler you can make this for yourself, the easier it is to do. To save time, you could plug several devices into a power strip – so you only have to switch the strip off to stop all the appliances from wasting energy. There's lots more advice online, but this guide is a great place to start.
2. Get a smart meter and control your flow.
Smart meters are pretty simple – they measure your gas and electricity use, and show you it in near real-time, in pounds and pence. But – as you might have heard in adverts on TV – if everyone in the UK got a smart meter, we’d save the amount of energy it takes to power all the homes in Aberdeen, Cardiff and Manchester.
Basically, by making you aware of your energy use, you can figure out how to drop it – saving money and the planet. For example, check out this New York Times article on how simply using energy at off-peak times can help our move towards renewable power!
Fancy getting one? Just contact your energy supplier to book an installation – head over to Smart Energy GB to connect to your supplier’s smart meter page, or give it a Google.
Rent-friendly: If you directly pay your electricity and gas bills yourself, you can choose to install a smart meter – although OFGEM recommend you let your landlord know before you do. If your landlord pays the energy bill, then the decision to get a smart meter is up to them.
3. Up your efficiency – look for the signs.
Just like phantom energy, a chunk of our electricity bill is down to pointless waste by inefficient devices. Next time you’re buying a new electrical appliance – or replacing a broken one – look out for labels showing how efficient they are. Even if a super-efficient appliance is more expensive, you can often gain the difference back over the appliance’s lifetime because it uses so much less power.
Currently, EU Energy labels – like the ones above – are our best guide. These should be attached to all electrical appliances. The current ratings range from A+++ down to G.
Just choosing energy-efficient devices can have a huge effect. By 2020, the European Commission predicts that the yearly energy-saving, caused by the EU Energy labels and standards, will be roughly 150 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent). That’s the equivalent to the energy consumption of the whole of Italy!
An Energy Saving Trust: Endorsed Product logo is also a good sign - appliances with these logos are among the top 20% most efficient available.
👁️🗨️ For more information about different appliances' efficiency and the potential savings from buying efficient models, check out the 'Home appliances and Key considerations' chart from The Energy Saving Trust.
4. Go green – switch to a green energy supply.
The appetite for renewable energy is sky-rocketing. The first five months of 2019 marked the first time the UK got more electricity from zero carbon sources than fossil fuels. One way to support this shift is by switching to a green energy supply for your home. Choosing a green tariff sends a message to the energy industry – that you want to avoid fossil fuels and support green energy.
A good place to start is by checking if your current supplier has green tariffs available. But it's important to be aware of two dodgy ways suppliers can pretend their tariffs are green:
Some suppliers’ standard tariffs include a bit of green energy, on top of energy from fossil fuels. When customers sign up to the green tariff, the supplier just diverts green power already secured for the standard tariff, to their green tariff – making their standard option less green. This means you could sign up to a green tariff, and your supplier wouldn't buy or generate any new renewable power.
Other suppliers buy the proof, not the power. The certificates (called REGOs) which OFGEM issue, for every MWh of renewable electricity created, can actually be sold separately to the renewable electricity itself. Some suppliers buy REGOs for cheap, to make their power seem green, without buying the renewable energy that went with it.
(For more on these dodgy methods, head to the Energy Saving Trust’s green power page here.)
🔎 One way to gauge whether a supplier genuinely buys renewable electricity is by looking at their website. Are they explicit about the source of their power? Some genuinely green suppliers, recommended by Friends of the Earth and the Energy Saving Trust, include: Ecotricity, Good Energy, Green Energy UK, and Octopus Energy.
Rent-friendly: Like smart meters, if you’re directly responsible for paying the electricity and gas bills, you can choose your own energy supplier. Check out more info here.
We hope these suggestions are useful to you this winter – but it’s important to remember the responsibility for the climate crisis isn’t on you. As climate-justice writer Mary Heglar points out, if the light switch was already connected to clean energy, who cares if you left it on?
If we all made these changes, they could make a fantastic difference. But what could make an even greater impact is fighting to change the way our country – and this world – is run. If you can take the time off work or school, the next #GlobalClimateStrike is coming up fast, next Friday 29th November. We'll be there - drop us a message on Twitter if you want to come with us.
NEXT: The climate election toolkit: How to ask your potential MPs about the climate, and the parties' climate aims broken down.