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Generating a crisis?

Lee Johnson, Managing Director of Advanced Electrical Services explains...

Turn on the TV recently and you will no doubt have heard about the ‘crisis’ in the energy sector. The generation and distribution of electricity has certainly been in the headlines over the past few months, but what’s all the fuss about?

Reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions

Well, here’s the thing: the government is working towards its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% before 2025 and greenhouse gas emissions by 80% before 2050. To help it achieve this aim, some of our largest coal-fired power stations are going to be closed over the next five years and a number of our older nuclear plants are to close in the 2020s.

Surely these will be replaced, any sensible person would argue, and they will be – but not before the closure of the old ones; these new power stations are also extremely expensive to commission.

So why not wait and keep these sites open until the new ones are up and running? Well, the government in its wisdom has made a commitment to EU rules on carbon emissions, so this is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Brownouts and blackouts?

The big fear is that demand will exceed available power, indeed, Ofgem (the energy regulator) has recently warned that today’s spare capacity of 14% could fall to just 4% in the next three years. This has resulted in widespread panic, apocalyptic warnings of ‘brownouts’ and ‘blackouts’ and – you’ve guessed it – the warning that we are going to have to pay more for energy through bills and taxes.

So the question now is what can we do? Well, shopping around for the best tariff is certainly a good place to start, although let’s face it, the energy market is a monopoly controlled by the big sixenergy companies, so although it does pay to shop around, you’re only likely to make single-figure percentage savings.

Regardless of what Ed Miliband says, neither he nor any other politician is going to control the market and, more to the point, if politicians wanted to control the market they shouldn’t have privatised it in the first place! (Don’t get me started on politicians.)

Use less energy - and invest in technology

So the answer is simple, use less energy and generate your own. I’m always banging on about using less electricity, largely because there are plenty of ways to do this, especially with the ongoing advances in technology. Low-energy lighting, inverters and voltage optimisation should be at the top of any companys’ ‘to do’ list. But don’t forget the most basic (and cheapest to implement) of them all: if you don’t need it, turn it off.

I think the business case for onsite generation is only getting stronger, whether it be PV (photovoltaic), CHP (combined heat and power) or any other solutions. These are all worth looking at, now more than ever, and with the cost of energy inevitably set to rise, the return on your investment in these technologies is only likely to improve.

The problem with these technologies, however, can be that they are surrounded by the mystique of confusing abbreviations and usually offer far too many options for anybody who isn’t from the industry to make head or tail of them. So, as a start, we have tried to make sense of low-energy lighting by providing you with a guide to the various options and the pros and cons of each – as always, using plain English not techno-babble. Look out for this article soon on our News pages or sign up for our newsletter.

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